Assassins Creed is back after a years’ absence in order to give the series a break from its yearly releases, but is some time off enough to keep the franchise fresh?
Taking place in Ancient Egypt, Origins is the earliest game set in the series, historically speaking. You play as Bayek, a Medjay in the region (a Medjay was kind of a special soldier/bodyguard for the Pharaoh) and after an extremely long and dull introductory sequence, you set off to protect the people while seeking revenge.
The time period is the most interesting for me personally, as a fan of the Roman Republic/Empire, and a lot of important plot points tie in with that, especially the rise of the Pharaoh’s sister, Cleopatra and a possible invasion from Julius Caesar, keeping the Pharaoh up at night.
The past few Assassins Creed titles have had confusing and less-than riveting stories, but thankfully Origins improves where they couldn’t, and Ubisoft have crafted an interesting and exciting plot. The biggest problem though, is pacing.
I’ve mentioned the long and boring intro as the main example, simply because it will be around 2 hours of gameplay before you even see the title screen, and you’re drip-fed information, making it hard to understand the bigger picture or care about the characters for a long time.
It’s unfortunate as I’d worry that the delay and slow pacing could turn a lot of people off what’s an overall good story, simply because it was too boring at the beginning.
The voice acting is quite good, especially with historical figures like Caesar or Cleopatra, it helps to bring them to life in a believable way, but also with Bayek, who is arguably the most important to get right, as you’ll be listening to him the most.
Where Origins truly shines is its visuals, it looks absolutely stunning, and having played and reviewed the game on an Xbox One X, it’s clear why Microsoft are using it in all of the TV ads for their new console.
There’s a bit of jankiness and a few minor clipping bugs and the like that are bound to come with a game of this size and scope, but nothing game breaking, and nothing that will distract you from how good it looks overall.
The water in particular is gorgeous and I’d nearly go so far as to call it the most realistic water I’ve seen in a videogame to boot.
I did play Origins on a regular old Xbox One console before trying it on the One X and although a big difference can be seen between the two, the game still looks great on a standard Xbox (as I’m sure the case is similar with PS4 vs PS4 Pro or mid-spec PC to high-spec PC).
Outside of the main quest, Origins feels more like an open-world RPG than a regular Assassins Creed title and you’ll either love that or hate it.
There’s more of an emphasis on levelling up Bayek, unlocking new skills and crafting new weapons and armour than ever before. With this comes a lot of looting, both from dead enemies and from chests and crates in almost every location.
Personally, it felt a bit too open for me and I regularly felt overwhelmed with things I should be doing, whether it be collecting, killing, hunting, looting, side quests etc. I would much rather a more concentrated, streamlined experience which would make it easier to get through the story I want so much to see unfold, but it’s all subjective, and a lot of you who love open world games will be in your element.
To help with the looting and exploring, Ubisoft have introduced what I consider to be a slightly ridiculous mechanic – your very own controllable eagle.
It’s basically the drone from Ghost Recon Wildlands, but you’re forced to use it to locate your objective in every mission, despite the map marker telling you exactly where to go 90% of the time. It can also be upgraded to attack and distract enemies.
I understand that it’s ultimately a videogame, and we have to suspend our beliefs at certain aspects (using the Animus itself is one example) but I find the eagle ridiculous and immersion breaking every time I have to use it.
The RPG aspect is pushed even further in combat, with enemies having a level indicator over their heads, showing you how tough or easy an enemy will be right off the bat. I
found the combat itself to be a bit frustrating at first, mainly due to the controls, but with a bit of re-jigging I found my own preference and began to enjoy it a lot more.
There is still a big emphasis on stealth of course, you’re an Assassin after all, but a lot of missions either force you into direct combat or are so difficult to complete without getting spotted, that they end up there anyway (or maybe that was just me?!). Thankfully though, combat is enjoyable, so it’s not the end of the world if that happens.
I can’t put my finger on it, but I’ve never got the feeling that an Assassins Creed world was alive as much as say, the world in GTA V felt, but maybe that’s down to the whole Animus thing, in that you know you’re in a simulation, within a videogame.
Origins does feel the most alive, with NPCs reacting a bit more realistically than before to what’s going on around them, and a nice day to night cycle.
Origins has definitely benefitted from the year off, and the result is a much fresher, newer feeling game, while still remaining very true to the Assassins Creed formula.
If you wanted a more streamlined AC experience, Origins may not be for you, but if already enjoyed the series the way it was, a more open world, RPG-like entry should be right up your street.
Assassins Creed Origins was reviewed using a review copy supplied by Ubisoft on an Xbox One and Xbox One X.