Special Mention - Winner - “Lukewarm mess” award
This award goes to the game that isn’t bad at all but makes some heartbreaking mistakes that keep it from greatness.
There are parts of an amazing game trapped in Odyssey. I played in a bit of a weird context since I experienced Odyssey on the Project Stream beta with an in-game credit for a free XP boost. I finished all three main storylines and hit level 48 in a little over 40 hours. The boost kept frustration at bay, but I could still feel the disrespect that others have noted in regards to their time.
The segmented story structure could have been a fascinating choice, but ended up fizzling for me because the ends seemed to exist within a vacuum. When I beat the main ‘family’ story it was abrupt and, even though I enjoyed the family dinner scene, didn’t really give enough weight to what you had accomplished. The cult ending was so tossed off it was infuriating. I loved the cult system and the mechanics of hunting down clues and members, even though I had guessed the identities of several VIPs almost immediately (I mean really, was the final cultist shocking at all?). Finally, the precursor storyline/modern day stuff felt bad? I’m enjoying the direction it’s headed in (I’m a sucker for medium quality sci-fi) but the VO was terrible for several present day characters and it felt like it was added in at the very last second before the game shipped.
Overall Odyssey is a step down from Origins. It’s a much less cohesive package. With all of that said I still found myself coming back for more. The changeover to a straight up demigod skillset was amazing, and I really hope it’s where Assassin’s Creed goes in the future (maybe a grounded, less mythical, setting with crazy abilities?) I also LOVED the character of Kassandra. She has joined Ezio and Bayek as the most charismatic and likable of Assassin’s Creed protagonists and I hope that she marks a return to consistently decent leads.
The graphics are beautiful and the world has great art— even if the open world feels a bit mechanically dead behind the eyes. The diversity in locales was also appreciated.
I think the new mission system (conversation driven/context clues to find objectives) was good in theory but ended up being less about finding things yourself and more about tapping through conversations as quickly as possible and then waiting for Ikaros to ping the objective. Maybe this HUD element could be turned off, but I didn’t check until it was too late.
I liked my time with Odyssey, but it left me a bit disappointed in the game that’s here, wistful for the game that it could have beeen, and optimistic for where Assassin’s Creed as a series could head in the future. This may be a small step back from Origins, but it feels like a change in footing that will facilitate a giant leap forward in the future.
My pitch for a new Assassin’s Creed setting: Move the present day characters into the primary roles. We know the animus is more than reliving memories, and it’s clear that the present day world of Assassin’s Creed is ALSO a simulation, so maybe it’s time to have a present day character pull a Quantum Leap and hop though time and location as themselves. Imagine a game in which crossing the map changes time period not just physical space. this island space is in the past, this one in the 19th century, etc… or even a smaller map with an Oracle of Ages/Ocarina of Time style time travel system. I dunno, it’s easy to be an armchair designer and much harder to be in the actual hot seat.