Nearly every year since 2007, Ubisoft has treated us to a new entry in the Assassin’s Creed series. We have joined with Altair, Ezio, Connor, Edward and many other assassins as they made their journey through the past with the general gameplay remaining largely the same. Now, nearly 10 years on and after a year’s hiatus, Ubisoft has decided it’s time for a change and overhauled most of the game’s formula in order to bring us Assassin’s Creed Origins. For fans of the series, things are quite different this time around, which makes for quite an interesting and unusual Assassin’s Creed experience.
Assassin’s Creed Origins: Xbox One [Reviewed], PS4, PC
Developer: Ubisoft Montreal
Release Date: 27 October 2017
Price: £54.99 [Disclosure: Game Copy Provided by Publisher]
To be a part of the assassin family you need to have gone through some kind of trauma, and the protagonist of Assassin’s Creed Origins is no different. Bayek is a medjay; a protector of the pharaoh, as his father before him and as his son will be after him. After things take a pretty sinister turn, Bayek seeks revenge on a group of five men who have taken what matters most to him. As the story progresses, it turns out these five men are part of a much bigger group and conspiracy across Egypt, where the game takes place. This kind of storyline is one of the few things that seems to have been continued from the past games, with players having a set number of high priority targets that need to be taken down. It is engaging enough, though sometimes takes a back seat to the side quests, and Bayek is very likeable as a protagonist so you’ll want to see it through to the end, even if it does just feel like one big revenge quest at times.
As is the case with the other main Assassin’s Creed games, there are two main stories happening simultaneously. One has you play as the assassin, in this case – Bayek, and the other is set much further into the future and involves Abstergo and the animus. This time around, the future portion of the story gets less of the spotlight as Origins opts to focus more on the past. This is not necessarily a bad thing, though some of the previous game’s future stories had been almost as interesting as the assassin’s story themselves. The beginning of Bayek’s journey was actually where I was met with my first glitch, where a character wasn’t moving properly during a cutscene, and you’ll find these expected glitches occurring as the game goes on. We have almost come to expect them now, but it still doesn’t stop them from being a hindrance, especially when they start getting in the way of your progress.
For the majority of the time you’ll be playing as Bayek, exploring the great land of Egypt, and what a perfect setting for the game it feels. There are pyramids to run up and investigate, endless deserts for you to ride across and too many small villages to count, each holding their own secrets and quests. Egypt was a really good direction to take the Assassin’s Creed series and offers a completely different world to explore than any of the others before it. Couple this with the biggest map in series history and you’ve got the makings of a pretty good entry.
Assassin’s Creed Origins takes players down a much deeper RPG route than any other entry in the series previously, and because of this, it feels hugely different in a number of ways. There are a lot of the typical RPG elements you’d expect such as Bayek having a level that you can increase by earning XP. This can be done from the usual things such as killing enemies and completing quests, as well as finding and scouting out new locations. These regular RPG aspects are something completely new for Assassin’s Creed, and it isn’t a bad move, but veterans of the series will take it as a bit of a shock compared to what they’ve come to expect from past Assassin’s Creed games. There’s a big skill tree to get to grips with as well and ability points are given to you when you level up, or for when you find certain things in the world, which means there’s a whole lot more to Origins than simply stabbing people in the back.
On top of all that, you can customise Bayek as well, in terms of picking his weapons, shield, mount and outfit, each of which has different benefits depending on its level and rarity. Legendary items are the best and will require a bit more searching out than other items, but items can also be purchased in the store if you really want to splash the cash, although it isn’t always necessary with plenty of strong weapons in-game. Weapons and health can also be upgraded, and to do that you’ll have to find some items by, mostly, hunting down animals in the wild. This was touched upon in Black Flag but has gone full-on Far Cry now, with lions, hyenas, crocodiles and many more animals just waiting to be killed by you.
Another area to benefit from an overhaul is combat, with enemies posing far more of a threat during battle than before. As a result, players will find themselves having to put in more effort during a fight than simply waiting to counter an enemy who’ll stand and attack the player. To complicate matters, enemies in Origins come with their own level, meaning you’ll likely only want to pick a fight with a similar or lower level enemy. Enemies appear to have a greater hearing and visual instincts too whereby when you shoot an arrow directly at an enemy, they’ll quickly realise where it’s come from and walk over to investigate with a wider visual scope to locate the player. This makes things harder in one sense as you can’t just run in and stab everyone, but at the same time, it offers more of a challenge and is consequently satisfying when you manage to pull off a kill. Despite Origins improvements, combat will take some getting used to, and the button configuration feels like it could have been better configured, so don’t be surprised if you find yourself dying by your enemy’s hand a lot more than usual.
Outside of combat, there are things to find everywhere in the world. One of the most common features you’ll encounter as you journey Egypt are quests. Most of the main quests are handed to you as and when you complete the one before it, but side quests are scattered almost everywhere, from being pinned up on boards to stumbling across a merchant in the market who needs a favour from Bayek. There’s not a huge amount of variety in what you’ll actually be doing for any particular quest which typically involves killing someone, finding a person of interest or locating something, but each quest has its own unique story which often ties into something bigger. The number of quests will definitely keep you busy for hours, and you’ll probably find yourself way over levelled for most of them before you get around to doing them. Ubisoft has managed to overhaul the Assassin’s Creed gameplay but also mixes in these elements, which is impressive and a rarity in the series.
In spite of all its changes or improvements, Origins is still an Assassin’s Creed game at heart, even if it doesn’t always feel like at times. Origins successfully tells the story of where the assassin’s originated from, and it’s a story that any fan of the series will want to see through to the end for obvious reasons. Many tropes indicative of the series remain such as the ability to scale tall buildings and synchronise your map if you want to get a good view of what’s around you; there’s even the eagle noise as you make a leap of faith. The eagle noise now comes from Senu, your new feathered helper. Senu can use her perception while flying to find and tag enemies, items and other important things across the world. You can use her to scout ahead and see what’s coming, and she’s even able to help you out when fighting some of the animals and enemies in the world too. Her abilities are no doubt helpful, but the delay in switching between you and her does become annoying.
This is Assassin’s Creed, but not quite as you know it. It isn’t just about silently assassinating enemies anymore; it’s a huge RPG where you’ll want to explore everything that’s on offer. The culmination of this feels like a cross between The Witcher, Middle Earth and Far Cry, all of which are fantastic games, so this is definitely a compliment. There are still niggles with glitches and waiting around while the game loads or switches back from Senu, and there’s a lot of things, specifically combat, you’ll have to learn to get to grips with. That being said, what is on offer is pretty great. A lot of people wanted Ubisoft to change the Assassin’s Creed formula and this being an origins story gave them the freedom to do that, even if it feels like they maybe changed a little bit too much.
Assassin's Creed Origins
- Huge world to explore
- Egypt is a fascinating setting
- More RPG elements made to fit in well with the game
- Combat and questing brings the game up to date with current games on the market
- Some glitches and problems with loading
- Almost doesn’t feel like Assassin’s Creed anymore