It took me 121 hours to finish the main story of Assassin’s Creed: Origins before the DLC, while still having some of the sidequests and map unfinished. It was a nice contender next to my 312 hours in The Witcher 3 (3rd time playing and counting) but definitely a significant improvement from 43 hours in Assassin’s Creed: Syndicate.
One could argue that total play time has no bearing whatsoever on the strength of a title, but I would argue that the time you invest into a game is a great measure of the quality of the experience you have with an open world RPG. Not only does it showcase the fact that the title has massive content, but enough of it to keep players engaged for a longer period of time.
As far as I’m concerned, Assassin’s Creed‘s first real attempt at making their franchise into a full RPG was a very well-executed endeavor.
Before Bayek’s journey was officially launched, I wrote an opinion piece on why I was looking forward to Origins. And now, Ubisoft has announced the next entry in their Assassin’s Creed franchise with Assassin’s Creed: Odyssey and by the Greek gods, these are the reasons why I’m excited for that and you should be too:
Putting more “RP” in the “RPG”
Let’s get this one out of the way first.
In Odyssey, you can finally choose to play the entire game as either a female or a male hero. The choice of your gender is highly cosmetic, but the dialogues and deliveries of their lines will be different. The main story will be unchanged between the two, but it definitely provides an incentive to replay the game just to see the different dialogue options from the two characters.
If Assassin’s Creed: Origins is Ubisoft’s first experimental attempt at a true RPG, Odyssey is the improved version of that experiment. Don’t get me wrong, I reviewed Origins and it was definitely an enjoyable title. But as far as an RPG goes, the title can feel a bit stiff. Bayek was a Medjay and most of his dialogue, story, and conclusion had been set in the script of the game. In Origins, your path is predetermined from the start and even if you can take any quests at your own leisure, the conclusions of those quests remain the same regardless of your choices or actions.
With Odyssey, Ubisoft is trying to be a lot bolder with their game. According to the game’s creative director Jonathan Dumont, Odyssey will present branching quest lines, multiple endings, and different conclusions for each quest the players are going to tackle. The comparison they made was, if Origins‘ quests were mostly set in stone such as “Kill that Person, or hunt that animal,” Odyssey will simply ask you to “take care of it” – leaving players with more choices on how to proceed.
One example given in the early stage of the game was a sidequest that asked the player to resolve a loan situation. You have the freedom to choose how to approach and finish this quest. You can either forcefully take the money, go in stealthily and rob the target, or use your dialogue wheels to persuade the loan shark and finish it with a peaceful resolution.
Furthermore, Dumont also mentioned that each of your choices will have significant consequences with the world you’re inhabiting. I assume this will be the trigger for the multiple endings and branching quest lines mentioned earlier.
And yes, you did read it right. Assassin’s Creed: Odyssey will feature a new type of speech options, “Dialogue Wheels”- the first of its kind. This will be similar to what we have seen in blockbuster RPGs such as The Witcher 3 and the Mass Effect series. If Ubisoft did this properly, not only will it introduce a new layer of depth for their attempt at making a true RPG, but it will also help flesh out that feeling of freedom when it comes to actually creating your own story within Odyssey.
Based on their demo, Ubisoft was actually pretty proud of this system, which they introduced during a video of a side mission with Socrates that involves an intellectual debate with your character. I can’t wait to play this mission and see the full prowess of this new dialogue system.
Improved Combat, Loots, and Level Scaling
Now we’re getting into the meatier part of the game: the loot system.
What’s an RPG without the thrill of the unending cycle of killing foes to collect better loot to help you defeat stronger foes? Just like Origins, Odyssey will introduce players to the concept of equipment loot to strengthen your character. The game did take it one step further by introducing five slots of equipment for you to collect: head, chest, waist, arms, and legs with increasing degrees of quality from common to rare, epic, and legendary.
The 5 slotted armors are not a new feature for an RPG but definitely a new feature for the Assassin’s Creed franchise. Furthermore, unlike Origins, these armor slots are not simply a cosmetic upgrade but also a stat-boosting upgrade. Set armor and set bonuses will be introduced to the game as well and for those of you who are worried about replacing your favorite armor set skin, scaling up your equipment level is making a comeback in Odyssey.
Furthermore, Odyssey will introduce a new feature called Engraving in which you can engrave your items with special bonuses such as increased critical rate or enhanced defense. Ubisoft hope that this will create a new layer of freedom in how you customize your assassin as you play around in ancient Greece.
Combat is also getting some love in Odyssey. The weapon-based hit boxes from Origins are making a comeback, but the speed and savagery of combat has been significantly improved. You will also have an option to customize your combat finishing moves (and carry four of them at once) instead of having it tied down to whatever weapons you are using.
Level scaling is also making a comeback in Odyssey from the start. Origins finally introduced this in one of their patches, but Odyssey will have it for you from the beginning. This will keep the game challenging as it will solve the issue of going back to a level 2 zone when your character is level 43. Bear in mind that the level only scales up. Odyssey will be a true open world from the start in which you can actually walk up to a high level zone from the beginning. The enemies just won’t be scaled down to your level and that might be the shortest trip of your adventure.
Naval Warfare is Back, Baby!
The world of Assassin’s Creed: Odyssey will be three times the size of Origins with most of it covered by water. It seems appropriate that Ubisoft’s naval warfare which was made famous in Assassin’s Creed: Black Flag is making a triumphant return, including exciting gameplay mechanics like boarding a disabled ship. Probably the most fun I’ve ever had sailing the Caribbean sea was in Black Flag.
As a leader of a mercenary group, your ship, the Adrestia, will serve as more than just a transportation method. It will also serve as your home base with some management required. It also acts as a war weapon that you can use to explore, engage in a naval combat, or hunt legendary ships like in Black Flag (these are high level boss ships that roam the ocean. Hunting them in Black Flag gave you legendary loot for your ship and an achievement. We’ll see if Odyssey will do the same thing). The naval base level scales up with yours so you won’t have to worry about being under-leveled while at sea. The ship will also be customizable by upgrading the hull or weapon selection as you level up.
Furthermore, your ship will also be highly customizable by way of recruitment. Recruitment is a new feature introduced in Odyssey in which you can ask any in-game character to join your band of mercenaries. These are called lieutenants and you can have up to four active at any given time that will have different effects on your Adrestia, including increased damage and some cosmetic upgrades. Lieutenants can be recruited via world activities, quests, or even just asking an NPC outright to join your band of mercenaries. Additionally, they will also come in a tiered quality from uncommon to legendary.
As I briefly mentioned, the naval aspect was one of my favorite things about Black Flag and that includes diving for a treasure and white shark hunting. I can’t wait to see how they implement it in this installment.
Choices, Contracts, and Bounties
Last but not least, Odyssey will introduce the concept of an evolving world for the first time ever in the franchise. Staying true to their main goal of moving the franchise into more of an RPG genre, the choices you make while playing the game will finally have an impact towards the world you are living in.
The main premise of Assassin’s Creed: Odyssey is you are thrust into this massive war between Athens and Sparta as a leader of a mercenary group. Being a mercenary, your loyalty is not tied to one of these nations so each of them can hire your group to aid in the war effort. This can be presented in terms of contracts (sidequests) that you can accept. The conflict between Athens and Sparta spans across 28 city states and your actions in each of these city states will have an impact on which side will triumph in any major war scenario.
Yes, Odyssey will introduce war scenarios in which your band of mercenaries will be going up against waves of enemies in large scale combat. In fact, we’ve seen one of the major war combat scenes in Ubisoft’s E3 demo and it was definitely thrilling. While some of the major war scenarios are story-based, the majority of them will be optional and act as great side activities to level up your character, earn new equipment, or hire new lieutenants.
Bounties are a new feature introduced in Assassin’s Creed: Odyssey. As you know, it’s always fun to be the bad guys, and unlike previous Assassin’s Creed franchise games, you can actually kill innocent civilians without being desynchronized this time. Doing this however, will increase your bounty heat level (akin to the wanted level in Grand Theft Auto) and the city states will start putting a price on your head. Eventually a rival mercenary group might take up the bounty and open up a new combat scenario while you are out adventuring in the wild.
On the flip side, you can also take up bounties for rival mercenaries of your own. If done properly, this definitely opens up a fun new side activity when you’re tired of grinding for levels or loot.
That’ll do, Ubisoft, That’ll Do.
I’m going to admit it here first that when I saw the trailer at E3, I dismissed Odyssey as an exact carbon copy of a successful Origins without anything new to introduce. This was elevated by the concern of Ubisoft going back to the annual release of the Assassin’s Creed franchise which never really worked well for them. (Assassin’s Creed: Unity was very poorly received and Syndicate, while an improvement, was still a weaker title sales-wise).
But the more I learned about Odyssey, the more I realized that it’s really not a bad thing to have a carbon copy of a successful title especially when it comes with a slew of improvements as I mentioned above. If Origins felt like Ubisoft’s trial attempt at making their famous franchise a full RPG, Odyssey seems like a confident stride towards that genre and I’m absolutely looking forward to it.
Some have already labeled Odyssey as “going full Bioware,” which is a true compliment as far as an open world RPG goes. But I also wanted to mention it as far as “heading towards CD Projekt Red” in how Ubisoft have been improving the game. If this is the path they are taking with this trilogy, I cannot wait to see the third game of the series.
I mentioned this before, just as Origins takes a lot of lessons from the success of The Witcher 3, Odyssey learned a lot and improved upon Origins. A carbon copy of a successful game might not be a bad thing after all.
Assassin’s Creed: Odyssey will launch on October 5th 2018 on PC, PS4, and XboX One.