AC: Odyssey, Phokis Conquest BattleOctober 22, 2018
As Monty Python once said, now for something completely different.
It's a good time to be a gamer. I've already finished Shadow of the Tomb Raider, working on Assassin's Creed Odyssey, Hitman 2 and Red Dead Redemption 2 and Fallout 76 are all on the near horizon. By the time I finish those maybe there will be something new in the Last Of Us or Horizon Zero Dawn lineages. About the only thing that could make it better would be new Dishonored content. But let's focus on Odyssey for a moment.
Yes, it's a huge game. It took hours just to get to the "Ubisoft introduces..." screen. I think I saw something recently about being 8% done, after several too-long nights. And it has the usual Ubisoft teething problems - sudden freezes, random occlusion and control bugs, and my personal favorite - every once in a while the right stick stops working to control perspective. Try fighting multiple foes when you can only look in one direction forever. There are some definite game-balance issues too, and the worst of those so far has been the conquest battle in Phokis.
Let's review what happens in a conquest battle. You'll typically have at least two enemies, usually three, sticking to you like glue. They have shields and (at least if you're playing Kassandra) you don't, so normal attacks do absolutely nothing and every slow attack against one carries a significant risk of a flank attack from another. Plus, in this particular battle the enemy mercenary has a ton of health, so you simply won't be able to take him down in time without special attacks. This is actually all fine so far. It's supposed to be challenging. I struggled for a while, so I went looking for tips.
The tips that are out there all suck. That's why I'm writing this. Almost every one recommends Penetrating Shot as the primary way to deal more damage. Yeah, that might work great on "marshmallow" difficulty, on a PC with mouse aiming. On medium difficulty, with the way aiming works on a PS4, you have basically no chance to aim a shot before you're being hit on both flanks. This is a great example of how Ubisoft never tests game balance on this platform, BTW. I'm sure it seems very fair on the machines the developers use, but that practically guarantees an opposite result elsewhere unless platform-specific adjustments are made.
After much trial and error, I found that Hero Strike was by far the most useful skill. It doesn't require aiming. It's not quite powerful enough to one-shot even a normal enemy consistently, but it gets them pretty close and stuns them so a single quick attack is usually enough to finish. That helps you stay ahead in the battle overall. Even more importantly, Hero Strike puts a significant dent in even the strongest enemy's health. It might take four or five of those to finish him, in between dodging and parrying to build up the required adrenaline. That's comparable to the four or five hits that he needs to finish you, so it's almost like a fair fight if you don't count the other two guys poking at you from behind their shields.
That's really about it. That's the one hint that turned a string of losses to my first win. And it's the one that all the marshmallow-level PC players never seemed to mention. Of course you'll need to move around a lot, and you'd better have that parry timing, and you should go after the elites whenever you can. Most of the advice in other guides is reasonably sound, but Penetrating Shot is emphatically not the skill you really want. Hero Strike FTW.