'Assassin's Creed Odyssey' Review: An Endless, Awful Chore

5/10 (Xbox)

Assassin's Creed Odyssey is a repetitive mess, filled with more than 60 hours of uninteresting gameplay and laughably confusing storylines. While some may be excited at the prospect of a long, narrative-driven single-player game, Assassin's Creed Odyssey quickly becomes a chore.

assassins-creed-odyssey-review
Assassin's Creed Odyssey is a beautiful mess of a game Ubisoft

While there are a host of terrible design decisions, Assassin's Creed Odyssey doesn't lack highlights. The map, for example, is stunning. It's too big, which you'll notice when you spend 10 to 15 minutes sailing to a new island you haven't visited yet and seeing nothing interesting along the way, but walking around on the islands is a real treat. Each one is just different enough to stand out, and exploring the architecture and landscape was always something I looked forward to when arriving at a new destination.

The combat is pretty fun too. I only found a handful of abilities that sounded interesting or useful, but mixing up my playstyle every now and then with different weapons showed there's some depth to combat beyond simply timing your attacks right. I will say making assassination kills not an instant-kill is very annoying, however. Assassinations in previous Assassin's Creed games used to be a one-button kill on many enemies, so long as you weren't detected. Now it's a skill that needs leveling up, and never seems strong enough.

assassins-creed-odyssey-review-2
If you find yourself in a conversation with Sokrates, expect to walk away smiling, but a little confused Ubisoft

I'm also a fan of the dialogue system in Assassin's Creed Odyssey. Allowing players the ability to talk their way through encounters adds a refreshing tweak to the gameplay and the romances opened some funny dialogue options (even if they ultimately amount to very little). It was also interesting to see how certain choices I made would come back to help or hurt me later, often in unexpected ways. Just because something seemed right at the time doesn't mean it ultimately was the right choice in the end.

That's pretty much where the praise ends, unfortunately. Odyssey's story, or rather all three of its stories, are horribly paced, often leading me to question what I should be doing at any given point. Based on how the "Quests" tab on the menu is laid out, I never really knew which missions were the important ones and which ones were side content. And that doesn't even go into all the times I was left shouting "Wait, what?" at my TV because something didn't make sense at all.

Then again, the distinctions between main and side content don't matter much, since you'll have to play through most everything to be strong enough to actually complete Odyssey. In an effort to lean into its new RPG influences, Odyssey's missions have different level suggestions. While it's possible to complete a mission several levels above you, it's usually impossible to beat something even three levels ahead if there's combat involved. Sticking exclusively to the main story missions quickly pushes them out of your level, meaning you'll need to grind. A lot.

assassins-creed-odyssey-review-3
It's a rare moment in Assassin's Creed Odyssey when someone or something isn't attacking you Ubisoft

By the end of the first main storyline, I was only around level 40. I am now at level 45, and cannot complete the other storylines yet, because I'm not close enough to level 50, which I assume is the level cap, since I haven't seen anything go above it yet. It's one thing to offer fun challenges for those who want to push themselves, it's another thing to lock story content behind an insane grind.

Am I complaining about a game having too many missions? For Odyssey, yes I am. They just aren't fun, and more or less only come in three varieties: go to a location and kill a target, go to a location and steal an item or a mission consisting of a bundle of smaller tasks of killing and stealing. There aren't any especially interesting setpieces, or real variety. After 10 hours or so, the missions feel stale and repetitive. Unfortunately, that 10-hour mark is only one-sixth of the way through the main game, give or take. Even boss battles with unique enemies ultimately turn into standard fights, only with bigger health bars to whittle down.

Also, can we all agree to just drop the modern-day stuff in Assassin's Creed games? Coming up on 60 hours in my gameplay, and there have been maybe a combined 30 minutes of modern-day gameplay and story. Why bother? The historical stuff is way cooler anyway.

Modern-day storylines aren't the only unnecessary fluff in Odyssey. Upgrading gear seems largely pointless, since you get new gear at a pretty constant rate. You frequently get better equipment, so why bother improving the stuff you have when it becomes obsolete so soon?

"Exploration Mode" becomes just another way for Odyssey to drag out gameplay even longer for no good reason, making everything slightly harder for players without providing anything fun or incentives for the challenge. Instead of outright telling you where to go, Odyssey's missions frequently give a series of clues to the next goal. However, these clues are so obvious they point to a specific region, and once you're there you receive a prompt to use your eagle to locate the objective (the prompt doesn't go away until you either use the eagle or find the objective naturally). Once you use your eagle, the objective marker appears on the map, just like it would outside of Exploration Mode. So what's the point?

The mercenary system is also horrible. Doing "something bad" raises a meter, and reaching certain points on the meter causes mercenaries to hunt you down and kill you. What are the bad things? Sometimes it's stealing, or killing people, even if that is part of the mission. Or if you're stealing from bad guys. The game never bothers to explain how it all works, but mercenaries seem to serve two purposes: either they're a constant drain of your money as you pay off all your fines to get them to leave you alone, or they mosey into any area where you happen to linger too long, making combat encounters much harder.

Fighting a mercenary offers some challenge, but with little upside. If you win, you're still wanted and a new mercenary will hunt you. You'll get some gear, but it isn't necessarily better than what you already have. All you've really earned is a few more minutes of peace until the next mercenary shows up. If you lose, you die and reload into a game where you're still being hunted anyway. Thankfully, I never was short for cash and would immediately pay off any fines as soon as a mercenary was sent after me.

The failure of Assassin's Creed Odyssey boils down to there simply being too much game— an excess of sprawling, unfocused content. If the map were condensed to the more interesting areas and missions were pared down to story-focused quests, there might be a worthwhile game somewhere in here. Instead, Assassin's Creed Odyssey feels more like being forced to complete busywork between the more interesting bits (even when the more interesting bits still involve the same tired gameplay). And with a host of impossible missions that fill up your quest log that you can't attempt without hours of grinding first, playing Odyssey feels less like a fun game and more like a slog.

This review will be updated if I drag myself over the finish line and find something worthwhile on the other side.

So what do you think? Are you interested in trying out Assassin's Creed Odyssey for yourself? Let us know your thoughts in the comments section below.

'Assassin's Creed Odyssey' Review: An Endless, Awful Chore | Gaming