After last year's success of Assassin's Creed Origins, we were wondering if Ubisoft was going to stick to its revamped plan of not releasing a new entry every single year. And lo and behold, the company announced Assassin's Creed Odyssey at E3 this past week. Set during a time of turmoil between Athens and Sparta, Odyssey isn't just a new entry following in Origins' vein; it's an entirely new game with big new ideas that evolve the franchise further than we thought possible after just one year.
Assassin's Creed Odyssey lets you play as either Alexios or Kassandra for the entire duration of the game. There's no sharing the story here, as both leads are meant to carry the weight of the narrative on their own. There will also be dialogue trees and romances and consequences to choices made along the way. Odyssey is being treated like a full RPG instead of the action game with RPG elements the series has been up to this point. We didn't really get much of a look at how those aspects will play out in Odyssey as our demo time was spent digging into the new combat options on land and sea.
For the most part, combat hasn't changed all that much in the Assassin's Creed games over the past few years. There have been incremental improvements, but Odyssey sees the most drastic alterations to the core fighting mechanics in a long time. Not only do you have access to melee and ranged attacks on the shoulder buttons, as you did in Origins, but Kassandra and Alexios also have new abilities granted to them by the power of Leonidas' spear. Just being a part of the fabled hero's lineage comes with some perks, such as the awesome Spartan kick (300 anyone?), and the shield rip. It never got old building up enough power to put Kassandra's boot right in the stomach of some unsuspecting Athenian, and watching them fly 10-15 feet away.
These powers come in handy when embarking on normal missions, but they're absolutely necessary if you hope to find success in the new Conquest battles. Since Odyssey takes place during an era when massive armies went at it up close and personal, there will be huge 150 vs. 150 battles across the Greek islands. You can only control whichever main character you chose, but the other fighters at your side aren't useless. There's a lot of heavy lifting for players to do though, especially when it comes to taking down opposing heavies. Every Conquest will feature a counterpart to Kassandra or Alexios to take out at some point, and doing so will help turn the tide of the battle once troops see their massive hero has fallen. These battles are chaotic, but at least in this demo, the console didn't seem to be struggling to capture all the action.
Finally, we got to head back out to the high seas to get to another island location. While roaming the waters, some Athenian ships wanted to start some trouble, and we were more than willing to oblige. Taking a note from previous seaworthy fights in Assassin's Creed Black Flag, Odyssey gives you an impressive ship loaded with archers and pikemen to inflict Spartan justice. It's just a small part of a larger game, so it isn't quite as deep as say, Skull and Bones, but there's enough meat here that fans of the naval action in prior Assassin's games will love the chance to get back out on the open water here.
Ringing The Division Bell
The Division 2 is apparently not a political game even though it takes place in a devastated Washington, DC, and is all about a group of specialized soldiers taking back the city from the corrupt government that let the country fall into disrepair. Just remember, it's 100 percent not a political game. To a degree, we can certainly get that it's not a statement on the current state of America, but that's only because the time we spent in The Division 2 was focused on a basic capture-and-control mission that was removed from any narrative foundation. We teamed up with three other players to get a foothold on the pathway to the Capitol Building, just inside where Air Force One had crashed. If you got to see the demo Ubisoft showed off during its presentation, that was the set piece we tried out from start to finish.
Combat is still very strong, and the cover-based shooting is as tactical as it ever was in any Tom Clancy game. Working together as a team is a must, as enemies can overwhelm you from all angles if you don't have a strong strategy in place. The Division is not a franchise for run-and-gunners. This is a methodical shooter that tasks you with learning weaknesses in enemy attack pattern, and working with support classes to ensure you've got overwatch and back-up in a heavy firefight.
It's an enjoyable experience when everything is going right, and the big bad guys are being pushed to the brink of defeat. Even if you're losing a fight, The Division 2 still has more than enough excitement to keep you coming back for more. Whether that holds true when we get a more in-depth look at the story, which isn't political, remains to be seen.
A Pirate's Life For Us
One of our most anticipated demos was with Skull and Bones, the complete pirate sim that spun out of the success of Black Flag. Even though it was announced last year, it was still a surprise to see this game was actually happening, especially so long after Black Flag released. The wait was worth it though, as Skull and Bones is a lot of fun to play, and is certainly as beautiful as any other game in the Ubisoft library.
The 20-minute gameplay session started with us selecting our ships, of which there are a few different classes. We chose the Jaeger type, which was a mid-tier galleon with superior firepower and decent mobility. From there, we were dropped right into the waters around Quirimbas and left to fend for ourselves in any number of ways. There were dozens of NPC ships of varying toughness on the seas, which we could attack and plunder. Though doing so would draw the ire of the country said ships were from, putting a bounty on our heads. There were also treasure hunts to explore, but they were relatively easy to deal with as we just had to sail to a spot where a cut scene initiated showing the crew digging up the loot.
Of course, there were a handful of other players on the seas as well, and we could either team up with them to make a formidable mini-fleet, or trash them completely to pillage all they had earned on the high seas. Given that making friends wasn't a priority at E3, we lowered our cannons at just about anyone we came across, which certainly earned the scorn of other wannabe pirate legends.
Fortunately, even when we were outgunned, losing the entire ship wasn't a devastating loss. We just respawned somewhere else on the map, with a few less treasures than we had before. Like Sea of Thieves, we're a bit concerned about having enough to do in Skull and Bones to warrant this being a full game, but since there's still more than a year until it's due to come out, Ubisoft Singapore has plenty of time to show us this pirate has legs.