Having sorted out 2019 moving forward the holiday period was time to get stuck into gaming again in detail with these two heavyweights. Both offer massive and lengthy open-worlds to get lost in and the ability to do much of it on horseback. What many don’t realise is the similarities end there quite spectacularly.
The most important thing I discovered was which one to play first. Luckily, I picked Red Dead. If you happen to pick Assassins Creed Odyssey, there is very little chance you will play Red Dead to the end. The differences in point to point gameplay are so drastic. For a start, movement speed is at either end of the spectrum. Arthur Morgan plods about at a realistic pace. He’s a big guy in his late 30’s at least so moves accordingly. Contrast that with Odyssey and your first movements will likely see you run into walls at great speed. Kassandra, my chosen main character moves in an almost continual sprint. It felt like I was playing Sonic The Hedgehog, not Assassins Creed. While jarring, the change from going slow to fast is much more palatable than had you went the other way. Had this been your first game then Arthur and Red Dead would have felt like a game with the handbrake on.
The same can be said for the quest structure. In Red dead, you had one or two active quests at least a 5-minute journey away. At a similar point in Odyssey, you could have as many as 10 quests all around the same town and many activities on top of them. Red Dead lets you plan and prepare while Odyssey makes sure you are never bored or struggling for something to do. Again, going from Red Dead to this makes the whole process of getting through missions and progressing through the game seem much faster and more traditional. You can level up quite quickly in the beginning as there is so much choice on where to go get involved. Red Dead, by comparison, is a slow grind and some chapters can take upwards of 10 hours to complete. There isn’t much difference in the nuts and bolts. In Red Dead, you have a three-tiered mission that takes place in three distinct locations. Odyssey is more likely to separate these into three standalone missions giving you a chance to upgrade or do something else in-between, or in this case about 30 things in-between due to the ease of fast travel compared to the long trek across the West that Arthur Morgan has to endure. Kassandra simply opens her map and can fast travel to any visited viewpoint. You see Red dead forces you to travel and navigate difficult routes yourself hoping to discover emergent gameplay. Odyssey lays things out in front of you.
Of course, there are some genre differences. Loot in Red Dead is minimal, with hunting and crafting challenges needed for money and specific bounty missions for different weapons. Odyssey goes full-on RPG with loot drops and upgrades with tiers of rarity. The XP system in Red Dead is hidden and tied to specific abilities and traits rather than an XP counter at the top of the screen. You must ride your horse to build up loyalty, you must use deadeye and get headshots to increase that and you must eat and craft specific tonics to keep yourself at peak physical fitness. Odyssey handles the character levelling through killing set numbers of people to get XP points, then when you level up you get to spend an attribute point. Both achieve the same end but are handled completely differently.
Obviously, combat is inherently different with the majority of Red Dead using guns and Assassins creed using melee weapons. Hunting and looting are handled very differently as the animals in Red Dead show a lot more artificial intelligence than the standard ones in Odyssey. When you kill one in Red Dead, you are treated to a gruesome skinning animation and the quality of their pelt is dependent on the number of shots you used to take them down. Odyssey deals with this and looting corpses buy a simple button push. You can skin an animal or loot a corpse without breaking stride, both have bounties placed on your head, Red Dead has trains, Odyssey has full on Naval combat and so on.
In conclusion, both are excellent games and well worthy of 70 + hours of your time. But the best advice if you want to see the end of both is to play Red Dead first. The things that make it unique are the things that Assassins Creed Odyssey automates for you and once you are used to this happening you can get lazy and frustrated as a player when you must do them yourself. In the end, both games are at the very top of the open-world genre, they just decide to tell their story and style their gameplay differently.