Hoeg Law First Impressions: Assassin’s Creed Odyssey

Yesterday, I finally got the chance to spend a few hours with Assassin’s Creed Odyssey (stayed up a bit late for the Cubs game…sorry cubbies).  Odyssey was one of my dark horse favorites coming out of E3 2018 after thoroughly enjoying its predecessor (Assassin’s Creed Origins) so this was a pretty exciting day.

After about 3 hours of play (that Cubs game would not end) here are just a few of my first impressions:

* If Assassin’s Creed Origins was “baby Witcher 3”, Assassin’s Creed Odyssey is “adolescent or teenage Witcher 3”.  Bulletin boards in towns, dialogue trees, choices with consequence (we are told), contextualized quest lines, and more means that at this point I wouldn’t be surprised if the next Assassin’s Creed takes place in medieval Poland…with monsters.  I have no problem with this.

* Speaking of the Witcher, the music of Assassin’s Creed Odyssey, featuring strumming guitars and heavy drum beats, is very, very reminiscent of that series.  I am not expert enough to compare the respective histories of Greek and Polish music to speak to Ubisoft’s intent here, but suffice it to say, you will be reminded of the Witcher at every level up (and quite often at other times throughout the game).

* Assassin’s Creed Odyssey offers a new first for the series: a choice between two characters.  After much consideration, I am playing though the game as Alexios.  Interestingly, I had intended to play through as Kassandra, but two things changed my mind: (i) I am currently playing through Shadow of the Tomb Raider and liked the juxtaposition, and (ii) after playing the first hour or so of the game with both characters, there is a…twinkle in the eye…of the Alexios performance that seemed absent in Kassandra’s.  At least in that first hour, Alexios comes off as a puckish rogue, while Kassandra comes off much more serious and straight-laced.  Neither is seemingly “better” than the other, but I liked the feeling of Alexios being “in over his head”.

* The story starts slowly, with no real inciting incident but more as “a day in the life of a Greek mercenary.”  There are indications, though, that this start is just the launching point for a real…odyssey.  Provided that is the case, I think the slow beginning (think The Hobbit) is well-considered and gives grounding to “where your character came from”.  We will see.

* Playing without a shield is interesting.  It certainly makes ranged enemies much more deadly.  I’m not sure I like it as much, but it definitely makes aggression more attractive as a defensive option than it was in Origins.  Time will tell.

* I am apparently much nerdier than even I usually give myself credit for, as I was immediately tickled to be playing in Ithaca and exploring Odysseus’ old stomping grounds.  Thanks high school literature class!

* Not sure if it will be added later (as it was for Origins) but the absence of Discovery Tour is noted.  In particular, my daughters love exploring Origins in that mode, going on tours and learning about ancient Egypt.  My oldest (8) was very excited about this release and got a chance to see a bit of it, but the violence in the “real” game is a bit much for her.

* Odyssey does add little “tool tip” historical information as you discover “historical sites”, but while the information is cool, it is hidden two menus deep on the map, and is often presented in a dry manner.  (Pedantically, it also doesn’t really distinguish between “history” and “myth” in a way I personally find a bit confusing.  This may wind up an issue with the game overall, of course.  I’ll let you know if I meet Zeus.)

* Finally, Nintendo and Mario should be thanked for helping teach folks (like me) how to spell the word odyssey for the past year.  It has helped tremendously in writing things like this post.

Overall, Assassin’s Creed Odyssey makes a tremendous first impression, and immediately thrusts you into a world worth exploring, with the feel of launching an epic adventure.  I can’t wait to see and do more, and will be very much looking forward to seeing all it has to offer.

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