The Assassin's Creed franchise has been going through changes over the years, but last year's Origins was without a doubt the biggest change the franchise has seen since its start. Odyssey continues along the same path by adding a few more new features that further divert the game from its stealth-heavy action-adventure roots. There's still stealth, it's still an adventure, but the overall package is that of an open-world action-RPG and to be perfectly honest it's a change we welcome.
Assassin's Creed Odyssey steps back further in time than ever before, prior to Bayek founding of the brotherhood, but in some ways, this means the game offers more insights into the overarching lore of the first civilisation. And so in a bit of a weird twist, longtime fans will no doubt be intrigued not just by the historical setting (which is magnificent), but also about the first civilisation story arch. There are three main threads to the story, but they intertwine to create a tapestry of narrative that works surprisingly well even if the game is massive in terms of content, characters, and scale of the world.
Primarily, much like Origins, it's a story about family - a Greek tragedy if you will. Secondly, it's a story about taking down those responsible for the tragedy (the cult) and learning more about the first civilisation (this comes into play about halfway into the game). The latter part is really what the modern-day sections are about, but as in Origins, these are few, brief, and far between. As you'd expect from the series, it's a mix of serious issues, more light-hearted stuff, and some family intrigue that would make the writers of The Bold and The Beautiful jealous. For us, it's all about the characters and there were many we enjoyed getting to know along our Odyssey.
The key new innovation here is player choice, and not just through dialogue but also through your actions. It starts with the first choice of protagonist between siblings Alexios and Kassandra. Basically what happens is that whoever you choose to play as becomes the older sibling in the story. Choices often have consequences later on, for instance, there's a cultist quest where you can choose to spare someone, but only if you've made a decision earlier to kill a target in private rather than creating a public spectacle. Choices also colour the dialogues with key individuals and whether you choose to speak of Gods or take a more pragmatic modern approach will shape the way Alexios or Kassandra comes across. If you've opted for violence in key scenes, this will also factor in at times. This can be more or less subtle, but overall it works well, and this is something that it's going to be hard to imagine Assassin's Creed going without in future installments.
Something that was part of Origins, but only in scripted sections (and perhaps our least favourite part of the game), was naval combat. Given the geography of Greece, there's naturally going to be more naval action, but here it's all tied into one open world, much like in Black Flag. While the bulk of the game takes place on the Greek mainland and the surrounding islands, it should be said that the ship battles are fun and well crafted, and the whole system for upgrading your ship (the Adestria) and recruiting crewmates adds depth. Often you'll have guests on the ship who'll update you on the mission you're undertaking, and there's always Barnabas, who happily handed you the captaincy after you saved him early on, who loves to chat about the adventures you've had ashore.
Combat may at first seem very similar to Origins, but the addition of abilities (that you map to the face buttons) and the removal of the shield (an odd choice for a game about a Spartan outcast), makes it very different, particularly as you've progressed a handful of hours into the game. You are supremely powerful in straight-forward combat thanks to your abilities, and the ability to heal really changes the way you tackle enemies. Dodges and parries replace blocking and make for more aggressive combat and the offensive abilities add to this. We also appreciate that you can respec skill points at any point (for a bunch of Drachmae), which means that you can adjust for a certain encounter or simply if you want to make your character focus more on skills in a certain tree (Hunter, Assassin, Warrior). Most players will likely create a useful mix of passive and active abilities, but being able to switch out skill points spent on abilities you don't use is always a good thing.