Even at first glance, there’s something different about it. An air of change that the IP was crying out for. The year off gave the fan base room to breathe and Assassin’s Creed is all the better for it.
The move to Ancient Egypt has helped. The setting does much more than present breathtaking vistas. It offers a sense of mysticism and wonder that was missing from previous titles in the series. In fact, we’d say this is the best settings yet, taking the series in a direction it sorely needed.
A shift in gameplay hasn’t hurt either, taking elements from many different sources including, surprisingly, roleplaying games. This is most apparent in the side quests, which seem to have taken cues from more traditional RPG’s. Much more varied mission design makes leveling up (!) a joy. Gone are the auto-fail stealth missions and abundance of ‘tailing’ objectives, replaced with memorable characters and experiences that stick with you.
This addition of an RPG style leveling system and playstyle orientated skill tree is probably the biggest divergence from previous games. XP is rewarded for everything, from stealthy killing sprees to discovering unique locations. Each time you ding, you’ve rewarded an ability point that can be put into an impressive skill tree.
This focus on flexibility translates to the missions. Origins have embraced the idea of a sandbox, rather than the hint heavy focus of previous titles.
This idea of organic exploration and a more natural mission structure isn’t necessarily new in gaming but for Assassin’s Creed, it’s a revelation, especially when the older games started proper assassinations with cutscenes and tedious set-up or heavy hints on what you should probably do. Things can (and often do) go wrong, so you’re forced to improvise.
It helps then that when things get exciting, you can rely on the improved combat system to get you out of bother. Gone are the days of waiting for one of thirty enemies to swing so you can perform countless counter-kills.
Combat is much more free-form. Origins place much more focus on dodging, blocking and parrying, artfully sidestepping becoming a clone of the Arkham games or Shadow of Mordor. It makes everything a bit more difficult but much more rewarding.
Another big change is the inclusion of tiered loot. Older games flirted with the idea, offering several categories of weapons that could be bought from merchants. Origins has taken it one step further with a widely increased arsenal of weapons, each with individual stats and even tier colors.
Map wise, Assassin’s Creed Origins is vast. As you work your way through the region, you’ll come across multiple cities with wildly different architecture and styles. Exploration is a joy with goodies hidden in tombs, lakes and isolated open desert, every crest of a hill revealing something to catch the eye.
It’s this aspect of organic navigation where Origins channels Breath of the Wild. From famous landmarks to tiny groves, the horizon is always filled with something you want to visit.
Ancient Egypt also allows for a much wider narrative scope, as you struggle with the morality of your own personal revenge mission while wading through the mess of Ptolemy, Cleopatra and Caeser vying for control. It helps that main character Bayek is one of the best protagonists since Ezio, with actual realistic ambitions and faults.
The entire region can be explored with no loading screens (save fast travel and cutscenes), providing a seamless experience. The draw distance is huge, the frame rate was stable and environment pop-in is minimal. In my playtime, I experienced a few bugs with floating bodies but nothing serious enough to hamper progress. Generally, Assassins Creed Origins ran excellently on the PC version I played.
All of this culminates in an exciting journey that is genuinely tense, rewarding and finally free of having to climb six tourist attractions before you can start doing anything.
Assassin's Creed Origins
- Vastly improved combat system
- Beautiful imagining of Ancient Egypt
- Interesting mission structure and proper ‘sandbox approach’
- Some grinding is required if you just want to play the main story
- Overabundance of high-level gear
- Lots of cosmetic options tied to microtransactions