Following leak after leak, Ubisoft has officially announced Assassin's Creed Odyssey, the next chapter is the publisher's flagship series. I had a chance to sit down and play the game already. I offered one look at some of the changes coming to Odyssey, but this time I want to dive into the game's combat.
As the game is currently tuned in the demo, Assassin's Creed Odyssey is remarkably aggressive. Part of this comes down to what Ubisoft has removed from Origins. Bayek had an ever-present shield that was used to block incoming attacks or parry with specific timing. The shield is gone completely, with the Left Bumper being used from activating special attacks using the Spear of Leonidas or a timed-based parry. That means all you have available to you in terms of defense is dodging and parrying. (Sorry old-school Assassin's Creed fans, no counter-killing here.)
A developer who was helping me with the demo said the change was made to keep your character in motion. Ubisoft Quebec felt the shield encouraged players to turtle instead of being more active. So it's gone.
Another change is the Spear of Leonidas itself. Much like Origins' Adrenaline Meter, Assassin's Creed Odyssey has a new meter that charges as you make successful attacks. What changes here is how that power is spent. In Origins, it was used to make an Overpower attack or push you into Fury mode. Now, you use the meter constantly to fuel Spear attacks.
Spear of Leonidas abilities are supernatural powers. One boosts your health regeneration temporarily, another gives you the Spartan Kick, which sends enemies flying. You can also project a bubble of force to clear space, or simply strip an enemy's shield away. These abilities can be used in the middle or end of an attack chain, allowing you to keep your enemies off-balance. Stripping shields away prevents enemies from being defensive, while the Kick takes most foes out of the battle for a few seconds.
As an example, Assassin's Creed Odyssey allows players to board ships in real-time again. Ship boarding is activated with a button prompt that appears on weakened ships, but you can also just jump over to a ship. I made my way over to a ship with full health and leapt across to do pirate-y things. But since the ship was undamaged, I had a full complement of troops to fight. That's a lot of dudes to kill.
It's not as bad as the old counter-massacres, but a sufficiently skilled Assassin's Creed players can clear a whole ship alone. A judicious use of dodging, parrying, and Spear abilities kept enemies off-guard and weakened. I kicked a guy off the ship and double-tapped him in the head with the bow-and-arrow while he was swimming back. It was frankly awesome, which I guess is all that matters.
Speaking of the bow, there have been some changes on that side as well. Instead of offering multiple types of bow, Odyssey only has one type. A combination of chosen abilities, crafted arrows, and engraved perks allow Odyssey to approach the ranged options of Origins.
"It just felt better for us to do it this way, because we wanted the abilities to be something that you choose for the bow," explained Odyssey Creative Director Jonathan Dumont. "There are bonuses you can put on the bow and you can engrave you bow."
"When you start, you'll find engraving recipes. Then you can engrave your bow, so it always shoots fire or does a specific thing. More damage, crit damage, whatever it is. We're focusing on one that you customize a bit more, pick the abilities that you want, and buy the arrows that you want," he told me in an interview.
And all that is before you get to lieutenants, who are members of your ship crew. These lieutenants offer ship perks and join you on boarding actions, but if you pick the right skills, they can join you on land too, as distractions or Brotherhood-style single strike attackers.
Assassin's Creed Odyssey still has all of the stealth elements of Origins, plus a few new options, but if you're going to be loud and proud, the current combat system has you covered. I didn't receive any indication as to whether the tuning of combat and Spear abilities would remain the same for the final game, but I'd personally feel surprised if they changed drastically.
Assassin's Creed Odyssey is coming to PC, PlayStation 4, and Xbox One on October 5, 2018.