Rating: A return to form for the saga spanning series.
Everyone is aware by now that the Assassin’s Creed series took a gap year last year to “find itself again”, and many people were encouraging the move as it had started to lose its way. So after some soul searching and world travelling, Assassin’s Creed returns with Origins, and it appears this bold move has payed off.
We’re not going to lie, we were skeptical at first… well, we were very wrong.
AC: Origins puts you back in the animus to experience the memories of Bayek, the original assassin and creator of the order. In this venture you explore the period of Ptolemaic Egypt, a time before recorded history, which we still know very little about today. This allowed a lot more creativity as there was no trying to cram in historical accuracies left, right and centre, and increased the freedom and scope of the game.
We’re not going to lie, we were skeptical at first. All initial gameplay trailers just made it look and feel like another recycled Assassin’s Creed game. Well, we were very wrong.
There has been a complete gameplay overhaul in this latest installment, most notably with combat. The button mashing days of old have been ditched and replaced with a strategic, timing-based system, which is very well designed and now actually makes a challenge out of enemies, instead of another body to pile up around you.
This sense of challenge and apprehension is also raised by the new levelling system. Actions you complete in game will give you experience points, which go towards levelling up Bayek, increasing his stats and granting access to more powerful gear and loot. Sounds great right? Work hard, beef up, and the game becomes easier? Not quite. The levelling system is also in play for your enemies, increasing their health, strength, and ability to make your life miserable. Some hardcore fans have disagreed with this new fangled way of playing but ultimately it adds a new dimension to the series, a genuine need to pick your fights, an incentive to pick stealth over charging in head first.
Work hard, beef up, and the game becomes easier? Not quite.
Another key change in this outing for the series doesn’t just lay in the past but in the present. Ever since the downfall of Desmond Miles, AC hasn’t really known what to do with the present day story, experimenting with a first-person email stalker style gameplay to simply just watching drone footage. Now, we are introduced to Layla, a rogue employee of Abstergo conducting her own research. At various points we get to experience her story with the same control that we had with Desmond back in the original story. Ultimately this is a small part of the game, but it is nice to once again have that context put back in to the AC universe. You can tell the story has once again become a focus, with more emphasis on characters, their stories and the subsequent journeys they all go on, with Bayek being possibly one of the most likeable Assassins in the series to date.
Finally, let’s talk Egypt. Not so much the real life Egypt but instead the world that has been created for this game. Firstly, there is the sheer scale of it. This is the biggest explorable world for an AC game to date, and somehow it still feels full and alive. The many side quests you encounter are all varied and have stories attached, as opposed to the repetitive fetch quests we are used to. Then there is the beauty of the place. So much detail has gone in to all the environments. Many games can achieve detailed surroundings but where Origins impresses is when you look to the distance. There is this whole living and breathing world happening around you, which you can see all the way to the horizon.
Now, there were some bugs and issues (I mean of course there were, it’s an AC game, it’s to be expected), but admittedly not a great deal, and we noticed these got a lot better after updates started being released.
So all in all, Assassin’s Creed: Origins rather surprisingly impressed us. It’s a bit of a shame that it took the series this long to get back on track but it’s definitely saved itself, and all it needed to do was take things back to the very start.