Review: Assassin's Creed: Odyssey

Here's Alex Navarro's review of this year's Assassin's Creed.

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Assassin's Creed Odyssey Review

3
  • PS4

Odyssey takes Origins' formula and expands it to the point of nearly breaking.

Homer's Odyssey is an epic Greek poem about Odysseus' 10-year journey home after the Trojan War. Assassin's Creed Odyssey is similar to Homer's Odyssey in that it is also a tale of a Greek hero whose journey takes roughly 10 years to complete.
Homer's Odyssey is an epic Greek poem about Odysseus' 10-year journey home after the Trojan War. Assassin's Creed Odyssey is similar to Homer's Odyssey in that it is also a tale of a Greek hero whose journey takes roughly 10 years to complete.

Editor's note: This review was originally conducted in a podcast format, available as a video above or right here as an audio file. A summary of the review follows.

Coming just a year after Origins' lengthy, but largely exhilarating campaign, Assassin's Creed Odyssey takes that game's open world RPG formula and stretches it to the point of nearly breaking. Its rendering of ancient Greece is enormous and overwhelming, a dauntingly spread-out landscape of cities, islands, and oceans densely packed with more objectives than anybody without a hundred hours of free time in front of them could ever hope to accomplish.

Look, having a lot of game is not a bad thing on its own. How many years have we futilely spent trying to break down some mythological equation that determines the exact right amount of content for a $60 game? If sheer volume of game is all you're looking for, Odyssey is a terrific value. But what good is all that content if only maybe half of it is compelling? At its best moments, the scale of Odyssey helps feed into the feeling of grand adventure the developers are clearly striving for. But too many of those great moments are stuffed between a seemingly endless parade of samey open-world job lists and copy-pasted side quests that, while to a degree ignorable, still have to be engaged with often enough to make Odyssey's pace feel bloated and awkward.

Set in ancient Greece a few hundred years before the events of Origins, you play as either Alexios or Kassandra, Spartan siblings whose fates are intertwined throughout the story. I can really only speak to Kassandra, as that's who I spent 80 hours with, but she makes for a compelling protagonist, charismatically voiced by Melissanthi Mahut. While Origins' Bayek was a mostly chaste and good-natured dad who just liked helping people along the way of his primary murder plot, Odyssey presents Kassandra as a kind of swashbuckling, bisexual mercenary--somewhere between Yara Greyjoy and Xena: Warrior Princess--and there's room within that base portrayal to make her as bloodthirsty or charitable as you like.

Sokrates, if you think murder deserves consequence, this is not the game franchise for you.
Sokrates, if you think murder deserves consequence, this is not the game franchise for you.

That layer of player choice in shaping Odyssey's main character is just one of a host of things added to the Origins formula. In addition to all the fortresses, bandit camps, animal dens and story-focused side quests of Origins, dialogue choices add an extra layer of RPG-ness to a series that was already pretty far down that path. Additionally: the naval combat of Black Flag and Rogue is back in a big way, with a dusting of Metal Gear Solid V's crew recruitment added to the mix. Additionally: there's a Nemesis-lite system clearly inspired by Monolith's Mordor games that replaces the Philakates of Origins with a tiered roster of mercenaries that will hunt you any time your wanted level gets too high. Additionally: there is a web of 30+ cultist targets--sort of a proto-Templar group--that are spread throughout the world, which must be uncovered by murdering your way through the ranks and uncovering clues to their identities. Additionally: you can engage in giant battles between the Athenian and Spartan armies in a big, bloody brawl that recalls Syndicate's gang battles on a larger scale. ADDITIONALLY: there are mythical monsters to fight as part of a subplot involving more of the Layla/first civilization storyline that kicked back up in Origins, and continues here with some of the most patently absurd plot moments anywhere in this series. A D D I T I O N A L L Y: You can fuck a wide variety of the game's NPCs.

If any aspect of Odyssey can be considered a triumph, it's the fact that the devs manage to make all these disparate seeming systems more or less feel like they belong together. Yet, there's still too much of all these things; too many cult targets to shank because you have to hunt through every corner of the world to find them, too many mercenaries that don't have enough personality to care about beyond wanting to avoid them whenever possible, too many side quests that just feel like the same handful of rote tasks asked of you in slightly different ways. The improved enemy AI and streamlining of some of the game's loot and progression systems make engaging with this stuff a little more fun than it generally was in Origins, but the feeling of repetitiveness still creeps in long before you get anywhere near an ending. Were it just that you could dabble in these things here and there whenever you felt like, the game would still feel long, but more manageable. But in order to level yourself high enough to take on the game's toughest challenges, you pretty much have to partake of a large swath of this optional content--or you could buy an XP boost at the start with real money, but also maybe don't ever do that.

The big battles between the Spartan and Athenian armies are probably the weakest part of the game. You can farm some decent loot out of them, but they aren't much fun.
The big battles between the Spartan and Athenian armies are probably the weakest part of the game. You can farm some decent loot out of them, but they aren't much fun.

Even in just the main story thread, that bloated, out-of-sorts feeling permeates a lot of what you're doing. There were no less than four times I felt like the story was definitely winding down, only to have a new array of objectives thrown at me. And the most ludicrous thing is that, 80 damn hours later, I still think there's another ending I haven't seen yet. Despite working my way through Kassandra's main family plot (which, oddly enough, feels like it rushes its conclusion despite taking ages to get there) and handling the full array of side missions pertaining to Layla and first civilization artifacts, I still have like a dozen cult targets to kill, and I just don't want to do it. I know in my bones there's yet another ending buried in there, and I just don't care anymore.

The greatest shame of Assassin's Creed Odyssey is that there's still a fair amount to like about it. It is an often beautiful looking game with some spectacular moments dotted throughout its longwinded story. Its failure to sustain and emphasize those moments feels like a failure of editing. Someone needed to take a hard look at this game and say "We don't need all of this." I know that's not how game developers, especially open world game developers, are generally trained to think. We expect the size and scope of these games to forever expand in ways that ensure we'll stay glued to our controllers for every available hour we can muster. Odyssey is an example of why that mentality needs to adjust as these games continue to engorge themselves with every popular design idea they can find a way to integrate. Origins wasn't without its unnecessary pieces as well, but as a whole, it still felt fresh and unusual, at least for this franchise. If all you want is another huge, slightly lukewarm portion of a meal it feels like we just finished, then Odyssey certainly delivers that. Personally, I feel like I'm going to explode.

Alex Navarro on Google+

145 Comments

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TbanksIV

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A D D I T I O N A L L Y

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Solh0und

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So not as broken and boring as Unity nor not as good as Origins. Noted.

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bathala

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Edited By bathala

just hearing how bloated this game is making me sick.

I didn't even finished the last DLC of Origins because I was too tired of the game.

I also hate content behind Arena based missions

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darukaru

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Origins at least had the advantage of the gap year they took after Syndicate. If AC games are going to continue to be huge Witcheresque extravaganzas, they also can’t come out annually.

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Kamui97

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At least they're taking a year off next year. Hopefully they've come up with something fresh and new, but these two AC games seem like a nice idea that they went as far as they could with. Now they're gonna regroup, and have 2 years to come up with something different.

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Colonel_Pockets

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Man, that's too bad that Alex didn't enjoy it. Luckily for me my views about Assassin's Creed are the opposite of the entire Giant Bomb crew, so I should really enjoy this one. I felt that Origins was enormous as well, but I just told myself to only do the things that I wanted and I loved it.

Let's see what they have to say on the video....

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hassun

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Edited By hassun

Coast to coast! Jeff and Alex' mic volumes are quite low though.

P.S.

I love your writing, Alex. Never stop.

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Efesell

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Edited By Efesell

That's a shame.

I think this game is pretty incredible and other than perhaps the protagonist is a across the board improvement from both Origins and the general AC formula.

Yes there is a comical degree of systems and things to do but that can only be a positive for me personally.

Those conquest battles ARE intensely pointless though.

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Farkas

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I really appreciate the three of these guys and their process in breaking down aspects of reviews and pertinent/salient points that I was hoping to hear about. I hope these reviews are not only limited to AAA games and more for games the site believes in being important.

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escapee

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Reading these written reviews like I spotted the last of some endangered tropical bird preening in a shaft of light breaking down through the thick foliage. Wait no, that gave me an image of some kind of avian-Alex with glorious multicolored plumage. I've gone too far.

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Bicycle_Repairman

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From what ive read the main complaint about the game is that it sucked to review because it has so much to offer. Which is no different then origins except Alex played that over months instead of days. Having to finish/rush an enormous game before review deadline and have it deminish the enjoyment seems like a bigger criticism of the review process than the game itself.

Will listen to the podcast tomorrow, perhaps that has more nuanced criticism.

Disclaimer:

I usually really enjoy Alex's reviews. And no i don't have any usiboft or assassin's creed tattoos.

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elite49

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Edited By elite49

So wait for a deep discount and when I have nothing else to play because it's a typical Ubisoft game... exactly like Origins.

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pompouspizza

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I put 20 hours into origins and didn’t like it much at all. 11 hours into Odyssey and I’m loving it. I don’t think I liked the setting or the main character of Origins nearly as much as I do in Odyssey.

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guip1408

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Kind of sad that Alex went as low as 3, but I still want to try this game more then any other Assassins Creed that I haven't played. Love the setting for this one.

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alex

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@bicycle_repairman: Believe me, I thought about the review process in this. Here's the key difference: Origins' main story was more tightly edited, and the optional content was a lot more optional in terms of leveling and progress. Origins definitely still had its share of bloat, but a lot of that stuff was very skippable and did not feel as ingrained in the overall progression. I was also just a lot more invested in Bayek's story and the small stories around the main quest than I ever was with Odyssey's content. There are decent missions for sure, but they're fewer and further between.

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devise22

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Yeah you had to wonder how much pushback gamers would have to so many open world games not only taking their try at the modern formula, but coming out so close together with each other.

There is probably some irony to the idea that Shadow of Mordor was the first GOTY on this site during the new console era, and years into these new consoles life cycles I don't even know if I can count the sheer number of open world games. Granted, the quality has been super high, even to the degree that it seems that there is high quality to be offered in Odyssey. But we are in a situation where this generation there seems to be a lot of notable 60+ hour games that are giant worlds encouraging you to get lost in. All of which have been taking ideas and iterating on each others ideas each time out. You'll find "similar" experiences even dating all the way back to Mordor, hell even dating to some of the later games of the last generation.

As someone who loves open world RPG's, I guess it's neat to have so much value but I do feel like some of the big budgets need to take a second and start looking at some other genres.

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Efesell

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@alex: I feel like I'm on a much smoother leveling curve in this game than I ever was in Origins though. I remember several distinct stopping points in that game, one immediately after the prologue, where if I didn't stop and do this series of side quests I would be dramatically underleveled for the next phase of the story.

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ottoman673

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I wonder with the new format if Giant Bomb would be better off eliminating the review score? I think Alex's writing here is incredible, and from what I've heard thus far his thoughts shouldn't boil down into one static score.

Just a thought.

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RevenantXenos

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@darukaru: I'm so torn on whether Assassin's Creed is better as an annual or biannual series. On the one hand, back in the days of the Ezio trilogy and through the Kenway trilogy I loved that the story was progressing every year and once AC3 came out I was really into how the series narrative was basically progressing in real time. That was a fun way to tell a story and I looked forward to getting to check back in on one of my favorite series every fall. On the other hand, after the Ezio trilogy the series quality was very up and down and Unity almost broke me on the series completely. I really don't get the narrative experience I used to love anymore as the modern day story has just been spinning its wheels for years. The 2 year break between Syndicate and Origins was definitely good for the series and I'm glad that AC is taking next year off because a 2019 game would almost surely be terrible. I wish AC could be like it used to be, delivering good to great games and meaningful plot development every year, but at this point I don't believe that is possible. I can begrudgingly admit that a biannual schedule is probably for the best and accept that the series will never again have a meaningful modern day plot if it means no more stinkers.

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mems1224

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Maybe my thoughts will change by the end of the game but so far I like this more than Origins in pretty much every single way and Origins was my goty last year. Kassandra is a cool ass character and so far her story is way more interesting than Bayek's jumbled mess of a revenge story. I also think the setting is far more interesting and I like how some of your choices have consequences. I 100% all of Origins and the dlc and still wanted more so this being a massive game isn't a dealbreaker for me. I'll probably be playing this well into next year like I did with Origins.

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LoktarOgar

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I'm 16~ hours in and I"m only in the third region. Every time I open the map I shake my head in disbelief at how much ground there is left to cover. But I loved the shit out of Origins, so, even if this isn't as polished and misses some of Origins' touches, I still want to see it all. Except maybe the message board quests. Timed quests are not a thing I need in a game with this many distractions.

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ivdamke

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I totally skipped Origins and the last AC I played was Black Flag.

I'm enjoying this quite a lot so far.

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Relkin

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Edited By Relkin

Great review, Alex. This is a perfect length for the written portion, I think. Glad to see you're all finding your footing with this new format so quickly.

EDIT: The podcast/video is also a better length; good job, duders.

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Brackstone

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Edited By Brackstone

Just want to say, @alex, keep up the great work. While I like the new format a lot, I was worried that your excellent written reviews would be scaled back as a result. This particular mix of written review and discussion seems just right to me.

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chocolatebear

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Which is the one everyone says was really good? Syndicate?

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infinity_thor

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Edited By infinity_thor

I find it weird this game is being punished for how much it has while everyone is foaming at the mouth about RDR2. Thank god Odyssey doesn't have a mechanic requiring you to exercise or stay clean.

Maybe Alex would have felt better if he could have paced himself through the game instead of needing to race through it all for a review. I play these AC games for months. I love the content and having stuff to do.

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infinity_thor

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@chocolatebear: Syndicate and Origins are my two favorite in the series. Just getting started with Odyssey but liking it so far.

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veektarius

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@chocolatebear: 2?

I'm on the fence on this one. I don't particularly like AC but was pretty interested based on the setting and some of the mythological stuff. On the other hand, samey sidequests are exactly why I don't like old AC games. So if that's what Alex didn't like, that's a pretty strong negative...

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Backstabuuu

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Edited By Backstabuuu
@chocolatebear said:

Which is the one everyone says was really good? Syndicate?

Black Flag is usually the one people point to as the best, mainly because is such a great pirate game.

If you're looking for a really good genuine Assassin's Creed game, I think 2 is the one that people love the most. I remember hearing that Syndicate was decent as well though.

As far as this game goes, I've watched a couple people play it and it's really hard to be interested. Origins had the same issue for me, these games are more and more reaching the point where it's like a boardroom of executives developed them based on what they understand a profitable game to be. But people also loved Origins so I guess maybe that's just me.

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steveurkel

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Edited By steveurkel

Sorry my original post was more on the ranting side than the constructive critique side.

I'm pretty early in about 10 hours or so and I'm really enjoying it. I hope people don't miss out on it because they think a low review like this it is a bad game. I thought Origins was my GOTY last year and really, really enjoyed that game despite never finishing it. I don't know if I will ever finish this game either due to the size but I am looking forward to trying because from what I've seen it improves on Origins. It almost feels like Diablo 3 in the sense of how much loot they throw at you and running around and exploring the world in the exploration mode is just a cool way to play the game. I really don't have any complaints yet so I'm not sure why there is such a divide in reviewer scores online.

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dasakamov

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jeremyf

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@alex knocked it out of the park with this review. I think the new format is finally starting to work well where it doesn't feel like anything is sacrificed.

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Edited By Inresurrection

Great review, Alex. I wasn't really feeling like doing another 60-80 hours of Origins+, so I am pretty glad I didn't pounce on this impulsively. Still might check it out later on when it's on sale. I'm playing The Messenger right now and loving that.

Iwant hear further in-depth thoughts on this so I will definitely be checking out the video posted as well.

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alex

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Edited By alex

@steveurkel: At no point did I complain about not being able to upgrade the ship. Like, that is not a complaint I made anywhere. By the time I got to the end of the game I'd nearly gold-tiered every part of the ship. That was not an issue. I upgraded a weapon in the quick look because I wanted to show what that looked like. You're right that I misspoke about dismantling in the QL but I did eventually figure out the dismantling.

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baka_shinji17

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While I feel I would enjoy this just as much as I did Origins, I'm saving all my open-world energy for Red Dead Redemption 2.

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MerxWorx01

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Edited By MerxWorx01

Nice review Alexios! I'm at hour 26 so still burning through the game.

So I'm really liking what I've played of the game so far. If I do get fatigued I'll go and try playing one of the dozen or so games that released last week.

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applegong

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Nice review Alex! Lovin' the coast to coast review recording.

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Subjugation

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Definitely surprised by this score. I've been watching quite a bit of this game on Twitch and it seems like an improvement across the board on Origins. I've even been having multiple people I know compare the quality of the side quests to The Witcher 3 which I wasn't expecting.

So unless I read the review wrong, the primary complaint is that there is too much to do? I feel like that's not a complaint I see very often. I guess I'll have to wait and see if I feel the same after I buy the game, but I have to agree with an earlier poster in wondering if the pressure to review this game under a short time frame played into turning the bevy of content into a negative whereas it may be a positive for others who are able to enjoy it at their own pace.

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fishriot

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These audio/video reviews are dopeeee

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JuggaloAcidman

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I still haven't finished Origins. It's a good game but there are just too many side quests that have nothing to do with the main plot. If Odyssey has more it might be a pass from me. These 100+ hour games are just too much! 40-60 hours is the sweet spot it would seem.

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StanleyPain

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@darukaru: Reliable rumor coming out of E3 was that there will be no AC game in 2019, and that Ubisoft is making something else their "big" title for that year (supposedly rumored to be Watch Dogs 3), so at the very least, we can expect Odyssey to sort of be their "baby" for awhile.

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csl316

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Alex writing is the best writing.

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steveurkel

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@alex said:

@steveurkel: At no point did I complain about not being able to upgrade the ship. Like, that is not a complaint I made anywhere. By the time I got to the end of the game I'd nearly gold-tiered every part of the ship. That was not an issue. I upgraded a weapon in the quick look because I wanted to show what that looked like. You're right that I misspoke about dismantling in the QL but I did eventually figure out the dismantling.

Thanks for replying and my apologies for sounding so negative so I deleted and fixed the initial post. I must have confused you saying that with someone else so once again my apologies.

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ripelivejam

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Edited By ripelivejam

Sounds like Shadow of War, which contrary to most opinion I quite like. But I still have a lot to do in Shadow of War. Also have a lot of ground to cover with Origins as well. Seriously, though: I am not wanting for video games in the slightest.

Also Alex written reviews rule, even in truncated summary of podcast review form. B R I N G B A C K G U N S O F N A V A R R O P L Z Z

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ashton

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Edited By ashton

Question: Alex says at the end of the video that people who just want more of the "repetitive stuff" and "size of Origins" will enjoy Odyssey. The thing about Origins was that I loved running around that world. Something about Bayek and the setting just clicked with me and that was a big reason why I did 100% of everything on that map. So my question is, does the game world in Odyssey give you that same feeling? Is the massive world just as fun to explore? I think that would make or break whether or not all that side stuff is worth doing.

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Carighan

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@solh0und: I think in the end "It's another Ubisoft, this time turned up to 150%" also describes it well. Even more meaningless fillers, even more stuff to do, even more grind and even more microtransactions to skip the grind they put in to make you buy stuff, even more of a vast world, even more attention to detail.

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mrcraggle

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Giant Bomb: We're doing fewer reviews now (4 reviews from January to September)

Also Giant Bomb: We're doing more reviews now (3 reviews since September)

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Edited By dagas

3 stars OMG I was expecting at least 4. IGN gave it 9.2 and Eurogamer and Kotaku both loved it.

Everything I've seen of it seems great.

I got Origins because of the pre release materials for this game and this just seems like Origins but better in every way.

Having watched the video I can understand where he is coming from but GB still seems to be in the minority here. They have the lowest score of any review critic.

But then GB didn't enjoy Witcher 3 that much and I think Witcher 3 is one of the best games ever so I hope I will love this since it seems a lot like it. Sounds like they could have had less bloat but otherwise everything seems great about it.

Seems people who hate this game (not Alex talking about user reviews on Metacritic) are people who are upset AC changed and they don't like RPG's. As someone who never loved the old AC games but love RPG's I am very happy they made this more into something like Withcer 3 or Skyrim even if it is not perfect we lack those kinds of games now that Bioware hasn't made a good game in half a decade and there will most likely not be any more Witcher games.

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JmarIV

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Eh, I never finished origins. I really enjoyed that game and exploring the world, but I only have so many hours! I still need to finish nier...I’ll probably pick this up when it goes on sale at some point though. Great review Alex! I always enjoy your stuff.