Having now spent about 80 hours in Ancient Egypt with protagonist Bayek of Siwa, I can say that although I question a lot of the design choices in this outing, it is the best Assassin’s Creed game to come out in the last 5 years. Lets dive in and find out why.
As a long time fan of series since 2007, an Assassin’s Creed game set in Ancient Egypt has been something I’ve wanted for quite some time. Pyramids, tombs, pharaohs? The setting is teeming with all sorts of possibilities. In that regard, Origins succeeds in a lot of those areas. Take one good look at the map you will be exploring and your jaw will drop. It is both exciting and exhausting knowing a huge amount of your time will be invested into this adventure.
First thing I want to highlight about Origins are the improvements to the core mechanics which ironically enough are also the improvements I question. Movement is more seamless this time around and you really won’t find yourself getting stuck in the environment as often as you did in previous games. Controls have been simplified so you do not have to press different buttons to achieve different speeds of movement. Holding down X gives Bayek a faster speed when running and thankfully it’s not a button you have to hold when climbing as well. Everything has a faster pace to it and while I considered it jarring at first, I warmed up to it the more I played.
Combat also falls in line with this more faster pace approach as well and has been revamped entirely. Origins goes for more of a traditional form of combat with the camera still locked behind the character instead of being placed in a cinematic way. Long gone are the days of slow fights coupled with cinematic counter attacks that you may have been used to in previous games. Origins wants you to be aggressive with the way you approach combat and this is what leads me to my first criticism. Most fights you encounter will almost always end with you just pressing the attack buttons like a maniac until the enemy is dead. The fast paced nature of the combat almost makes you not care about playing defensively when you can just wail on your opponents. Granted that cannot always be the case when facing higher level enemies and bosses which do require you to dance around them for an opening attack but it’s this very change to the combat that makes Origins a little hard to get used to at first.
With all of that said the combat is still very satisfying and like with anything else, the more you do it the better you become. I don’t know if I would say I’m huge fan of this new change but I don’t completely hate it either. To help you with combat, Origins offers up a slew of ways to do so. Weapons are plentiful and you will always have enough tools at your disposal to eliminate your foes. Spears, swords, shields and projectile weapons like sleeping darts and fire bombs all add a sense of depth to the combat leading to lots of experimenting with different loadouts.
Combat aside, Origins dives a lot deeper into RPG mechanics more so than its predecessors did. Enemies in each of their areas are leveled so a lot of your time will be spent trying to grind your way up to match them. This grinding comes in many forms. Sidequests being the primary activity. There is a lot and I mean a lot of sidequests available in this game and while it may sound great for some, for me in some ways it turned me off. Most if not all of the quest structure in Origins is summed up in one way; travel to a place, kill an enemy, loot the item you need. There are a nice number of quests that give you more backstory and lore to the world but the game does not do a great job of letting the player know which quests are important versus the throwaway ones.
Exploring pyramids is another way of earning xp and all kinds if items and was always an exciting thing to do for me. The excitment though does not last long when you realize there is no originality to exploring these pyramids. Every single one tasks you with one thing; find the ancient tablet. That’s it. Puzzles in these areas are few and far between and it’s just a matter of you navigating your way until you stumble across it. While I love the concept of exploring pyramids, I was left a little disappointed by what I got.
One of my favorite ways to earn xp and rewards was to participate in gladiator and horse racing challenges. Gladiator arenas in particular were most fun having you face waves of enemies before battling a particular boss. You can think of it almost like mini Mortal Kombat towers each with their own boss at the end. You can even decide the outcome at the end of each boss fight which is a pretty awesome touch.
When you’re not busy with side activities there is of course the main story to Assassin’s Creed Origins. You play as a man named Bayek, the last living medjay under Ptolemy’s rule. The story is simple, exact revenge for the death of your son. I actually liked Bayek a lot in this game and appreciated the depth and character development that came along with him. It was really great to be able to see all the elements that make up the Brotherhood fall into place with this origin story. The only real issue I had throughout the entirety of the tale was the last act. I felt it was rushed and diverted attention away from what I felt was more important. I don’t want to speak more on it to avoid spoilers but players who have finished it by now may know what I am referring to.
With a great story also comes great visuals and Origins does a tremendous job showing off just how beautiful Ancient Egypt was. Everywhere you turn this is no shortage of beautiful detail put into the environment. Lighting and texture work is great and the different environments are always packed with tons of NPCs going about their daily lives. I spent a lot of time just staring and taking photos using the built in photo mode. Thankfully during my playthrough I did not encounter any game breaking bugs or issues. There were the occasional hiccups and not all of the character models were the greatest but Ubisoft has once again shown that they are absolutely terrific at crafting these amazing worlds that make you want to come back for more.
Make no mistake about it, Origins is a massive game and there is still tons more to discuss but I would rather save everything else for the players to explore on their own. I did purchase the Season Pass and am looking forward to trying out the first expansion that releases in January. If you’ve had many doubts regarding the franchise you will be happy to know that Origins is the perfect way to step back into the world of Assassins. It may be overwhelming at first but with patience you will find that this is an adventure worth having.
Assassin’s Creed Origins is available now on PS4. Game was played on PS4 Pro.