Assassin's Creed: Origins
Developer – Ubisoft Montreal
Release Date – October 27, 2017
Platforms – Xbox One, PlayStation 4, Uplay
After Assassin’s Creed: Syndicate, hearing that the franchise would be taking a year break was just preposterous. Then following with rumors that the game would set as far back as to Egypt for the next title was just unreal. But as the pieces started to come together and in mid-2017 at the Xbox E3 conference was Assassin’s Creed: Origins. As this isn’t the first time the series was featured by Xbox, it was more of the fact that the title would be used partly to help with the launch for the Xbox One X seeing the demo play in 4K.
After putting in 70+ hours into the game and unlocking all achievements, it is easy to say that it’s refreshing coming back to a game on a different perspective of the series that’s never been touched, its origins.
The game starts you as Bayek of Siwa, a Medjay that protects that people of Egypt. After Ptolemy XIII deposed Cleopatra and becoming the main ruler of Egypt, he ordered his group of specialized Phylakes to exterminate all Medjay from Egypt. Soon after his son Khemu gets kidnapped and used part of a ritual with a familiar artifact seen from other titles. Bayek tracks him down and accidentally murders his son when attempting to attack the cultists. Leading Bayek on a pursuit of revenge for murdering his son. In the process of tracking down who he almost killed, Bayek finds himself helping Cleopatra retake her thrown as he’s assassinating more of Ptolemy’s conspirators trying to find out who made him kill his son.
Eventually reuniting with his wife Aya who secretly been helping Cleopatra as well, planning together to assist in Cleopatra’s civil war in Egypt. Eventually making Bayek Cleopatra’s official guard. But as Bayek pushes further for Khemu to reach the Field of Reeds, Aya constantly pushes for Bayek to leave the past at rest.
But that’s where I start to like the story over previous. While one’s like Assassin’s Creed II or Assassin’s Creed III were to avenge a loved one or family member from someone else. Bayek is the one who murdered his son. Really hunting for a closure more than to “avenge Khemu”, not really knowing what he wants and keeps pushing for it. Along with this tragedy following him, Bayek constantly pushes his relationship with him and Aya. Even though both have their “encounters” a few times throughout the story, she puts the people of Egypt over her personal life. And by the end of the game, Bayek finally sees that even after getting what he wants for Khemu.
Initially seen as a mission for vengeance to slowly morph into grab for closure, to conclude on what started the game really gives a different take on how the average story is told.
Originally played the pre-alpha back in June at the Xbox Game Showcase after the E3 Press Conference, the first change I noticed drastically was sprinting. No more holding down the trigger to sprint, that’s replaced with a heavy attack and bumper to light attack. Another that really changed up gameplay was the first time adding a shield to the player’s arsenal. Replacing the constant parry/counter mechanic and bringing a new combat mechanic to the table. The worst part is conditioning to use the shield. Until you get it down, expect to get hit a lot. The only thing I had a problem with from the pre-alpha was unable to invert the y-axis. Overall the demo was just a sample of the huge map that is in the full game with a mission to complete. Short, but this sample tasted great.
With the range of weapons with different classes from sickle swords to spears and heavy dual swords. And making distance with the four classes for bows:
- Hunter – standard bow
- Warrior – shoots more than one arrow at a time
- Predator – has iron sight to use for long range
- Light Bow – shoots arrows at a fast rate
Using each for different circumstances and preference, but it seems that most were more miscellaneous than anything. With the bows I used, finding out how to use them was interesting. Aiming over an open flame to light your arrow and fire at oil pots or even vegetation will set a flame. And in mid-air too, you can get the perfect shot while falling to the ground.
With the change in sprinting made the parkour less messy than from games before. Using the trigger to climb would constantly lead me to jump off a wall or ledge to my death. Only step back was that the character doesn’t vault/jump over short obstacles by holding A like before, instead of jumping on the obstacle and then jumping off on the other side. Overall parkour plays fluid and controls greater than any former title. There are hiccups in running at certain obstacles, but can be excusable compared to falling through the ground anytime.
Traversing through the world was a major factor that plays a big part of the gameplay for the most part. You can call a mount at any time now, either having a camel or horse. While riding you can hold A and have an instant path set and will automatically ride towards your objective/waypoint without having to touch your controller. You can attack at any time while on horseback with melee and bows as well. And also given the option to use chariots to for faster travel, but still has its problems when going off ledges as the physics might not know how to react. Even swimming was expanded, on top of standard swimming like in previous titles you can now swim underwater, a more in-depth version compared to Assassin’s Creed IV: Black Flag only touched it surprisingly. And just like on land or on horseback you can defend yourself with bows over water and melee both over & underwater. With the wildlife that overruns the land of Egypt you’re not just a hunter, you are prey too.
[Spoiler] Similar to Syndicate and even Assassin’s Creed IV, at times throughout the story you will change perspectives on the game and play as Aya. Primarily behind the wheel manning a ship for naval combat. Carrying over older mechanics for these intermissions in the story is a great way to take a break and change pace of the story. Fighting against Greek and Roman fleets with cannons and mortars. Removing some mechanics like the swivel gun and fire barrels, but still played pretty well.
First off, this world is huge! Egypt is the biggest map in the franchise and it’s impressive how much is filled into it. You can’t even zoom all the way back to see the entirety of Egypt. The world of Egypt is thriving with life. From the vacant sandy deserts to the luscious countryside of Alexandria to the city of Roman control Cyrene. Both animals and people inhabit the map with their own ecosystem of survival and life. People from different regions do particular activities. People in more rural areas farming or tending to domesticated animals. While in urban more are shopping at stands and praying at shrines.
Then out to the wilderness lives a variety of animals. Between a spectrum of hostile to nonlethal wildlife that surrounds the worlds, you’re in. With hyenas, leopards, and lions making the majority of the maps. Vultures in the driest of Egypt as they take the skies, then hippopotamus and crocodiles submerged in the waters of the area. And snakes occupy the tombs forgotten by time. While gazelle & rams run the fields of the land, Osprey & flamingo living off of the coasts. Even though the animals play a big threat to survival, those of your own species also has a hand in it also.
With bandits filling camps and occupying fixtures outside of the cities. Then guards under either Egyptian, Greek or Roman rule preoccupy large forts and government space in larger cities. But those that are the biggest threat are Ptolemy’s Phylakes. Hunters of the Medjays. The highest tier of enemies patrolling the world of Egypt out for Bayek. Changing the definition of being the hunter and the hunted. But even with a world filled with activity and life, escaping the most barren of deserts is a great balance between the two.
The sands that make the majority of Egypt is jaw-dropping. How the change between there and the rapid cities is sudden yet accepting. The calm sands being pushed by wind as you tread under the sun beating down on you. No sight of life is the perfect break way to complement the always moving world talked about before. The more you’re exposed to it though, you’ll start to believe that more is happening. Hallucinations attempt to change your perception for a short time. The most common for me was a cloth flying in the winds until it fades away. Others like a single flower standing in the isolated sands, a fish fall from the skies and flopping on the ground or even bugs raining from the skies as the skies begin to darken.
As I mentioned earlier Origins was used to push for the Xbox One X by playing in 4K, and it’s shocking how it pulls this off so well. The amount of detail pushed into either textures of buildings or even sand is amazing. Each region differentiates from the amount of detail put into their landscape. The white columns of Greek settlements, the waters of the northern seas and the dirt roads of Siwa all have an distinct amount of detail that bring Egypt to life.
Introduced into Origins to admire the looks of the world is a new photo mode that’s easy to use and to share. Hitting down both joysticks will freeze the frame and put you into photo mode. With a variety of ways to take pictures and capture your surroundings. Filters, angles by tilting, zooming in and out or adjusting focus. Compared to other games, this feature is one of my favorites as for how load-free and easy to use. And is organized on the map by coloring your icon blue and when hovering over give the options to view, like, and to maximize to fully see it. And you can view the most popularly liked picture and even your friend’s pictures scattered all over the world’s map.
For Origins to pull off such an outstanding, looking world is impressive. Syndicate looked great as it was, but to push to 4K was surprising. With the Ezio Collection releasing a year after being one of the least good-looking titles in the series was a large step back for being a remaster, Origins fixes that problem and beyond succeeds in visual aesthetic.
For the new title in the series, Origins introduces a new way of progression softly pushing towards RPG mechanics. With the variety of weapons that you unlock as you progress or buy at the blacksmith. Upgrading at blacksmiths is available also like in titles before. But what changes the rhythm of progression is that there are different tiers for them now: common, rare, and legendary. As you roam Egypt, there are chests and high ranked soldiers stationed at different locations to loot and find better weapons. Each weapon varies in tiers and even perks along with damage on top too. Changing from just the standard weapon with the varying level of enemies that your level and upgrades can affect how you perform in combat.
How you upgrade can be expanded on in the newly introduce upgrade tree. Separated into three different categories:
- Hunter – ranged upgrades
- Warrior – melee upgrades
- Seer – survival upgrades
While earning XP in the world will help you level up and reward you with an upgrade point to put towards different upgrades. Some which you need to save for or upgrade towards to unlock.
Hunting as well even play a major part in your upgrades. For damage, defense, and even capacity to carry arrows. Based on the same tiers as weapons, the more of certain leathers you obtain to upgrade for better statistics.
Even mounts and outfits have the same treatment for tiers. Rather than having to upgrade, they are more simplified by only having to purchase for a better tiered mount.
For as the never ending story that runs behind the story of the first settlement is taken to a minimum. As already stretched upon in other titles, Origins only refreshes on what has already happened if you played games before. Expanded on tombs in Egypt, there are geometric-like formations formed underground as tombs holding the truth of what happened before, to be expected ahead and even on Desmond and how he stopped Judgement Day.
For an Assassin’s Creed game, this is definitely a first where they have not once said assassin. As I played, I assumed it to come up eventually. Later anticipating for it to pop up at least once. But once reaching the end to find out they still don’t call themselves assassins. Instead, as of yet, identifies them as The Hidden Ones. Even to push for the influence of the iconic symbol of the franchise. As Bayek and Aya separate for one last time, Bayek finally settled with Khemu and his relationship with Aya as she plans to pursue their new creed in Rome. He rips off his necklace, throws it on the sand and leaves. Aya goes to pick it up and the bottom of the eagle skull on the necklace leaves an imprint of the assassin symbol in the sand.
Even the origin of the hidden blade is touched upon. Bayek doesn’t get his hidden blade until at least 1/4th into the main story. After being reunited with Aya she presents it to him and nearly takes his eye out as he’s pointed the blade side towards his face looking at it. And ironically enough loses his ring finger in the process of his first assassination. Joked by Leonardo Da Vinci back in Assassin’s Creed II.
For the modern story is a change from the past few titles. Instead of playing through the story as a game like in Unity, Syndicate or even Liberation where you’ll stumble upon bugs in the animus. you play as an ex-Abstergo Layla Hassan. She creates her own animus and figures a way to access memories of ancestors without needing to have their DNA. As she uncovers the story of Bayek while stationed where his body was buried, Abstergo attempts to track her down and eventually raids the tomb. Layla eventually learns skills from the amount of time in the animus and takes them out, similar to Desmond. Her finally finishing Bayek’s story to find Desmond’s father sitting next to her when she’s on the animus.
In conclusion, Assassin’s Creed: Origins overall performs great on all fronts after taking a year break from their yearly release since Assassin’s Creed II of 2009. The game looks fantastic, plays smoother than previous, story that always has questions to be answered, and a world that lives close to our own. For a sequel to come after this as expected, for my need to want more it is definitely worth the year wait for another cult classic in the series.