Last year’s Assassin’s Creed Origins introduced several role-playing game elements to Ubisoft’s heralded series, affording fans more freedom in how they shaped their character and tackled the story.
The recently revealed Assassin’s Creed Odyssey is doubling down on this approach, representing the franchise’s first, full-on RPG entry. During an extended hands-on preview of the game, we got a taste of many of these new elements, as well as the potential depth they’ll bring to the series’ next stunningly realized historical romp.
Set in ancient Greece – before even the Brotherhood-establishing Origins – Odyssey immediately introduces its RPG intentions by allowing players to choose their protagonist. As either Alexios or Kassandra, male and female mercenaries, players will experience the same story. That said, the two characters’ different personalities and visual representations will put unique spins on their adventures.
Not long after filling the Spartan boots of Kassandra, we were met with another of the game’s new RPG additions. Speaking with Socrates on the beautiful Delos islands, we were introduced to Odyssey’s story-shaping dialog choices. After debating the fate of a prisoner – who stole, but with good intentions – with the famed philosopher, we decide to rescue the rebel thief from certain death.
Our choice backfires, however, when the captured man turns out to be more than just a bit unhinged. This presents an even bigger choice-and-consequence scenario, as we’re given the option to free the man – but risk him putting us in danger later in the story –or ensure he’ll never have the opportunity to cause more trouble.
We go with the latter option, effortlessly flaying the good-intentioned thief with Kassandra’s sword. This too brings unexpected consequences though, as killing the civilian calls the attention of a bounty-collecting mercenary. On the plus side, however, the encounter gives us a glimpse of the game’s deeper combat mechanics.
A rewarding and responsive mix of fast-paced hack-and-slash action and more nuanced tactics and strategy, Odyssey’s battles will feel familiar to anyone who freed Origin’s foes of their innards. The sequel adds a satisfying new layer to the sword-clashing combat though, by allowing players to map special abilities to the gamepad’s buttons for both melee and ranged bow attacks. The result is the opportunity to alternate more standard attacks with moves that are as stylish as they are lethal.
During our extended tango with the mercenary, for example, we were able to knock him back with a powerful Spartan kick, unleash a trio of arrows at him from a distance, and even use his own shield against him for a bone-splintering blow. Players can map a total of eight of these special abilities – four each for melee and ranged combat – but they can only be used when a segmented power meter is replenished.
These table-turners, which also work off a cool-down meter, include defensive skills as well, like the ability to refuel some health during especially brutal bouts. The abilities are unlocked and chosen from the game’s three sprawling skill trees, separated into a trio of character-molding categories – Warrior, Hunter, and Assassin.
Our time with Odyssey barely scratched the surface of what will no doubt be an adventure that’ll keep us up way past the wee hours. We look forward to experiencing the long term effects of our dialog and gameplay choices (Will our decision to execute that rebel continue to haunt us?) And we can’t wait to progress Kassandra – or Alexios –to the point where we no longer have to sweat an encounter with a mercenary twice our size.
Of course, on top of digging deeper into the elements we already spent some time with, we’re anxiously anticipating the chance to experience all of Odyssey’s new features, from deeper naval combat and a pre-Brotherhood narrative to a powerful spear handed down from Leonidas himself. Toss in a retina-searing visual presentation spread across the series’ largest open-world to date, and, well, you know what we’ll be doing when the game lands October 5 on Xbox One.