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Every time I play Ubisoft’s gargantuan Assassin’s Creed Odyssey I’m astounded at how much of it I have left. I’m also left startled by how different an experience I seem to have had from many other players.

I’ve heard some people complain that Odyssey is a grind, that they level too slowly, and that they’re convinced that Ubisoft throttled progression to coax players into buying the game’s optional, $10 experience-point booster.

A colleague told me he finished the game’s, doing the major quests, lots of sidequests and unfogging the entire map yet barely reached the game’s original level cap of 50.

Me? I haven’t even seen most of the game’s main landmass yet and am having a great time.

This screenshot shows about half of Assassin’s Creed Odyssey’s map. The parts in brown with white icons are areas I haven’t been to.

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I have purchased no boosters. I’ve just done a lot of sidequests and then taken a break from those sidequests to poke through even more optional stuff. This is my preferred way to play. I like wandering around in massive open-world games, climbing virtual mountains and diving into virtual lakes and it seems the game is rewarding me for it.

When I play Odyssey, I’ll spot a cluster of question marks on the game’s map and venture toward them to find out what they represent. If they point me to the location of “alpha animals” to kill or optional enemy bases to clear, I’m into it. I use these missable encounters to sharpen my skills and see more of the game’s beautiful scenery. Usually all this wandering leads me to more sidequests and hidden loot, too.

I’m about 75 hours into the game, but I think I’ve been off the game’s main quest path for the past 30 or 40. I’m exploring the game’s islands, which are mostly in the eastern half of Odyssey’s map and are full of surprising micro-odysseys. On one island I found a series of quests in a region full of people clearly trying to scam tourists who are interested in the legend of the minotaur. On another I witnessed the surprise return of a character who I’d last encountered 60 hours ago in the west. There’s an island that features a test to distinguish between two identical twins and another that hides treasure atop a volcano. There’s even a tiny island full of deadly chickens. There are also pockets of satisfying exploration to be done even between the islands, where I recently learned that sunken shipwrecks may contain figureheads that you can attach to your ship. I got a cool octopus for my trouble.

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An octopus figurehead for my ship is just one of the surprising rewards I’ve earned for my exhaustive crawl through the game.

Odyssey must have hundreds of quests. An unexpectedly large number of them are tied together and move the player’s main adventures forward. While the ones that advance the game’s primary story are obvious, many others do not immediately advertise that they will further the player’s other goals of murdering dozens of members of a map-spanning cult or tracing the possible presence of creatures of ancient myth. I am impressed that so much of this stitches together, but that wouldn’t have been necessary to keep me playing. I’m simply very much into this kind of adventure, which suits the wandering, adventurous, omnivorous way I like to play sprawling games.

For others, much of what Odyssey offers off its main path is just too much of a grind. They find the game too repetitious as one fort raid blends into the next and too many treasure chests cough up unneeded swords and armor. I don’t mind, as I chip away at the game for an hour or two each night after putting my kids to bed. Some of what I’ll find in each session is overly familiar, but I usually encounter far more surprises and many more beautiful sights.

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I also reached the game’s original level cap without going to the huge islands in the northeast. I’ll get there... eventually.

I do have one tip for people looking to level up faster in the game: Grab the contracts posted on the message boards in each town. These contracts usually ask players to sink a certain number of enemy ships or kill a certain number of soldiers. I never actively try to complete them—and I avoid the ones on daily or weekly timers—but the game tracks their progress as I play naturally. Inevitably I achieve the contract goals while doing other stuff. I’m regularly startled by how generously they pay out experience points. With that added XP, I can in turn activate more and more powerful abilities that make things like quickly raiding enemy camps or identifying the locations of hidden loot easier and easier.

Ubisoft recently raised Odyssey’s level cap to 70 and added a lot more quests—some paid, some free—to the game’s map. I don’t see myself finishing the game soon, but as I exhaustively tour its islands, I do feel the mainland beckoning me. Once I get there, I suspect I’ll soon finally have seen more than half of what this game has to offer. It only took me 75 largely enjoyable hours.