Ubisoft revamps its iconic series with a heavy dose of player choice.
Assassin’s Creed games, at their core, are built around engaging stealth combat, intriguing time-hopping lore, and breathtaking historical settings. Assassin’s Creed Odyssey, the series’ latest installment, expands upon this legacy, then injects it with an RPG cocktail of broad player choice, customizable combat systems, and a gorgeous open world. After more than a decade donning the hood, Ubisoft can still make the Assassin’s experience feel new.
This expanded experience presents itself immediately when selecting your assassin’s gender at the beginning of Odyssey. This isn’t the first Assassin’s Creed title to feature a female assassin, but it is the first where that assassin’s identity is entirely up to the player. Where other titles locked players into set character molds like fiery instigator, pragmatic sneak, or noble sentry, Odyssey’s new dialogue and combat systems allow players to shape Kassandra or Alexios’ personality, temperament and fighting style. I decided to play as Kassandra, but regardless of who you choose, the way the game plays out depends on you.
Dialogue opens up a lot of this choice, from minor quests up to game-altering cutscenes. Does your assassin speak with god-fearing determination? Sly sarcasm? Frustrated bite? Your responses affect the characters around you and can change the outcomes of quests. In one pivotal plot point, your dialogue choice even determines whether you assassinate a powerful general, or show him mercy. Some results are immediate, while others can marinate, culminating in a payoff hours later. This raises the dramatic stakes of your assassin’s journey, both fleshing out the character beyond a single archetype and noticeably shifting the game’s environment based on your choices.
My Kassandra was a brash warrior, ripping shields from guards and kicking enemies off of hilltops. To my surprise, this sometimes worked against me. In one quest where I needed to steal an item, I chose to attack the guards and clear the area before searching for the item in question. When I returned to the quest-giver, their estate had been attacked due to my actions. If I had taken a stealthier approach, the outcome may have been different. Knowing that actions have real consequences that ripple through the world makes every choice an exciting gamble.
Odyssey adopts a varied weapon system similar to the one introduced in Assassin’s Creed Origins. Gone is the iconic hidden blade; players now dual wield the broken Spear of Leonidas as the main weapon alongside a second weapon of your choice. The skill tree takes this one step further, allowing players to assign powerful specialized abilities to the D-pad from three skill sets: Hunter, Warrior, or Assassin. Players can switch out skills or weapons throughout the game, and I agonized over which ones to keep in my rotation since they can often turn the tide of battle.
Characters’ agency expands to an even grander scale once you start to explore the massive map in Odyssey — easily larger than Origins map. The newly introduced Exploration Mode, enabled at the beginning of the game, encourages adventurous exploration by not immediately providing quest markers. Dialogue provides clues that players can chase and compare to their map, eventually leading to new locations and quests. I’m an open world explorer by nature, often choosing to get lost seeking out new locations and hidden secrets rather than following a game’s main storyline, so the introduction of this mode set my brain cells alight. Of course, players can set their game to Guided Mode for more traditional marker settings.
The map also displays which regions are controlled by Athenians or Spartans. With Odyssey set during the Peloponnesian War, a conflict between these two city states, your assassin can lend a hand to either side. If a region is controlled by an opposing faction, players can take steps to weaken the enemy: burn vital war supplies, loot funds, attack commanding officers, and finally assassinate the region’s leader. Weakening a region eventually triggers a Conquest Battle, a massive skirmish between hundreds of soldiers with your assassin at the center. I found my special abilities choices to be extremely useful here, bouncing from enemy to enemy and unleashing these attacks at lightning speed. The battles are an exhilarating new addition to the series, making you an active participant in the conflict that would shape Greece for centuries to come.
Odyssey sees the return of some fan favorite gameplay elements (Naval combat! Bounties! Present day plot!) and boasts a compelling, at times deeply moving storyline that had me audibly gasp at one point. Ultimately, it’s the breadth of player choice that colored my playthrough the most. My favorite moments across the Assassin’s series have been when the personality of the protagonist gets a chance to shine, and Odyssey ensures that Kassandra is a character I will never forget. I plan to leave no stone unturned when Assassin’s Creed Odyssey comes to PS4 on October 5.