Assassin’s Creed Origins Review

 

 
Overview
 

Genre: Action Adventure
 
Rating: MA
 
Release Date: October 27, 2017
 
Overall
 
 
 
 
 
4/5


User Rating
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Positives


- Revamped combat system
- Senu is an evolution and literal version of Eagle Vision
- Engaging characters and world to explore
- Players are rewarded for everything they do
- RPG-like qualities bring a new dynamic to the series

Negatives


- Random, inconsistent bugs
- Parkour system still isn't quite perfect


Posted November 13, 2017 by

 
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Following on from the lackluster response of Assassin’s Creed Unity and Syndicate, Ubisoft decided to give the Assassin’s Creed franchise a year-long break in 2016. At the time, Ubisoft cited this would allow their development teams to polish their next entry and learn from previous mistakes. Indeed, Assassin’s Creed Origins is definitely the most refined Assassin’s Creed game yet, though there are a few minor gripes that prevent it from being absolutely perfect.

The setting in Assassin’s Creed Origins takes players to Ancient Egypt where they assume the role of Bayek, the last Medjay (think protector/police officer of Egypt) and soon-to-be founder of the Assassin Order. Bayek’s tale is one of betrayal and revenge as he sets out to kill members of the Order of the Ancients, who murdered his son. The conflict brings Bayek and his wife Aya into the service of Cleopatra as she goes against her brother and ruling Pharaoh, Ptolemy. The story can be a little daunting at times as players are initially thrown into the mix a few years after Bayek’s son’s death. Through the use of flashback sequences the game slowly reveals Bayek’s motives and weaves the plot into something more sinister. There is also a ‘Modern Day’ plot involving an Abstergo employee relieving Bayek’s memories through a new portable Animus, but this never becomes as intriguing as Desmond’s story arc from the original Assassin’s Creed trilogy. Fans will be pleased to know Abstergo’s lore is expanded on significantly if you read through all the optional in-game emails, so there is fan service for those who are interested in the Modern storyline.

Being set in the final years of Ptolemaic Egypt, Assassin’s Creed Origins features both Egyptian and Greek architecture which is an interesting combination as they have distinctive styles. In Egyptian territory you have hieroglyphics, a bigger focus on temples of worship, and civilians living in more modest accomodation. In Greek territory, everything is bigger and flashier, with pristine villas and palaces littering the streets. Naturally there are plenty of renowned sights to behold, including the Pyramids of Giza and the library of Alexandria. Disappointingly there is no in-game encyclopedia describing each landmark like in previous titles, though a Discovery Mode is planned to be released via a free update in early 2018 which will offer tours and commentary of points of interest.

Of particular note is just how alive the world feels and how much there is to do. Throughout each major location players will have the opportunity to complete side quests, but these have been set up as intriguing side stories. Instead of just completing a series of random objectives, you’re given full back stories and motivation. Some examples include investigating a series of murders and discovering a cult is behind them, retrieving a copy of the Book of the Dead for an elderly man who wishes to reunite with his deceased wife in the afterlife, and Bayek encountering an old drinking buddy. Between cities, you’ll have farms and tombs to explore, as well as lots of wildlife encounters including crocodiles, hippos, lions, hyenas and my personal favourite, flamingos. Wildlife can be hunted to obtain resources, which are used for crafting upgrades for Bayek (more about this later). There are also gladiator arenas and a horse chariot arena known as the Hippodrome. I have played over 30 hours and still have not seen everything the game has to offer – there’s an incredible amount of content here and it will certainly take you a long time to experience everything.

Those familiar with the Assassin’s Creed games should be relatively at home with the general gameplay mechanics. Parkour is still a heavy trope of the game, with players running and climbing over buildings and obstacles to sneak into forbidden areas and uncover treasures and assassinate targets. Players will still unfortunately get stuck at times, as Bayek mysteriously stops moving and you have to either press the A button to force him to jump or move the analogue stick in another direction. It stops the otherwise fluid parkour system and pulls players out of the immersion. Climbing down from objects is also less intuitive than it could be, often forcing you to make Bayek clumsily fall from a ledge and attract the unwanted attention of enemies.

One of the new and improved features of Assassin’s Creed Origins is the ability to call upon Bayek’s eagle companion Senu, and scout from above. Senu turns the series’ trademark Eagle Vision into a more literal sense, with players seamlessly taking control of the bird and using her to highlight the locations of enemies, treasures and animals. Syncing with viewpoints increases Senu’s perception, meaning she can highlight objects quicker and from a wider range. If that’s not enough, Senu will assist Bayek with hunting animals and can be upgraded to distract enemies when in conflict. It feels like a true evolution of the Eagle Vision mechanic, not only because you can scout any dangers far ahead of Bayek’s actual location but also because it gives you a unique perspective of what the environments look like from the heavens.

The biggest change for series however, is that the game now has more elements associated with an RPG. Enemies now have a level displayed above their head, indicating how difficult they will be to defeat. This not just applies to assassination targets, but also regular soldiers, guards and wild animals. If encountering an enemy that is more than a few levels above you, you will have quite a difficult time on your hands. Of course Bayek’s raw level alone isn’t enough to best an opponent – weapons also have individual levels, and you can upgrade Bayek’s attributes by using resources obtained from hunting and scavenging. Bayek’s core abilities include increasing long range and melee damage points, health meter and the damage your hidden blade will inflict. Yep, you guessed it, it’s possible for the hidden blade to not kill an enemy in one strike if it hasn’t been upgraded proportionately. The change brings about a new dynamic to the series, clearly influenced by titles such as The Witcher where you have to manage and upgrade equipment, and seek out experience points to strengthen your character. Thankfully, players are always awarded for exploring new locations and completing side quests, whether that be via experience points or a shiny new, leveled-up weapon. This ensures it never feels like a grind to keep Bayek buffed up.

The combat system has also been completely refined. Players can now lock onto targets, dodge their attacks or block with a shield, and unleash different combos of strong and weak attacks. There are different types of weapons including standard swords, dual swords, scepters, spears and various types of bows. Each weapon controls differently – some will be fast and steady, others will be slow to swing but damage more, and in the case of bows some can shoot multiple arrows at once while others lack a zoom function but can be fired quickly. As mentioned the leveling system is also applied to weapons, and while you will be rewarded with new weapons for completing tasks and looting dead enemies, if you like a particular weapon you have found you can also opt to upgrade it at a blacksmith using in-game currency. The new combat system does take some getting used to, but overall it is significantly better than earlier Assassin’s Creed games, feeling more engaging and offering more choice to players.

During my time with Assassin’s Creed Origins I have been impressed with the game’s relatively polished state, however there are a few issues. Firstly, at least on the first generation Xbox One console, there are framerate dips from time to time when there is a lot happening on screen or even just when there are dramatic lighting and particle effects. On Xbox One X the dips seem to be alleviated somewhat, though they are still noticeable. I also encountered a random moment where the game froze for ten seconds and started working again, an AI character would not follow me towards an objective, and a chest disappeared from an enemy fort. Rocket Chainsaw writer David Latham is playing the PC version and encountered a bug where Bayek’s head got stuck in a wall. After fast traveling to get unstuck and going back to the same location, it happened again. At one point David also got stuck in combat mode even after defeating all enemies, and then wasn’t able to open an underwater chest. Even after restarting, it wasn’t until he entered a new mission that he was finally able to open the chest. The bugs seem to happen randomly, so there is a good chance you will encounter some kind of anomaly while playing. By no means are they game breaking, but it’s still something to be wary of.

For the most part, the game is absolutely beautiful to look at. Temples features distinctive hieroglyphics and curves, and character models and animations are spot on. I am fortunate to own a 4K TV and an Xbox One X console, which ran the game with enhanced lighting and particle effects. It’s amazing how the colours pop on the screen and bring you into the world. It isn’t all high praise however, as on closer inspection some of the animal models look quite pixelated – particularly house cats which are less than desirable. If you utilise the game’s Photo Mode (where it pauses the action and lets you take photos of what’s on screen), you can zoom into birds that are flying and see the skeletal animation of their wings. It can be a bit splotchy, but I stress this is very minor and won’t impact your overall enjoyment.

Assassin’s Creed Origins is the definitive game in the franchise. It offers evolved gameplay mechanics such as Senu replacing the trademark Eagle Vision, and the revamped and engaging combat system. The world is full of content to discover and including interesting side stories, varied locations and lots of wildlife. There are however several inconsistent bugs that detracted from the overall experience, and parkour still isn’t quite as fluid as some would hope it to be. Nonetheless, this is an adventure in Egypt that you should not miss.


Joseph Rositano

 
While Joseph's main hobby has always centered around video games, he's also taken an interest in movies, musicals and traveling around the world. No one quite knows what Joseph's true motivations are, but rest assure he is always planning his next grand adventure!