Peloponnesian War, what is it good for?
There are a lot of things to like about Assassin's Creed Odyssey. Compared to the previous open world game I was playing, I especially enjoy the ability to climb walls or mountains freely, without having to follow a specific parcours painted in yellow. I think that "I see a mountain over there, and I can climb to its top" is a great feature in open world games. I still prefer the added dimension of Legend of Zelda Breath of the Wild, where I am pretty certain that there will something interesting to interact on whatever mountain top I climb. But still, AC Odyssey is pretty good in my book.
However, Aloy, the hero of Horizon Zero Dawn, has a much greater clarity of purpose than Kassandra / Alexios in AC Odyssey. And how AC Odyssey treats the Peloponnesian War is at the source of that. AC Odyssey has a quite interesting system in which you, playing a single character, can have a great influence on a war. You can come to a province that is completely in the hands of one faction, and go and weaken that faction to the point where you can then help the other faction taking over that province. And then the game completely wastes this great opportunity to give your character purpose and influence by having a system of random quests that encourage you to constantly switch sides based on random chance.
Yesterday I gained two levels at once, which is quite a lot, by winning two battles for Sparta. I had previously accumulated a bunch of quests, two of which were identical and asked me to win two battles for Sparta, plus some others about killing Athenians. Weirdly enough the easiest way to win a battle for Sparta is to find a province controlled by Sparta, attack the various military installations in it to weaken Sparta until it is declared vulnerable, and then defend Sparta in the conquest battle. And once you go and complete your pro-Sparta quests, you visit the quest boards and pick up new quests, which might well tell you to now fight for Athens and against Sparta.
Yes, technically you are playing a "mercenary". But this mercenary is *very* mercenary, often changing allegiance several times over the course of a day. I find that neither very sympathetic, nor very believable. Add to that the questionable bounty system, which encourages you to from time to time just kill some civilians to get a bounty on your head, because killing the bounty hunters that then are sent after you is a great way to get gear. In a D&D alignment system I would characterize my hero, who is just following the reward system of the game, as "evil". That doesn't especially endear him to me.
Being "open world", you'd expect to have some choice here, select a faction and fight for it. But if you follow the main story, the main quest line also forces you to sometimes fight for Sparta and sometimes fight for Athens. And if you refuse to do the random quests for one side, those quests accumulate and at some point are all that is left. And even if you constantly fight for one side and try to make every province be controlled by your favorite faction, that control just reverts randomly from time to time, and you can never win the war. Peloponnesian War, what is it good for? Absolutely nothing!