Although by no means perfect, Assassin's Creed Origins returns to familiar and successful routes in gameplay and story, with some stunning visual graphics and a revamped combat system.
Having taking a year off after their less-than-satisfactory last attempt at an Assassin’s Creed game and an underwhelming movie, the bar was set very low for Assassin’s Creed Origins. However, I’m delighted to say that expectation have been vastly exceeded and Ubisoft have developed a game closer to the glory days of Black Flag and Brotherhood.
Once more, the dual narrative focus is a key element. Finding yourself sent back to 48 B.C.E., you are placed in control of the respected Mekjay Bayek and his wife Aya, who find themselves drawn into a web of intrigue, lies and treason in the court of the High Pharaohs of Egypt. It’s a very different title to every other one in the series as your pathway throughout the game, although linear to an extent, is still surprising at points and you are left to keep guessing who the real enemy is amidst a backdrop of legendary historical figures such as Cleopatra, Ptolemy XIII, Marcus Junius Brutus the Younger and Mark Antony. The present day section focuses around Layla Hassan, a member of Abstergo’s Historical Research Division who illegally accesses a modified Animus to retrieve her ancestor’s memories.
Overall, the storyline is a lot sharper in the assassination focus, becoming akin almost to the original Assassin’s Creed. It’s very cool to head back to time when the weapons are nowhere near as advanced as recent instalments and the new combat system, albeit still rather easy to master, is not quite the button-mashing frenzy that we have got used to in the AC series. The new weapon system takes a little while to get used to as well, but the amount and depth of weaponry is staggering: swords, sickle swords, dual swords, heavy blunts, heavy blades, scepters, spears, light bows, hunter bows, warrior bows and predator bows are all available.
One interesting new twist is the Cursed Weapons – they deal 200% more damage than their normal counterpart, but at the cost of capping your life at one third. They are great fun to enter skirmishes with and they act as a real test of how skillful you actually are in terms of avoiding getting hit.
A slight detractor has to be the amount of rare weapons available from semi-pointless sidequests, but at least this does offer up ample opportunity to explore the stunning sandbox world of Ancient Egypt. One thing that Assassin’s Creed has always done well is visual reproduction and the team of Egyptologists who helped developed this game can be proud of their efforts. You can spot all the major landmarks in the vast sandy desserts and the settlements retain their realistic quality as well. The History nerd in me is particularly excited for the free upcoming addition to the game Discovery Tour; this will allow the players to explore the open world without combat or objectives on ‘guided tours’ to learn more about Egyptian history.
Unlike the Uncharted series, Origins does offer a genuine choice between stealth-based espionage and brutal bloodshed fighting and this works extremely well in general, although truthfully players will be required to master both elements. Origins incorporates an arena mode into the main storyline where you duke it out against a number of peons with increasing difficulty, before engaging in a boss fight.
While it is more entertaining than the stupid boxing minigame in Syndicate, the Arena mode leaves quite a bit to be desired in the standalone mode outside the story. DLC potentially introducing new characters, combinations, bosses and rewards could easily solve this, however.
The usual collectables found in the series take the form as Papyrus Puzzles this time around and they are surprisingly well hidden- and equally frustrating to complete. A much funner side-quest is a Tomb-Raider-esque jolt around various tombs and crypts belonging to Egyptian pharoahs. There is enough variety across the thirteen locations to be interesting and not repetitive, but equally they all rely on vastly improved jumping and maneuvering mechanics, akin to the Crypts in the Ezio trilogy. The puzzle element could be expanded on, but it is at least not totally negligible.
Assassin’s Creed Origins still suffers from some problems. The new hit-box combat system is not quite perfect- lower level weapons will invariably frustrate you with accuracy that would make a Stormtrooper proud, while the AI tactics still rarely deviate from the slash-and-rush style which has pervaded every single Assassin’s Creed game. Taming various predators and the new companion Senu (an eagle to replace Eagle Vision) are cool concepts, but never really get utilised enough throughout the game. Finally, the usual graphic glitches still pervade the game and at times you will find yourself entering an area where every other entity is just a floating pile of clothes, armour and swords.
Despite this, Origins is a vast improvement, taking the series back towards solid territory and more familiar routes. A clever ending sows the seeds for every game that has preceded it, while a bearable difficulty spike actually keeps the game interesting even when you have upgraded to your near-best weapons and armour. All in all, Origins is a story worth telling.
Check out the trailer for the game below: