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Matt's Video Game Reviews (8)

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Assassin's Creed Odyssey 4.5/5
Final Fantasy VI 4/5
The Legend of Zelda: Br... 4.5/5
Tobe's Vertical Adventu... 3/5
Valkyria Chronicles 4 5/5
Papers, Please 2.5/5
Divinity: Original Sin 5/5
Firewatch 3.5/5

 

Assassin's Creed Odyssey   PC (Steam) 

Tell me, O Muse, of the woman of many devices!    4.5/5 stars

I have never played an Assassin’s Creed game, and do not have much experience with the IP. Over the years, I have heard many young gamers praise the games, recalling historical facts they learned about various periods of time. Yet, I never felt compelled to play any of the games. First of all I am generally weary of a giant sandbox games from too-large-for-their-own-good publishers like Ubisoft. But when Melted Joystick’s very own Nelson heartily recommended it, I thought I should give it a try. The recommendation was very natural. We both studied Classics at the university, sharing a love for the Mediterranean world. His recommendation and high praise for Assassin’ Creed Odyssey (ACO) was well deserved and I wholeheartedly agree with his assessment of the game. It is a well rounded, excelling in all areas, easily one of the best games that I have played recently.

STORY
5 out of 5

The setting of ACO is Ancient Greece during the Peloponnesian War from 431 to 422 BC. It is the world of Classical Greece. Socrates, Alcibiades, Euripides, Aristophanes, Herodotus, Pericles are just a few of the characters that move the plot forward and provide a rich context for the primary action. The player chooses which protagonist to play, Kasandra or Alexios, siblings descended from the famous Leonidas of Sparta. I choose to play as Kassandra, and started the story on Kephallonia, an island off of the western coast of Greece. Kassandra is a local misthios, a Greek mercenary, reared by a dubious businessman with a typical Greek flair for shading dealings. Gradually as the game progresses the primary antagonist is revealed, the Cult of Kosmos with one mysterious head spurring on and profiting from the conflict of the Peloponnesian War. One of your main quests is to uncover the various branches and heads of the cult, severing each one as you progress throughout the game. Kassandra is also driven to find and reconnect with her family, uncovering what has become of them at such perilous times. The conflict follows the Aristotelian pattern of rising to a climax that surprises and it ties many threads together, drawing from various thematic elements.

The themes of family, restoration, redemption and overcoming adversity make the story rich and rewarding. Players are given many paths to uncover a complex web of intrigue and mystery, masterfully woven together with the historical record and the mythology of Ancient Greece. In one moment Kassandra would be interacting with Socrates, helping solve a moral dilemma, the other she would be hunting down a legendary beast from the fabled Twelve Labors of Heracles (yes, it is Heracles, not Hercules). The world of ACO is imbued with the practical and the magical. Kassandra is involved political machinations and sent on quests to fell mythological beasts.

The NPCs of ACO greatly add to this experience. Wether it be Barnabas, the captain of Adrestia, Kassandra’s ship, full of superstition telling stories of the gods, or it be Herodotus, acting as a local guide to the famous sites of the Persian War (such as Marathon or Thermopylae), the story rewards the player with the sense of being in Greece, a task not easy to accomplish. The game grappled with the most brilliant innovations of the Greek world (e.g. democracy) juxtaposed with the harshest outcomes and implications of them (e.g. tyranny). I was delighted to interact in a world full of my heroes and ideas I enjoy, and Ubisoft did not disappoint.

PRESENTATION
5 out of 5

ACO is a stunningly beautiful and charming representation of Greece. It depicts a Classical world full of color, supported by the latest scholarship. As Kassandra enters into any polis, she is greeted by richly adorned and painted statues, not white marble. This little detail, fairly recently confirmed by scholars, adds to the rich and vibrant design of the game. The polis is full of life: markets, temples, housing, public spaces. NPCs fill the space, speaking Greek at times, incorporating the auditory with the visual. I greatly loved, for example, the hymns sung in Greek by my crew on the Adrestai. All these little details paint a believable picture of Ancient Greece, even with artistic license.

The world of ACO is also quite large, roughly 1/36 the scale of Greece. Ubisoft does well to give the impression that each square inch of the game was meticulously designed. It is easily one of the most beautiful games that I have ever played. Yes, I am biased, favoring the setting and a presentation somewhat historically accurate, but Ubisoft deserves praise for their attention to detail that inspires the historical imagination. Landmarks were recreated so well that I felt like I was approaching the actual Parthenon. The music complemented the scenery and the left me very impressed. Yet, ACO is a modern sandbox, and with it come software bugs that would disrupt the experience. NPCs walking on thin air and stags imbedded in the side of mountain were just two oddities that distracted from the excellent overall presentation of the game. Such bugs are still baffling after the game has been released for quite some time. One would think that there would be more attention given to the physics of game engines.

GAMEPLAY
5 out of 5

The gameplay of ACO is well balanced involving various modes of combat. The player can focus on melee, ranged or stealth. One can be proficient in all three. There is naval warfare in majestic triremes or one can fight on horseback. All these possibilities have strengths and weaknesses, and each one was worth learning the mechanics to master. I found myself focusing on the ranged and stealth elements of combat, and preferred the ramming of ships to all else.

Kassandra (or Alexios) is known to NPCs as the rumored Eagle Bearer and the link between you and Ikaros, your pet eagle, is central to the gameplay. Ikaros is used to give you a birds-eye view of the land, very helpful when playing stealthily. This mechanic was well implemented and frequently used by me. Not only is it pleasing to look at such a richly designed game setting through the eyes of an eagle, but it allows the player to monitor surroundings, track enemies, and plan movement. Using Ikaros, Kassandra is also able to sync with various landmarks and then fast travel back to them. This makes navigation within the game easy and efficient due to the plethora of sync locations.

The locals for combat—fortresses, temples, ruins, caves, ship wrecks—brought sufficient challenge and varied contexts for the gameplay. Encounters would present Kassandra with various rewards and booty by looting bodies. Favorite weapons could then be upgraded as the character progresses, improving stats. Since the game is set during the Peloponnesian War, regional battles between the Athenians and Spartans become plot points and features of game play. A player is able to enter the regional battle ground once the ruling faction has been weakened to a certain extent. For example, if Sparta’s hold on Boeotia is lessening, Kassandra can enter the battleground there and choose to fight on behalf of Sparta or Athens. These battlegrounds are massive encounters of hundreds of troops. The goal is to turn the tide in favor of either side by killing captains and completing various objectives.
Since Kassandra is a misthios, mercenaries play a central role in the gameplay. If Kassandra is seen killing anyone or doing anything illegal such as stealing, bounties will be placed on her head. These bounties compound over time as more crimes/murders are committed. The result is that mercenaries are then sent to claim the bounty by killing you. The one-on-one combat that comes from these mercenaries tracking you can be challenging, depending on the level of the mercenary. It did provide an interesting element to gameplay.

OVERALL (NOT AN AVERAGE)
4.5 out of 5

ACO is close to a perfect game, in my opinion. And it should be a 5 out of 5. However, the one thing that caused me frustration playing was Ubisoft’s insistence that Ubisoft Connect launch the game. I frequently encountered bugs with the launcher/DRM, having to log in and out just to play. This annoyance was so agrivating at times and it only reinforced my opinions about the stupidity of DRM systems. I was able to successfully install ACO on my SteamDeck after following tutorials online, but the process could be much easier and skip all the annoyance by just using Steam to sync saves and provide security. As the market for the SteamDeck increases, I hope that Ubisoft will reconsider its policy of requiring Ubisoft Connect to launch games. Overall, it was a pleasure to play ACO, well worth the $20 I spent on it, especially considering the time per dollar ratio. I highly recommend it to all.

 

 


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