Ubisoft hasn’t been afraid to take chances with Assassin’s Creed. Last year’s Assassin’s Creed Origins rebooted the series with an increased emphasis on role-playing elements. This year’s Assassin’s Creed Odyssey doubles down on the RPG mechanics, adds complexity and nuance to the combat system, and displays a deep commitment to story with consequential dialogue and action and Ubisoft’s ambitious plans for post-release content.
Ubisoft’s willingness to try new things is also evident in Odyssey’s technical design. Odyssey is one of the few high-profile, triple-A games released since the Xbox One X launched two years ago that doesn’t offer a choice between performance and graphics modes. Instead, Odyssey goes all in on graphics. Digital Foundry took separate looks at the enhanced and base consoles from Xbox and PlayStation to see how that decision worked out.
Ubisoft could have limited Odyssey’s story of the Peloponnesian War between Athens and Sparta to the Greek mainland, but most of the game’s huge map is devoted to the Aegean Sea and its rich collection of rocky Greek islands. Those islands present a wealth of opportunities to dazzle the player with spectacular vistas of land and sea. They also present the challenge of creating views that don’t disappoint when players in Odyssey’s vast open world approach them from any angle at any time of day.
Ubisoft’s graphic design teams took on the challenge and threw all the console resources at their disposal into creating a visual showcase. Odyssey’s natural and man-made environments are filled with detail. LODS (levels of detail) are pushed deep into the scene giving exceptionally crisp views of objects seen at a distance. Many games mask their engine’s inability to crunch the data with heavy-handed use of volumetric lighting to obscure detail. Not Odyssey. Vistas are generally clear and sharp. Both scene-wide lighting and small-scale lighting effects are gorgeous. Volumetric lighting is mainly used for effect not for cover.
The emphasis on distance and detail come together in one of Assassin’s Creed’s signature game mechanics, the view given by your eagle Ikaros. The views when Ikaros soars above the landscape are spectacular. Details are sharp and pop-in is almost completely absent. Even Ikaros’ shadow is precisely rendered on the ground below if the light is right.
Resolution is essential if Odyssey’s combination of distance and detail is going to look its best. The higher the better. The game combines dynamic resolution scaling with a refined temporal anti-aliasing solution to keep resolution as high as possible. Here are the results from Digital Foundry’s tests. (If some technical terms are unfamiliar, check out this guide.)
|Xbox One X||2944 x 1656||3072 x 1728||3840 x 2160|
|PS4 Pro||2227 x 1242||2560 x 1440||2816 x 1584|
|PS4||1600 x 900||Not reported||1920 x 1080|
|Xbox One||1344 x 756||Not reported||1600 x 900|
Comparing the consoles is easier if the pixel counts in the above table are translated into each console’s ability to display full 4K (3840 x 2160) which is shown in the Table below. Note that the One X and Pro target 4K while the base consoles target 1080p (1920 x 1080). Percentages of 1080p for the PS4 and Xbox One are shown in parentheses in the Table.
|Xbox One X||59%||64%||100%|
|PS4||17% (69%)||Not reported||25% (100%)|
|Xbox One||12% (49%)||Not reported||17% (69%)|
The outcome of this comparison is clear. The One X stands head and shoulders above the other consoles. Both the One X and Pro target full 4K. The One X occasionally achieves it, the Pro barely gets half way there. Even more striking, the One X at it’s worst is marginally better than the Pro at it’s best. The One X is the obvious choice for those with a seating arrangement that brings them close enough to see the detail present in a 4K screen.
The situation is reversed when we look at the base consoles. The PS4 is the only one that hits the 1080p target and the Xbox One at its best only manages to match the PS4 at its worst. Digital Foundry concluded the PS4 image on a 1080p screen is more than adequate while the Xbox One is noticeably inferior.
Ubisoft’s vision for Odyssey was so strong that it didn’t give console players the option to reduce visuals in order to increase performance. That decision may not sit well with all players, but it is what it is.
Frame rate is capped at 30 fps for all four consoles and the results are just what you’d expect. The One X and Pro lock on the target most of the time with only brief drops of a frame or two during high-stress scenes. The One X does slightly better than the Pro, but the difference is too small to get excited about. Frame rate on the base consoles can fall into the mid-to-low 20 fps range with the PS4 doing better than the Xbox One.
The absence of a performance mode that maximizes frame rate at the expense of resolution makes it clear that Ubisoft saw visual quality as an essential element of Assassin’s Creed Odyssey. Some players may not agree with this decision, but the company’s boldness in making it should be respected.
Although it looks the best on the One X and Pro, Odyssey is a good-looking game on all the consoles except the Xbox One. The visual presentation on the Pro is very good but it pales in comparison to the One X. If you want to play Assassin’s Creed Odyssey in the way it was meant to be experienced, the One X is the only game in town.
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