It’s been two years since the last Assassin’s Creed title, after Ubisoft opted to commit an extra year to development. Attempting to rejuvenate the series that many fans claimed was starting to become stale. The returning franchise instalment visits Egypt with Assassin’s Creed: Origins, taking place between the present day and 49 B.C.E.
Origins focuses on Bayek; a Medjay from Siwa, and his wife, Aya, to uncover the origin of the Assassin’s creed. Accompanying them through their genetic memories is Layla Hussain, an employee of Abstergo, eager to prove herself at any cost.
Flexible Inventory & Deeper Exploration
Unlike previous Assassin’s Creed games, Origins focuses much more on the role-playing aspects. There’s an expansive choice of weapons ranging from various bows to large axes to equip, dismantle, sell, or upgrade. Plenty of optional activities are available in the form of side missions, hunting, tombs and more. An open world larger than any other series predecessor, estimating many hours of gameplay to uncover the map’s majority. As you’re sliding down pyramids and observing your surroundings, it’s evident that the architecture and culture has been thoroughly researched. Ubisoft will be adding an educational feature early next year to explore it in depth – something rarely seen in video games.
Play to Your Style
Crafting is a useful tool for upgrading your armour, the hidden blade, and ammo capacity by using found materials. You can gather materials by hunting, scrapping unwanted weapons, and purchasing from merchants; they are not hard to obtain. You can upgrade weapons and shields through Blacksmiths by using the in-game currency called drachma. Each upgrade increases the weapon/shield stats to match Bayek’s current level, which is ideal if you have a preferred set.
The leveling system gradually increases your strength and health, and provides ability points as your level increases. These points unlock perks from a skill tree categorised into three extensive categories: Hunter, Warrior, and Seer. Hunter focuses on the damage and techniques of ranged attacks, while Warrior looks at close range combat. Seer focuses on using tools such as sleep/poison/berserk darts, smoke/fire bombs, and flesh decay, an unconventional way of winning fights.
Freedom to play the game how you want appears to be the core of Origins’ design. Optional constraints are no longer necessary in missions, and you can leave most to complete other tasks at any time. Useful if you want to grind your levels to gain an advantage against more powerful enemies, or pursue another quest. If you find grinding tedious, micro-transactions are available in the form of Helix Credits to buy Time Saver packs. To reveal collectible locations and buy ability points to speed up skill building.
Seeing Things Differently
Eagle Vision becomes more literal through an eagle called Senu, she can scope locations from above by using one button. Sweeping for enemies, mission objectives, materials, and locations for optional objectives. Synchronisation points still exist in the game as fast travel points, and contribute to Bayek’s experience and improve Senu’s vision.
Parkour is a more fluid, significant improvement to previous installments, it’s possible to climb almost every wall structure you encounter. We encountered a few bugs and glitches with the free-running and exploration, but it was nothing game-breaking.
The UI has been designed to be accessible and not overly distracting. Senu’s vision eliminates the need for a persistent mini-map onscreen by highlighting objects of interest to focus on them in-game. Subtitle settings have options to describe which character speaks, and use a black underlay to contrast between text and lighting/environments.
A Helping Hand
Bayek can use a horse or camel to travel across Egypt to save his poor feet. They can wear different clothing/costumes and even automatically travel to a custom waypoint if you’re travelling by road. It can be worth going for a stroll across the desert sometimes though, as Bayek can occasionally experience mirages.
There may be no multiplayer, but players are able to “like” photos posted by other players. You can take photos through the Photo Mode and upload them to a geo-tagged location within the game. You can also instigate missions to avenge a player by killing the NPC’s who killed them, by inspecting their character’s body. These features provide a sense of community, while still feeling like your own game. It’s refreshing to have a less competitive multiplayer experience that instead focuses on creativity and avenging fallen parallel universe Bayek’s.
Sneaking around restricted areas is seamless with the return of the ability to crouch from Assassin’s Creed: Unity. If an enemy detects you while in a restricted area, time slows down to provide an opportunity to silence them before they can sound the alarm.
When in direct combat, enemy AI is well-structured and reacts quickly to your actions. Fighting high level enemies can be frustrating, since they gradually begin to use unbreakable combos and can sometimes outnumber you. It makes sense though; not everyone fights fair, especially when it’s kill or be killed. Also, in a brand-new addition to the decade-old series, difficulty settings are now in place. Now you can opt for a harder challenge with the revitalised combat, or simply enjoy the story without tedious reloading.
Fighting is also possible in water, when fending off crocodiles and hippopotamuses. Using the Overpower ability can give you the upper hand on these ambiguous predators, which utilises Bayek’s skill with an equipped weapon to unleash a killer combo or devastating attack. You can also test combat skills in two arenas with standard equipment only. It comes down to brute strength and skill to become the arena champion.
Naval Combat Returns
Naval combat is back, and is responsive when counteracting enemies, but is still clunky in general gameplay, and is missing a few attack and boat upgrading methods from Assassin’s Creed IV: Black Flag, such as the fire barrels from the ship’s rear. The ram mechanic from Assassin’s Creed: Rogue also makes a return, and friendly AI ships help you from time to time. Health bars differentiate a combination of a colour gradient, and a symbol. This makes it accessible for colourblind players to identify friend from foe, and friendlies take reduced damage from friendly fire.
The main campaign storyline has a few initial gaps, however, flashback sequences offer further clarification of both Bayek’s and Aya’s motives. There are some parts that are not truly expanded on, such as Bayek’s connection to Senu, and how the iconic leap of faith came to be. Despite this, cutscenes are scripted very well, with body language and events combined with the collective work of the voice actors and Ubisoft really bring the scenes to life and expand things further than just spoken dialogue.
Promising Present Day Storyline
The present-day storyline shows promise for our new protagonist by providing a taste of what’s to come in later instalments. It has also left many questions unanswered that have been lingering since the end of Syndicate. We get an insight into Layla’s passion to discover the hidden truths behind Abstergo’s history, although her background remains enigmatic. Vague information about her involvement with Abstergo is shown in emails and files accessible through her laptop. Layla’s character development will need further development in later instalments if they wish for us to warm to her. Before Layla, the last personified protagonist was Desmond Miles whom departed in 2012’s Assassin’s Creed III, with mixed views. Having a playable protagonist again puts more control back into the hands of the player during the present day campaign.
There is no official conclusion to this chapter, your only options to free roam or return to the animus. This made it a bit anti-climactic, although there is a possibility that the upcoming downloadable content may expand this further. As Assassin’s Creed: Revelations did when linking to Assassin’s Creed III.
Origins is an entertaining and engaging title, that breathes new life into the franchise, and is a must-play for new and long-term players.