You know I’ve never been one to play through an Assassin’s Creed game. I seem to play them for a bit, get bored because I felt like I was doing the same thing over and over again, and turned it off to play something else. But with Assassin’s Creed: Origins, this seems to have changed somewhat. There’s enough here to keep someone hooked for absolutely hours. It’s not all about go here, pick this up, bring it back style questing, it somehow feels a lot deeper, a lot more thought out. But although more on that later.
Assassin’s Creed: Origins puts you in the shoes of Bayek of Siwa, the main hero of the story. He’s on a mission of revenge. Taking place around 49BC, Bayek is abducted along with his son Khemu. Five masked men have brought the captives to an underground vault, demanding Bayek open a door with a mysterious orb looking artifact. After refusing, a struggle breaks out, ending with the death of Khemu. Bayek in present day Egypt has exiled himself of Siwa in search for answers and to take his revenge.
There’s also some stuff which goes on in the modern era, which to be honest with you, isn’t really integral to the actual plot of the game. It features scientists Layla and Deanna who are meant to find an artifact. But, after finding Bayek and his wife’s tombs, they use an Animus system to jump into the ancient stories. Some soldiers attack, Deanna I think was killed although never confirmed, and Layla is asked to join the modern day Order of Assassins. It’s nowhere near as deep or needed as the story with Bayek.
The world of Egypt is a truly magical experience and I never felt bored with the scenery, despite having to trawl 2000 meters to my next objective through nothing but sand dunes and mountain sides. Each time I embarked on a quest, I felt excited. What was the next town going to be like? The developers have done a great job of making every single area you visit feel unique. Whether it’s the hustle and bustle of city port Alexandria, or sand ravaged Letopolis, each place is filled with its own unique architecture. No two place really felt the same while exploring.
And being an Assassin’s Creed game, it’s all about exploration. With the help from your eagle companion Seru, Ancient Egypt is filled with hidden areas and multiple secrets. There were some truly wonderful moments that will stick with you. You can climb to the top of a pyramid! An Ancient Egyptian pyramid and look at the horizon, which by the way goes on for miles and miles. It’s truly glorious. And without giving anything away, you can go inside the Sphinx to reveal some secrets! Trust me. Go there.
What’s more on exploration is that Ubisoft have got rid of their open map policy that have plagued so many of their games. Usually things like chests and secrets and scattered over their game maps. It was like that with previous Assassin’s Creed games, and things like Far Cry and The Division. But here, Origins kind of forces you to search them out. Okay, each area including small bandit camps give you cues on what you are looking for, but you still have to look for them physically, without referring to your minimap.
What’s more, Ubisoft has (mostly) abolished the loading screen, with the exception of fast travelling of course. But because you can seamlessly go from one side of the map to the other without stopping to load in the next area, makes the game feel HUGE! It’s even better that you can also stick a custom marker down on the game map, get on your mount, which can be a horse or camel, click auto-ride on roads and it’ll take you to that waypoint. It gives you as a player so much time to just sit back and take in the scenery.
The storyline including the missions you partake in play out great. Each mission is incredibly detailed and rich in lore and objectives to carry out. There are some instances, especially with the side missions that feel a little bleak and repetitive, but they’re still accompanied by some scripted voice over, and the acting isn’t half bad. One thing that gripes me about this game though is the need to grind. The required character level rises each new story mission, which forces the player into a grind of completing side missions just to gain enough XP to reach the required level. Go into an area underlevelled and the game is pretty brutal in terms of punishment. You really have to stay on track. It’s a nice way of making the player explore each city you visit, but you cannot just complete the story line and then go back to mop up the side quests.
This XP does tie in to a pretty in-depth skill tree too, which even though I’m around 15 hours into the game, still haven’t managed to complete fully. I’ve specced Bayek to be more of a melee beast, where some players could choose to use bows as their weapons of choice. Some others may prefer keeping this is a total stealth game using smoke bombs to their advantage. The point I’m trying to make is that there is choice, and which choice you go for will truly represent you as a gamer, and will let you approach various missions from different angles.
The fighting system – as we’re talking about skills and melee and combat stuff – has had a complete overhaul. It’s much more focused on group combat, where as before it has more of a one-on-one feel to it. Previous Assassin’s Creed games made you focus on one enemy at a time, while timing blocks which would then make you autolock onto that enemy for a counter-attack and so forth. Now, hitboxes have been added, which means if you make Bayek swing his axe towards a group of enemies, the axe – if within reach – will hit every single enemy. It makes for a much more in-depth style of fighting, which will make you think twice before taking a swing at an enemy. One wrong swing, or if your weapon doesn’t strike, and it could be game over due to a counter-attack.
There is a way of locking onto one enemy at a time, and this works perfectly during stealthy moments, but as soon as you’re surrounded, it felt a little redundant. I was playing on PC, and you had to flick your mouse in the direction of your new target. Flick it too hard and you could end up targeting someone far away. Flick it too slow, and your target would stay stuck on the original enemy. It’s a clunky system as a whole, and I found it so much easier to just aim Bayek at an approaching enemy ready to shield block instead.
There’s also a pretty neat and simple weapon quality system inside the game too. Weapons now come in blue, purple and gold to simulate rarity and also power and damage in some cases. Secondary buffs can be used on particular weapons too which could see Bayek receiving a small amount of health on every successful strike, or a poison being added to an enemy if you block an incoming attack. It’s a neat way of pushing your playstyle further, and there are buffs which cater towards melee specialists as well as the stealthy ghosts among us.
One thing that I was let down by was the fact there felt like there was no need to hold on to a particular weapon. None were exciting enough to keep, and I always found myself looking as base damage and quality as a stat. Sure it was nice to set some enemies on fire or poison them with each strike, but the buffs really weren’t good enough to feel the need to upgrade a particular weapon at a vendor, which you can do if you choose to. It’s expensive though, so watch that gold. Rare and legendary weapons felt quite common too, and it was really only the outfits that I was interested in collecting, even though some of the best outfits are stuck behind microtransactions! Ubisoft you tight bastards!
There’s also a small amount of crafting involved too to upgrade things like your wrist knife or chest plate armour. Ingredients for the crafting segment can be obtained by hunting the various wildlife within the game, or you could rob a cart if that’s more your thing. Or if you’re role-playing a trading type character, if you’ve picked the right skill from the skill tree, you could buy ingredients from vendors dotted around cities.
And lastly, there are a few bugs with the PC version. I can’t comment on the Xbox One or PS4 versions, but these weren’t enough to keep me from playing. They were things like a sailor floating behind his boat, and a horse getting stuck on a wall from time to time. They weren’t big bugs, and surprisingly for an Ubisoft game on PC, I had a pretty smooth time playing. The game is pretty demanding on your graphics card, so if you’re wanting some 4K goodness with all the extras turned up, be sure you’ve got a beefy PC to handle it.
I have enjoyed my time with Assassin’s Creed: Origins a lot more than I thought I would. As I said I was pretty quick to give up on previous titles, but this one just feels pretty unique. I love the setting and all its secrets, the storyline is pretty detailed and easy to follow, the combat feels powerful and definitely a challenge at times if you’re faced with enemies levelled higher than you and there is just quite a bit to do outside the main quest. If you’re new to the Assassin’s Creed series, or were quick to dismiss it because of experience with the older titles, have a rethink. I did, and have absolutely loved it. The game is available from Steam right now for £49.99