I’ve kicked so many people to death in Assassin’s Creed Odyssey. Off hill tops, mountain ledges, and temple roofs. I can’t help myself. In this latest entrant in the stealth series about assassinating historical figures, stealth is no longer the most important skill, and assassination attacks no longer guarantee success.
So I’ve fallen back on Odyssey’s only guaranteed lethal manoeuvre: a perfectly planned stiff heel.
The game’s Spartan Kick skill was revealed in the first game teaser, a callback to the scene in 300 when Gerard Butler mercilessly plunges the messenger of an invading army down a seemingly bottomless well, because Spartans.
I thought it would be silly in Odyssey, the way it now seems silly in 300, but instead this kick has completely changed how I approach the game. And for the better, in my opinion.
Here’s some important history that I’m learning from Odyssey: it turns out that long before there was the art of the sucker punch, there was the art of the sucker kick. Unlike its bare-knuckled sibling, the kick requires an accomplice, which is to say, fall damage. Kick someone to the ground and you just make them angry.
Kick them off the side of a giant stone wall, and they’re headed for a one-way trip to Hades.
The game’s mercenaries, a hybrid of Grand Theft Auto’s Wanted meter and Shadow of Mordor’s Nemesis system, is, like a lot of things in Ubisoft games, an interesting side activity that can quickly become overwhelming, especially when overpowered warriors keep turning up at the most inopportune moments.
I stopped feeling overwhelmed once I shoved one off a steep ledge with a burst of quad energy and saw their health go down to zero immediately as they hit the grass below. A bunch of other mercenaries came and I did the same to them as well. Then I looted their bodies and escaped into the woods on my horse.
I had spent hours early on in the game feeling like a poor grunt fighting the whole of Ancient Greece one clumsy duel at a time. Upon discovering the kick, I started to feel like an actual Assassin again, outwitting my (admittedly not very witty) opponents rather than simply trying to overpower them or avoid them altogether.
Although assassination attacks are nerfed in Odyssey, hamstrung by level differences and the relative strength of your equipment, climbing remains as key as ever. While scaling walls and temple rooftops is a good way to keep out of sight, it also makes it easy to scout out the best place to deploy the Spartan Kick. Somewhere that’s high up, but also devoid of barriers.
Thankfully, Odyssey’s world is full of these places.
Every fort, town, and mountain road has at least a few, and leading enemy soldiers on a bread crumb trail up to the top of them has replaced the way I used to play the series. No longer memorising patrol paths and hiding bodies in the bushes, I now plan out the best routes to funnel people up to my death perch.
The game’s key areas still feel like labyrinths, but instead of being the one to navigate them while avoiding enemy sight lines, I’m the Minotaur at the end, lying in wait. A Minotaur who never skips leg day.
I’d feel guilty for continually doing this if it not for the fact that it just feels so damn good. Most enemies can be interrupted mid-attack with a Spartan Kick. No matter what bullshit they’re pulling, the manoeuvre provides an instant out, and it often comes as a relief in the context of the game’s often janky swordplay.
When I manage to pull off a kick near a ledge, the joy is twofold - not only breaking my opponent’s momentum, but seeing it gracelessly shift as they go to catch themselves on the back foot and find themselves in freefall instead.
The moment when it’s clear a rival Mercenary or regional Leader is thrust to their death is sheer bliss, in part because of how detailed and convincing the animation is, but also because it provides a much-needed release from the rest of the game’s brutal drudgery.
How many people have I killed in Ancient Greece? Hundreds? Thousands? I’ve been tediously chipping away at each opponent in each new encounter, only to see it develop into a brawl as local mercenaries come running into the fray and my poor Alexios’ notoriety skyrockets. Little do they know what’s waiting for them as they round the bend toward the top of the scaffolding.