During Gamescom, I had the chance to try out Assassin’s Creed Odyssey. I’ve fought groups of guards, mythic monsters, climbed mountains and buildings, sailed a boat filled with buff men and wrestled a bear. But the most fun I had was dealing with the mercenaries and bounty hunters that were sent after me. If I had the time, I could’ve spent hours running away from them, accidentaly increasing my wanted level by murdering a peasant while hiding out, then having to deal with even more mercenaries.
It all started out innocently enough. I kept getting slaughtered by the group of enemies that attacked me early on in my quest (you can read more about that in my AC Odyssey demo impressions), so I decided to practice on a random guard patrol. I quickly got to grips with the controls and the new skills, then proceeded to wipe the troublesome villagers. I didn’t even notice the red bar filling up in the lower right corner until Klytemnestra the Bow Blocker appeared.
Her level was lower than that of the guards I had dealt with, and she was on her own, so I was pretty sure I could take her on. Boy was I wrong. She was armed with a bow she used to shoot volleys of poison arrows, a short sword and even a shield. Which is highly unfair, but such is life. It took a while before I learned how to dodge her arrows, but I started whittling down her health soon enough. That is, before we ran into Rhexenor the Painter.
Now let me tell you, that guy was a prime example of false advertising. He was definitely no painter. Maybe a blacksmith, or a professional ox-crusher. His package included a giant sledgehammer and a hunting dog. Dealing with one mercenary was manageable – tense, painful and slow – but still manageable. Dealing with two quickly turned into the climax of a Benny Hill sketch.
Of course, you can always pay to take the bounty off your head, but that just seems like sucking the fun out of the game. If you defeat a mercenary, you’ll be able to recruit them for your ship’s crew, and you’ll get a fancy reward. It’s not just about the additional challenge – it makes the game unpredictable. When you walk around with a bounty, there’s always a chance you’ll run into a mercenary or two. They’ll simply patrol the area where you were reported, and they might bump into you at the most inopportune moment – like while you’re dealing with a bunch of other enemies. It’s also possible to kill the sponsor – the person who placed the bounty on you – which might be an interesting challenge, especially once you’ve drawn enough attention to get three or four stars/helmets on your wanted counter.
Origins was at its best when surprising, unscripted stuff happened, and the mercenaries and bounty system seem like they could build upon that and make stuff even more chaotic in Odyssey.