The untrimmed porterhouse steak of the series

User Rating: 7 | Assassin's Creed Odyssey PS4

There is so much game here . . . perhaps too much. Assassin's Creed Odyssey continues the recent shift in this long-running series, from a stealth third-party action-adventure model to an RPG-light, open-world game. Whether it's Witcher or Red Dead Redemption envy that motivated it, I believe this change ultimately will be good for revitalizing a franchise that's beaten its original concept to death through repetition.

That being said, Ubisoft is still ironing out the kinks. Odyssey is an ambitious and vast creation. I've played about 65 hours at this point and finished most of the primary content, but I still left dozens of side quests and other missions unfinished.

This game has considerable strengths. The fascinating, war-torn world of ancient Greece is lovingly, painstakingly recreated. It's breathtaking and, frankly, a lot of people may find themselves lost in it -- and not minding that. The most enjoyable part of this game may just be traversing the diverse landscapes like a tourist. After all, who wouldn't want to visit the cherry blossom-lined streets of Korinth, the Parthenon of Athens at its riotous, color-drenched peak, or the tropical paradises of Delos and Mykonos?

The combat system is relatively quick to learn but has a pleasing amount of depth, accommodating different play styles (the three primary ones are melee, ranged, and stealth/assassin) and offering a huge array of weapons to hack, slash, and impale your way to glory. At its best, Odyssey's combat channels the sweet steel song (to borrow a George R.R. Martin phrase) of hand-to-hand combat.

Along these lines, the more RPG-like character development and loot systems go hand in hand with the strong combat system. There is enough complexity here to keep the player engaged for many hours; to be honest, I didn't really grasp how to optimize my loadouts until I was 40 hours or more into the game. Pro tip: get the Agamemnon armor set, it is insanely good!

However, Odyssey's weak points are perhaps the most critical aspects of any game. Quests are mostly generic, with largely superficial variations on three basic types of tasks familiar to all gamers: fetching or stealing, killing, and escorting/protecting. There is also a lot of fat on the bone, with huge volumes of optional quests, including randomly generated bounty missions that are little more than fodder for leveling up.

The primary narrative is also pretty forgettable. Although it's well acted, the plot is pretty melodramatic and silly, with few emotional moments that struck a chord with me. For the most part, I found myself disconnected from the central family and uninterested in their potential reunion, which is putatively the purpose of the main character's journey. Befitting the overstuffed design of Odyssey, however, it effectively has two or three main narratives, two of which are optional. Without giving too many spoilers, the optional main quests that relate to the player-character's father and to eliminating some malign influences throughout the greater Grecian world are actually more engaging than the central story.

There is a lot to enjoy in Odyssey -- I did play it for 65 hours, after all -- but a lot is forgettable or could have been left on the cutting room floor.