Review of Assassin's Creed Odyssey - The Witcher 3's Assassination Throne
"Ubisoft does everything to one end!" "Their games don't change at all!" "Nothing, they just cut off the coupons." Are there people in the room who happened to say similar words to the French giant? Of course they are, there are plenty of them in every corner of the internet. Last year's Assassin's Creed Origins was a good opportunity to verify your views and be convinced that even Ubisoft can make radical changes to the proven formula of the game - but surely many still shake their noses at French politics. Now, the "gimmicks" determined to defend their belief in the stagnation prevailing among the company's games, yet another hard test awaits - Assassin's Creed Odyssey is another strong blow to the time-honored traditions on which Ubiquitous games have grown so far.
Short ball - Odyssey is a full-fledged RPG . Plainly and simply. Or at least as fully-fledged as The Witcher 3 is a fully-fledged representative of this genre. Starting from the level of complexity of character development, through the inventory management model, to the degree of dialogues branching and the storyline depth of tasks - in each of these areas, Ubisoft tried to follow the path set out by CD Projekt RED as closely as possible . With what effect - this is a separate issue that we will discuss in a moment. The biggest difference is in the distribution of accents.
The Witcher 3 used the open world as a background for telling an engaging story. AC Odyssey , although it also has a story that it does not have to be ashamed of, has remained faithful to sandbox patterns - it is a sandbox in which the main storyline is only one of many activities to choose from. Do you associate it with something? Well, the new "Assassin" turns out to be surprisingly similar to Skyrim on some levels - and Ubisoft would be better off if it drew from the beginning of the game Bethesda (especially in terms of freedom of exploration), instead of trying to simultaneously and imitate The Witcher 3 , and the total erpeg sandbox.
Best vacation ever in Greece
The scale of this game is absolutely stunning. Ubisoft has reconstructed almost the entire territory of ancient Greece - from Macedonia in the north to Crete in the south, from Kefalonia in the west to Samos in the east. Of course, everything is properly scaled, but still we are thrown into a gigantic area, filled with countless cities, villages, temples, ruins, forts, ports and other locations between which we travel on foot, on horseback or on a ship. Of course, there is something to do in each of these places. The Greeks eagerly entrust the protagonist (or the heroine - at the beginning of the adventure, we choose one of the two playable characters), side quests are always hanging on the notice boards, and each discovered attraction tempts with treasures (often guarded) to get.
What can I say - in the first hours, AC Odyssey is one of the best exploratory experiences I have ever had in a game. Of course, much of this is due to Greece itself. Ubisoft has done a titanic work of reverently building this vastness of the ancient world and infusing it with a unique atmosphere. At every step you can see that the developer preceded the development of the game with weeks of historical studies in order to put authentic places on the map and populate it with real characters, not forgetting all the phenomena characteristic of the civilization from almost two and a half thousand years ago (although some things were of course bent to the convention of stories about Assassins and Templars). And what music accompanies all this! What views! Indeed, the Ubisoft travel agency has swept it again .
Visiting ancient Greece is all the more addictive as the various elements of the game interpenetrate during exploration . Here is an example. After receiving a letter from the rebels asking for help, you go to the island of Mykonos. In the course of performing local tasks, you learn that the power against which the rebels are opposed is exercised by a worshiper - one of several dozen members of the Cosmos cult (this is the cradle of the later Order), whose elimination is one of the main activities in the Odyssey , as well as a way to unlock more and more powerful skills characters.
By the way, by looting forts, killing soldiers and destroying supplies, you lower the strength of the region, preparing it for conquest, i.e. a spectacular battle after which Sparta will take Athens control of this area (the game takes place during the Peloponnesian War). On top of all this, there are also mercenaries. We play the role of one of them and slowly advance in their hierarchy, and at the same time its members hunt us if the authorities set a price on our head. The more crimes we commit (thefts or murders), the more fierce our hero will be hunted. In short, it's hard to complain about boredom.
Species genetic defects
Fix: Difficult to complain of boredom for the first 25 hours (or longer if you are dosing the game in reasonable small doses). Then the repetition begins to prickle your eyes - both in terms of locations and quests . The former would be helped by including more varied attractions, especially fictional ones. One could also complain about the landscapes, but there is not much Ubisoft's fault in this - it's just that Greece from the 5th century BC is not as diverse as multicultural Hellenistic Egypt from AC Origins , also in terms of geography there are no such contrasts as in the Nile delta and its vicinity. Worse with tasks. If it was still "just" a sandbox from the action games category, I would not have much problem with the fact that most of the challenges come down to killing the indicated people (or sinking the indicated ships), sneaking into guarded outposts or just running errands. However, I expect something more from an RPG.
Well, what's it like with AC Odyssey's "rolliness"? As I mentioned, Ubisoft tried to follow the example of The Witcher 3 in terms of dialogue or choices - but did not fully understand what the essence behind the erpego form is. The game willingly offers us alternative questions in conversations, but the impact of different choices on anything turns out to be negligible .
Spartan soap opera
One more reason why it is easier to become attached to Alexios / Kassandra than to Bayek is the story itself. This time, Ubisoft focused on a personal story about the family (and again one would like to say: like The Witcher 3 ). I will not reveal to you the details, let me just say that there are topics such as the search for missing relatives or discovering the secret heritage of your family - the latter topic is also the binder that connects Odyssey with the rest of the Assassin's Creed series . The fact that the driving force behind the main line of history is no longer the killing of (proto) Templars - although of course it is still present in the game and performs an important function (and with more targets to eliminate than ever before).
And although the plot does not lack interesting characters - especially historical ones - or exciting moments, thanks to which you still want to follow the adventures of Alexios / Kassandra, unfortunately the way the story is told sometimes calls for vengeance to heaven. I could put forward the thesis that for every one interesting task in the main plot that contributes something to the topic, there are two of those that are nothing more than clogs. What's worse, they are often clogged holes given to the player under any pretext, without any reasonable justification.
The significant fictional choices also do not make a good impression - because they are like medicine here. We are faced with one at the beginning of the adventure, and then the game skimps on more difficult dilemmas until the final chapters of the story. Anyway, the first decision - to kill or spare a certain person - has a negative mood, because you have to wait several dozen hours for the consequences ... and before that, throughout the campaign, the game either slides through the subject in evasive, "universal" phrases, or gets lost in it, which actually happened (I found out time and time again that I had killed this man, although in fact I had spared his life) . It is only in the epilogue that the elections begin to mean something ... and the ending of the Aleksios / Kassandra family saga also turns out to be shallow and not filling. The "real" finale comes only when we deal with endgame activities.
Neither the Splinter Cell nor the Black Flag
The bigger changes did not include stealth. It's still a simple yet functional mechanic, which mainly boils down to hiding in bushes, luring guards with a whistle and murdering them one by one. Although this murder is also different, because the opponents, more often than in Origins, turn out to be too tough to kill them with one attack - which discourages a bit from playing as an assassin and prompts them to slaughter everyone in an open conflict (the mentioned combat system improvements also have influence on it). In addition, the artificial intelligence is still not very clever - the guards have a narrow field of view, and when they are alerted, they are not able to peek into the bushes in which we hide two meters from them.
Finally, there is also a discussion of the sea gameplay - finally, because the role of ships in the game ultimately turns out to be quite marginal . It is definitely not a full heir of Black Flag . We spend most of our time on land; The ship serves us mainly to get to the islands that we have not yet discovered - then it is more practical to use the fast travel system than to sail the same waters again (unless someone is very attracted to the atmosphere of a sea adventure). Nevertheless, Ubisoft took care of quite extensive mechanics of ship management, in which we improve various parameters, personalize the appearance and recruit people to the crew (each character provides certain bonuses). Water battles do not differ from those from Origins - they are not very realistic and not too complicated and can be fun in small doses.
An Odyssey Worthy of Homer?
Let's summarize. Odyssey is without a doubt the largest Assassin to date - and one of the better - but the transformation of a sandbox action game into a sandbox RPG came to Ubisoft on average . The French already have a perfect atmosphere, monumental world and polished mechanics, but they still need to work on a thoughtful narrative and significant moral choices before they get closer to what the Witcher 3 presents. However, they managed to prepare an interesting alternative to Skyrim . This is a gigantic game that you will be able to enjoy for months, returning for a few hours of adventure every now and then - especially since the creators intend to support Odyssey after its premiere, long and regularly providing new attractions (largely free). It is a pity that they did not follow Bethesda in terms of the freedom to explore the world, opting for an artificial and tiring division into levels.
And although I am not entirely satisfied with what AC Odyssey turned out to be - it is "only" a very good game, and it had the potential for much more - I hope that Ubisoft will correct at least some of the flaws of its work with updates and eventually will be successful . If that happens, all that remains is to wait for other developers to follow suit and start turning their "regular" sandboxes into RPGs with interactive dialogues, moral dilemmas, etc. I believe that putting story-shaping into the hands of players should become a new standard in the industry - and projects such as Assassin's Creed Odyssey , preceded by hits like The Witcher 3, mentioned many times here, or - to a lesser extent - Horizon Zero Dawn , bring us closer to the advent of this new one. era. So good luck on the trail, Ubisoft!