The moment Ubisoft unveiled Assassin’s Creed Odyssey at E3 2018, our classically-trained lizard brains sharply focused on the mythological possibilities. To many of us, Ancient Greece doesn’t just mean shiny helmets, pointy spears, robed philosophers, and sunbaked cliffs overlooking the Aegean: it means monsters. Big ones. And lots of them.
Of course, the Assassin’s Creed franchise prefers to recontextualize actual historical events through the lenses of its stealthy stars, so we haven’t gotten our hopes up that it will turn into the “Clash of the Titans” playground that immediately popped into our heads.
Or will it? Based on a new gameplay demo at Gamescom 2018, we’re thrilled to say that yes, in addition to the (alternate) history lesson, Assassin’s Creed Odyssey will let players do battle with some of the most famous creatures in Greek mythology. And while you won’t necessarily release the kraken, you’ll be properly equipped to deal with these fearsome foes thanks to the most potent combat ever seen in an Assassin’s Creed game.
Set on the island of Lesbos, the demo had a straightforward setup. Playing as protagonist Alexios (we tested fellow protagonist Kassandra at E3), we met a young woman, Bryce, who had been accused of sacrificing her companion to a nefarious creature. Our job: save Bryce and get to the bottom of the mystery by tracking down her lost love.
Within moments of making this decision, we faced off against a swarm of soldiers and citizens convinced Bryce should be punished for her crime. While we experienced the basics of melee combat at E3 2018, the gamescom demo digs into Odyssey’s seriously upgraded fighting, which has been enhanced through the use of powerful, game-changing abilities. Alexios was maxed out at level 50 for the demo, giving us a chance to experience the top tier of Odyssey’s three-pronged upgrade system.
Players can invest in Hunter, Warrior, and Assassin trees, roughly equating to ranged, melee, and stealth approaches. These include both passive and active abilities, up to eight of which can be equipped at a time.
They proved crucial during our initial fight. Odyssey’s combat is challenging, as enemies will smartly surround and tactically attack Alexios. While basic and strong attacks are fine for chip damage, we found far more success triggering attacks like the sweeping Ring of Chaos, knocking back and stunning several guards at once. A well-armored grunt was taken down with a Sparta Kick, while we disarmed another foe with a Shield Breaker attack. Powered by adrenaline, these moves can be charged by engaging enemies and performing well, a fast-paced reward loop that keeps players invested in the action.
After dispatching the guards, we ran into a significantly tougher foe in the form of a fellow mercenary who was attempting to collect a bounty. Bounties play a big role in Odyssey. Any citizen can place a bounty on your head for transgressions both minor (stealing something cool) and major (killing someone cool). You can resolve bounties by paying them off, keeping a low profile, or getting your hands dirty by killing the sponsor. In this case, we wiped the floor with the merc, spent some of that sweet level 50 cash to remove the bounty, and made our way to a temple Bryce’s friend was rumored to have visited.
This sent us on another errand to locate the temple key. After a bit of horseback and ship sailing, we tested a few more combat abilities in a cave filled with some very large, intimidating bears. This time we used Flaming Attacks to ignite our sword and spear, causing one bear to run in terror. A Slow Time ability let us take a few uncontested swipes at the other before heading to higher ground to try some bow attacks. A controllable Predator Shot let us guide the arrow into the bear’s soft spot, while the wall-piercing Ghost of Artemis shot finished him off. Whether you choose to play up close or from a distance, Odyssey’s arcade-tinged abilities give you incredible power.
We discovered just how valuable these are when we found the key and entered the temple.
The lifelike statues were a dead giveaway. Only one Greek legend was capable of turning soldiers into art; after a bit of parkour, we came face to extremely ugly face with Medusa, bad hair and all.
The ensuing boss fight required extensive use of our powers. Stay still for too long and the gorgon would turn us to stone; get too close and it was a quick sword to the gut. She also summoned lightning strikes, leading to several abrupt, painful deaths. Eventually, we wore her down with a few potent Devastating Shot bow attacks and summoned the Battlecry of Ares ability to go into a rage, inflicting extra damage with each swing of our blades. Ten intense minutes later, we harnessed our inner Perseus and ended the titan’s reign.
She won’t be the only myth come to life in Odyssey. Players will face off against other legendary beasts culled from the classics, including a beast or two from the famous Twelve Labors of Hercules. No assassin should do without a cozy Nemean lion pelt.
Don’t expect Odyssey to become Dark Souls, however. Mythological battles of this nature are considered end-game content and are hidden in hard-to-reach areas. You’ll mostly flex your newfound abilities against decidedly tamer foes, though if the twitchy, intense action found in the gamescom demo is any indication, it won’t be any less thrilling.
Assassin’s Creed Odyssey releases October 5 for the Xbox One.