OK, baby, time for an Assassin's Creed Odyssey update, after about 55 hours. I've finished the main story, and there are a few more juicy questlines I want to chase up on my way to the level cap. I might end up going for the Platinum Trophy if it doesn't turn out to be too much of a grind. I'm happy to say that this is my favourite Assassin's Creed game. If you'd asked me before this I would have told you either Brotherhood (for being, at the time, a fresh new kind of game design that would go on to be Ubisoft's only kind of game, and also having Ezio) or Black Flag (for just being a great pirate game), but Odyssey has a decade's worth of gameplay upgrades, quality of life improvements under its belt, a really enjoyable story that neatly avoids the usual AC problem of Forrest-Gump-ing your character into well-known historical moments at the expense of any kind of continuity, and, without a doubt, the best character in the entire series: Kassandra (and no, I'm not just saying that because her husky voice and big muscles make her Ocelot kryptonite ).
The game gives you three main paths down which to spec your character: Hunter (bow and arrow stuff), Warrior (fighting guys) and Assassin (stealthy boi), and I went in hard on stealth and then shored myself up on fighting for when I'd inevitably get caught. This is one of those games where certain builds will break the game in disgustingly fun ways, so I ended up with this warping Assassination manoeuvre that I could chain to four guys, and a giant axe special attack that I could chain to another four, with a 50% heal I could pop at any moment and the wonderful Sparta Kick for whenever someone made the mistake of putting their back to a ledge. All the special abilities run off an Adrenaline Bar, so of course the game becomes a matter of spec'ing yourself to maximise Adrenaline build-up while minimising the amount you have to spend. There's an easy re-spec ability, too, which I know RPG purists might baulk at but I always appreciate it. What I would really have enjoyed is a Nier Automata style loadout system, where I could match certain armour sets with certain builds depending on what I'm trying to do, but I suppose we can't have everything.
I can't say the choice and consequence side of the game really holds up its end of the bargain, though. While there is one major moment where you make the choice in Chapter 1 and the consequence only follows up in Chapter 7, and it does have the Witcher 3 style of ending where it collates certain choices you've made over the entire game rather than just at the very end, most of the game is just very shallow, binary choices. None of your character upgrades apply to any kind of charisma or speech ability; it's all "Do you let this guy walk away or kill him?" and "Will you splash some Drachmae to pay these guys off or kill them?", that kind of thing. Once you have to choose who's more deserving of medical care: the farmer who feeds the whole village, the rich woman who'll pay you, or the mother of two sick kids, but as far as I can tell there's just no followup to any of it. Comparing the ending to Witcher 3's is not quite deserved, either, because Odyssey really just has the one ending and your choices only determine who's alive to see it. I ended up getting two characters killed due to what felt more like a clerical error in the towering system of checks and balances that govern the outcomes than my actual behaviour in the game. Afterwards I looked up exactly what you need to do for the 'best' ending and I would have sworn I'd done all of it, but... apparently not. It's a shame because I don't feel the ending I got reflected the way I'd actually played the game; I feel like one particular dialogue choice is weighted too heavily and I just happened to pick it by accident or something.
There's a lot of hubbub about this game being Ubisoft's newest low in the race to empty gamers' pockets with predatory microtransactions, and that really wasn't my experience at all. It's an enormous game, and a very long one, but I never felt I had to grind just to make the required levels for main story missions. It does seem like you can't stick to only story quests, though. If you're picking up a side quest or two in every new area you'll stay within the recommended level range, but if, for example, you're a game reviewer or shouting Youtube influencer whose livelihood rests on shotgunning through the critical path as quickly as possible so you can produce content, you're probably going to run into level gating problems. I do think the game is probably too big for its own good, and I suppose it's fair enough that not everyone wants to play through side content, but at the same time I think the side content is actually pretty good and well worth seeing. There's probably a happy medium to be struck for future games. Personally I'd happily take a smaller game in terms of overall scope, but a denser game in terms of story branching and player choice. There are only so many times you can be asked to infiltrate a base to retrieve/kill an item/dude before you start longing for a way to talk yourself out of problems. Or maybe play a game of Gwent...
But, like I said, I really like this game, as evidenced by the near-sixty hours I've poured into it in just over a week. It's an extremely smooth, fun, easy game to wile away the hours in, with a slick control scheme and some positively delicious quality of life features. There's a rolling series of autosaves going back every minute for the last five minutes or so, allowing you to go back and redo any given conversation even if you forgot to quick save beforehand. Entering and exiting combat is as easy as locking-on or -off, none of the usual Assassin's Creed misery of trying to leave a fight and not being able to. When you loot a dead body, Kassandra has this kind of 'loot aura' that automatically loots every dead body in like a 10 foot radius, and you can even do it from horseback. And the greatest thing of all? You can't die from falls any more. For the game's opening hours you take fall damage but won't die, but once you hit Lv 20 Kassandra starts casually throwing out a graceful somersault and roll and laughs in the face of certain death. It's bewdiful: