Being a mercenary has never been this gorgeous.
Welcome to “Assassin’s Creed: Odyssey,” the latest entry in an expansive video game franchise big enough to have its own movie starring Michael Fassbender.
The game is huge. It is also gorgeous. And though its main plot isn’t all that engaging, it sure is fun.
Just wait til you unlock the ability to “Spartan kick” someone off a high cliff, recreating your favorite moment in the movie “300.”
(And all things considered, you won’t have to wait long. You’ll get that ability a few hours into playing, and the whole game should take you at least enough hours to fill a week at a full-time job.)
“Odyssey” places you in ancient Greek times. You get to play as either Alexios or Kassandra, the descendant of Spartan king Leonidas who still carries a broken piece of the legendary warrior’s spear.
No matter which character you choose (I played as Kassandra), your story is the same: You’re an orphan who grew up to be a mercenary. While dealing with some local troubles, you quickly get swept into a larger conflict.
War is heating up, and you get to take sides. There are cults and Atlantean artifacts right alongside real historical figures and family intrigue.
This being an “Assassin’s Creed” game, there are, of course, Templars and Assassins. And there’s a plotline concerning a modern scientist using the Animus system to find something out about the past.
In “Odyssey,” your choices throughout the game also affect the outcome of the game. There are differing plotlines and quests and even endings depending on what you do. Do you assassinate “The Wolf of Sparta” or not? Do you steal and kill anything in sight, or do you play it straight?
In the past, entries in the franchise have been more like narrative adventure games. Though many are open-world, there’s definitely a narrative arc to follow, and the game’s mechanics center around your abilities as an assassin.
There has always been lots of sneaking, climbing and fanciful aerial assassinations.
Not so in “Odyssey.”
You are not always reliant on climbing buildings, sneaking around, hiding from captors and assassinating your foes.
Surely, that all does come in to play at one point or another. Some missions require sneaking about, but your character’s skill tree has three branches: hunter (archery, ranged attacks), warrior (up-close combat) and assassin (stealth, backstabbing).
For many missions, you’re welcome to charge in and kill every foe you see, or sneak in and steal something or assassinate an important figure. How the mission gets completed depends on how you prefer to play.
All of that lends to the idea that “Odyssey” feels much less like an “Assassin’s Creed” game than any of its predecessors that I’ve played. It’s more akin to traditional RPGs such as “Skyrim” or “Witcher 3.”
That’s a good thing for gamers new to the franchise: If you’ve never played another “Assassin’s Creed” entry (there are more than 10), you can pick this up and have absolutely no problem understanding what’s happening.
Your character’s story path is also more reliant on your choices: which missions to take, whether to assassinate characters, who to help, who to hurt.
I admittedly haven’t finished the game. Other reviews estimate the completion time at about 40 to 50 hours (or more) depending on how many side quests you take.
That length makes “Odyssey” feel absolutely epic. This is a huge story.
And to fit it all in, there’s also a huge map. Multiple Greek islands are your playground, and the map constantly expands.
No sooner had I finished my first couple quests, and I was hopping to another island to infiltrate the ruined home of Odysseus himself. I soon had a boat that could sail to, well, wherever I felt like.