With many titles from established series set to release later this year, Assassin’s Creed Odyssey aims to rival other big franchises this October. OnlySP recently had the privilege of playing through a slice of gameplay from Ubisoft’s latest title at Fan Expo Canada 2018, and the overall improvements that the developer has made only a year after releasing Assassin’s Creed Origins are impressive.
As with its direct predecessor, Assassin’s Creed Odyssey aims to bring beautiful historic landscapes to life – in this iteration, Ancient Greece – while immersing players in the complex politics and social struggles of that period. Many curiosities can be answered right off the bat, as Odyssey shares much of its gameplay and mechanics with Origins. To many players, this repetition could come as a negative, but for Odyssey, it works to the game’s advantage.
With Origins last year, Ubisoft drastically altered the gameplay of the Assassin’s Creed franchise to more closely resemble an RPG. By doing so, this RPG approach allows for greater storytelling and player freedom within the sandbox. Odyssey improves upon its predecessor by adding more game modes, refreshing the combat, and maintaining the series’s trademark world appeal. This latest entry in the Assassin’s Creed franchise is setting itself up to be one of the more memorable titles along with The Ezio Collection and Black Flag, as long as it can iron out a few wrinkles.
OnlySP was able to participate in one of three game modes during the Assassin’s Creed Odyssey event. First was naval combat, a mission set further into the story, where the player was tasked to battle rival forces at sea. This was one of the bigger additions coming from Origins, due to the absence of sea battles during Bayek’s Egyptian adventures.
The second form of gameplay available to players was the ability to free-roam and enjoy the open world. Players could participate in a story mission that allowed them to experience the newer mechanics and features of the game. This mode was designed to showcase the sandbox and world design of Odyssey, while giving players a more familiar and friendlier experience.
The final game mode available was Conquest, an entirely new feature for the franchise, setting the opposing sides, Sparta and Athens, against each other, with the player able to represent either side. In this game mode, each side is comprised of 150 non-playable characters, and the winner is determined by the last one standing. Players will have to use all the skills in their arsenal to emerge victorious in this mode, as enemies will not hesitate to surround them and simultaneously attack without warning.
The combat of the Assassin’s Creed franchise has been a topic of heavy debate since the original game. Origins drastically changed the way players interact with enemies in the open world, and Odyssey takes that direction and further improves on it. In Origins players leveled up Bayek through skill trees and obtained Master abilities that would benefit them in combat. Odyssey maintains this focus, but changes the way players execute their abilities. On top of the generic light and heavy attacks mapped to the face buttons, special abilities can also be mapped to those inputs. Initiated by holding the left bumper, the face buttons will change to different assigned abilities. These special moves give the combat more variety, and allow the player to execute moves such as the famous Spartan Kick. The Spartan Kick, along with other game-changing abilities, will serve as a way of providing more player freedom within the combat of the franchise going forward.
The visuals of Odyssey are nothing short of incredible. The beautiful landscapes and rich vistas will entice players to see every corner of the map twice. The demo was tested on an Xbox One X, where the game’s 4K-like visuals were able to be observed to the fullest. Textures were presented at the highest quality, while maintaining proper colour representation with HDR. The limited confines of the Odyssey demo only increased desire to get hands-on with the final product, where the ability to fully explore Ancient Greece will allow this game’s true beauty to shine.
During the short demo, Odyssey raised a few causes for concern, with many of them being franchise staples at this point. Last year’s Origins impressed with its visuals and narration, but faltered with its dialogue presentation. These issues stemmed not from the quality of writing, but rather from the technical delivery and lip-syncing. This problem recurs with Odyssey, with many instances where lip movement is severely out of sync. Throughout the demo, the lip-syncing struggled to keep up with sentence structure on several occasions. Although the issue was present in Origins, it somehow feels worse in Odyssey.
From what was gathered while playing, the framerate maintained a stable 30 frames-per-second for the most part during free-roam and conversations. However, during the Conquest mode, the framerate experienced minor dips and setbacks. When this mode was originally announced at E3 2018, it aroused curiosity due to the known technical limitations of the current console generation. The industry saw similar potential with Assassin’s Creed Unity back in 2014, where the streets of Paris could be littered with up to 200 NPCs at once. Maintaining a stable framerate with high NPC volume proved to be more challenging for Ubisoft back then, but it has had time to work on its engine and improve stability. During the gameplay session, the framerate would take dips when a lot of attack animations were happening at the same time. The severity of framerate drops cannot be accurately tested until Odyssey’s full release in October, but, for now, only minor hiccups were observed.
Given the possibility that the build is not up to date, Ubisoft still has time to make improvements. The aforementioned framerate issues are not exclusive to the Assassin’s Creed franchise, and other developers have found ways to combat the problem. With the game no doubt getting the 4K treatment on PC, PlayStation 4 Pro and Xbox One X, Ubisoft could potentially adopt a dynamic resolution, which would allow the GPU to drop the resolution from 4K to 1440p during taxing situations, thereby freeing up more memory and allowing the game to run more smoothly. The addition of a dynamic resolution is all speculation, but it is something that the industry has seen in the past and would likely be beneficial to Odyssey.
The overall impressions of Odyssey left OnlySP wanting more time with the game, and not in a negative sense. The fluid gameplay and stunning visuals serve as a reminder of what the true main characters of the Assassin’s Creed games are: the setting. Ancient Greece is a beautiful and diverse setting for the franchise, reinforcing the series’s legacy of being truly open world. The new combat mechanics and abilities will give players more freedom of choice during those encounters, further distancing the franchise from its repetitious combat roots. With the launch of Assassin’s Creed Odyssey only a few weeks away, OnlySP is certain that this title will not be one to miss.