Ironically for a game set in ancient Greece, Assassin’s Creed Odyssey is anything but Spartan. This epic-scale action-roleplaying game shines as a grand adventure through a magnificent and beautiful open world on a scale we’ve rarely seen. With so few compromises between quantity and quality, Odyssey vaults over its predecessors to become the most impressive game in the history of the series.
Assassin’s Creed Odyssey begins more than 2,400 years ago at the onset of the Peloponnesian war: a decades-long struggle between Athens and Sparta for dominion over the ancient Greek world. It’s a fitting period to explore that’s rife with social and political intrigue, full-scale warfare on land and sea, and a tangible air of myth and legend. And after an astonishing 60-plus hours of galloping, sailing, and slicing through that historical-fiction sandbox, it’s easy to see why it was worth fighting so hard over.
Odyssey’s world is the biggest and most vibrantly colorful of the series. Even though much of its playground is blanketed in the fickle blue waters of the Aegean sea, its playable acreage is immense and rivaled only by its sheer jaw-dropping beauty. Greece is a stunning series of picturesque locales: white-stone isles, eternally autumnal forests, sun-blasted desert islands, an endless expanse of beach, alabaster cities defended by titanic statues of bronze and stone, and the inviting, rolling waves of the open sea. These beautiful scenes explode into life thanks to a lighting system that still causes me to stop and snap a picture even all these hours later.
Of course, as with virtually all grand-scale game worlds, flaws lurk just under the surface. They range from minor immersion-breaking hiccups like draw distance that never seems to be quite far enough to capture the view, textures that arrive moments too late, or slightly off-sync audio, to the more severe: getting terminally stuck on geometry, finding an unlootable lootable item, or having your tamed beast become untamed when you die and reload – which may very well cause you to die and reload again if you happen to have had a tamed bear. Bugs like these were annoying, sure, but not quite frequent enough to sour me on exploring what has become one of my favorite open-world maps ever.
For the first time in an Assassin’s Creed game we get a choice of whether to play exclusively as a man or a woman: siblings Alexios and Kassandra. True, as far as the story’s concerned they’re effectively the same character, but even though they’re superficial there are some meaningful differences. Namely, Kassandra’s voice acting is generally more consistently well done than that of her brother.
For that matter, accents and voice delivery throughout Odyssey are hit or miss, usually falling somewhere between good and outright scenery-chewing, especially when it comes to no-name NPCs who sound like someone who’d watched My Big Fat Greek Wedding once before being asked to do an impersonation. But the facial animation of the marquee characters is superb, and you can sense the subtle disgust or confusion on the face of Alexios or Kassandra without them having to say a word.
These protagonists are easily the most flexible characters in any Assassin’s Creed game to date when it comes to their personalities. As a mercenary, my Alexios was free to be whoever I decided he should be. A merc with a conscious, a one-track-mind horn dog, or a ruthless murdering psychopath – there are no wrong answers, but there were definitely consequences to the decisions I chose.
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