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In Assassin’s Creed: Odyssey, ancient Greece is at war. Nearly 2,500 years ago, the Spartans and Athenians were at each other’s throats. That means that you’ll find big land and sea battles under way throughout the environment of Odyssey.
But there are a lot of other things to do as well. I played it for a couple of hours at Ubisoft’s recent press event in San Francisco, and it gave me a good idea of how much narrative storytelling is happening here. The developers stripped out the side-quests and let me sink my teeth into a full episode dubbed Writhing Dread. It was an interesting adventure, and at the end of it I felt as if I had completed a chunky video game. It’s a beautiful game with outstanding graphics, a huge world, and narrative elements where you can spend a lot of your time.
I played the game as Kassandra, the female hero, rather than the male Alexios. The story started out in the town of Eresos on the Petrified Islands. That name was my first clue as to what the mission was about. But I didn’t pay attention, as I was busy trying to break some unbreakable pots. Anyway, I came upon a mob that was about to kill a woman. I quickly scattered the soldiers, and I noticed there was now a price on my head. If mercenaries found me, they would hunt me down for the bounty.
The mob leader claimed the captive woman had brought a curse upon the village by sacrificing her lover to a creature. But Bryce, the woman, claimed her lover, Ligeia, had been taken by the evil creature, dubbed the Writhing Dread, and needed to be rescued. She appealed to Kassandra to rescue Ligeia. As Kassandra, I chose to help Bryce, and then the mob leader tried to have me killed. I took him out and then started battling a few soldiers.
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While I was new to the combat system, I didn’t know how to fight three soldiers at once. But by hitting the left bumper and then the left button, I was able to invoke one of my combat powers. I jumped up and then pounded the ground and did massive damage to all three soldiers at once. Then I cleaned up and took care of the last soldier, an archer. I also healed myself afterward.
Then Bryce and I hopped on a horse and headed toward the ruins where Ligeia had been taken. I had to be careful, as there was still a mercenary bounty on my head. We went to the placed called the Dread Ruins, where Bryce said Ligeia and she had to go because of their forbidden love.
“Well, it is the island of Lesbos. It’s not like you can deny that homosexuality existed in those times,” said creative director Jonathan Dumont in interview with GamesBeat. “We embrace the fact that it existed. But that’s not necessarily a focus of the game. We try to keep it open. We try to surprise the players a little with stories that are different. Not shocking, necessarily, but it feels different from what you might have played before. But we’re still trying to capture the essence of ancient Greece, which is a time period where these things are documented. It felt like this was the right way to tell our story.”
When Bryce and I arrived, we could hear Ligeia screaming inside a stone temple. But we couldn’t get inside. As Kassandra talked with Bryce, I had the choice of being kind or cruel to Bryce. I chose to be kind. She revealed that she had heard of an artifact on a nearby island called Chios, and that this artifact of the Daughters of Artemis might be key to getting inside the stone temple. There was also a mercenary who claimed to have killed the creature (but obviously hadn’t).
Instead of squeezing some information out of the mercenary, I chose to go to Chios. To get there, I had to take my ship, and I had a fine time sailing across the Aegean Sea. I didn’t have time, but I really wanted to get into a naval battle with some of the ships we passed. I was able to fast travel to some parts, but the journey to the island was pleasant, as the graphics for the sea looked amazing.
I landed on the island and made my way to Chios. But first I had to kill a bear that ambushed me. It wasn’t fun killing the bear, but it was him or me. Then I used my eagle, Ikaros, to spot the village and the cave where I needed to go. There were dozens of guards in the village. At first, I tried to jump down from above and take out the cave guards and rush inside. But I found a couple of bears there, and they took me out quickly. Also, when I jumped down and killed one guard, the other would raise an alarm and all of the guards would come to kill me.
As you see in the video, I finally wised up and started using some stealth. Once I dove down on one guard and killed the other, I hid in the tall grass. The searching guards gave up, and then I began a long process of taking most of the guards out through stealth. Every now and then I went loud and fought hand-to-hand, but stealth paid off.
Then I went after the bears. They were tough, but I managed to use my special powers against them, grab the artifact, and returned. I chatted with the mercenary, but skipped the fight. And then I went to meet with Bryce.
As we entered the locked temple, Bryce ran on ahead on her own and pretty much gave away any chance at stealth. We finally came face-to-face with Medusa, the Writhing Dread, and that triggered the final battle with the creature.
I enjoyed the episode, but I felt Bryce’s character suffered from melodrama and overacting. It was hard to be sympathetic toward her. But it was more fun to go on a directed episode that lasted for a while and kept me interested in the world of Assassin’s Creed: Odyssey. You can check out my adventure in the videos embedded in this story. I’m sure I’ll find the narrative part of the game to be interesting, but I hope to also fight some big land and naval battles too.
Assassin’s Creed: Odyssey debuts on the consoles and PC on October 5.
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