In “Torment of Hades,” the second of Assassin’s Creed Odyssey’s three-episode Fate Of Atlantis DLC, you’ll explore the desolate deserts and craggy cliffs of the Underworld as you carry out tasks for the manipulative Hades himself, encounter old friends and foes from the main campaign, and come face-to-face with some of the most formidable figures in Greek mythology. If you enjoyed Odyssey, you’ll certainly be satisfied with this DLC episode: it offers the same tight combat, story-driven missions and free-form exploration but in a new sandbox that’ll take about ten hours to complete. There isn’t a lot to dislike here.
That is, unless you have an aversion to difficult boss battles, because “Torment of Hades” brings the heat right out of the gate. The episode opens with a face-off against the ferocious Cerberus, the Underworld’s towering, three-headed guard dog. If you haven’t played Odyssey in a while, you’re in for a rude awakening. The battle is long, escalates in difficulty, and tests your reflexes and familiarity with all of the offensive and defensive skills you have at your disposal. Parrying, dodging, and pattern recognition are necessities for survival, but as in the main game, combat is always fair, and once you’ve felled the beast, you’ll be well prepared for the equally challenging battles yet to come.
Once you get a grasp of the flow of combat and the importance of managing your ability meter and planning a few steps ahead, you start to catch a sort of rhythm that makes each enemy encounter pretty engrossing, even if you’re just duking it out with a little hellhound in an empty field. It’s like learning the steps to a dance and then getting so good that you start to improvise, which is when it gets really fun. Assassin’s Creed games haven’t nailed combat this well maybe ever, and it’s now become one of the greatest aspects of the game.
Adding a bit of richness to combat is the inventory system, which allows you to modify weapons and armour as well as create custom loadouts that you can swap between depending on the demands of certain enemies and bosses. As in the main game, there are several different weapon types, from dual-wielded blades, to staffs, to traditional swords, and each one brings with it a different feel and rhythm, which is nice if you like changing up your play style from time to time.
Traversal has been a permanent focus of gameplay since the series began, and here it’s virtually identical to what you’ll find in Odyssey’s main campaign. The ability to climb up nearly any surface (á la Zelda: Breath Of The Wild) really opens things up and makes exploration feel more liberating than it’s felt in recent mainline titles. The Underworld is full of sky-high rock formations and cliffside enemy outposts, and there are underground areas as well, though these mini-dungeons present the game’s main drawback.
When searching for quest items, it feels natural to simply make your way toward the corresponding icon on the game map from your current location, either on horseback or on foot. This occasionally leads you into an underground area that seems to be the dungeon or temple holding said item. However, you might search the area and clear it of enemies, only to realize that, despite the quest icon being ever so close on the map, you’re not quite in the right place after all. This can become annoying.
Essentially, the verticality and depth of the environments can make navigation more challenging than expected, though aesthetically it’s easy to enjoy the grandiosity of the mountains and caves. And getting all turned around can be fun. Odyssey’s Exploration Mode (in which you follow clues to find your objective instead of being given a waypoint straight away) is still a lovely new feature for the franchise.
It’s best to not spoil the details of the narrative as it’s full of surprises, but it mostly revolves around you hunting down baddies unleashed on the underworld as a result of Cerberus’ untimely death, and recruiting some of the great champions of Greek Myth, as well as collecting mythical armour pieces and helping some familiar faces on the side. Speaking of side missions, they absolutely should not be skipped – they’re emotionally charged and incredibly well designed, and at times they feel more engrossing than the main storyline.
A bit of housekeeping before we go: to play “Torment of Hades,” players will have to have reached level 28 in Odyssey and completed the “Between Two Worlds” questline as well as the Lost Tales Of Greece DLC’s “Heiress Of Memories” questline and Fate Of Atlantis Episode 1 – “Elysium.” Or, you can jump straight in with a preset, level 52 character, which is quite satisfactory and could save you some time.
“Torment of Hades” had us hooked from beginning to end, mostly because the combat is so tight and addictive, and there’s just enough mission variety to keep things compelling for the length of the campaign. The finale doesn’t disappoint, either, with an insanely hard final boss battle rewarding you fro coming this far. Hopefully, the third The Fate Of Atlantis episode keeps this momentum going.
Assassin’s Creed Odyssey: Torment Of Hades is out now on Xbox One, PS4 and PC.