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Take It Easy Mode is a biweekly column on the unsung hero of video games, the Easy Setting, for casual and new gamers, parents, and people who generally find higher difficulty modes frustrating.
I have to start this column with a confession: I’m pretty terrible at video games. But I also hate it when my character dies all the time. When people start attacking me in games and it’s clear I have no chance, I tend to panic. If I’m really overwhelmed, I’ll turn off the game and not pick it back up for months. I like a challenge or two while I’m playing, but if the game is overly hard, I tend to drop it. Why add that kind of frustration to my entertainment? Life is hard enough as it is.
High degrees of difficulty is why I stopped gaming for a long time — the entire process just stopped being enjoyable. But over the past few years, developers started catching on to the fact that not every gamer was their vision of a “hardcore” player. With the rise of epic storylines and narratives as good as any television show or movie, studios finally started to understand that sometimes people just want to play RPGs for the story or for casual enjoyment. (Also, let’s be real, developers also have a vested interest in expanding the number of people who want to purchase these expensive, AAA games. Casual gamers — and their wallets — are welcome to play!)
Easy Mode has been a saving grace for me, especially because between having a toddler, a pandemic, and everything else that’s going on, my free time is limited. I want to enjoy the games I play, not spend endless hours grinding or trying to learn complicated button sequences to fight a boss.
I’ve played quite a few video games over the past few months, but right now I’m knee-deep in Assassin's Creed: Odyssey. It combines so many things I love: quest- and mission-based gaming where you can choose what you work on, narrative choices that drive the overall storyline, great voice acting, gorgeous scenery, a long playtime, and an appealing central character in Kassandra. You can choose your main character, and friends, I’m telling you, choose Kassandra.
The game takes place in Ancient Greece and you are a misthios — an assassin and mercenary for hire. This means a decent amount of fighting, which I’m terrible at — and if you’re reading this column, you might be as well. There are a few things to do on Assassin's Creed: Odyssey to make sure your journey won’t be overly frustrating: After all, the first few levels are the hardest (not to mention that first ship battle, OOF!) and this is a long game. If you can stick it out for a while, you’ll find that it gets easier and easier as you go.
First of all, as the name of this column suggests, make sure you set the difficulty at the easiest setting. When you’re starting out, the game will ask if you want to play in Classic Mode or Odyssey Mode — while it will highly recommend you use Odyssey Mode because that’s the way the game is “meant” to be played, resist the shaming. Go with Classic because it will give you markers on your map on where to go (aimless wandering is fun when you want to do it, but not so much when you can’t figure out what to do next) and will also show you the difficulty level of quests. I refuse to complete a quest if I’m not at least 2 levels above the suggested difficulty level.
Once you’re playing the game (and enjoying the absolute delight that is Kassandra), don’t feel like you constantly have to go and fight with everyone openly. One thing I like about the Assassin's Creed games (though keep in mind I’ve only played Origins and now Odyssey) is that sneaking around is a huge part of the game. If you’re patient, you can assassinate your way through it without having to engage in too much open combat. And as I’m a button masher when it comes to combat, this works very well for me (if you insist on a two-button combo to fight, count me out). Getting good with a bow and arrow is also a smart move.
If you do end up getting spotted on an assassination run and a whole horde of people run at you? RUN AWAY. Don’t be afraid to turn tail and run as fast as you can and duck into a bush or some tall grass. Eventually, the enemies will lose sight of you and stop looking for you. Then you can hang out for a while and creep back into their camp or fort and resume business as usual. It also helps that you can put down the game at almost any point and pick it back up — there are no hugely long cutscenes, and quests are nicely broken up. If you only have a half-hour or an hour to play, you can still feel like you accomplished something.
One very, very important thing to keep in mind during Assassin's Creed: Odyssey: You need to keep upgrading your armor and weapons. If you’re fighting a Level 10 enemy, and you’re at Level 12, it’s not going to matter much if your sword is a Level 2. Inventory management is a big part of the game, and you need to stay on top of it, as boring as that sounds. Also, do plenty of smaller quests with hourglass icons in the first few hours of the game. They’re usually quick, easy, and provide a fast way to level up.
The last thing I’ll mention? Abilities. You can choose which abilities Kassandra focuses on, but I recommend Second Wind (the ability to heal), Sixth Sense (giving you some extra reaction time when you’re spotted), and Assassination (making sure a person you assassinate actually dies, versus having to fight them after you sneak up on them).
Does it sound like I’m giving you recommendations on your next full-time job, rather than a video game? This game is incredible amounts of fun — I love just how expansive it is — but it’s also some work! The good news is that it’s very, very long (I’m 55 hours in at the time of this writing, and I’d guess I’m just over halfway through), so if you’re inclined to put the time in at the beginning, it’s worth it. I know some people complain about video games being too long, but honestly, I love it. It takes time and effort to learn the mechanics of any new game, and I’d almost always rather dive into something I’m currently enjoying than learn an entirely new system of play. If long games aren’t for you, I’d steer clear of Assassin's Creed: Odyssey, but I personally can’t wait until the next installment, Valhalla, comes out later this year.