Sunday 11 November 2018

Assassin's Creed Odyssey ★★★★★

"If we steal thoughts from the moderns, it will be cried down as plagiarism; if from the ancients, it will be cried up as erudition"
- Reverend Charles Caleb Colton

Assassin's Creed, here we are again.  When I think about Assassin's Creed I think about spending thirty hours playing a game just to realise that I have been bored for nearly thirty hours.  I was a huge fan of two third's of Ezio Auditore's Trilogy back in the day but every game since felt like Ubisoft thought they were going to do an entertaining fart and then crapped themselves accidentally. Except for Black Flag, which feels like they thought they'd soiled their pants but in fact ended up on the poop deck of a Pirate Ship.

I didn't play Assassin's Creed Origins when it came out because I had been let down and lost the thread of the overarching story a long time ago. However, like a man who has been hurt too many times in the past, but goes on a date out of boredom and gets married, I have fallen in love with Assassin's Creed Odyssey. Which, incidentally, when translated from the original Polish means "The Witcher 3".

I had whipped myself into a frenzy about Odyssey over a period of days, so last minute that I forgot to accept the review copy of it from Ubisoft and had to go and buy it like everyone else. It begins with a choice of character Alexios and Kassandra, a male or female version of each other, but with enough subtle differences to make them feel like fully fleshed out characters in their own right. More importantly, it suggests that you choose exploration mode if you want to have a feeling of freedom.  Normally, as I'm sure you are familiar with, Ubisoft stomp into your games console demanding that you tidy up the mess they made, occasionally demanding that you've missed a bit, and you need to go to the blue dots, or else Satan is gonna tickle your tits just as you're falling asleep. 

So now, I'm a mercenary in ancient Greece. I played for nearly ten hours with interesting side quests and well developed all-encompassing storylines galore. Once I had interactions with Odysseus's great great great grand-daughter and she refused to sleep with me, I jumped on a boat. Once I stepped on the boat I was greeted by 'Ubisoft Presents' and overly aggressively said to myself "You have got to be fucking kidding me", as it continued with 'ASSASSIN'S CREED ODYSSEY', almost ten hours in and I hadn't started playing the game yet. 

Everything from the interweaving storylines, the music and the horse mechanics are politely and shamelessly inspired by the Witcher 3, the 'you-can-climb-anything' mechanic seems inspired by The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild' and the Mercenaries by Shadow of Mordor. But you know what? I'm fine with it. Those were good games, and it doesn't feel cynical, Ubisoft Quebec has been paying attention and learned a lot. I am overjoyed and pleasantly surprised that this title was managed so well, and I'm not just saying that because I kinda fancy one of the Ubisoft product managers. Everything from the music, to the mechanics and story, have been recrafted, improved and it is hard to see the seams.  It is a world I'm happy to live in for hours at a time, unlike Red Dead Redemption 2 which I will get to soon enough.

I think the most important thing they have learned from the Witcher series, or possibly created independently, is the idea of having two armies at war as the background plot. As this effects, everyone you meet, one way or another, the side quests don't really feel like side quests that often, it all feels intertwined. The Spartan/Athenian problem is a great place to flourish as a mercenary and has a visible effect on the game population when you overthrow a section of Greece. There are even exciting mythical creatures to deal with, all with their own individual complications.

It's been a long time since I have enjoyed a game this much, and I am very optimistic about anything Ubisoft Quebec handle in the future, especially with the tasty plethora of DLC they are giving away for free. It is an absolute gem of a game and you'd be hard pressed to name a better title this year. 

David Roberts

Assassin's Creed Odyssey at CeX

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