We've played the first eight hours of Assassin's Creed Odyssey and it feels like the video game equivalent of 300
For anyone who may feel the Assassin's Creed series is getting a little stale, this might be the one to turn it all around.
We're in an odd Paris hotel, one that doesn't appear to have any bedrooms. Instead, there are a number of large, cavernous rooms, and we've been divided into groups to play the first few hours Assassin's Creed Odyssey.
Within seconds of taking the controller, we've been pitched into an epic battle as we take control of King Leonidas (yes, Gerard Butler's character from 300), as he wades through dozens of opposing warriors and slays them all.
Suddenly, we're thrown hundreds and hundreds of years into the future, controlling Layla (who you'll remember from Assassin's Creed Origins), as she uses the Animus device to go back and discover an ancient artifact. We are then given the choice of either Kassandra or Alexios, both the grandchildren of King Leonidas.
From there, the game picks up properly (this gamer choose Alexios), and we're on the small island Kephallonia, where you live day-to-day as a kind of debt collector for the local wannabe hustler. You'll be constantly avoiding a run-in with the Cyclops - who is really just a big brute with an eye missing - due to a previous encounter that didn't end well.
It gives a great sense of the differences that Odyssey has made from the previous games in the series, even the recent retooling of Origins, as the RPG elements have been pushed to the brink, making it more of a competitor to the likes of The Witcher series.
Speaking to the game's senior producer Marc-Alexis Côté "I don't think this will look and feel like Assassin's Creed One did, and I think that is because Assassin's Creed has continued to change a lot of over the last few years.
"Something that doesn't evolve over time is bound to be something that will die off or make people lose interest. This is the second part of our two-step transformation, between this and Assassin's Creed Origins, and we have now fully become an RPG."
There is a lot of the same DNA of the series to date - the need to sneak will always be a smarter course of action than wading in blades flashing, the mission lay-out will always end up being a series of smaller mini-missions that will eventually lead to being going back to doing that main mission - but it is in the differences that Odyssey really stands out.
First of all, the script work is HUGELY improved. There was real emotional investment in Alexios within those first few hours, and the direction that the story went in was both involving and exciting, with a real push of wanting to see where it would go next.
That is all without the fact that the conversations now involve branching routes, so you can take different paths with each person you interact with. Wanna see if you can get what you want by being nice? Maybe you want to flirt? Or maybe you're sick of them being cranky and want to put them in their place? All up to you, but their reactions could determine different outcomes for the future.
Once you do enough to warrant leaving the home island, you'll board a ship to make your way towards Megaris - the first properly large region, and the first of many - to pursue information on what we discovered is the real plot of the game (which we can't give away here). Sea battles have returned, and they're as exciting and addictive as ever, with enough of an Ancient Greek twist to make them different.
Returning to land, we get a glimpse at just how big this game is, and we're told that these first eight hours are just the beginning of over 100 hours of the core campaign. Odyssey is HUGE, not just in scope, but in the scale of things that are available to do within the game. It is also beautiful to look at, as the recreation of Greek islands is constantly eye-popping, and accompanied by a powerful score.
While there were some niggly issues within those first few hours - the biggest being that just as your about to kick off on a big sneaky mission, a bounty hunter who has been hired just to find you arrives out of nowhere. Every. Single. Time. - but this has been the game that the series has been building towards.
As Marc-Alexis Côté tells us that "This is something I've been wanting to do since Assassin's Creed III", and that the new changes are what he is most excited about players getting their eyes on once the game comes out.
Assassin's Creed Odyssey is released on PS4, Xbox One, and PC on Friday 5 October. Check out our conversations with the folk at Ubisoft about potentially setting the next game in Ireland.
All clips via Ubisoft North America