Assassin’s Creed Odyssey features two playstyles to choose from: Guided Mode, described as the “more traditional” experience, and Exploration Mode, labelled as “a newer approach”.
Exploration Mode, its description continues, is “the way Assassin’s Creed Odyssey is meant to be experienced”.
So what is Exploration Mode? I’ve seen a few references to it online describing it as a “Breath of the Wild” mode, reminiscent of Nintendo’s organic approach to open-world design seen in the latest Zelda. And it sort of is – especially when compared to the old-school Assassin’s Creed games released before last year’s Origins – but there are still differences.
Whereas Zelda relies entirely on you exploring for yourself and following hints given by NPCs, Odyssey holds your hand a little by giving you on-screen prompts to narrow down where you should be searching.
So, for example, you’ll get the vague location of a person or target or encampment you need to find. Odyssey will explain it is in the southern or eastern section of a particular area. You’ll then need to travel there and use your eagle Ikaros to pinpoint the actual location in a specific valley or hidden in a particular fort.
Guided Mode does away with this need and shows you exactly where you need to go at all times, with some quest objectives given to you automatically so there’s no hunting to find where you are headed next.
As you can see from our images, you actually pick this gameplay mode as part of the game’s introductory sequence from within an Animus interface. (We’ve blurred the dialogue subtitles here to avoid spoiling who is talking and what’s being said).
During my eight hour hands-on session last week I played using Exploration Mode and appreciated the way I would often find myself wandering off of the beaten track. I’d frequently find myself bumping into a cave or underwater area I wouldn’t have seen if I hadn’t made my own way there, instead of taking the fastest route to a marker.
It is a subtle change – and one which isn’t much different to simply playing Origins with some of its more hand-holdy HUD elements switched off (if you have yet to play it, it is experienced so much better this way). And it may not suit everyone – there are some who have already said they feel overwhelmed by the idea of a 100-hour game. Either way, though, it’s good to have the option.
Yesterday, I wrote about how Assassin’s Creed Odyssey wants you to feel rewarded for every minute you play. For some players, it may be that you aren’t left exploring without wondering where you are headed next. For other players – and yes, perhaps those who enjoyed Breath of the Wild – it’ll be having this enormous world to explore the way you want to.