Our review playthrough of Assassin’s Creed Odyssey is currently in progress. We’re currently using a review code provided to us by Ubisoft for the PlayStation 4 and a personally acquired copy on PC Uplay. These are our first impressions.
“Nothing is true, everything is permitted.” That’s the central tenet of the Assassin Brotherhood, which articulates the tension between the supposed absoluteness of truth, and the anarchic nature of the freedom it fights for.
The irony of course is that past Assassin’s Creed games have never really given you much in the way of choice. Whether you’re Ezio or Edward, Aveline or Altair, the series’ imposes a heavily scripted narrative that strips you of your agency in most matters of murder and intrigue.
Assassin’s Creed Odyssey marks the beginning of some change in that formula, by granting you an unprecedented level of freedom in combat, conversations, customization and even conquering. You can choose a lover, choose your allies, choose who gets stabbed and who gets mercy. Take a long look back towards 2009’s Assassin’s Creed II, and the series has now come a long way from punishing you for every sidestep from what it deems to be historical truth.
As I played through the opening chapters, I noticed the game goes out of its way to put choice at every twist and turn. While Kassandra and Alexios might be heroes with some clearly defined personality traits – bitingly sarcastic and with fierce tempers – you still decide their moral outlook. You don’t just get to choose whether to be annoyed or agreeable, but even choose how to resolve certain quests.
In one early quest, I encountered a Kephalonnian family being put to the sword for being suspected plague bearers. I chose to let the villagers be killed and lost a lot of faith from the child who gave me the quest in the first place. While conferring with other players, I found out that sparing them would spread the plague as far as Athens.
Assassin’s Creed Odyssey builds upon the reinvented foundations placed down by Origins and extends every aspect of that in its design and writing. While you’ll still be stabbing who the story tells you to stab, there’s a lot more freedom in how you make your mark on the world. It’s almost as if the series is responding to a more modern view of history – uncertain if not unknowable in spite of record – to defer to the players’ desire to experience their own odyssey.