Assassin’s Creed Origins is the first game in the series since 2015, after taking a one year hiatus. Since its inception, Assassin’s Creed series has seen annual releases that were very hit-or-miss in terms of playability and story. Origins set out to become the most ambitious Assassin’s Creed game yet, and the one year break they used to refine every aspect of the game seems to have paid off in droves, as Origins is not only one of the best games in the series but a contender for Game of the Year as well.
What Is It?
Assassin’s Creed Origins goes further back than any game before it–to Ancient Egypt–when lands were ruled by Pharaohs and survival was pitted on how well you can withstand the brutal desert climate and political intrigue happening around you. You control Bayek, a former soldier turned Medjay, who seeks vengeance against a mysterious organization that has murdered his son. The Order of Ancients as they are known are the beginnings of what we know as the Templars in previous games, a secret group of movers and shakers who own and control all of Egypt.
Why Should I Care?
With the help of his wife, Aya, Bayek sets out to take down the members of the Order one by one. Each member Bayek seeks out has their own backstory and personal dialogue, making you understand the hardship and turmoil this particular person has put Egypt through. In past Assassin’s Creed games, many of the targets you set out to kill were just random faces in the crowd, but the Order of Ancients members each have their own distinct motives and story behind them. Bayek will also meet famous historical figures as well throughout his adventure, including Cleopatra and Ptolemy, famous siblings who are both fighting for control of Egypt.
Hunting down the Order will take you across the massive world of Egypt, and Origins is by far the biggest and most stunning landscape the series has ever seen. From sprawling deserts to countryside villas in the West to the Roman architecture of Alexandria, every location has a vibrant sense of detail and wonder. The first time you set out in the desert and stumble across the pyramids in Giza, you will surely stop to snap a screenshot (photo capture is newly added as well) and just marvel at how well Ubisoft captured the look and feel of Ancient Egypt. The world is also incredibly massive, even though you can fast travel at a whim, traversing on horseback allows you to witness the sheer scale and size of the world. Traveling to various cities I often found myself roaming the numerous deserts, which sometimes took fifteen minutes or more just to get across.
Because Bayek is a former soldier and a current Medjay, traversal is not as cumbersome as it once was in the early stages of previous games. Bayek can climb anything at any time. Mountains, trees, massive buildings–there is nothing holding you back from the start from climbing and moving fast. In fact, Origins now allows you to sprint constantly without needing to hold down a trigger button. A very useful tool that comes in handy when you enter combat situations. Also updated is the on-screen HUD, which strikes a resemblance to The Witcher 3’s map visuals. The on-screen icons point you to mission objectives, points of interest and the direction where you are going. Also pressing a simple direction on the D-pad allows Bayek to jump on his horse or camel and ride off into the sunset.
Lots of talk about the combat occurred months before the game was released, so naturally it would be something worth mentioning. While it still has its faults, the combat is the best it’s ever been in an Assassin’s Creed game. Instead of being on the defensive like most of the other games forced you to do, you can initiate any battle simply swinging away. Combat is now allocated to the two trigger and bumper buttons. The right bumper swings a light attack while the trigger allows for a more powerful swing. The left bumper allows you to block while the left trigger aims your bow for fire. It definitely takes some getting used to and there is a learning curve to it, but once you master it you truly feel like an ultimate assassin. The addition of bows and arrows as part of your arsenal allows for more intuitive ways to take down enemies since you can be both aggressive and calm at the same time.
The variety of weapons and items you collect is one of the big changes in Origins and is a huge step forward for the direction of the series. Assassin’s Creed games have always been linear in terms of what weapons and gear you could use, and Origins has totally revamped the items, adding a more RPG element to them and offering full stats attributed to your level. You can also equip up to two melee and bows at the same time, giving Bayek plenty of variety for what to carry. The melee weapons range from fast swords and dual edged blades to massive axes and scepters, all with unique stats and attributes. While you can use a shield with any sword for dodging and counter attacks, dual swords don’t let you use a shield but give you faster movement and dodging abilities. The bow inventory is actually pretty refined as well, with up to four different types of bows to suit any playstyle. You can rapid fire, charge up a shot, fire multiple arrows at once or even control an arrow for a stealth shot. The amount of weapons available for Bayek to decimate enemies with is astounding, and you can expect to spend many hours just fiddling around picking the perfect arsenal.
Once you figure out the combat, there are tons of activities and missions to keep you busy for quite some time. When you are not tracking down the Order of Ancients, you can search underwater for hidden treasures, participate in chariot races at the Hippodrome, and even fight in gladiatorial arena battles. But part of the allure of traversing Ancient Egypt is of course searching tombs for artifacts, where you can find tablets that grant you skill points. The side missions in Origins offer up plenty of variety as well, and I never found myself repeating the same tasks. From investigating a mysterious cult to helping farmers who had their horses stolen, each side quest feels fresh with plenty of freedom to tackle them any way you choose. There are also a few sailing segments which are reminiscent of the brilliant naval combat from Black Flag. It is more enhanced this time, allowing you to unleash firebombs and ram enemies this time around for added impact. It’s a shame these segments are far and few between because they are some of the more enjoyable sequences in the game.
But while there is plenty of variety in terms of missions and combat, some of the voice work gets a little repetitive. More often than not when entering a new town I overhead the same conversations over and over again. It can get a bit jarring hearing the same dialogue in a game that successfully offers up such brilliant originality for such a huge world. The segments outside the animus, better known as modern times, are also boring and derivative. Layla, a modern day assassin, has successfully created an animus that allows any user to see past memories regardless of that person’s DNA. While this might seem like a big reveal, its mentioned only in passing and the rest of her segments become really boring and deriviative. In fact, there is more to learn just by reading her notes and watching her video files as it gives you a great look at the events from previous games with added backstories.
What Makes It Worth My Time and Money?
Assassin’s Creed Origins has redefined the series and Ubisoft deserves a lot of credit for taking a year off to make this entry one of the best yet. Ancient Egypt is simply stunning to behold, from the sprawling deserts and hidden tombs to the cityscapes of Alexandria, Origins will blow you away with the attention to detail and authenticity. Bayek is a likeable new character, and his background from medjay to trained assassin is something any fan will enjoy seeing.
In fact, the ending itself showing how the brotherhood of assassins is formed and their iconic logo was created will leave you speechless. The story blends beautifully together and the Order of Ancients is a great precursor to what the Templars eventually become. While combat takes getting used to and there are a few missteps here and there, Origins just offers up so much delight that you just want to keep on playing. 35 hours and counting and I still find myself coming back for more or just to marvel at the beauty of Egypt. The yearly releases were starting to wear thin on the series, but Origins proves patience pays off and this looks like it could be the start of something special for the series and the many games to come.