Developer: Ubisoft Montreal
Platform: PlayStation 4, Xbox One, Windows (Reviewed)
Release Date: 27 October 2017
Price: $59.99 USD – Available Here / $89.95 AUD (Windows), $99.95 AUD (Consoles) – Available Here
Ubisoft is bringing some of the biggest changes to the main Assassin’s Creed franchise this year with Assassin’s Creed Origins. The game is reimagining the long running franchise as an action RPG, introducing character levelling, equipment, and a brand-new combat system. Bucking the trend of increasingly modern settings, Assassin’s Creed Origins is going to the birth of the Brotherhood in Ptolemaic Egypt.
Assassin’s Creed Origins is set in Ancient Egypt. The glory days of the Old Kingdom is long over. Now, the Greeks have established their own kingdom based in Egypt after the death of Alexander the Great. Ptolemy XIII now sits in the throne, but is resorting to violence and thuggery to maintain hold. Cleopatra and the Romans are chomping at the bit to pry the throne from the weak Ptolemy XIII, but in the shadows lurk a mysterious organization pulling the strings to ensure Ptolemy XIII stays in power. Here, last Medjay Bayek and his wife Aya carve their bloody path of vengeance and look to save the people of Egypt.
Choosing to tell the story of how the Brotherhood of Assassins first formed is the perfect backdrop for Ubisoft’s major gameplay changes to the long running series. By going back in time before the Brotherhood even existed, the developers have created a fresh start both story and gameplay wise. The game is presented in a way that anyone who has missed the last few Assassin’s Creed titles or is completely new to the series can enjoy the game or even get caught up to the general plot line of the series if they so please. The writing in Assassin’s Creed Brotherhood is excellent. The plot line is interesting, starting from a personal vendetta and blossoming into a battle for the soul of Egypt. The dialogue is sharp, and the characters are interesting. The setting is incredibly vibrant and a lot of attention has been paid to create an accurate depiction of Ptolemaic Egypt.
Assassin’s Creed: Origins is the biggest revamp to the series to date, turning the game into a full-blown action RPG. Bayek now levels up with experience earned from actions like killing enemies and completing quests. Each level awards players with a skill point that can be spent in one of three skill trees specializing in ranged/stealth, combat, and tools. The skill trees are well balanced with some good lateral options that link later game skill trees together. Additionally, Bayek can equip weapons and shields he loots or buys. Clearly inspired by Ubisoft’s Far Cry titles, Bayek’s base stats can be improved by spending raw materials to upgrade his equipment. Raw materials are acquired by dismantling old weapons, hunting, or ambushing enemy caravans. While the game does have microtransactions in the form of loot boxes, I feel the game offers enough opportunity to acquire and upgrade loot. During my testing of the game, I did not feel any pressure to buy loot boxes to try to keep up.
The stealth mechanics remain largely the same. Assassin’s Creed: Origins is a modern stealth title where the player is the predator stalking from the shadows instead of being the prey hiding in the darkness. The stealth system feels fluid as stealth is toggled on and off with a press of a button. While the game can be played almost entirely in stealth with the correct skills unlocked, the basic stealth toolkit is more than enough for even the clumsiest player to at least position themselves to initiate combat from stealth.
Combat is the other target of Ubisoft’s rework of the Assassin’s Creed franchise. Instead of an animation based combat system, everything is based on hitboxes. The new combat system feels fluid and responsive. The hitbox system feels like more input and skill is required from the player, making combat more fun than the animation linked style from previous games. The addition of a wide variety of weapons means players will find a combat style that suits them. Switching from bow to melee weapon and back again is totally smooth, and the multiple short range bows make it a viable strategy. While stealth is still a big part of the game, the new revamped combat is meaty enough that its possible to drop stealth almost entirely and run through the game like a wild barbarian.
The level design is excellent. The main mission objectives have a good amount of variation, especially with the naval combat. The side missions tend to be a little on the repetitive side though, as most involve running off to some corner of the map and assassinating a target. The collectibles that litter every open world title return in Assassin’s Creed: Origins, but they are a lot less of a chore compared to other games as they reward players with loot.
The parkour system that made the original Assassin’s Creed famous returns in Assassin’s Creed: Origins. While I have not played a main Assassin’s Creed title since Assassin’s Creed: Revelations, I find Origins to be much smoother than the PlayStation 3/Xbox 360 era titles since almost all surfaces can be climbed. The added bonus is that the walls are visually more realistic as they are no longer littered with handholds.
Assassin’s Creed: Origins implements enough changes to the game that it could become an entirely new open world franchise for Ubisoft. The updates are a much-needed breath of fresh air to the series that has become more of a steady staple in recent years. While the changes aren’t worthy of a full reboot on its own, the changes modernize the title into a fast paced and fluid game that moves seamlessly from mounted combat, to stealth, to (bow) shooter, to melee hack ‘n slash. The beefy skill system helps personalize the game, making players a little more emotionally invested in a Bayek that is moulded in their style. While the core of Assassin’s Creed: Origins remains the same, the delivery is fresh and modern.
Assassin’s Creed: Origins is a gorgeous game. The art style brings Ancient Egypt to life, with much of the game looking like it was torn out of art history textbooks. Graphically, Assassin’s Creed: Origins is a great display of what a cutting-edge game looks like. With the graphic settings cranked up, the game looks very realistic thanks to its sharp textures, solid animations, and detailed models. My only complaint with the graphics is that some of the horse riding animations are a touch too slow compared to the model’s movement speed, making the horse look slightly unnatural.
All is not perfect though. On the PC, the game is a pig for resources. While the system requirements are already quite high for the PC, there is still some optimization left to be done. The game happily gulps down all available CPU power. There are a variety of explanations, with the official line saying it’s a bug that will be addressed in a future patch. Either which way, patches and driver updates are currently coming out fast and furious, with more on the horizon.
Assassin’s Creed: Origins delivers a solid audio performance. The sound effects are all top notch. The music is excellent. The voice acting is of high quality, as expected from an AAA title. My only gripe is some of the minor lines are reused a bit too often. The hippodrome is one of the major offenders, with only five or six lines that are played on repeat.
Assassin’s Creed: Origin is a fantastic new direction for the long running series. The transition to open world action RPG/stealth hybrid adds a modern touch to the game and ensures that the main Assassin’s Creed titles stays relevant for another decade. The game does struggle with some minor audio/visual issues and is still in need of some optimization on the PC, but the excellent new direction for the series combined with the solid story makes it worth toughing it all out.
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