Assassin's Creed Odyssey review: Hands-on

It seems like only last year that Ubisoft announced it was taking a break from its annual Assassin’s Creed release cycle to focus on quality control. That’s because it was, of course, which made the announcement of Assassin’s Creed: Odyssey, just months after last year’s Origins, a source of mild concern.

We’re pleased to reveal then that it looks like Ubisoft’s year out is having some lingering good effects, because after a little less than an hour with the game it feels like a worthy follow-up to Origins, building on that game’s tweaks to the formula while revelling in a setting that the franchise feels born for.

Assassin’s Creed: Odyssey release date and platforms

Odyssey is landing in Assassin’s Creed’s classic release window, hitting consoles worldwide on 5 October 2018. As you’d expect, it will release on PS4, Xbox One, and PC, with support for both PS4 Pro and Xbox One X.

Pre-orders for the game have opened already, so you can grab it from Amazon or Game in the UK, or Amazon or Best Buy in the US, or wherever else you prefer. As you might expect, there are pre-order bonuses, along with more expensive versions with names like Deluxe, Gold, Omega, and Medusa.

Assassin’s Creed: Odyssey preview

It shouldn’t really be any surprise that when you first start out, Odyssey plays very similarly to Origins. As you explore the new Greek setting - our demo was set on the islands of Mykonos and Delos - there’s a familiar mix of exploration, stealth, and combat.

Where there have been changes, they run pretty consistently in one direction: picking up the baton from Origins, Odyssey is leaning into its RPG elements, building up your character choices, dialogue options, and skill progression to make each playthrough a little bit more your own.

That starts with the character selection, where for the first time you can play as either a man (Alexios) or woman (Kassandra). Coming from a series that once opted not to offer playable female characters because they were too much extra work to animate, it’s a big step forward (if rather overdue) for a mainline Assassin’s Creed game to let you play as a woman.

That choice won’t affect what you get to do in the rest of the game though: not even the new romance options, which let you flirt with men or women, regardless of whether you’re playing as a man or a woman. Another win. We hit a couple of romance prompts in our time with the game, flirting with a swarthy Spartan captain about what he’d do if we were under his command. We’ll leave the rest up to your imagination.

If combat’s more your thing, you get a bit more choice there too. Skill progression has been tweaked to free up your options a bit more, and encourage you to play around with how much you commit to skills down three main branches: Hunter, Warrior, and Assassin, which revolve mostly around ranged attacks, melee, and stealth respectively.

You can spend skill points to unlock new abilities, mapping them to combinations of the shoulder and face buttons, which gives you quick access to a range of interesting moves, keeping combat a bit more varied. A personal favourite was lighting our sword on fair for temporarily boosted damage, though 300 fans will be happy to know that there is a Sparta kick, and you can use it to kick people off things, and that you will catch yourself muttering “This. Is. Sparta!” as you do it.

That’s just one of the many ways that the Greek setting feels like an all too natural fit for the franchise. Whether it’s darting around sunlit islands, trading blows with Spartans, or getting quizzed on ethics by Socrates himself, Odyssey makes a pretty compelling case for packing it all in and moving to Santorini. The devs are clearly having fun with it too, as Kassandra casually throws around ‘malaka’ at people who’ve pissed her off - we’ll let you figure out the translation for yourself.

Beyond the new setting, Odyssey is basically a lot more of what you probably loved in Origins. Once again you’ve got an eagle to scout out objectives, leading you to missions, enemy hideouts, secrets, collectibles, and more.

Naval combat is back, and we suspect will play a much bigger role - the game isn’t based on a collection of islands for nothing - and it’s fast and fluid. You can attack enemy ships with arrows and javelins (which you can set on fire for good measure), ram into them to shatter their hulls, or just board them and do the dirty work yourself.

If that’s not on a big enough scale for you, there are fixed battles too, in which you lead one side in a skirmish with up to 300 NPCs. It’s a big twist to combat strategy, forcing you to prioritise the heavy hitters to protect your allies while simultaneously dodging attacks from enemies all around you, resulting in a combat challenge that will seriously test your mastery of the dodge and parry.

SHOULD I BUY ASSASSIN'S CREED ODYSSEY?

From what we’ve played, Odyssey basically looks like Origins, but more. More choices, more customisation, more depth, and more scale, all in a lush new setting that looks just as compelling as last year’s Egyptian world.

In 45 minutes we saw only a fraction of what we’re expecting the full game to contain, but it was enough to make us glad we don’t have an extra year to wait after all.