by Daniel O’Connell
This review is based on the Xbox One version of Assassin’s Creed Origins.
Assassin’s Creed, a series of action-adventure stealth games, has been a long-running franchise in the video game industry and will be celebrating its 10th anniversary this month. Despite its long time in the industry, some gamers and critics have felt that its more recent games have seen a severe drop in quality when compared to their predecessors. Some believe that this drop in quality began around the end of the Ezio trilogy (which was completed with Assassin’s Creed Revelations). Others believe it began after Assassin’s Creed IV: Black Flag. Regardless, it is generally agreed upon that the recent games in the franchise have been of mediocre quality. They were all playable in their own right, but they were not quite as good as the previous entries.
Finally, after years of mediocre games, Origins marks a return to form for the Assassin’s Creed series.
Story and characters
Assassin’s Creed Origins is a landmark for the franchise, as it takes place the furthest back in history, beating the record for the original Assassin’s Creed (which took place during the Third Crusade in the Holy Land in 1191). Origins takes place in Ancient Egypt during the last days of the Ptolemaic era, specifically during the civil war between Ptolemy XIII and Cleopatra. The central plot focuses on Bayek of Siwa, one of the last of the Medjay, an elite paramilitary force that served the Pharaohs. Bayek now seeks vengeance for the death of his young son, Khemu, who was killed by the Order of the Ancients. The Order of the Ancients, who serve as a precursor to the Templar Order of the previous games, are a group of various influential people who seek to control Egypt and the rest of the world. Bayek’s pursuit for justice reunites him with his wife Aya, an assassin who serves Cleopatra. As both Bayek and Aya hunt down the members of the Order, they begin to gather allies who will form the original Assassin’s brotherhood.
One of the strengths of the game is its cast of colorful characters, which was one of the strengths of the Ezio trilogy and Black Flag. Bayek and Aya both stand out as likable lead characters for the game. Bayek’s quest for vengeance for his dead son is understandable and relatable, making the player sympathize for him. Aside from that, Bayek is fond of children due to his son’s death, making him more likable as a result. His wife Aya’s sense of loyalty to Cleopatra makes her engaging, as does her chemistry with Bayek.
The Order of the Ancients, the main antagonists of the game, are made up a wide variety of influential figures ranging from politicians to priests, and they all make for interesting targets for Bayek to go after. They each have their own motivations, such as the Jackal and the Lion, who manipulate Ptolemy and Cleopatra respectively to increase their own personal power. Other members can be surprisingly sympathetic, such as the Hyena who simply wants to resurrect her dead daughter.
Like the previous games, Origins features historical characters as a part of its plot. Here, it uses the historical figures of Ptolemy XIII, Cleopatra, and Julius Caesar. However, the game places a heavy focus on Cleopatra over Ptolemy XIII. Ptolemy appears in two important cut scenes within the game and only says a handful of lines. The only real importance Ptolemy has to the plot is that the Order of the Ancients are using him as a figurehead. Origins features very few historical characters, with the only other significant historical character being Pompey the Great (whose only contributions in the game is to die his historical death).
The standard gameplay of the previous Assassin’s Creed games has been revamped for Origins, and this is a welcome change. The “Eagle Vision” of the previous games has been replaced with Bayek’s animal companion, an eagle named Senu. Similar to the owl in Far Cry Primal or the drone in Ghost Recon Wildlands, players can take control of Senu and use him to scout areas in advance to highlight enemies and other important objectives, which will become visible when returning to Bayek. The use of Senu takes time to get used to, but it is a great alternative to the Eagle Vision of previous games.
The most drastically changed aspect of Origins is the game’s combat system. In the previous games, combat would simply be dictated through player input to have the player character do a simple animation, which made fighting predictable and boring. The system in Origins has been reworked, with the new one being comparable to the combat in The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt. It is now much more complex and focuses the player on dodging, blocking, parrying and using a combination of fast and slow attacks to take down enemies. The switch from using melee attacks to ranged attacks with a bow is now quick and almost seamless. The new combat system is refreshing, exciting and engaging when compared to the other games.
Bayek has access to a wide variety of weapons, including swords, spears, dual blades, battle-axes, blunt weapons and staves. He also has access to different kinds of bows, ranging one that can fire multiple arrows in a rapid succession to a bow that can fire up to five arrows at once, comparable to a shotgun blast. These weapons feature different damage outputs and stats that can affect how one plays the game. Old weapons can either be upgraded by blacksmiths or broken down into crafting components that can upgrade Bayek’s armor and equipment.
Another returning feature is naval combat, which was featured in Assassin’s Creed III, Black Assassin’s Creed IV: Flag, and Assassin’s Creed Rogue. The players take control of Aya for these missions and steer a war galley. The object of these missions is to destroy enemy ships. In place of the cannons of the previous games are archers with flaming arrows, fire bombs and catapults with flaming payloads. These missions are fun and exhilarating, constituting a welcome return to the series.
Like with its predecessors, Origins features a wide-open sandbox that gives players side quests to do and places to explore. The world of the game is comparable to the Caribbean in Assassin’s Creed IV: Black Flag in size, just with the water being replaced by land. The world of Ancient Egypt as presented in the game is very immersive. The entire world feels authentic, and one can tell that the developers did their research when creating the game world. You can find many famous landmarks in the game, including the Giza Pyramids, the Great Sphinx, the Lighthouse of Alexandria and the Library of Alexandria.
The world features a wide array of content, including side quests and area that can be explored. The side quests usually range from rescuing prisoners, assassinating a specific target or escorting someone. These quests can get repetitive after a while. However, a challenge that returns from the Ezio trilogy is the presence of military outposts. Players are encouraged to infiltrate the outposts, kill the captain and its commanders, and be rewarded with a treasure inside of the base. Another feature that returns from the Ezio trilogy are the tombs. These tombs can be found and explored to find either rare loot or an Ancient Tablet (which will give Bayek an extra ability point).
Two new additions in the game are the hippodrome and the gladiator arenas. The former allows the player to compete in chariot races a la Ben-Hur. The latter has Bayek fight waves of increasingly difficult enemies, which culminates in a boss fight. Both of these can be done in exchange for money and different weapons. It is a great alternative for those who do not want to waste time exploring or fighting enemies for money and loot.
One complaint that should be addressed is the presence of mircotransactions in the form of the game’s store. There, you can buy rare weapons, equipment, locations of map icons and rare outfits in exchange for a currency that is bought with real money. However, the store can simply be ignored for the most part. It is not linked to the core gameplay, is not necessary to complete the game and most of the rare items in the store are quickly surpassed by the weapons and equipment that is found in-game.
Featured image from Ubisoft
Assassin's Creed Origins
'Assassin’s Creed Origins' is a refreshing and exciting addition to the Assassin’s Creed franchise. While it is bogged down by the side quests and the in-game store, these are surpassed by its engaging story and characters, its complex and exciting combat system, and its loads of content. It is a revitalization of a stagnant franchise and will hopefully take future Assassin's Creed games in a new direction.