Ubisoft's latest game, Assassin's Creed: Odyssey is a sequel to last year's Origins. Set 400 years before the events in Origins, the game follows your character, a descendant of the Spartan King, Leonidas, exploring the many lands in Greece, as well as, being caught up in the Peloponnesian War and discovering more about the Ones Who Came Before—the Precursors.
So, when the game starts in Kephallonia, the first thing I did was beeline towards the gigantic statue of Zeus. Then the climb commences up his leg—the hard angle of his shin, over the ridge of his knee, up the smoothness of his thigh before I hang off its hanging placid penis.
Why did I do this? To quote George Mallory when he was quizzed on why he scaled Mount Everest: "Because it's there." But the more amazing part about this is that the game allows you to do so. I'd like to imagine that during a meeting, when they were doling out level design roles, some dude is tasked to only—and ONLY—work on the phalluses of Greek statues so that players like me can dangle from it.
But interactive wangs are just the tip (hehehe) of the details inserted into the world of AC: Odyssey—dogs mark their territories; your character limps after jumping off a great height; dust kicks off when you run or zip line from a rope. And given the size of the sandbox to explore in (according to this report, it's 62% larger than Origins'), the level design must have been painful.
But the way the crashing waves move or the swaying of the grass in a field, the environment design gives life to the world, where you can play around in and, of course, snuff out.
The lady or the tiger
Given the backdrop of ancient Greece, where the world saw a leap in the areas of philosophy, art and mathematics; the classic issue of determinism is a well, repeatedly returned to. You're asked to choose your gender when you start playing; during conversations with NPCs, you're given options to choose from that will affect you, either immediately or later in the game.
The entry of choice throws a spanner into the Assassin's Creed lore. Given that the franchise's premise is that the VR engine, the Animus creates a 3D environment from examining a subject's genetic memory; in short you're reliving history. You're acting out events that had already occur so given the game's multiple endings and gender options, is the past still set in stone?
This labour ultimately lies with the creators of the Assassin's Creed series. Maybe they will further tweak the in-universe rationale or just do away with the Animus in future instalments. Who knows? We'll see.
How long is too long
I don't think I've played a game that wants you to deviate from the main story mission quite like AC: Odyssey. Think of this as a road trip: you start from point A and you end off at point B but along the way are these distractions—mercenaries (in the spirit of Middle Earth's Nemesis system) that are out for your head; hunting legendary animals; raiding ancient tombs; levelling up; eradicating the Cult of Kosmos; treasure hunting… the list goes on; these temporary detours add to the journey.
You can even fight in the war between the Spartans and the Athenians. Sabotage either side and launch a full-out battle that's reminiscent of the hack-and-slash action from Dynasty Warriors. We get the return of naval navigation and warfare. Not only can you soup up your vessel and its weaponry but you can also recruit people to add to your crew.
The sidequests are something to behold. You can take on a mission where you have to kill the minotaur but it ends up with you reuniting a family or aiding a man from killing his parents based on a prophecy; these sidequests contain almost as much depth as the main storyline itself.
Romance in the game is weird. We didn't care for it. It was too easy trying to romance certain NPCs and it didn't lead to any consequences to your actions.
If you're impatient and want to reap the rewards without the grind, the game has a microtransaction feature that can help. But, we suggest that you take time with the game. It's a beautiful world to sojourn in. Kill the people that you meet, advance with your main storyline but don't forget to smell the roses and take a few pictures.
Assassin's Creed: Odyssey is available on the PS4, XONE and PC platforms.