As much as I look forward to climbing on Stonehenge to sync with the surrounding moors, Valhalla might turn out to be a bit of a busman's holiday for those of us Brits who get to look at those hills every day. Granted, we don't get the chance to pillage coastal towns and throw axes very often, but in a time when I particularly appreciate some good escapism, my focus has been captured entirely by the sunnier climes of ancient Greece in Assassin's Creed: Odyssey.
The last two Assassin's Creed games in particular create a wonderful sense of freedom. AC's parkour systems are robust enough to make traversal frictionless. In earlier games villagers would take offence when you started climbing up a church to get a cool view, but Greece is a lot more laid back. People barely react when you drop attack a lion for crafting materials.
At any moment you can switch to your eagle buddy and admire the beautifully built landscapes. After months of being cooped up at home, that sense of vast open space is powerful.
I love the fact it the map isn't one large landmass. The islands feel like self-contained games of their own. There's the island run by pirates—a nice flashback to my other favourite AC game, Black Flag—and an island that's just overflowing with lions, who appear to be at war with the boars. Everywhere I go there I see lion and boar corpses scattered randomly along the roads. It's a good place to stock up on easy crafting materials.
Some people prefer Origins to Odyssey, and I can see why. I can't think of another game world that captures the feeling of riding across glittering deserts like that, but I'll always love the white heat of the Mediterranean sun more. Both games, along with Horizon Zero Dawn (coming to PC (opens in new tab) soon), Death Stranding and Red Dead Redemption, felt like a landmark moment for me. The detail and beauty of these open worlds make virtual tourism a refreshing activity in and of itself.
Essentially you can strip the entire game out, as AC's exploration modes do, and enjoy a memorable experience by just walking around. Who could have predicted this after playing Dear Esther in 2012: walking simulators have won.