Assassin’s Creed Odyssey preview: Unleash your inner Spartan

Daniel Howley
Technology Editor

Ubisoft’s (UBI.PA) “Assassin’s Creed” series has been parkouring across history for 11 years. And for its latest foray into the world of historical assassinations, the franchise is heading to Ancient Greece for the first time.

“Assassin’s Creed Odyssey” will see you take on the role of either Alexios or Kassandra, as you fight across land and sea. I played a few hours of “Odyssey” during a demo session ahead of E3, the huge gaming expo — and so far it seems like “Odyssey” will be right up your alley if you like last year’s “Assassin’s Creed Origins.”

But there’s one major change coming to “Odyssey” that should excite even non-fans of the franchise: branching narratives. Think “Mass Effect,” but with infinitely more stabbing.

Reinventing the narrative

“Assassin’s Creed” games have always followed a linear narrative. Basically, the story would always proceed without your having any input beyond finding and completing quests. For “Odyssey,” though, Ubisoft is going a different direction by introducing a branching narrative.

You’ve seen this is games like the “Elder Scrolls” series and most serious role-playing games. Instead of just following along with the story in the passenger seat, you’ll be able to choose how Alexios or Kassandra respond to situations and other characters by selecting one of multiple narrative choices.

“Odyssey” will have a new narrative style that allows you to choose how you respond to other characters and situations.

Interestingly, rather than providing you with a visual queue to let you know that your responses are either good or bad, usually via blue or red text, “Odyssey” senior producer Marc-Alexis Côté said Ubisoft purposely chose to leave out anything indicating the morality of your choices.

“People tend to gravitate toward good behavior, to being nice with people, which is surprising, because when you talk to people and you look on YouTube and everywhere, you would think it’s quite the opposite,” Côté explained.

“We took the conscious decision of trying to make it more grey. When we indicated the choices, people would gravitate to the one and always stay there, and I’d like them to step back.”

Of course, games like “Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim” don’t indicate your moral choices, so it’s not a completely new concept — but it’s certainly a welcome addition to the series.

Adding the ability to interact with characters as you see fit should change how you approach “Odyssey” compared to prior entries in the franchise.

If you don’t try to Spartan kick someone at least 20 times in the first 10 minutes of playing ‘”Odyssey,” you’re not playing right.

“It’s making it difficult for me to go and play the older gamers,” Côté said. “We reached a point in development where I just couldn’t go back anymore, because of those dialogue choices, the choices that are there.”

A similar game style

“Odyssey” might be switching up its story presentation, but it’s keeping much of the combat and art the same as that in “Origins. ” The same hit box-based fighting makes a return, which is a good thing for the series, and you’ll still be able to upgrade your characters using ability points.

Special abilities, though, are now mapped to specific buttons, so you can do things like the “300”-inspired “Spartan Kick” to launch an enemy off a ledge by tapping “X” while battling.

‘Odyssey’s’ upgrade menu.

Graphically, “Odyssey” looks as fantastic as “Origins.” I played on the island of Delos, and the color of the region was particularly striking. The bright blue water lapping at the shores, and green shrubs dotting the island, had me yearning to spend a weekend on a tropical beach sipping drinks from a pineapple.

Naturally, you’ll do plenty of sneaking, stabbing, climbing and hawk-hunting across various Greek landmarks. But it’s where you’ll be doing all of that.

Ubisoft says the world of “Odyssey” spans 16 kilometers by 16 kilometers. It’s absolutely massive. And while a lot of that is covered by the Mediterranean Sea, Ubisoft says that various islands will dot the game world, each with their own narratives.

You’ll be able to take to the seas in “Odyssey” and wreck your opponents with a little bit of hot fire.

You’ll also be able to seamlessly transition into sea battles in “Odyssey” during which you can control ships, take down rival Greeks and hunt pirates. You can even board ships before they go down and kick your enemies into the water where hungry sharks will devour them.

Overall, the game looks very similar to “Origins,” but having played that, I can say I’m not exactly upset with the prospect. With the change in narrative structure in “Odyssey,” Ubisoft has reinvented “Assassin’s Creed” over the course of two games in a very welcome way.

We’ll have more on “Odyssey” when it hits consoles on Oct. 5.

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