Locations have been the secret star of every Assassin's Creed game, so the difference between a memorable backdrop and a mundane one can be critical. Odyssey's Ancient Greece didn't feel an obvious choice at first. It's a time period before the Assassins existed, a country known more for its myths than its history, and a spread of islands which, its capital aside, are relatively unknown. Mykonos is lovely this time of year, by the way, but you're more likely to have heard of Rome, London, Paris, New York. Even with Assassin's Creed Origins, a game similar to Odyssey in style and scope, you had the lure of the pyramids, the Sphinx and icons of history such as Caesar and Cleopatra. What can Ancient Greece offer?
Thankfully Odyssey is a game that entertains despite these things and because of them. As the Assassin's Creed series continues its metamorphosis from an open-world map-cleaner into a deep action role-playing game, the franchise's focus has shifted effortlessly into a place where godlike powers and mythical artefacts are now a major part of its everyday parlance. Who needs the Eiffel Tower when you have spooky forests and Medusa? What began last year with Origins' god bosses and its beautiful afterlife-set Curse of the Pharaohs expansion is expanded on here with a storyline centred on a bloodline descended from the series' First Civilisation and a weapon - your weapon - which quickly makes the regular Hidden Blade look like a cosplay knock-off. If one item sums up the change evident in Odyssey, it's this.
The blade symbolises the shift away from Ubisoft's habitual Assassin's Creed gameplay to one that feels freer, more fantastical and more fun. Why wait to dual assassinate a pair of enemies who've finally rotated around their guard patterns to stand next to one another when you can blink around a map chaining assassinations over great distances, should you have invested in the skills and built-up the stamina to do so. Another combat move, where you rip the shield away from a powerful enemy and donk them on the head with it after, reminds me of the joy felt in Zelda when, after hours whittling away the health of armoured enemies, you finally get a hookshot and are able to de-shell them instantly. Fire arrows? Sure, but how about ghostly arrows which zip through walls, through enemies into other enemies, who you can then also set on fire? Level up far enough and you'll get these too.