Assassin’s Creed Odyssey Hands-On Preview – Medusa Joins The Party

Significant change has come over Assassin’s Creed since Origins debuted last year, with the game beginning to shuffle the series towards becoming a fully-fledged RPG. With that change in tow, 2018’s Assassin’s Creed Odyssey has completely enveloped itself within the genre. It’s a fit that feels more natural than I’d expected, and after an hour and a half of hands-on time within the game, I came away impressed with what’s shaping up to be an incredible new endeavour through Ancient Athens.

After a brief introduction and picking Kassandra as my character, I ventured out on the hands-on demo’s main quest line, which was to help a woman in distress and track down the creature that had taken her love, Ligeia, within Petrified Valley. Initiating my first interaction with the woman, I was greeted by one of the main new features in Odyssey: dialogue options. Each option presents a different reaction and can, in some instances, change the way characters perceive you and how quest lines play out. Of course, I was fairly empathetic of this woman’s hope of finding her love, so I agreed to help her out and after a brief fight with the mob that had thought she was stained by some sort of curse, set off towards a valley that her love had last been seen.

Those who’ve played Assassin’s Creed Origins will find themselves fairly comfortable with the controls of Odyssey, though it’s worth mentioning that there have been some slight alterations to combat. Unlike Origins, Kassandra and male protagonist Alexios do not have a shield, and therefore rely on parrying attacks as their defensive manoeuvre. An intriguing choice, I quickly found myself adapting my strategy to prioritise dodging more than trying to withstand the brute force of attacks from enemies.

I really enjoyed the way this affected my play style, with a larger focus on attacking than straight up defending — something that I found myself relying on a little too much in Origins’ harder fights. Kassandra has a range of special abilities she can call upon in combat, too, and it all culminates in a fighting system that feels wonderfully brutal, which is a far cry from the rudimentary grind that was seen in games from the series prior to Origins. Even though I didn’t have much trouble in dealing with most foes, I did find taking on archers and soldiers at the same time forced me into dodging a little too much for my liking, with a few mistimed dodges completely wiping me out. There’s a balance I think that needs to be struck, and Odyssey is almost there but not quite as of yet.

Moving about the massive game map is fairly mundane fare, with most changes and alterations relating to returning features more than anything else. Camels are officially out, as you’ll be riding your horse on the Greek islands, as well as climbing atop of cliffs and running through beautifully detailed landscapes. The biggest change, however, is the reintroduction of naval combat and travel — something I was a big fan of in Assassin’s Creed: Black Flag. Sailing around the islands felt like a natural fit in Odyssey, and I had an absolute blast with it. Combat feels relatively easy to understand, as well, and after destroying a ship’s defences you’ll be able to board the vessel like in Black Flag, in turn taking all of the loot and sailing away into the distance. It was great fun.

During my time with the main quest I engaged with a range of different characters, all with different needs and requests. As such, it didn’t take me too long to take note of how much better the narrative and voice acting is this time around. It came across as a marked improvement from Origins’ narrative work, and having the choice of dialogue options really felt like I’d been actively engaging in the story rather than simply watching events play out, which works really well in the Assassin’s Creed universe. It might just be because I’m quite a fan of Greek mythology and history, but what Odyssey is doing by way of its narrative surprised me in a number of ways. The writing — at least in the quest line I demoed — felt sincere, and I actually cared for the characters I was helping.

The final part of my quest pitted me against Medusa, one of Greek mythology’s more well-known mythological creatures. The boss fight felt almost like one I’d regularly encounter in Dark Souls, as I’d slowly study the attack pattern of the boss and come to terms with what the best way of taking them on was. Small movements and mistakes would be punished, though obviously Odyssey was a little bit more lenient than From Software’s titles.

Medusa was no pushover, though, and while I managed to beat her on my first attempt, I watched both journalists on either side of me at the demo booth continue to fall to her range of deadly attacks. Enemies would continuously be summoned to cause havoc, and even while I was taking them on she kept trying to turn me to stone — it was quite a struggle. Taking out summoned enemies would allow me to get some hits on her, though the process and attack patterns continued to change throughout the fight. I only just managed to beat her with an excellently-placed arrow to the head while I had a smidgen of my health left, though victory felt immensely satisfying. If this is any indication of what’s to come in Odyssey, then I’m rather excited.

After finishing off Medusa I went for one more run around the Greek islands and did some smaller side quests, with a few waypoints covered and a few mercenaries taken out. Odyssey, like Origins before it, seems to really nail giving you fun and meaningful things to do throughout your time in the game’s world, and it made the experience all the more enjoyable because of it. The world feels open and lived in, and had I not been roped out of the preview session it’s fairly likely I would have spent at least a few more hours exploring.

Assassin’s Creed Odyssey is shaping up to be fantastic, and I’m struggling to find any notable issues I had from my 90 minutes with the game. It still feels like a modern Assassin’s Creed game, but the new features look like they’ll change the experience up enough from those who’ve just sunk 80+ hours in Origins over the last year. It’s certainly worth keeping an eye on.

PRESS START IS ATTENDING GAMESCOM 2018 AS A GUEST OF UBISOFT. THIS DOES NOT PREVENT US FROM COVERING OTHER GAMES AT THE EVENT, NOR DOES IT HINDER US FROM PROVIDING HONEST IMPRESSIONS ABOUT UBISOFT’S SHOW LINE-UP.
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