Combat & Mercenary System
Combat has been superlatively refined to the point where you can actually perform amazing feats of skill and ingenuity. While playing, I was consistently surprising myself by killing some tough bosses earlier than I should've. It's the type of game that consistently rewards you for experimenting and trying new things.
Trial and error is your friend in Assassin's Creed: Odyssey. The Spartan Kick ability is perhaps the best example; right from the start I was kicking higher level enemies off of ledges and using fall damage to kill them. It never ever gets old and is always an advantage.
But it doesn't end there--you can use your torches to give instant fire arrows, for example, or use the Spartan Kick to interrupt enemy power attacks. You can even tactically sequence your parries to gain adrenaline (kind of like mana that's used to use abilities) to fuel long-winded battles.
Thanks to the new mercenary system, Odyssey's combat can lead to immensely tense and challenging battles that have you fighting whole braces of enemies. We're talking Spartans, Athenians, and multiple bounty hunters trying to annihilate you (and each other) all at the same time. It's hectic, chaotic, and very very fun.
The merc system is basically like Shadow of Mordor's Nemesis system and a means of trying to keep you in line. But it's mostly an engagement hook (a very effective one), and mercenaries tend to devolve into unique loot messengers. I now see them as vehicles that deliver awesome loot to me once they get kicked off a ledge.
Once you cause too much havoc in ancient Greece, someone will send out a mercenary just like yourself to hunt you down. These mercs can pop up anywhere and travel across the world--sometimes they pop up as you're fighting a camp. Sometimes two will pop up, or three, at one time. These battles get very interesting very fast, and are one of my favorite parts of the game.
At one point, after I took out Elpenor and his fort, I was rushed by a mercenary alongside reinforcements. No biggy, I thought, as I deftly dodged, parried, and sliced my way through enemies. Then another mercenary came and started throwing firebombs at me. Whittling them away little by little, I managed to survive for a good ten minutes in this melee royale. But that horn sounded again, and yet another mercenary joined the fray--this time one with a tamed wildcat. Things got out of hand, and I got overrun, but I was still trying my best amid the calamity. There were explosions as bombs were thrown at my feet and fire arrows flew, there was, of course, lots and lots of parries.
Even though I died many times in such crazy battles, I never ever shy away from mercenaries or pay off my bounties no matter what happens. They keep you on your toes and keep things quite interesting because you never know where they're going to strike or pop up. Plus they always drop sweet rewards.
One more thing about combat. Sometimes it doesn't matter what level you are, and if you're good enough, you can kill a baddie that's 2-3 levels higher than you (but don't really try an enemy more than 4 levels above you). The game really plays into your trained Dark Souls reflexes of timing and dodging.
Kassandra (or if Alexios, if you prefer the lesser experience) can quick-dodge or roll out of the way from attacks. Learning how to best use this is crucial to adapting to crazy battles. Using rolls and a proper parry-Second Wind-Spartan Kick sequence can be your ticket to surviving battles with level 10-11 enemies as a level 8.
What's more is how dynamic the weapons are. All of them have their own styles, strengths, and weaknesses in battle; hard rolling away from enemies gives you more distance to strike with a spear, whereas quick-dashing is great for closing the distance if you need quick strikes with poison/enflamed daggers. Mix and match weapons at all times and try new things, and above all else, don't be afraid to fail in battle. Getting too comfortable in Odyssey means you're not experimenting enough and you want to be keeping things fresh.
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