'Assassin's Creed Odyssey' Hands-on Impressions: We're Under Attack!

Assassin's Creed Odyssey wants to live up to its name by allowing players to craft their own adventure. Unlike previous Assassin's Creed games, players now have many choices to make, including who to romance, what fighting style to use and how to handle difficult situations or branching conversations. Over my handful of hours with the demo, I started weaving my own odyssey through the world of ancient Greece as it sits on the brink of the Peloponnesian War. And I killed a ton of wolves.

Assassin's Creed Odyssey shows tons of promise, but needs to tone down the number of combat encounters Ubisoft

At the beginning of Assassin's Creed Odyssey players take on the role of one of two siblings: Alexios and Kassandra. This decision doesn't really matter from a gameplay perspective, as both characters have access to everything Odyssey has to offer. We learn that your family was ripped from you as a child during a ritual sacrifice gone wrong. Fast forward to adulthood, and you've settled down on a small island with a makeshift family of outcasts and misfits.

The demo began at the start of the game, so I had to work through the usual tutorials like how to use your map and ride a horse. Once I finished the early chores for my de facto family, it was time to help the rest of the small island. This is really when Odyssey starts opening up, showing you all the different ways to approach playing. I began with a few smaller missions that were mostly fetch quests, but through dialogue choices, had the option to play as a more caring, understanding person or someone looking out for my own best interests.

Dialogue options can greatly change how missions play out Ubisoft

My choices were a bit black and white at the beginning, but I hope they move on to allow for more grey areas later in the game. It seems obvious that players will eventually be funneled into fighting for one of the two sides in the Peloponnesian War (either fighting for Athens or Sparta), so hopefully the two factions don't devolve into Good Team versus Evil Team.

Having an option to romance a number of different characters is pretty fun, and finding the romance dialogue option is easy thanks to a little heart icon paired with a selection. Throwing a flirty line or two into conversation usually resulted in a chuckle from me, especially when the person you're talking to is mad and yelling. It usually throws them off guard in unexpected ways.

Combat was diverse, and each weapon changes how you approach an encounter. While basic fighting largely remains the same from previous Assassin's Creed games, such as an emphasis on parrying and well-timed attacks, players can unlock bonus moves like a rush attack or the expected 300 rip-off Spartan Kick. Like an RPG, these attacks have cool-down timers and are used sparingly.

It wouldn't be a game set in ancient Greece without a cliche Spartan Kick move Ubisoft

One annoyance I had with combat was the fact that stealth assassination attacks don't necessarily kill enemies anymore. You'll need to level up your assassination skill enough that it'll do enough damage to actually bring down higher-level enemies. While this does make it so you can't storm the toughest compounds right at the beginning, it seems a little lame when I slit someone's throat and they're still swinging at me afterwards and exposing my stealthy position to all the other enemies around me.

Combat is fun, but got old quickly. I felt like I was constantly fighting against some enemy or another. After completing a mission involving fighting enemies, travelling to the next point seemed to always involve me having to fight off at least one pack of wolves. Once I got to the next mission, this also involved fighting more enemies.

When not fighting wolves and enemies during missions, you'll often find yourself having to fight off incoming mercenaries at a near constant rate. The Wanted System found in previous games returns, but this time on land instead of in boats. Doing just about anything will raise the wanted level, so simply completing missions meant I had at least four different mercenaries chasing me down during my demo. These often are higher-level enemies, so killing them isn't easy. All this combat means you're never left with nothing to do, but things get pretty tiring when you can't even go from one point to another without at least one fight waiting for you.

Naval combat involves spears and arrows instead of cannons and guns in Assassin's Creed Osyssey Ubisoft

Naval combat makes a return, but feels a little goofy without gunpowder. Previous AC games let you fire cannons and guns at a boat for big explosions. However, ancient Greece lacks the firepower of the 1700s, and throwing spears and arrows don't seem to have the same impact when fighting ship-to-ship. There still are some fires and explosions when doing naval battles with these primitive weapons, but we'll chock that up to silly video game logic.

After spending several hours playing Assassin's Creed Odyssey, I left wanting to play several more. The story, especially since it was one I had a hand in telling, was more captivating than some of the previous Assassin's Creed games. That said, I was not that disappointed to be walking away from the combat, especially since I hadn't leveled up enough to unlock some of the cooler looking abilities. Hopefully the rate of combat encounters also dips by the time I play again as well.

Assassin's Creed Odyssey releases for PS4, Xbox One and PC on Oct. 5.

So what do you think? Are you interested in learning more about Assassin's Creed Odyssey before it releases next month? What other games are you looking forward to playing this year? Let us know your thoughts in the comments section below.

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