Assassin's Creed Origins was a milestone in the series, a much-needed evolution of the formula and Odyssey continues on in similar fashion. It offers the same sort of open-world and RPG systems, but on top of the new setting, there's also plenty of important additions that further the RPG ways of the series.
It's mainly to do with choice and at the start the player is given an interesting decision to make. Will you play as Alexios or Kassandra? It's not like Assassin's Creed: Syndicate where you could play as both Jacob and Evie, here you'll choose one of the two descendants of King Leonidas and play as them through the entire game. The premise is that of an epic Greek tragedy. As a child you're separated from your family (these events are somewhat shrouded in mystery). You survive and at the start of the game you're a mercenary looking to make a living as the Peloponnesian War between Athens and Sparta begins. It's the golden age of Greece and the foundation of Western civilisation, and you'll trade wits with the likes of Socrates and Pericles.
The game takes place in 431 BC, that's four centuries prior to Bayek founding the brotherhood and, naturally, you're not an assassin in this game. You're not sporting a hood nor a hidden blade, at least not from what we've seen, but the core of the gameplay is very much the same. Perhaps most importantly there's no creed to follow, and so player choice comes more naturally. The ties to the franchise are there even without assassins as there's a connection to the first civilisation; the storyline of Layla Hassan in the present will continue from that of Assassin's Creed Origins. For those who want to dig deeper into the mysteries of the first civilisation there will be more optional present day gameplay to explore.
"We were very fascinated by Ancient Greece and especially the time of the Peloponnesian War," says narrative director Mel MacCoubrey. "This is a time where we can see Greece in its golden age. This is a time when Athens is booming culturally. But there is also this war that pervades the atmosphere around what is happening..."
We've hinted at the importance of choice already, and this is the first Assassin's Creed title to feature a dialogue system where your choices will influence relationships and events in both the short and long term, as you'd expect in games like The Witcher and Dragon Age. There's even romancing here, and during our playthrough, we tried to woo rebel leader Kyra on Delos playing as Kassandra. Sadly, at the final dialogue option, we didn't push ahead and it amounted to nothing. Romancing is one thing, but the dialogue system will deepen the relationships you have with all characters in Odyssey. One of them is Sokrates, who will likely be driving us to the edge of sanity with his moral dilemmas and comedic demeanour.
"The more we read about [Sokrates], through Plato's works we found out that he was very much somebody who would make people question their beliefs by asking them questions about their rationale, potentially making them change their opinion for a better or worse way," said MacCoubrey. "Sometimes it resulted in people throwing temper tantrums in the middle of the city. And so we really wanted to represent that as well as we could."
Choice isn't only present in conversations either, just as important is your choice of playstyle and abilities. Much like in Assassin's Creed Origins you have a three-tiered skill tree with both passive and active abilities. These active abilities are now mapped to buttons (fully customisable) and tied to your adrenaline bar. It makes for a more adaptable system and one that offers more player agency.
Many of these abilities are new, including a Spartan kick, a shield break ability, and healing. The Spartan kick (you won't be able to stop yourself from yelling "This is Sparta!") is particularly useful as it stuns and creates space between you and your opponent (in addition to dealing damage). Of course, the best part is when you sneak up on an unsuspecting guard keeping watch on a cliff and you send him flying as fall damage makes sure he's taken care of fully.