Well, it’s official. The long-awaited new installment to the popular Assassin’s Creed franchise by Ubisoft has arrived and the consensus is slowly rolling in and I decided to chime in as a massive fan of this franchise.
Since 2007, Assassin’s Creed has been one of the largest and most recognizable video game franchises, rivaling the Call of Duty franchise. It is one that has spanned numerous sequels and spin-off games which span across nearly every console from the XBox 360 to the PS Vita, novels, comic books, and even a live-action film. After taking a two year hiatus from the franchise with Assassin’s Creed Syndicate, Ubisoft decided to start from scratch, re-group, and re-invent the way the games work. Assassin’s Creed Origins, like Ubisoft, goes back to the very beginning of this ever-expanding world that we’ve gotten to know since Assassin’s Creed so we can catch a moderately fresh breath of air.
Generally, Origins is a proof-of-concept that a franchise can potentially bounce back and redeem itself after receiving middling to negative reception on the last two installments, Unity and Syndicate as well as low sales which clearly didn’t sit well with executives. I truly do believe that it is on par with Assassin’s Creed II and Revelations, and if not then it comes in fairly high on the rankings. Ubisoft got the formula right this time, from taking an outdated system and simplifying it to taking a few pages out of the playbook of the competition. Like many gamers and critics who have paid close attention to every detail behind the development of this game since E3 it’s obvious that the game has noticeable similarities to CD Projekt’s The Witcher 3. Although, they are not 100% comparable in terms of quality. Nonetheless, Origins does hit the right notes in a lot of the right places for me and feels like something that I think fans, old and new, can easily embrace without any hesitation or cynicism. Particularly when the genre of single-player games are arguably on thin ice.
The story of Assassin’s Creed Origins takes us back in time to Ptolemaic Egypt and follows the life of Bayek of Siwa, guardian of his small desert village who suffered a horrible tragedy at the hands of the Order of the Ancients, who are working in the shadows and as we already have seen to have an Apple of Eden and they are starting to get an idea of how it works. Technically, this is really before the Templar and Assassins are established in the universe, like the title insinuates, so it’s more about Bayek and his fierce wife, Aya whose motives do not go beyond revenge as they hunt down members of the Order. This does not really make for a compelling cause for the Assassins but then again, Ezio re-invented the order and he too was motivated by revenge initially so it may just play into the constant ironies behind them. That is, however, one of a few other story flaws. The game starts off with a very choppy and slightly incoherent beginning that isn’t really clarified until later into the game. It took me a minute to understand the chronology of events which may be rather off-putting for those who expect a more straightforward and coherent introduction in a story. Although, it is like nearly all installments in the sense that it has great characters and plenty to do to vastly compensate for it. No, seriously. There’s so much to do as you traverse across a map that is roughly the same size, if not larger than that of the Caribbean map from Black Flag.
This has to be one of the most impressive and ambitious maps that I’ve ever seen in a game which makes full use of the Egyptian scenery to an even greater affect compared to even what Assassin’s Creed II did for the Italian countryside or Black Flag with it’s exotic Caribbean setting. There are moments where you legitimately have to wonder if you’re looking at a picture of an actual Ancient Egyptian ruin or an area of the game. That is how well it makes use of the “next gen” consoles like PS4 and the XBox One compared to other games. After playing just 14 hours of the game, there is still plenty left for me to experience and even when I’m several more hours in I’m sure I will still have plenty to do and the same can be said for other players as well.
The gross amount of things for a player to do in Origins will feel almost overwhelming at first but like with any RPG-styled game, there’s always a pay-off of some kind that keeps you engaged and prove to be rewarding endeavors. You can raid old tombs, conquer forts by silently taking out their commanders or by brute force and taking out the whole Roman garrison that occupies them. Whole packs of animals can be hunted down and used for resources like hard leather. Museums or warehouses can be looted for whatever precious items they may have like drachmas or armor. Mysterious riddles to be solved using only your wit. Avenging other players. Daily quests. It’s an endless world and not even the micro-transactions like Helix Credits really ruin the experience. You will not need them unless you want an extra outfit or a unicorn mount (No, seriously. There’s a unicorn you can buy in-game) to show off. There’s also the added bonus that game director Ashraf Ismail said there will be plenty of events in-game where you can win those Helix Credits. It’s an all-inclusive game, with or without the DLC and season pass.
As for the technical aspects, it largely stands firm with minor faults that don’t happen all too often. There are occasional quirks with the audio where it may not sync, certain textures may not pop up, and facial animations are a tad stiff compared to previous games which have always been near flawless but I am certain that these are just common day one glitches that nearly every game experiences and will obviously be fixed by Ubisoft in the coming weeks. They’ve had plenty of time to learn from the mistakes of prior entries like Unity which was filled with bugs and glitches galore and account for potential issues that may arise during this period of time. They’ll certainly fix it faster than they did with Unity. Now the biggest technical improvement in the franchise which everyone has been looking at is the combat which as I said earlier is something that yields inspiration from The Witcher 3. It is a system that requires actual strategy and not just the same button mashing that the franchise was poorly championing for years. Sometimes stealth may be a better approach if you are encountering an enemy of a higher level or facing multiple enemies at once and you want to spare yourself the trouble of possibly dying because there’s just too many. If you manage to land a hit on your enemy, they will not fall for the same tactic you did before so this definitely makes for the interesting challenge of having a player switch up their game plan. Particularly if they fail to land a hit which creates an open that their enemy will of course exploit. This honestly is what I look for in a game. I want it to feel like a fun but difficult challenge and I want it to be coming from the developers which the combat definitely comes off that way.
FINAL VERDICT: 9/10
Assassin’s Creed Origins is a largely smooth return to form with small flaws that really do not have much of an affect on the overall experience and immersion. If you’re looking for a game that will keep you occupied for an extremely long time and could maybe be a strong contender for Game Of The Year then look no further. Assassin’s Creed is back in style and in action!