Assassin's Creed Odyssey
The Assassin's Creed franchise has been through several evolutions. While the first game in the series was very much a stealth-action game, it has always felt like they were gradually heading towards being an open world RPG like Skyrim or The Witcher 3. The biggest step came in 2017 with Assassin's Creed Origins, which was pretty much a light open world RPG. The only thing missing were dialogues, choice and consequences. Assassin's Creed Odyssey brings that final piece of the puzzle.
The series has always featured incredible open worlds, and Odyssey is its biggest yet. It doesn't quite achieve the majesty of Origins, sure, but it leverage's Greece's incredible geography for something more varied and expansive. Interestingly, the map is based roughly on the general shape of Greece, just a miniaturized version of it, rather than being interpretive like most open worlds based on real world regions. The sheer size of the world is awe-inspiring, and the developers have done a formidable job in keeping it diverse and fresh - much like the real world Greece. There's no formulaic "biomes", but rather a more organic blend of regions, something that's surely inspired by following the real world map. There are plenty of towns and cities, and while there's a lot of common assets and architecture, there are enough distinctive features to the major cities to keep it intriguing. As always, the landmarks are realized with breathtaking detail. Odyssey also features the best Discovery Mode yet - perhaps the most absorbing history lesson I've experienced. I wish I had tools like these for my history classes back in school!
Odyssey's world is littered with activities, locations and events to clear. I have often talked about how I'm not the biggest fan of filler content in open worlds, but most of this is kind of optional. What does make these activities worthwhile is they are backed by stellar level design - many of these locations are begging to be explored. Unfortunately, there isn't much in the way of environmental storytelling, so most of these locations end up being the "eliminate bandits" or "find treasure" kind of affair. Quests are structured around these locations. There are certainly some really well done bespoke quests, but a majority tend to be fairly formulaic. What makes them interesting are the underlying stories each quests tell, and of course, the strength of the locations.
Odyssey's gameplay is very much an evolution of Origins. There's a vast array of weaponry and armour, with plenty of skills to upgrade to. The archery sees a major upgrade, and was my favourite way to play the game, with some insane endgame skills. There's a pretty good "legendary" system for those who want to sink in hundreds of hours. For them, Odyssey has an extraordinary amount of content. Already, you have a massive world, a really long singleplayer quest, meaty DLCs. But on top of all that, the game almost acts as a live service game, with new missions dropped every week. There are also free DLCs being released off and on. It's pretty easy to spend 200 hours on this game, just to see everything it has to offer. I had added the "kind of" caveat to the various locations - well, you have to do some of those. There are soft XP level walls for progressing through the singleplayer. In my experience, since I love to explore, I was always far ahead of the recommended XP. But I do know that you can't just rush through this game. Fortunately, the game has various difficulty and leveling options so it's not much of an issue.
I have often complained about "bloat" in this generation. Game developers feel compelled to stuff their games with all sorts of content to pad up gameplay time. Assassin's Creed Odyssey is the epitome of this - it's truly filled to the brim with content, way more than any casual gamer will ever be able to complete. At the same time, I can't help but admire Odyssey's kitchen sink approach to deliver "all the things". I still think Odyssey would have been a better singleplayer experience as a leaner, more streamlined game. But the sheer amount of content is still admirable.
Odyssey has the best narrative in the series. It's an epic tale, yet ultimately, it's a family drama. There's definitely overarching choice and consequence, with certain milestones that can go either way. However, within quests, there's not all that much choice. What's rather interesting is that Odyssey has two playable protagonists, and your narrative will vary according to that. Overall, it's a satisfying tale which has all of the ingredients you'd expect from an old-school epic. Apt, considering it's titled Odyssey.
Assassin's Creed Odyssey is yet another bold step forward for what seemed like an aging franchise. After Syndicate, I had pretty much written Assassin's Creed off as a solid, but uninteresting series. But they bounced back with Origins, and now Odyssey - a full scale RPG epic. The game definitely has rough edges and relies too often on a "quantity over quality" approach, but overall, it definitely delivers more than the sum of its parts. Is it the best Assassin's Creed yet? Quite possibly. Is it as good as the best of the genre? Not quite, but a remarkable achievement nonetheless.