Assassin’s Creed Origins was a refreshing take on Assassin’s Creed last year, and if the demo I’ve played at E3 is any indication, it looks like Assassin’s Creed Odyssey will keep that streak going.
Picking up about four hundred years before Origins, around 431 BC, Odyssey is currently the earliest Assassin’s Creed has ever gotten in terms of human history, taking place in ancient Greece, as you step into the sandals of either Alexios or Kassandra, the new Spartan protagonists, who you’ll stick with all throughout the game. For demo purposes, I was given the ability to freely switch between them, but I only played as Kassandra for the hour or so I had with the game.
After spending over a hundred hours alongside Bayek in Assassin’s Creed Origins, I was admittedly a little hesitant about not picking up on his story where it left off in that game, and from the little that I had to play Odyssey, it felt like it’ll treat character development in a similar way, at least from a gameplay perspective. Looking at Bayek as a story arc and how that grew from the beginning all the way to the end of Origins, it’s a little difficult to imagine the new game and its protagonists following suit, but it sure seems like Ubisoft is trying hard to repeat that formula, given how much of their personalities was thrust in during dialogue scenes in the demo.
In terms of gameplay, Odyssey felt like a natural follow-up to Origins, and that makes perfect sense knowing that both games were developed pretty much concurrently in different Ubisoft studios spread across the world. Still, even though both games play similarly due to that, Odyssey plays around with the excellent groundwork of the previous game in interesting ways. In combat, for instance, instead of having to build up a special attack bar to its fullest and only then having the chance to unleash whatever special move your current weapon happens to have, you’re now given the option of performing one of a handful of attacks that can vary from disarms to breaking the enemy’s defense, only spending a fraction of that power meter.
Another facet of the new game that makes it feel somewhat fresh is how it handles your decisions in regards to where you take the story. For the slice of gameplay that was available at the show, I was able to pick from different approaches on how to deal with a siege that was to take place after meeting with the local Spartan commander during the Peloponnesian War with Athens. Not only did that mean alternative approaches to how I would attack the enemy, but it also meant partaking in completely different missions, such as a massive ground battle, or even a nautical excursion which would serve to thin out Athens’ numbers, allowing my allies to gain an advantage.
I ended up going with the warship mission, because hey, I’ve have always like the nautical bits in Assassin’s Creed ever since Black Flag. And much like Skull & Bones, which I’ll be talking about in another article, it was quite easy to get into Assassin’s Creed Odyssey’s sea faring side, since it borrows the same controls from the previous games, only now adding a couple of new wrinkles in the form of cooldown-dependant special attacks, like fire arrows, that can be fired upon enemy vessels. The mission itself was quite straightforward, tasking me with destroying a certain number of Athenian cruisers, but it was fun nonetheless. That’s something that I felt was missing in Origins and I’m glad to see make a return in Odyssey, especially since the map is even bigger and more open to navigating around in water than the former’s Egypt.
I also liked how the lone historical figure shown in the demo was used. Sokrates, the legendary philosopher, was heavily featured during the preview videos show during Ubisoft’s conference and later teasers surrounding the game, and sure enough he was also part of the show floor demo at E3. Sadly, I did not get to do whatever it was he tasked our protagonists with doing, but the interactions between them were pretty well written and honestly funny, which was convenient for me, since the dev handling my demo just happened to be the writer who handled that particular exchange. Origins had a sharp script as well, so I’m very much looking forward to how humorous our dealings with that guy will be during the final version of the game.
Everything else that I got to mess around in the demo felt familiar to me after the many hours I dedicated to Origins, and frankly, I’m glad for that. Origins was a fantastic re-imagining for Assassin’s Creed that borrowed from open-world games, most notably The Witcher 3 and took the series in a bold and much needed new direction. From all indications, Odyssey is not a rushed sequel meant to cash in the absolute surprise success that last year’s managed to be, and I frankly can’t wait ‘til October 5th rolls around and I’m able to see what else it has to offer.