Last week, Ubisoft held an Assassin’s Creed Odyssey preview event in San Francisco, and we got to play through the beginning chapters of the game, as well as learn a bit about the hero’s family and backstory—we can’t spoil it here, but just know it quickly sets the tone for an emotional, engaging narrative that will thread through the entire game.
You start your adventures on the island of Kephallonia. “It’s sort of an island for lost souls, an island for people who don’t know what they’re doing with their life,” said game director Scott Phillips. Your hero is a bit of a vagrant and hired muscle, and your closest friends are an orphan child and a foolish, but kindhearted, swindler.
Kassandra is more fun. The dialogue and story are the same whether you choose to play as Alexios or Kassandra, but playing as muscular, bold, down-on-her-luck Kassandra immediately gives the game a more unique perspective. “When we think about RPG protagonists, a lot of the time we think about blank slate characters that you build from the ground up,” said narrative director Mel MacCoubrey. “But the Assassin’s Creed franchise has always had an iconic character that you can relate to and follow the story of. And we wanted to be true to that, so we created Alexios and Kassandra...these are characters with a strong backstory and personality—they are short tempered, emotional, passionate people.”
There are different endings. Whether you play as money-driven, kind, or egotistical will affect the outcomes. “I can’t tell you how many [endings], but I can say it’s based off a succession of choices,” said MacCoubrey. “Now to some triple AAA games, a ‘different ending’ means being on the Earth or being on the moon, and it’s not quite that drastic. But for us it’s a big deal.”
Each region has its own personality. “The Greek world is divided into regions, and we did a lot of research of what was relevant in these regions: what they were famous for, what stories exist,” said MacCoubrey. Depending on where you are, you’ll see these different themes play out in the designs, the cultures, and which gods the lands worship.
Making use of your eagle, Ikaros, is important. Like Senu in Origins, she can be sent out to scout locations. She’s able to map out where your objective is, as well as tag where your enemies are and note how strong they are. These markers remain even after you recall her.
Stealth is key. Working in conjunction with Ikaros’ scouting, Odyssey offers plenty of tall grass to hide in as you quietly take down each marked target. Utilizing this feature is important, as it’s pretty hard to shake enemies once they’re alerted, and they move very fast.
You have a bounty on your head. This may be madly frustrating at first; a bounty hunter always seems to be nearby, and any open combat makes him rush towards you like a bat out of hell. Attempting to face off against him on top of the other enemies never ends well; it's all the more reason to use stealth until you can’t any longer.
You can become a master archer. On top of stealth kills, you can upgrade your bow to take out enemies from afar. There’s a skill tree that allows you to become a deadly archer, and early on you can gain the ability to shoot three arrows at once, or learn to charge up one high-powered arrow and shoot it in slo-mo.
Or a bruiser. Alternatively, if you build up the warrior skill tree, you can become more of a tank. This is especially potent if you use a mace or spear; you’ll quickly find it’s not as useful if you stick to the traditional, smaller blades.
You have a ship. Your vessel levels up with your character. You can also recruit crew members to increase its strength. Hilariously, you recruit enemy soldiers, and it’s required that you choke them out before offering the hand of friendship.
There will be some fantastical elements, with the First Civilization lore of the franchise marrying with some classical Greek tales. MacCoubrey mentioned that the Medusa footage shown at Games Con happens late in the game and was out of context, though. “When you play the game, you actually have a much better understanding of why you’re doing this thing and what’s happening, and it’s very in keeping with the brand,” MacCoubrey said.
It’s a long game. MacCoubrey wouldn’t say how long, but “it's approximately a long time...to play one play-through through the entire main storyline takes quite a while...so if you want to lose yourself [in the story], go for it. That’s totally fine, and that’s what we want you to do.”