Based on what I got to play during a schedule appointment with Ubisoft, Assassin's Creed Odyssey looks like it offers everything that made Origins such a big hit with players - and does a whole lot more.
The best way I can explain the jump from Origins to Odyssey is to take you on a journey to the faraway year of 2010. Hot on the heels of Assassin’s Creed II, Ubisoft was hyping a new game called Assassin’s Creed Brotherhood, doing so in such a way to suggest that the game was primarily going to focus on a new, hide and seek variant of hide and seek. Little did I know that Brotherhood offered a full-fledged sequel to Assassin’s Creed II, in which Desmond Miles, Lucy, Shaun, and Rebecca fled Warren Vidic and his Templar goons. Built on the foundations of a rich sequel, Brotherhood tweaked, adjusted, and built upon the new gameplay formula in cool new ways. This is pretty much the state I found Odyssey to be in. And that’s pretty darn great.
For the demo, I had the option of playing the game with either Alexios or Kassandra. To me, the choice was obvious and as far as I’m concerned, Alexios really doesn’t exist in my Odyssey canon. Kassandra is an awesome character. She’s a badass former-Spartan warrior turned Assassin who’s in possession of a Precursor artifact called the Spear of Leonidas that imbues her with special abilities. My game session saw Kassandra arriving to the island of Delos, where I was summoned to help in the greater war between Sparta and Athens - a conversation that highlights the new dialogue system that lets you choose responses and direct the conversation a specific way.
Just like in Origins, I could choose to track a current quest or go off on my own and explore or seek out side quests. The main mission in the area focused on hunting down an Athenian General who is slaughtering Spartans on the island. Because of the new open world format, you’re free to tackle the objective either by stealth or making lots of racket. In this case, “going loud” has never been so much fun. Combat plays out just about what you might expect but Kassandra has a few new skills under her belt. My two favorite are the Spartan kick (which is pretty much the “THIS. IS. SPARTA!” kick) and a maneuver that grabs an enemy’s shield and rips it away, leaving them exposed to your weapons. These abilities are available as you fill up the adrenaline meter and, once again, can unleash power moves when the meter has completely filled up. In the stealth mode, it doesn’t look like Kassandra has the hidden blade yet, leaving her to use the Spear of Leonidas to kill her victims unaware. We’ll just have to wait for the full game to come out in order to find out more about the protagonist’s mysterious past and how she managed to procure a powerful artifact.
At this point in the demo, I bounced between two different gameplay scenarios. One involved a nice, philosophical chat with the great Sokrates in which he tries to logically work out the circumstances of a rebel who was caught by Athenian soldiers for murder. I decided to go in and kill the rebel’s guards (as opposed to just sneaking past them) and was told that such actions would have ramifications later on in the game. How that would manifest, exactly, was left in the air. The third gameplay section focused on naval combat. Instead of switching to another character in order to play through self-contained naval-based missions, Kassandra’s personal ship can be used to traverse bodies of water and attack enemy ships without having to load into a separate instance. Ship combat happens largely on your turns when outside of missions, and your crew's arrows, fire arrows, and javelins are all that you need to make short work of Athenian vessels. And best of all? Your ship crew passes the time by signing Greek sea shanties (many of which are old Grecian poems transposed into songs), so that’s pretty much an automatic buy for me.
Assassin’s Creed Odyssey has me excited for more games in this long running franchise. While I liked Bayek enough, Kassandra - for me - is worth the price of admission alone. The writing is great, she kicks ass in combat, and generally looks like she has no problems holding her own. The gameplay is solid and should delight the fans of Origins. I can already tell, though, that this game is more than likely to be a huge time suck, though I’m pretty OK with that.
Librarian by day, Darkstation review editor by night. I've been playing video games since the days of the Commodore 64 and I have no interest in stopping now that I've made it this far.