Monday, October 01, 2018

"Assassin's Creed Odyssey" Review

Through the years, the "Assassin's Creed" series has taken gamers on a guided tour of world history, spiced up with a fascinating web of conspiracy theories and a sizable dose of historical fiction poetic license. But underlying all the gaming and storytelling trappings always rested a bedrock of historical authenticity. You truly felt like a time traveler, seeing the world through the eyes of an assassin ancestor.

"Assassin's Creed Odyssey" marks a new highwater mark for the franchise because it embraces its history to such an obsessive degree that even its exhaustively researched predecessors can't match. Ancient Greece comes alive in ways a textbook or even a film couldn't hope to approach. Every detail, from the ways the clouds roll over Mount Olympus to the manner in which townsfolk react to the way you brandish a dagger or swipe some loot channels lifelike realism into the experience. The game not only makes you feel as though you live and breathe inside a Peloponnesian War-era Greece, it grants you the sense of powerful freedom to manipulate the land to your goals.

Ubisoft Quebec prioritized player choice above all else for "Odyssey," which is by far the most RPG-like entry in the series to date. Taking a cue -- whether consciously or not -- from the direction in which "God of War" moved, you can adorn your hero with upgradable, craftable armor, unlock abilities by distributing points along the branches of a skill tree, and make meaningful choices in dialogue and actions that have ramifications on the way the story unfolds. The first, but not least of those choices, is whether to play as a man or woman.

That sense of choice and the empowerment it represents echoes throughout the world. More than ever before in an "Assassin's Creed" game, you are at liberty to take non-lethal routes toward your goals. You can also forgo the usual HUD setup that tracks your progress and quest goals, freeing you to explore without inhibitions. Regardless of what you choose, the narrative is written in a manner to justify and de-gamify your selections.

Whether you choose to pursue the main path or allow yourself to be sucked into the many side quests that you encounter, you get a rich, thrilling escapade into times of yore, getting an up-close, full-bodied dose of Ancient Greece in its prime. Along for the ride are a pair of animal friends -- one series veterans are used to and the other which is new, yet familiar to those who have played titles with similar tropes.

There is a bird of prey you can summon to give you aerial recon and mark locations of adversaries, and there is also a horse you can call whenever you like to help speed your travel, trample enemies or navigate harsh terrain. Much like "Red Dead Redemption" and the "Zelda" games, you form a stark, emotional bond with your steed, adding yet another layer of depth to the experience.

Bolstered by crackling dialogue, a sweeping and enrapturing story, as well as boundaries-shattering visuals that fulfill promises the series has long hinted at but never fully delivered, "Assassin's Creed Odyssey" shines in free running, naval combat and stealthy slinking. This is an "Assassin's Creed" to sink into and savor. There is a bright, big world of history there for the seizing, and exalting in it makes you feel like a Greek god.
Publisher provided review code.

No comments: