I started reviewing games back in early 2012 and since then, I have come across some incredible games, moments and people. The gaming industry is unlike any other on Earth and I feel lucky to be a part of it. While this is indeed my last video game review, I’ll still be sticking around in gaming, just in a different capacity. You might ask yourself why Assassin’s Creed Origins is my last review. Well, the simple answer to that is because it is one of my favorite gaming franchises. So without further adieu, here are my thoughts on the newest iteration in the Assassin’s Creed franchise.
The series took a year off to allow it time to breath among gamers and to ensure the newest installment was functionally ready for launch. Not only is Origins a refreshing take on the famed brand, but it has evolved the Assassin’s Creed experience to be more than just an easy walk in the park. Thanks to a challenging combat system, a full out RPG leveling system, addicting collectibles and a stunning setting, Assassin’s Creed has once again captured what makes this brand so special.
Exploring a historical world is at the heart of any Assassin’s Creed game. Past games have sometimes struggled with capturing this feeling on a consistent basis. Assassin’s Creed Syndicate was in no way a title that generated such a feeling. However, Origins does a magnificent job of injecting true discovery and wonder into its gameplay.
Sure, it doesn’t hurt to have pyramids and temples as areas that are inherently about discovery. That said, Ubisoft easily could have swung and missed with delivering meaningful substance to these areas. Instead, developers have hit a homerun with the game’s exploration. It really does pay off to venture away from the beaten path, as you never know where you might find a new weapon, piece of gear or bundle of Drachmas. When you do find an item, it feels naturally rewarding and satisfying.
Speaking of areas you explore, the world of ancient Egypt is absolutely breathtaking. Whether you are in the middle of a sprawling desert or scrunched into a city’s narrow avenues, the world looks and feels amazing. Ubisoft has provided great diversity in the game’s locations, though some parts become a bit mundane after a while.
Taking advantage of the pyramids of Egypt was a brilliant, though obvious, move by Ubisoft. These areas serve as essential vessels for exploration and they return a feature I’ve always been fond of. Folks who played Assassin’s Creed Brotherhood will remember the Tombs of Romulus players could explore to find epic loot and treasure.
In order to find these areas in though, an elaborate series of platforming and puzzles had to be completed. In a way, these are back in Assassin’s Creed Origins. While some of them appear inside of pyramids on a smaller scale, they still give me a warm, fuzzy feeling to see these platforming/puzzle instances back once again. The prizes at the end are always rewarding and never feel cheap. Ubisoft did a fine job of weaving substance into every nook and cranny of this massive world.
Let’s talk about traversal for a minute. In many ways, I see Assassin’s Creed Origins as the sum of all the great features the series has created over the years. Its stellar, though still sticky, parkour and climbing system is back. While there is no sprint button, quickly sprinting and then scaling just about any surface is doable.
I love how Bayek can scale pretty much any surface. It is a nice break from the series’ past where you’d have to take a pre-determined route up a structure. Origins simply asks you which way you’d like to go up and then off you go. Climbing paths are born from your imagination rather than those of the developers.
In addition to the game’s parkour, gamers have many other ways to traverse the world. You can summon your camel or horse whenever you need a lift and it’ll appear immediately. This helps keep traversal a fluid, smooth activity, and prevents long walks or getting stuck somewhere without quick transportation.
Some carts are pulled by horses and these tend to be very fast modes of transportation as well. Perhaps most notably is the return of naval gameplay. Boats are scattered throughout the game’s massive world and they too can serve as an efficient means of travel. Some large naval combat scenes have even made their way back into Assassin’s Creed.
Traversal is just one of the ways that Ubisoft has taken amazing parts of the series’ past, and sprinkled those bits here and there in Origins. In a way, all of this pays homage to games like Assassin’s Creed Brotherhood, Assassin’s Creed III and Assassin’s Creed IV: Black Flag.
Heading into launch, the feature that seemed like the biggest change to the Assassin’s Creed formula was its combat. Prior games saw a more simple, straightforward combat system, with a handful of differing enemy archetypes creating varying challenge here and there. However, Assassin’s Creed was never known for its intense combat. Developers on Origins decided to change that up and implement true level-influenced combat.
I’m happy to say that not only is the combat challenging and the level-influenced fighting precise, but gone are the days of running into an enemy stronghold and killing 10 enemy soldiers. This game will punish you if you’re careless with your tactics, and deservedly so. Even leveled combat provides a strong challenge, even when only facing off against two or three enemies.
Players will absolutely benefit from using a combination of stealth and melee combat. Utilizing your bow to take out isolated enemies will help an eventual conflict, reducing the number of foes you’ll have to face. Once you jump into actual combat, learning to dash, strike and parry is key. Simple button mashing may work in some cases, but more times than not, precisely timed strikes, both light and heavy, are required to claim victory.
As your assassin levels up, new weapons and skills become available to you. The skill tree is crucial as you decide which areas of gameplay you want to emphasize first. There are plenty of choices and which ones you pick really can help or hurt, depending on whether the skills correlate with your playstyle or not.
When I take a look at combat, it is still true to the Assassin’s Creed style, while evolving its melee combat in a nice way. I hope Ubisoft uses this as a foundation to build something even greater. I hope the obvious RPG influences should be explored in even greater depth in future iterations. Combat in Assassin’s Creed Origins possesses plenty of rewards for tactful, thoughtful play. At the same time, the game punishes those who are careless and play as if this is still Assassin’s Creed Brotherhood.
Story and characters are two essential elements to any game, but for Assassin’s Creed, characters seem to carry more impact than the story itself. While the narrative of Origins is interesting and provides plenty to be enjoyed by fans of the series, its characters are what make the installment shine the most.
Bayek is an outstanding addition to the assassin family. He’s bound by duty as a Medjay of Ancient Egypt. However, it is not all business as we learn a great deal about him and his family. The background between him and his wife Aya create some very interesting moments over the course of the game. At the same time, their history adds unique elements for players to ponder as they play through the game.
The series has always done a fine job of balancing epic stories with personal ones, and Origins is no exception. As you would expect, there is the involvement of classic historical figures such as Cleopatra, Julius Caesar and others. They mix up the story nicely, and the awe-inspiring nature of playing a game that involves these figures delivers an always enjoyable level of intrigue.
The characters and narrative of Assassin’s Creed Origins help create a wonderful, new direction for the brand. I’m interested to see where things go from here, both from a setting standpoint as well as characters.
Fans wanted a year off for the Assassin’s Creed franchise, and a year off is what they received. Fans wanted a refocus on the series’ core pillars and a refocus is what they got. For all of the change that was being asked for in all sorts of different directions, Origins handles everything brilliantly. The series took a step in a new direction while keeping its other foot in the realm that made it so great to begin with.
The ball is in Ubisoft’s court for when we see the next Assassin’s, however, I hope they elect to plan the next game around when it is developmentally ready to debut, not when it is financially most advantageous. A return to the yearly iterations would be a delight for some fans of the series, but that decision would likely catch all kinds of heat from those who asked for a year off previously.
The series is strong enough to not have to release every year. For the sake of avoiding a repeat of what caused Assassin’s Creed to step away for a year previously, I hope Ubisoft develops some kind of every other year pattern for AC. The franchise will be far better off for it.
It has been a pleasure and privilege to be a part of the media side of gaming. While I’m excited for the future of video games, it’s time for me to take professional steps in a different, exciting direction. Thanks to everyone who supported me at one time or another, it has always meant the world to me.
Ubisoft provided We Write Things with a PS4 code of Assassin’s Creed Origins for the purposes of this review.