Review – Assassin's Creed Origins
Following the 2015 release of Assassin’s Creed Syndicate, Ubisoft, the publisher behind the franchise, tried something that they hadn’t attempted since the series got its start – they took a break. The newest game in the series, a franchise that had seen a title released every year since 2009’s Assassin’s Creed II, was given an extended development cycle – perhaps in response to complaints from critics and consumers about game breaking bugs found in the last few games.
The result is Assassin’s Creed Origins, a trip back to ancient Egypt where – in the sneaky sandals of an assassin named Bayek – gamers will unravel a tangled thread of a storyline, uncovering the anonymous powers behind the scenes and ending their lives in typical Assassin’s Creed style. While the story might not have benefited greatly from the time off, the way it’s told certainly did.
Gamers are dropped into an open world setting, but areas are gated off artificially by being simply too dangerous to go to until you’re an appropriate level. This helps keep players moving through the storyline instead of getting sidetracked – an issue past games struggled with. There’s no end to side quests to do, of course, this IS an Ubisoft title after all, but they’re not as overwhelming as in past games. It’s much easier to tell what side quests will provide the biggest benefit, for example, and the ability to use Senu – an eagle companion – to survey targets and plan the best approach makes even the hardest encampment infiltration a more engaging experience.
Players will occasionally find it’s time to do some of those side quests, whether to level up and unlock new abilities or to find the materials needed to craft new armor and weapons, before continuing with the main storyline quests. The quest system clearly marks the recommended level each step of the way, so there’s never any doubt if players should do some side missions to level up before taking on the next storyline mission.
Leveling up grants access to higher level weapons and armor, helping improve the odds against some of the game’s more powerful enemies. With multiple weapon types available to the player, it’s possible for gamers to have wildly different experiences in the same encounters. I prefer stealth and ranged takedowns using my bow, for example, but leaping into the middle of enemies and hacking them down with a pair of swords is also a valid approach – even if it’s a bit more difficult to pull off in the long run.
The combat system improves a bit from past games, though it’s more tweaking than a revolution of design. It felt a little clunky to start, especially coming off the slick and fun combat system in Middle-earth: Shadow of War, but after changing to the alternate control style and putting some time in I have no problem saying it’s probably the best combat Assassin’s Creed has had to date. I really like how bows were implemented, with the ability to see just how much damage enemies will take before the shot is fired. Several times I sat tracking a target with an arrow nocked, then decided to sneak past after learning they were too tough to be killed with a single headshot.
It may seem odd, but I’m also incredibly interested in the upcoming ‘Discovery Tour’ mode. This mode, slated to be added in a free update, will allow players to explore the world free from combat and learn – via guided tours – more about the Egyptial history and culture.