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Copious Content, Moderate Substance, and a Unicorn – Assassin’s Creed: Odyssey – Humble Opinions

“Odyssey” is a word usually used to describe a long and eventful journey or experience. In the case of Assassin’s Creed: Odyssey, this is a fitting description. Upon release, and especially after the release of Assassin’s Creed: Origins, the game received flak for some of its design choices. Currently playing through—at about seventy-one hours in—I thought I would review some of the criticisms that Ubisoft were faced with upon its release. Are these things really an issue? And for who?

Gripe Number 1: The game has too much padding and filler

There is no hiding this, that’s for sure. Ubisoft—maybe in an effort to draw out “more value” (a.k.a. more gameplay hours)—perhaps thought it was a good idea to make the game world, and the quests within it, massive. Yes, the world itself is huge—I would say bigger than Origins. Things are plentiful on the map (you won’t run out of things to do for a long time), but that doesn’t necessarily make all of these things fun to do. Even with an abundance of quests, forts to infiltrate, viewpoints to synchronise, tombs to explore, and ship battles, there is a lot of repetition within the game. You travel from destination to destination with the goal of synchronising towers to reveal the map, attending to the <!> quest markers dotted around the area, then listening to the tropey motives of villagers and figureheads. “Please find my son/daughter/wife/armour/weapon at this fort/tomb/on the open seas,” you know, typical RPG storylines. There are little question marks dotted around the map for you to freely explore in between quests, but these locations are usually more of the same tombs and buildings—almost a copy-paste of something you have likely seen before on another island in game.

So is this a problem? Is the game too repetitive to be enjoyable? The short answer is no.

While the game is repetitive (probably due to its scale), there are mechanics in place that will change how you play the game—keeping it interesting. The player can control how little, or how much, they consume all of the additional content. By “additional”, I mean anything that is not main storyline. There are certain things you’ll want to make sure you do—like synchronising viewpoints for fast travel—but you can choose to ignore exploration for the most part; you don’t have to complete every tomb, fort, and location in order to progress. Questlines will lead you to many notable locations. Players seem to become flustered at the opportunity of having “too much choice” and feel like they need to do everything. Sure, if you approach the game with this mindset you’ll get a lot of gameplay hours out of it, but you will also burn out. The game will lose its enjoyability at that stage.

The largest world ever created by Ubisoft, even larger than the Witcher 3.

Gripe Number 2: No Hidden Blade; stealth is not always a viable option

Long gone are the days where you would be able to instantly assassinate basically anyone and everyone. Since Origins, Ubisoft has changed the way assassinations work: no longer giving the player the Hidden Blade. What this means for players is a shift in how they approach instances of possible combat. For example, when infiltrating a fort, players would usually stealth around, taking enemies down one-by-one with their one-hit-kill hidden blade. In Odyssey, that is rarely the case. You’ll notice that, as you hover over your potential prey, the prompt to “assassinate” often only hits the enemy for a portion of their health—not all of it. Ubisoft likely did this for a number of reasons: lore perhaps, maybe to introduce a new mechanic into the series—but it does have ramifications on how the player can actually play.

So, does the lack of Hidden Blade actually hinder gameplay? I would say, somewhat.

The problem with no longer having an instant kill is that the way you strategise taking down a fort needs to be approached differently. Because you can no longer wipe out enemies completely—as lunging upon someone only downs them, non-fatally, for a second—guards nearby are alerted. This turns a stealthy situation into a not-so-stealthy one. You find yourself then having to fight the other five guards running at you, or try to disappear (to eventually do more damage). There are ways in the game where you can strengthen your assassination power, but it can be at a detriment to the Ranged and Warrior skill trees—as you’ll have to sink more of your ability points into the Assassination tree, which is what I ended up doing in my playthrough.

 

You’ll need to think this strategy through—only partial damage done without the hidden blade.

Gripe 3: Micro-transactions in a full-priced title

Yes micro-transactions are here—it is, after all, a Ubisoft title. Not only can you buy cosmetics (like armour sets and ship designs), you can also purchase resources (in-game materials like wood, ores, and leather) and boosters (XP) to assist you in getting through the game with less grinding. If you are trying to get all of the achievements (like I am), then you’ll need to constantly be picking up items from around the map to ensure you have enough for upgrades. We’re talking ship upgrades, armour upgrades, weapon upgrades…everything requires farmable resources, and a lot of it. There are achievements based around fully upgrading your ship, the Adrestia, and the amount of resources you need increase exponentially after you upgrade each segment of different parts of your ship.

So, do I have to spend money? What if I don’t?

Essentially, Ubisoft made collecting resources very time consuming in order to make the micro-transactions more appealing to players. Once you realise that you have to plunder chests, and gather wood from trees and ores from the ground as you travel, it may be tempting to drop real currency on resource packs and XP boosters. However, I was never tempted to do so. This is because there are ways you can play to maximise the amount of resources and in-game currency you get. For example, if you are looking to upgrade the Adrestia completely, make sure to hunt down specific mercenaries—killing mercenaries often provides a bonus. These bonuses include 50% off resources required for ship upgrades, and 50% reduction in cost to buying at a blacksmith—these are essential in allowing you to spend less of your resources. The key to accumulating currency is to sell blue items and epic items (dismantling common grey items for resources)—each one you sell should give you a couple hundred Drachmae. Lastly, and simply put: loot everything. I found that just by pillaging Nation Chests and supply stashes, I accumulated plenty of resources and currency.

Want to reduce grind-time? That’ll take some dime.

Honestly, the game is not perfect by any stretch of the imagination. The above issues are well noted and discussed among many online. While some of the choices made by Ubisoft hinder the game and make it slow to progress, this does not mean the game is not enjoyable overall. If you have a lot of time to spend, Odyssey is a great option as it will give you many hours worth of game-time for your money. Hunting down mercenaries and cultists, sailing on the open seas and engaging in ship battles, plundering tombs and infiltrating forts, all are part of the roster when it comes to the experience. When they say it’s an “odyssey”, they truly mean it.

Oh, also, there’s a unicorn skin that you can buy for 4000 Drachmae from Blacksmith vendors. 100% historically accurate.

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