An Epic Odyssey

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After playing through Assassin’s Creed Syndicate (2015), I gave myself a little breather, then gleefully dove into Odyssey (2018). I decided to start a new game plus (see below), one of the many awesome features introduced in Odyssey. For the record, at the time of writing, I’ve logged just over 51 hours of playtime — for this play through — at the easiest setting on my PlayStation 4. Everything that follows is based on that experience.

NOTE: This post is LONG, even for me. A real Odyssey, just like the game. I’ve done my best to give it descriptive subheads so you can scroll through it and read the bits that interest you, if you want. And I’ve added lots of photos to break up the text some. I wanted to do, and I feel I have done, this game, and my recent Assassin’s Creed review series, justice. I have one more post planned, then likely won’t write about Assassin’s Creed again until the next game is announced.

Feel free to jump down to a specific section: The Bad | The Meh | The Good | The Amazing

Overview

Like Valhalla (2020), Odyssey offered you a choice of female or male main character. Unlike Valhalla’s poor attempt at a follow up, Odyssey offered two real characters. Neither Kassandra nor Alexios is a lie.

I chose to play as Kassandra my first time through in 2018. I tried, later, playing through as Alexios, but what comes off as charming or funny for Kassandra feels cringey or creepy from Alexios. That’s a personal feeling, and likely is because I’m female.

Since I prefer Kassandra as the main character, I’ll refer to her through this post, rather than Alexios. It’s easier than “main character” all the time, or “Kassandra and/or Alexios.”

Alexios and Kassandra

Having played Syndicate, Odyssey, and Valhalla so close together — sorry, Origins (2017), I don’t really have a desire to play you — I can give you a good listing of what’s comparatively good and bad. To my surprise, Odyssey doesn’t come out on top for everything. It has some negatives to it that I’d forgotten about. Let’s start with those.

The Bad

There are only a few actually “bad” things in Odyssey, and I’ve gotten used to them as I’ve played through it.

Eagle Vision

The famous assassin Eagle Vision is replaced by a literal eagle’s vision — more about Ikaros later. I think this was first done in Origins, but don’t quote me on that. While there are definitely some pros to this, Eagle Vision was a hallmark of the Assassin’s Creed series, and it still seems a shame to lose it. Instead, we get a “pulse” to find treasures — including small treasures that Ikaros can’t see — and enemies. But this leads to “bad” thing #2.

Item Markers

Kassandra’s “pulse” marks things with upside-down triangular markers that flash. Epic treasures have purple markers, rare treasures have blue markers, and everything else has white markers. But it’s a pain to find all the treasures in daytime. Those semi-transparent white markers are hard to see!

Example of how hard it is to see the white marker.Different camera angle showing the white marker clearly.
Can you see the white marker in the top photo? Hint, it’s on the tree on the right hand side. Still no? Drag up to see it from a different angle.

Ikaros Programming Error

To be fair, I don’t know if this is an error or a game engine limitation. However, when using Ikaros to scout out an area, you get little arrows that notify you of a nearby item.

Screenshot showing "arrow" in Ikaros view.
See that arc with an arrow in the bottom left? If there are multiple things to find, you’ll get multiple arrows.

Even after you collect an item, if you come back to the area later, Ikaros will “find” that item again, even though it’s no longer there, though without the icon appearing. It’s certainly not game breaking — none of these are, really — but it does seem like an actual error to me.

Stealing

To the best of my recollection, every other Assassin’s Creed game has a way for you to steal without repercussions or doesn’t have repercussions for “stealing” at all. Odyssey, though, has two possible repercussions when you steal: bounties and attacks. The bounty on your head will increase with every item you steal, regardless of who, if anyone, sees you. As to attacks, random citizens will fight you in this game if they see you stealing something important, or attacking soldiers.

And it’s difficult to steal without getting caught. There’s no stealthy stealing like in Assassin’s Creed II, or reaction-free looting like in Syndicate. Even threatening people with your bow to get them to leave doesn’t always work, and sometimes leads to attacks. At least, once they start attacking you, you can kill them without desynchronizing. Your bounty will be increased for murder, though, if anyone sees you do it.

Clunky Controls

OK, last “bad” thing. In order to activate Kassandra’s “pulse” you have to press and hold the up arrow. To call her mount, Phobos, you have to press and hold the down arrow. Because the arrow buttons are on the left with the joystick, this means that in order to activate either, you have to stop moving or master some fancy finger work. I’ve mostly mastered the fancy finger work.

The Meh

To be fair to Valhalla and how harsh I was on it, I want to make sure that I’m equally harsh on Odyssey. Though there isn’t anywhere near as much to gripe about in Odyssey.

A Bit of Lazy

I would be remiss — after complaining about a horse run cycle on a wolf mount in Valhalla — if I didn’t mention that Kassandra is always posed holding reigns when mounted. Even when her mount doesn’t have reigns.

Screenshot illustrating Kassandra's position holding reigns even when her mount doesn't have reigns.
She must have leg and ab muscles of the gods to hold that position without any help from reigns or a saddle. Amazing.

I don’t think this really counts as “laziness,” but I’m not certain quite what else to call it. The average female characters in Odyssey are clearly all based on the same physical model, because they all have the same weird arms.

Montage of screenshots showing the weird arms on various characters
Not even Kassandra is immune from the “weird arm” issue.

Visual Glitches

I mentioned in my Valhalla review that visual glitches are a funny part of games, assuming the game works correctly. And I stand by that. However, the algorithm — or piece of code — that scatters iron around in Odyssey needed some work. A significant number of iron lumps are placed in walls or underground and can’t be accessed. And I can’t tell you how many floating bushes I’ve encountered.

“Murder” Animals

I coined this term back in 2018 the first time I played through the game. I came across an island where the chickens have attacked and killed people. So they’re Murder Chickens. “Murder” animals aren’t exactly new to Odyssey. There is a long history of “murder” animals — animals that will attack without any provocation — in the games, Odyssey just seems to have more of them and a wider variety. There are Murder Dogs (woves), Murder Fish (sharks), many Murder Cats (lynxes, lions, and cheetahs/jaguars), Murder Pigs (wild boar) — but I tend to call them asshole pigs — Murder Teddys (bears), and Murder Noodles (snakes). I think that’s all of them.

Murder chickens at 0:56.

On the one hand, it’s funny dealing with the more easily killed animals like the Murder Chickens. On the other, the Asshole Pigs are so called because they’re a pain to kill and will pop up out of nowhere. The Lynxes could easily be asshole cats for the same reasons — although I saw a post that called them backpack cats because they’ll jump on your back as an attack move, and that’s a good one. So, “meh” category it is. Not horrible, but not good.

Bounties

I’m a bit torn on bounties. On one hand, they can get annoying, especially if you get to the 3, 4, or 5 bounty hunter level. But on the other, they’re a useful way to bring mercenaries, and potential order members, to you. I’d advise paying off any bounty that reaches level 2. Level 1 is OK, you’ll come across occasional mercenaries, and it will go down on it’s own, or you can track down the bounty sponsor and kill them, if they’re close to your location.

Losing to Syndicate

I have to give Syndicate the win for its zipline. I know that it would make zero sense for Kassandra to have one, but it beats the hell out of climbing. Syndicate also wins for the hidden blades. They don’t exist in Odyssey, another Assassin’s Creed hallmark lost. At least they’re brought back in Valhalla. Although with Kassandra’s impressive abilities, I didn’t really miss it.

I’m torn on this last one. Odyssey is stunningly beautiful, but I think some of the texture layering — dirt, etc. over base material — may have been better in Syndicate. It’s a bit hard to say for sure, given the different types of base materials and types of grime, but the possibility is certainly there.

Losing to Valhalla??

That title almost hurts to write. But there are a couple of things that Valhalla added that I wish were in Odyssey. For one, you can only have one map marker in Odyssey. Annoying. For two, you can’t tag animals. Valhalla didn’t do a great job with that, but even partial functionality is better than no functionality. Especially when you have to find specific animals for quests. And, for three, I really miss the mount being able to swim.

The Good

Now for the good stuff. This section is in order from least important to most important by my view.

Eye Candy

The header says it all. Hands down, Odyssey is stunning. The water, the clothing textures, the colors, you name it it’s amazing. Granted, the flora isn’t fabulous. There are some clearly flat flora, but considering the beauty of Odyssey’s world, I can forgive it. Enjoy some images of how pretty this game is.

The cut scenes, as one would expect, are just as gorgeous as the gameplay. Beyond that, cut scenes that feature character interactions showcase the excellent facial animations. All of the characters are amazingly emotive. The cut scenes in Odyssey feel like animated movies.

Collectibles

After Syndicate, Odyssey’s significant decrease in required collectibles is a lovely relief. While there are tons of things available to collect — wood, iron, money, supplies, etc. — you aren’t required to collect most of them. Instead, there are specific areas where you have to collect treasures and kill people to clear the area. These are much more manageable than the hundreds of randomly placed and pointless collectibles found in Syndicate.

Game Saves

Hooray for multiple game saves. I really made use of multiple saves the first time I played when I wanted to test multiple choice options. I also started a second game when I wanted to replay it while waiting for the various DLCs to release.

New Game Plus

New game plus lets you start a new game after you’ve played through the full Odyssey storyline, but keep your abilities, currently equipped armor, and some — I’m assuming non-story specific — Legendary armor. It’s fabulous if you’re in it for the story and want to make things easier. It may be unimportant or not for you if you enjoy a challenge. NPC and animal stats are leveled up accordingly, though, so you don’t just plow through them like grass.

Phobos

In the grand scheme of things, this one isn’t super important, but I really enjoy the auto-mount feature. When you call Kassandra’s horse, Phobos, if you’re running as he approaches, you’ll automatically mount him and ride without any break in motion. It’s kind of a small thing, but over 100+ hours of gameplay, those saved seconds add up.

I also think that the available skins for Phobos are the best ever. It can be hard to choose between the unicorn, black unicorn, Abraxas, and Orphnaeus. The only way it could be better is if the pegasus could actually fly or if NPCs reacted to the Phobos skin you choose. Because, really, if they comment on your Eagle companion, Ikaros, they should definitely comment on your flaming horse. Maybe someday it will be possible.

Four of my favorite Phobos skins

Ikaros

With the loss of the classic Assassin’s Creed Eagle Vision, Ikaros is a godsend. Using Ikaros, you can find and mark enemies, treasure chests, and hidden entrances. Ikaros can also “harass” people, dealing significant damage. I particularly enjoy using Ikaros to find the sharks in underwater locations. Then I can use the ghost arrows to kill them before diving in.

Gear

The gear customization in Odyssey is one of my favorite parts of the game. It’s great to choose your favorite gear look for each item without affecting status.

And all the gear you loot throughout the game makes for an excellent source of income (when sold) or resources (when dismantled). The random trade goods that you pick up are interesting to go through as well, and provide even more income.

Most gear — maybe all gear? — also has an engraving slot that you can use to upgrade its perks. Some increase Kassandra’s stats (armor, speed, health, etc.), others enhance her special abilities, and still others provide perks (additional health on parry, etc.). It’s a nifty feature.

Jumping/Falling

While I miss the “no fall” feature in Syndicate, Odyssey deals with it in a different, and perhaps better, way. Once you’ve got some decent gear, you can jump from any height without taking damage. Instead, you take on this cool pose and roll when you land. It’s so much fun to jump of mountains and statues without a worry. On top of that, if you aim with your bow while in a free-fall (doesn’t work for the Leap of Faith), time slows to give you a chance to attack.

Special Abilities

Odyssey provides a skill tree you can level up to gain new abilities. You purchase the abilities with skill points earned through leveling up and completing game actions/missions. Kassandra’s abilities are great. If you want in depth information about them, you can find that through a quick Google search. Just know that there are some truly awesome ones. Some of my favorite include Ares Madness, Overpower Attacks, Ghost Arrows of Artemis, Death Veil, and Rush Assassination.

Screenshot of Odyssey's skill tree
Look at all those fun abilities

Mythology and History

One of the main reasons I started playing Assassin’s Creed is its seamless integration into real history. Odyssey keeps up the awesome there, too. You get to rub elbows with greats like Socrates, Perikles, and Pythagoras. You get scenes with greats like Leonidas of Sparta. And you get to take on beasts and mythical creatures of lore like the minotaur, cyclops, and Medusa (or maybe a general gorgon). What’s not to love. And that’s before the DLCs where you get to meet “gods.”

Random Good

There are several smallish things that I enjoy that don’t exactly need their own sections. For example, the Adrestia, Kassandra’s ship, has a neat storage feature, where you can put away items that you want to keep or can’t sell. The Adrestia also has an awesome flame thrower ability called Chimera’s Breath that is devastating to other ships in the best way.

Chimera’s Breath starts at 1:35

The six different types of arrows are fun, especially the death arrows. And the bloody masks added to the loading screen for each cultist you kill is a nice touch. There are more, but I’d take forever to go through them all, and this is too long already.

The Amazing

OK, now for the truly amazing. I don’t think any game will top these things. I have four favorite things, and I can’t choose an order, so I’ll write them in the order I thought of them while taking notes for this post.

Ghost Arrows of Artemis

This is one of the abilities you can buy with skill points. It’s the best weapon mod I’ve ever come across in a game. You. Can. Shoot. Through. Anything. ANYTHING! Once you mark a target with either Ikaros or the “pulse,” you can shoot through walls, stone, cloth, wood, anything. And any enemy within range that’s in the arrow’s path will take damage — A LOT of damage; enough to kill about 2/3 of enemies — regardless of how many other enemies the arrow has already passed through. Even better, the other enemies won’t know where you are because you’re behind an obstacle or 3. So they run off in some other random direction to investigate.

Ghost Arrows starts at 0:44

Sleeping Your Way Through Ancient Greece

I previously wrote about this aspect of Odyssey, but despite the “fade-to-black” aspect, I really cannot adequately describe how much joy this brings me. Regardless of who you choose to play as, you can romance a bunch of NPCs, both male and female. In fact, one of my favorite NPCs, Alkibiades, seems to exist almost solely for the purpose of some sexytime fun.

Of course, you don’t have to sleep with anyone, but the different relationship options are all there without the stupid “nonexistent” male character, like in Valhalla. Both Alexios and Kassandra are valid choices — except Kassandra is clearly better — and give players the chance to play their character as gay, lesbian, straight, or bi/pansexual. There’s even the opportunity for a threesome.

Death Veil

This is a massive benefit for stealth players. When you assassinate someone, they disappear, so their body isn’t lying around to attract attention later. With some patience, you can clear whole areas this way and leave them without a trace. If I recall correctly, this is an ability added with one of the DLCs, so I don’t know about its availability for completely new games or players.

Death Veil starts at 0:16

Rush Assassination

Another great benefit for stealth players and hybrid players. With the right weapons and engravings, you can clear a whole enemy area — a small one anyway — with the Rush Assassination ability.

It’s also great for traversing and area without being spotted. Just use Rush Assassination on an enemy and you’re immediately at their side. Even better, it combines with the Death Veil ability, so that everyone you kill disappears.

Rush Assassinations begin at 0:20

Wrap It Up!

OK, I think I’ve raved about this game enough. Is it perfect? No. But is it my favorite game ever? Yeah, I think so. If you haven’t played Odyssey and enjoy video games, give it a shot the next time it goes on sale. I doubt you’ll be disappointed.

TLDR: Assassin’s Creed Odyssey, like its namesake is epically epic. Absolutely would recommend.

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