Why I’m Still Hooked on Assassin’s Creed: Odyssey 200 Hours In

Assassin’s Creed has been a tentpole of gaming for over a decade, and like many mainstays in modern gaming had become an annualised franchise that brought in a few new tweaks and ideas here and there but at its core was very much the same game from year to year. But in 2017, after its first break from serialisation since 2009, with Assassin’s Creed: Origins delivered a wholly new type of Assassin’s Creed. This change up in style introduced a totally new combat system, a bigger delineation between combat and stealth, and a much more elaborate open world. The new and improved Assassins Creed was then further refined once again in 2018’s Assassin’s Creed: Odyssey, which took everything fans loved about Origins and made it bigger and better.

Odyssey adds even more to the overhauled combat system, sees the full return of free roaming in a ship and naval combat (after a few missions on board a ship in Origins), fills what is the biggest Assassin’s Creed game by far with countless missions and stories, and introduces a number of very intriguing new sub-systems, all of which are just some of the reasons as to why I’m still hooked to the latest Assassin’s Creed game over two hundred hours in.

The easy answer as to why I’m still so enthralled with Assassin’s Creed: Odyssey would be the continued support and additional content Ubisoft has put into the game since it’s launch. The two-story additions included in Odyssey’s season pass are ‘Legacy of the First Blade’ and ‘The Fate of Atlantis’. The Legacy of the First Blade storyline sees the player team up with a Persian Assassin named Darius, who was mentioned way back in Assassin’s Creed II as the first to wield a hidden blade. The Fate of Atlantis then explores more of the connection between the First Civilisation and the myths and legends of the Greek world, including appearances from ‘gods’ such as Hades and Poseidon.

In addition to the larger Season Pass story, add-on’s a number of smaller missions are available for free in ‘The Lost Tales of Greece’ mission set which sees Alexios or Kassandra revisit a number of familiar faces, and go on new missions set after the main game.  But perhaps Assassin’s Creed: Odyssey’s most impressive post-launch content is the weekly addition of epic ships, mercenaries and new contracts for the player to complete, along with newer monsters and challenges (which are a little less frequent).

In short there is a wealth of content available after the massive main game and its many side quests, but as I said earlier the additional content is the easy answer as to why I’m still playing – in fact I’ve racked up over two hundred hours without even buying the season pass (yet), which as someone who has been playing video games less and less over the years, is the most time I’ve put into a single game in a long time.

One of the things I’ve spent the most time on is the bounty hunter system, which sees the player start on the bottom on a nine-tiered ranking system, having to defeat the next bounty hunter on the food chain to work your way up. Each of the bounty hunters has a unique look, name and combat style, making each a new and varied challenge.

The only thing standing in your way to working your way to the top of the bounty hunting ladder is that it’s not just you after everyone else, they are after you as well. In fact, almost everything you do, from murdering soldiers, looting chests and even defending yourself against vicious pets that attack you, all adds up to a notoriety meter, and the more that raises the more bounty hunters come after you.

Although it’s simple enough to get rid of the bounty on you, by hitting pause, heading to the map screen and paying it off, or hunting down the person who put the price on your head in the first place, the entire system adds a whole new dynamic to the game.

Admittedly it can be a little annoying when your in the middle of a big brawl at a fort and your various murders mean a few high-level bounty hunters show up to make the fight even harder, especially early on in the game, but once you get used to the system and learn to keep an eye on you notoriety level you can use the fact random bounty hunters will follow you around the map to help you level up and of course work your way to the top.

The bounty hunter system is a great new addition to Odyssey, especially with each new tier unlocking a number of in-game perks such as store discounts and XP boosts, and although it isn’t quite as advanced as something like Shadow of Mordor’s Nemesis system it does add more than enough variety to the main game, whilst also being an almost mini-game in itself that you can spend hours immersed in, trying to either avoid, takedown, or hunt the various other bounty hunters.

The Cult hunting system is another of the game’s clever new features, made better by the fact that you really don’t have to interact with very much it if you don’t want to, and yet the game makes you want to. The cult (who are an early version of the Assassin’s enemy organisation the Templars) is made up of a mysterious spider’s web of masked faces, most of which have to be uncovered by some investigative work and clue finding or are revealed through the story.

The system is one of the most in-depth parts of Odyssey and although it can be largely avoided (much like the bounty hunter system), the incentives for interacting with this part of the game are defiantly worth some time. The perks include levelling up the players’ spear, which then unlocks the final tier for a number of both active and passive abilities, a range of useful weapons and gear, some fun side missions that involve just enough investigation, planning and assassinating, a real sense of getting revenge on the Cult for how they have manipulated the player’s life (and the Greek world), and ultimately there is nothing more ‘Assassin’s Creed’ than hunting down Templars (or in this case their forebears).

The Cult section of the pause menu starts out as a web of masked faces (accompanied by some appropriately creepy music), with each face being revealed throughout the course of the players’ investigations, and systemically killed, or in some cases simply ‘defeated’. The Cultist section of Assassin’s Creed: Odyssey takes hours to complete, and is ultimately the way to getting one of the games true endings, and is easily one of the best parts of the game.

Taking centre stage throughout the game’s story, and yet another sub-game in itself is the ongoing war between Sparta and Athens. This part of the game sees the player unsettle a region through a number of nefarious schemes like stealing, destroying supplies, and of course, just killing its leader. This then causes a war for control over the area between Sparta and Athens, the player is then able to pick a side to fight for, either conquering or retaking that specific region.

Of the new sub-systems in Odyssey I’d say that the Athenian vs Sparta war rounds out the trifecta of feeling like an Assassin’s Creed game perfectly, and even though the bounty hunter, cult and war system can be almost totally avoided if you just want to pursue the main game, each sees the player sneaking around, burning war supplies, assassinating region leaders or politicians, lying and misinforming to destabilise a region’s power, taking on famous fighters, and in short adds up to a very varied, fresh, and yet familiar experience.

But ultimately what I find most impressive about Assassin’s Creed: Odyssey (and why I’m still so into playing it) is that despite a host of new features and franchise firsts it never feels like it isn’t an Assassin’s Creed game, it simply feels like a very good and natural evolution of a once (arguably) tiring franchise, one that was made with real care and attention, and centred around a vision of what Assassin’s Creed ‘could’ be going forward, rather than what it ‘should’ be based on it’s past.