I want to preface this by explaining that, at the time of writing this, I have only played about 16 hours of Assassins Creed Odyssey. I have not gone to Athens yet, I am only level 18, and I still have a TON of game and world to explore.  As such, these are my impressions of the game so far, based on that playtime.

I also want to mention that by now, I normally would have quit the game. I am not a diehard AC fan to be quite honest, although I have tried a variety of the games. I got into the series with Black Flag (AC4), then played in order AC3, Unity, AC1 (HATED IT), Syndicate, and now Odyssey.  Most of them, I stopped at 15 to 20 hours, usually out of boredom or fatigue from the way the games were designed.  AC4 I played the longest at around 22 hours, but the Ship v Fort battles irritated me, and while I still consider that game the best Pirate Sim I have ever played, it didnt feel like what people claimed AC was all about.  Also the fact that you could counter / insta-kill folks in fights made the combat a bit of a joke.  And yes, I have never touched the oft touted Ezio trilogy, nor do I wish to.

Odyssey however, is something else.  I keep wanting to play it, and since I got it and put the 16ish hours into the game, I have yet to feel any of that fatigue. I think a lot of it has to do with its design and the way it handles exploration as well as how the game really is a full on RPG at this point.

First, lets start by saying this game is flipping beautiful. The environments are amazing, the day to night cycle and transitions feel real, the way shadows and light move around are phenomenal. This is one of the best looking games I have played to date.  I also love the combat animations, the way enemies telegraph their moves (turning red for dangerous moves) and the kill animations you get when doing stealth kills.  Also dear god the water is fantastic.

Sound wise I am in love with the voice acting.  The characters all sound unique, and you can really get a feeling for their personalities based on their mannerisms and voice cues.  Kassandra (I chose her as my character) is snarky, passionate, sarcastic, and no nonsense, but with a playful side.  Also I now know the word Malaka so thats good.  Later you meet Barnabas, your first mate, who is a happy super positive guy who truly believes the gods work in mysterious ways.  The first “villain” I met was slimy, and his voice dripped with that “I am clearly up to something” tone that made me distrust him instantly.  Every character I speak to, even the NPCs who talk to me, seem alive.

Musically though I couldn’t even tell ya.  I am not sure there IS music, save for sea shanties (IN GREEK!) that happen when I am sailing.  I do love those however.  The sound of enemies and combat is solid as well, although my wife did question if I was fighting a mythical deer OR moving furniture around (seriously, when fighting the The Hind of Keryneia every time I hit it, it made the same noise that you hear when you drag furniture across a wood floor it was weird).

Overall the presentation, both visually and audio is just solid.  But where this game really shines for me is both in the gameplay and the story.

I am not going to go too deep into the story other than its a tale of family torn apart by duty and circumstance.  While you have the standard “Assassins v Templars” stuff in the modern day segments, trying to find the pieces of eden or whatever, the story of Kassandra (Or Alexios) is one of finding out who they really are, and how they are tied to things in their world.  The first big revel, when you find out who the Wolf of Sparta is (that you are hired, as a mercenary, to kill) made my jaw drop.  And it just keep getting more out of hand from there.  Plus, the side quests feel more like something out of the Witcher or a Bioware game, with actual meaning behind them.  In fact I am currently on an island trying to help sort out a mess involving a gang called “The Dagger” which has so far involved 2 distinct side quests, and more potentially on the way (Once I find the Slave Markets so I can keep helping one guy).  Further your decisions have some real weight to them.  There is a side quest early on that I was given a particular choice, and the one I made supposedly has had some nasty consequences for it.  From what I understand some Ex Bioware devs worked on AC Odyssey so these sort of quests make me feel at home.  Plus some of em just make me laugh, like when I had to go fetch some deer’s tongue and bear scrotum to help an old woman make basically Viagra for her husband.  No, really, I had to do this.  I also then decided to bang the old woman (as a woman, yes I did) to let her husband rest.  He thanked me afterwards.

Gameplay wise this game is a straight action RPG.  You got the full suite of equipment (2 weapons, Ranged Weapon, head, legs, chest, arms, feet armor), 3 skill trees each tied to a style combat, character and enemy levels that matter, some level scaling (but not full level scaling it seems), and so on.  Gear is randomized with stats, and comes in White, Blue, Purple, and Orange quality.  Orange being legendary, obviously.  The better the gear, the more stats it has on it.  You can also break gear down into parts, which can be used to either Upgrade gear (increasing the DPS of weapons, or the Armor Value of your armor) OR Engrave it, adding a stat of your choice from a list of unlocked engravings (you earn these leveling up, completing side areas and side quests, and you also unlocked them from getting Legendaries with those engravings on them).  I got a Bow for example, a legendary, that had an engraving built in that gave my Power Shot attack 20% more damage.  I unlocked that for all future bows if I want.

The three skill trees you can advance in focus on ranged combat, melee combat, and stealth combat.  You get one skill point per level, and there is a level cap of 50.  You can respec your skills for some in game money if you need to, and because there is a level cap, and all skills have at least 3 ranks in there, you cannot max out every skill.  You will have to decide on your playstyle as you go, which is a nice touch.  Combat is action oriented, and there is no block or shield.  You have a parry, and a dodge.  You end up having to be very aggressive in melee, which personally is my preferred style, and there are a variety of melee weapons that all play differently from each other.  I tend to prefer swords and daggers, but I have not really tried a spear yet to be honest.

You also have your ship, which has its own set of stats and upgrades.  There is a lot going on here.  It gets even crazier once you unlocked the Mercenary system which is a sort of trimmed down version of the Nemesis system from Shadows of War/Mordor, and then later you unlocked ANOTHER system full of people you can hunt down for more loot and story reasons!  Nevermind the Fort assaults, Conquest Battles, and exploration stuff.  I am still not sure I have unlocked every gameplay system in the game at this point, which kind of scares me.

But with all this content, in a world this insanely huge (supposedly it can take 2 hours to walk from one side of Athens in game to another on foot!), how do you manage it?  Well early on you are given 2 options when setting up your game: Guided Mode, and Exploration Mode.  Guided Mode puts all the map icons on screen, and gives you clear directions on where to go.  This is how the older games did things, and your map can end up feeling very cluttered after a while, with icons to clear, locations to visit and so on.  However, the game suggest (And I am playing in) Exploration mode.  This mode only places icons on the map once you have found them, and most quests only give you vague directions to things, such as “You can find him South of the Temple of Apollo, west of the City of Troy” or something, and you have to go there, and try to find your target.  It prevents your map from getting covered in Icons until you clear an area, which then appears as a greyed out icon to show you found and cleaned it out.  Because of Exploration Mode I never feel overwhelmed, which is good because this game is bloody massive.  There are huge landmasses, as well as a massive ocean with a ton of islands to explore, and because of the Conquest Battle system, you have a reason to go to these islands, and these provinces, and do things.  It’s the best way to get XP and Loot, to be honest.  You will learn about Conquest Battles pretty early on, so I don’t want to go into too much detail but they are an optional thing you can do to get Epic (Purple) loot and oodles of XP, and are repeatable.

Finally, let’s talk about the Elephant in the Room, the Cash Shop.  Yes, there is a cash shop in this game.  There are a bunch of legendary weapons you can purchase (but it’s a waste straight up since they don’t level with you), some skins for your horse and your boat and your crew, and boosters and maps.  I have purchased the XP / Money booster, because I wanted to see how different the grind was before and after.  I spent about 10 hours without the booster, and while I had to go exploring and do caves/map encounters to get XP, I didn’t really feel like I was having to grind.  I stayed about equal to most enemies I encountered, and only on rare occasion was I a level lower than the enemies I was facing (and at that point I just went and hunted out more exploration areas).  With the booster, I am about 2 levels higher than most enemies I am facing, and my money reserves are a bit better, but it’s not really that big a deal.  Once you hit level 50 you no longer need XP anyway, so really I just sped my way to 50.  Also enemies scale to a point, so once you reach max level things will prolly be around your level anyway.  You will never really out level things completely it seems.

Now, its scummy to include such a thing in the game, not gonna lie. And thankfully it’s not required at all to enjoy the game at least to me.  Further, there is a merchant in the region of Phokis, who trades Orichalcum, this currency you earn from doing daily events and weekly events (check your message board in town) for legendary items and a loot box (yes, a loot box, but you cannot buy this box with real money) that can drop Cash Shop skins.  It is possible (although most likely unlikely) to get the ship and horse and crew skins from this box.  He also offers one skin for 80 Orichalcum each week, so you can earn the pretty stuff.  Just takes time, aka grind, but with this being a full RPG now, I kinda expected a bit of a grind.  In fact, it seems the only thing outside of the boosters you cannot earn are the Collectibles Maps, which you can find online anyway if you go looking so why bother buying em.  Unless you really want them in game I suppose.

Also there is a $40 season pass, that includes 2 more quest lines, and a copy 2 Remastered AC games.  So you get 2 full games and 2 quest lines for the price which seems ok, I suppose, if you are a big fan of Assassins Creed.  I admit I kinda want the Atlantis storyline….

Overall, the fact that I want to keep playing this is enough to tell me that Assassins Creed finally got a game and a setting and a story that I can personally dive into. I want to see the story of Kassandra play out, I want to hunt the mythical creatures, the mercenaries, see all the stories and side quests, sail the oceans and destroy pirates, and more. I want to see the ancient Greek world and stand on mountains, looking down into beautiful forests, hunting deer and wolves for skin so I can upgrade my ship.

I want to play the game.  And that, alone, tells me it’s a solid entry.  For me at least.  I will admit it does help that the setting is ancient Greece.  I love me some Greek and Roman mythology and culture haha.

Thanks for reading, and until next time: Get those Crits, Take those Hits, keep pushing through and always Stay Nerdy!

Impressions: Assassins Creed Odyssey
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