The Assassin’s Creed series has covered a broad array of historical time periods, numerous revolutionizing civilizations and provided fans with plenty of towering platforms plunging you headfirst into shallow haystacks. Year after year, Ubisoft released the next entry in the series for the past decade, only acquiring a small number of stand out titles from the Assassin’s franchise. After a year off from the constant barrage of AC titles, Assassin’s Creed Origins relieves fans from the drought with a massive world to explore, set in the earliest days of the brotherhood.
Discover ancient Egypt through the eyes of a Medjay
Our newest (or shall I say earliest) assassin goes by the name of Bayek and dons the presence of a Medjay – a sort of royal officer serving the majority of the populace found in Egypt. Acting as protectors not only of the people but of Pharaohs as well – often looked upon as hired mercenaries – Medjay listen to the people and help bring peace and safety to the lands of ancient Egypt. Soon, the death of his son enrages Bayek to chase down the masked ones responsible, in turn learning more about the ancient lands then he may have anticipated.
The arid scenery of the desert landscape is stunning, and the vastness of the map is daunting, to say the least. The open lands run through countless villages, ancient prospering cities and boundless desert climates reach as far as one can see. It’s no secret the team from Ubisoft took their time on Origins, but the sheer level of detail put into the living and breathing world is far greater than anything we’ve seen from the series. To say the vibrant world of ancient Egypt looks astonishing is nothing short of an understatement. Origins lives and breathes with the ebb and flow of life surrounding the civilization it so graciously clings to and does so brilliantly.
As you run through Egypt and its many territories found in Origins, many new features will begin to surface. The parkour technique has been simplified to one button, while the “marionette” style of character control scheme AC had so faithfully made claim to a decade ago has been completely abandoned altogether. But the true difference from the series doesn’t sit at the controls of Bayek outside of combat but is found in the overhauled mechanics during combat.
Big steps forward in revamping the combat system
To say the Assassin’s Creed new and improved combat system may have been influenced by outside sources beyond Ubisoft headquarters may become evident to most who have played other titles with similar combat experiences. Ditching the relentless style of attack where assassins would bounce between a dozen or so enemies, parrying each attack one after another in a flashy, ultra-bloody finish. Instead, Origins has the player focusing more on one enemy at a time with combat similar to that of The Witcher 3, or perhaps the Dark Souls series.
Striking with either a light attack or heavy attack, blocking with your shield, using ranged attacks from a variety of different bows and, of course, pulling off stealth assassinations with the elusive hidden blade; the weapon to which made the assassin brotherhood so deadly. The combat in Origins will have you dodging around your enemy blows while counterattacking with one of many melee weapons to choose from. Be it mace, club, sword or spear, tons of thrilling weapons can be found in the massive world of Egypt.
While older systems and battle mechanics had players swinging their weapons at the perfect time to execute precise and deadly counterattacks, the combat would become stale quickly. Over and over we saw the same enemies, with the same predictable attacks, timing our counterattacks just right to squeeze off as many finishers as possible. Though the system saw tweaks here and there throughout the series, this is the first time it has actually been completely overhauled. And, while it takes away from one of the few aspects that separated the Assassin’s series from other titles in the dense genre, it fits well with the new mould the franchise has taken.
A hint of RPG elements
Skills that Bayek can learn throughout Origins are divided into a three-part skill tree. After each level up through gaining experience points, Bayek is granted one ability point to spend on one of the many enhanced skills and abilities. Becoming a stronger warrior with fierce, new attacks, discovering new skills for the helpful companion, Senu or acquiring various bombs equipped from Bayek’s tool belt are just a few examples of useful skills found from the skill tree in Origins.
A dash of other useful RPG elements have been added to the game’s weapons system, now with tons of options from heavy, blunt weapons to ferocious attacking swords. No longer must players discard favourite weapons simply because they’re out-levelled and weaker compared to newer finds with the help of the weapon upgrading system. Upgrading your weapons at local blacksmith shops, be it melee or bows, will bring the weapon to Bayek’s current level, for a fee of course. In some cases where players may discover a particular weapon, they’re comfortable using, instead of replacing it down the road, the upgrading system allows them to continue using it effectively at higher levels.
Though, in many instances, it may be wise to switch to newer weapons. Coming in three different colours of rarity (similar to the colour coding found in other RPGs, i.e. Borderlands, Diablo, etc.) weapons will be labelled blue if they’re common, purple if rare and gold if legendary. There are tons of different weapons, each with various stat boosts, and all may be dismantled for precious crafting supplies.
While crafting, Bayek is able to enhance various pieces of equipment, which in turn upgrade important stats permanently. There are a total of six different items to enhance through crafting, including the bracer for stronger melee attacks, the breast-plate which raises Bayek’s health or the quiver which increases the number of arrows one can hold. Other pieces raise range attacks, the amount of bombs or other tools held and the power of Bayek’s hidden blade. Each piece of equipment requires a certain amount of crafting materials, typically found through hunting wildlife, or grabbing loot off of enemies. Finding the loot would be rather difficult if Bayek did not have the help of the scouting eagle, Senu.
Scout the endless skies with Senu
Using Senu is another big change in the series, replacing the eagle vision from previous AC games. Additionally, while flying with Senu, the map icons appear, as well as icons for any nearby crafting supplies, within a certain proximity of your soaring eagle’s sight. Senu has an unlimited distance to scout, and the more viewpoints synchronized, Senu’s sight range is slightly expanded. Aside from pointing out various activities, loot, side quests and crafting materials, Senu is also helpful to provide the player with guard activity and numbers when raiding enemy hideouts.
Throughout the enormous map that makes up Origins, plenty of side tasks and extra content lay at the feet of Bayek. With the addition of actual side quests, and tossing out the unoriginal and repetitive objective challenges from all of the other releases in the series, Origins stands as the most unique and rewarding Assassin’s title to date. Each sidequest – and there are tons – has a different and interesting storyline, which most are based on real-life instances, legends or myths from the ancient Egyptian era. Many may have players performing simple, and sometimes similar tasks, but all have unique backstories, and plenty of surprises to help ease the gameplay from becoming the same, worn-out cycle of events.
The massive lands of ancient Egypt sprawl past any other Assassin’s Creed title that has graced the gaming community since its debut in 2007. With a storyline that includes yet another rage-driven protagonist fueled by vengeance and hatred towards Templar forces, the start of the Brotherhood of Assassins is an impressive one. Gorgeous visuals compliment the astounding world of the mysterious Egyptian civilization.
With tiresome gameplay mechanics stripped away and replaced with new and exciting features that show Ubisoft is paying attention to what fans of the series want, Origins gives a lot more than it takes away. The all-new combat system is a delight to master, and gives players a true sense of accomplishment. The crafting and hunting system is an excellent way to continue to strengthen Bayek, on top of the expansive skill tree rewarded through experience points.
For all Assassin Creed fans who have abandoned the series due to continuous repetition, stale character development and otherwise boring, slightly tweaked gameplay, Origins is the perfect time to step back inside the Animus, and discover a completely improved experience. It shows us the series is far from dead by revamping mechanics and providing players with a vast world to explore.