A Journey Like No Other: A Review of Assassin’s Creed: Odyssey

Journeying through the ancient world

So, I’m close to a year late to the party. But I picked up Assassin’s Creed: Odyssey last October, after being absolutely enthralled with the trailers at 2018’s E3. I hadn’t played any other AC games, though I liked the premise and the historical settings. But the trailer for this one promised branching dialog choices, a huge open world, and the chance to explore ancient Greece. In my former life as an English teacher, I taught mythology for 11 of my 12 years, so the chance to move all over the ancient world fascinated me.

I did pick the game up when it dropped… so why am I only writing about it 10 months later? The biggest reason is life: I’m a toddler mom, which keeps things interesting to say the least! Also, that fall I had two classes I was teaching in addition to my full time job. And I was writing, obsessively revising Sneakthief and drafting Turncoat (I’m still revising and drafting the latter). And I also played through Dishonored yet again (went through a no-fatalities run, yay!) and then Assassin’s Creed: Unity this spring. I’ll probably review that one later, because I liked it a lot!

But lately it’s been all Odyssey, all the time, and I don’t mind that one bit!

This is the first game to ever make me seasick. That was a new one.

I chose to play as Kassandra, and I like her voice acting and her personality. She’s tough but compassionate; she makes tough decisions and fights tough battles. She’s a lover and a fighter on a quest to find herself as well as her destiny. There are many NPCs throughout her world to befriend, or to woo. While the romances are often pretty surface-level, I chalk it up to my experiences playing BioWare romances, so I didn’t mind too much. Kassandra has had many lovers; sometimes it’s any port in a storm (Alkibiades, I’m looking at you), and sometimes it’s genuine, mutual respect and affection (ah, Roxana, you fierce fighter).

Many of the other characters are interesting as well, and sailing around Greece meeting some of the Big Names of the ancient world was fun. Herodotus joins in and Sokrates lends a hand. Kassandra’s search for her mother, brother, and father is at times heartbreaking, and at other times frustrating. I felt like I lucked out with the dialog choices I made, and was able to get the “good” ending for Kassandra and her family; my best friend got a different outcome, and she said it was hideously underwhelming, to the point she isn’t interested in progressing any further in the game.

Certainly there is some unfinished business of the emotional sort with all of that, even if you do get the good ending. I don’t think that’s necessarily a shortcoming of the game, it’s just something that isn’t dealt with and something I’ve found in the other choice-heavy games I’ve played. And that, friends, is what fanfiction is for. But more on that later. Ahem.

In terms of gameplay I found it pretty smooth to play and control on the One, especially in comparison to when I played Unity; I was so used to how nicely Odyssey played that Unity felt downright buggy. The fights run the gamut of very easy to super challenging–if you’re not leveled properly and haven’t upgraded your gear. Then those fights are just challenging, but once you figure out the pattern of the attacks then it’s just patience. I think the toughest fight in the game was the Medusa fight; I tried her when I was a few levels below, and got my backside kicked. Hard. When I went back appropriately leveled and upgraded it took a few tries, but then I found her pattern and just settled in for the long haul. In some games discovering the patterns and repetition can make things dull, but in this case it’s helpful and the fight can still be a challenge. Patience is a virtue, and is rewarded.

The game story overall is vast and interconnecting, and brings in the intricacies of politics; as a misthios, or mercenary, Kassandra is often tasked with doing the dirty work. There are many ways to accomplish this, including diplomacy or just the old-fashioned high body count. It also brings in mythology (to us in the present), which I enjoyed. In the main game the mythological appearances are peppered in carefully for effect, and used well. I’m in the DLCs now, and those make excellent use of the ancient Greek pantheon, but I’ll review those separately later on. Suffice to say, just part one is HUGE.

One reason that I haven’t written a review since finishing the main game was… well, I wasn’t sure exactly when I’d finished, and that may be my biggest gripe with the game. And then, I think it’s because I like resolution. I’m a storyteller; I like stories and I like the happy ending, but happy in the sense of being resolved. I finished one major arc, and it was kind of a downer–like, I fought all those cultists for… what? That one felt really unresolved, and still kind of irks me. The other plot arc I know continues in the DLCs, which is fine… but there was no sense of it being completed. It lead right into the prologue-ish mission to tempt you into buying the DLC (I see what you did with that, Ubisoft!), but even after completing that there was no sense that I was done. It was kind of like when I finished Skyrim the first time. I beat Alduin, I won the civil war, I ruled every faction… now what?

This isn’t a metaphor for the gameplay. I just liked the shot.

I know there are other Lost Tales of Greece to play through and more DLC to get, and then the My Stories mode to try out, but as for the main game I felt unresolved. I’m not sure what I wanted to see; I mean, the credits? Something to show me it was over? I got the New Game+ option a lot earlier on, well before either of the main arcs was completed, which was odd to me as well.

That aside, I love this game; the pacing is good, the characters are fun, and the world is lush and beautiful and a joy to explore! I love the option to take screenshots and save them. I love how even the seas are populated with life… and death. My Kassandra has sunk ships and swam with dolphins and whales. She’s explored shipwrecks and hidden grottoes. On land she’s climbed mountains, cleared ruins, and galloped across fields of flowers in one moment, and charred and bloody battlegrounds the next. The experience is wondrous, and I’ve enjoyed traversing the ancient world. I think I need to add Greece to my travel list for the future. I always did want to go, particularly where I taught mythology as long as I did, but now, seeing the reenvisioned ancient world in this game, I really need to go.

Assassin’s Creed: Odyssey is absolutely worth what I paid for it, given the sheer amount of things to do in the main game alone. I think I had close to 100 hours logged in the main game, and that’s only ticking upwards with the DLC missions. The game is rich and well developed, and definitely worth your time, especially if you love open world games and making choices that will shape the future of the world.

Okay, that last part is a little dramatic. But this game will take you on a journey that you will enjoy. In the words of Kassandra, χαίρε: chaire.