12 essential Assassin’s Creed Odyssey tips to know before you play

Dipping back in because you never finished? You'll need some Assassin's Creed Odyssey tips then because there's a lot to remember and I bet you've forgotten the buttons. Coming up here we're going to run through the basics, things like best way to upgrade and set up armor or weapons, what abilities are essential to unlock (hello Parrying and Second Wind) and plenty more. These Assassin's Creed Odyssey tips cover everything, and should make the whole experience easier . So read on, safe in the knowledge that it's spoiler-free and just full of the good stuff. 

1. Regularly upgrade, swap out, and engrave your armor

When you first start off in Assassin’s Creed Odyssey, you’ll probably find yourself with some ordinary grey armor. Give it some time, and there’s a chance that you’ll find yourself with a Legendary (gold) piece of equipment by level 10, and you’ll definitely have come across a Epic (purple) bit of gear. The armor and weapons system works a bit like Destiny 2: you should swap out anything of a higher level, damage rating, or armor rating than you currently have equipped, but there are a few exceptions. 

If you go to a blacksmith you can upgrade your armor or weapons as long as you have the correct amount of resources. Epic and Legendary gear requires harder-to-find gems and obsidian glass, but Rare (blue) and Common (grey) items should just require drachmae, leather, and iron. Upgrading Legendary weapons and armor is especially handy, as they’ll jump up about 20-30 points per go and usually end up having higher stats than Epic gear of a higher level. 

You can also engrave your armor and weapons with (surprise surprise) Engravings, which can also be found at the blacksmith. These are basically mods which add perks and status effects to your gear, such as giving you +4% Assassin damage or +5% chance for a critical hit. Most items already have engravings applied to them, which you won’t be able to change, but you’ll be able to add either one or two Engravings to help you out whether you’re stabbin’, hidin’ or shootin’ (arrows). So, engrave and upgrade your gear and you’ll find yourself in the shoes of a much deadlier assassin in no time. 

2. Dismantle armor and weapons you’re not using so you can upgrade items quickly

Don’t be afraid to dismantle your armour. Yes, you won’t get any drachmae for it, but you will get resources, which alter in rarity depending on how powerful the item you’re dismantling is. It can be a bit of a bother running around the world hunting wolves and deer to find leather, or trying to spot chunks of iron in the ground - plus buying them from the blacksmith will cost you a pretty penny - so dismantling items really is a timesaver. Those resources are then at your disposal, so you can use them to upgrade weapons and armour. If you feel your heart rate increase at the thought of destroying armor, you can always choose to dismantle only the items that aren’t worth a lot and you’ll still be swimming around in a giant vault of drachmae like Scrooge McDuck.

3. Perfect parrying as soon as you can

Trust me on this: parrying is super important. Especially in conquest battles. Tapping L1 and R1 simultaneously just when an enemy is about to hit you allows you to parry and, on a successful hit, makes everything apart from you go into slo-mo so you can get in a handful of attacks before the enemy recovers. It’s tempting to just dodge attacks, but that’s not always reliable and isn’t a guarantee that you’ll completely escape the attack (as we found out the hard way). During conquest fights most of the time you’ll find yourself facing two or more enemies at once, and it really helps you prevent becoming overwhelmed if you’re a dab hand at parrying. Consider yourself warned. 

4. Exploration Mode is pretty easy to use

When you first boot up Odyssey, you’ll be asked whether you want to play using Guided mode or Exploration mode. At first exploration mode sounds hardcore, and I definitely imagined a UI-less world with no indication where you should be going or quest prompts, but that’s really not the case. Exploration mode doesn’t have a waypoint telling you where to go, true, but as long as you get all the information you can out of the NPC in question you’ll get clues in the upper-left hand corner of your screen as to where you’re supposed to be heading and what you’re supposed to be doing. All that’s left for you to do is use your noggin to figure out where in each region you should head towards. Once you get close to your target you’ll be prompted to send out Ikaros to scout ahead, which means you’re in the right place.

5. Some side missions will disappear if you don’t pick them up 

As well as there being timed missions which will disappear after 10ish hours on average (you’ll know them by the hourglass next to the mission title), there are also side quests that don’t have an hourglass that are linked to main missions. Miss them, and they’re gone for good. There’s no way to tell which ones will disappear and which won’t, but they’re either loosely linked to the main story or have consequences which will affect the rest of the story...but the only way to tell if they have consequences is to complete them. Yes, I know that doesn’t really help. Apologies. 

6. Don’t kill every mercenary or Leader you find - recruit them instead 

It might be tempting to stick your implement of choice into the neck of any mercenaries or leaders that you come across, but every now and again it’s a good idea to try to resist the urge. If you simply get them down to almost no health then knock them out using the Spartan kick (which deals non-lethal damage), you can then recruit them by holding down L3 when you’re near them. That means they’re able to join your ship as Lieutenants, which gives your vessel special perks when you’re out on the waves (such as increased ship health, faster rower stamina regeneration, that kind of thing). Get bored of them and you can always dismiss them, but it’s good to have the option, right? Even if they did once want to paint the streets with your blood...

7. Buy the Second Wind ability as soon as possible

Even if you stick to the shadows for most of your playthrough and very rarely find yourself at the end of spear, you’re going to want to Second Wind ability. Why? One word: conquests. During those massive battles you’re unable to hide and/or assassinate enemies, so you’ll have to rely on your warrior weapons to dispatch your foes. Suffer too many hits when you’re used to hiding in the undergrowth and you’ll find yourself having to do the same conquest battle over and over again. To save yourself some grief, buy the Second Wind ability in the warrior tree as soon as you can, which lets you regenerate 25% of your health. It’s worth it for conquests alone, and is the difference between a victory for your side and you throwing your controller across the room because you got desynchronised yet again. 

8. Don’t be afraid to camp when you’re killing sneakily

For years we’ve had it drilled into us that camping is bad, but you know what? If you’re going full assassin in Assassin’s Creed Odyssey, don’t be afraid to stick to the patrolling routes of guards/bandits/Athenians/Spartans (yeah, you’re going to end up killing a lot of people). Even if you kill one and hide their body away, in most cases a friend of theirs will come and occupy exactly the same spot. That means you can sometimes stay in the same bush and just assassinate in the same location over and over again until the mound of bodies is spilling out of nearby vegetation. What a lovely mental image. 

9. Use a Synchronisation Point whenever you see one

Synchronization might seem less important now that it doesn’t flood your map with handy markers. However, every time you sync you unlock that landmark as a fast travel point and that’s really handy. Assassin’s Creed Odyssey’s map is huge and following the main missions will soon have you travelling large distances, so being able to zip between synchronisation points to mop up unfinished side quests or track down cultists is vital. And because your ship, the Adrestia, is also a fast travel point you can easily nip back to previous locations without losing your forward progress through the world. 

10. Always be running when you call your horse

It’s easy to forget that if you’re running when you call your horse you’ll automatically hop on its back as he closes in and keeps going without breaking pace. Most of the time Odyssey’s horses don’t like it when you sprint and they sometimes get caught out by obstacles. But, for the most part, you can whistle, leg it, and jump on as you go. It saves time because you’re already heading to your location rather than standing around and just looks so, so cool. 

11. Learn how to play the Mercenaries and use them to your advantage

There are a few things to know about Mercenaries. Much like the Phylakes in Origins, these are the bruisers sent out to get you when you annoy people enough by stealing, killing civilians, or killing soldiers. The more trouble you cause, the higher your bounty and the stronger the mercenaries sent out to get you. There are a few changes though. For example, you can discover mercenaries peacefully wandering the world and they aren’t always out to get you - you’re only a target if you have a bounty on your head. You can tell by the helmet icon above their head: if it’s red, they’re hunting you, but if it’s grey they’re just going about their business. If you don’t want a fight you can easily pay off the bounty in the map menu, or take the NPC who issued the bounty (look on the map for the symbol of a money purse with a dagger through it). 

If you defeat a merc you get their gear, but it’s worth knowing that a mercenary’s gear drops at the same level they are. There are different tiers of mercenaries, with the difficulty increasing with each tier. As you take them down their ranks shift and change, while you yourself rise up the tiers (you are a mercenary too, after all). If you like the look of a piece of kit, then think about targeting higher characters. Killing off higher level mercenaries will make some space in higher tiers for the mercenary you’ve got on eye on, meaning they can sometimes move up a tier and boost the level of their gear. It’s also worth noting that using things like the non-lethal Spartan Kick means you can recruit mercenaries as a strong addition to your ship’s crew. 

12. The Spartan Kick and a high place will kill almost anyone

This is a big open game and there will be times when you face areas and enemies at a higher level than you. While you can settle in for a long battle, chipping away at their health and hoping you live long enough to see results, you can also kick them off a cliff for an insta-kill. You’ll need to unlock Spartan Kick from the Warrior branch of your abilities but once you do, you can use it to send anyone, regardless of their level, flying back into the air. And, if you’re somewhere high enough, the fall will kill them. So find a high ledge or castle wall and let gravity do all the hard work. 

Where do you think Odyssey places in our list of the best Assassin's Creed games? Or if you're close to the finale, check out our page on the Assassin's Creed Odyssey ending explained!

Sam Loveridge
Global Editor-in-Chief, GamesRadar+

Sam Loveridge is the Global Editor-in-Chief of GamesRadar, and joined the team in August 2017. Sam came to GamesRadar after working at TrustedReviews, Digital Spy, and Fandom, following the completion of an MA in Journalism. In her time, she's also had appearances on The Guardian, BBC, and more. Her experience has seen her cover console and PC games, along with gaming hardware, for a decade, and for GamesRadar, she's in charge of the site's overall direction, managing the team, and making sure it's the best it can be. Her gaming passions lie with weird simulation games, big open-world RPGs, and beautifully crafted indies. She plays across all platforms, and specializes in titles like Pokemon, Assassin's Creed, The Sims, and more. Basically, she loves all games that aren't sports or fighting titles! In her spare time, Sam likes to live like Stardew Valley by cooking and baking, growing vegetables, and enjoying life in the countryside.