Assassins Creed: Origins is everything that I had hoped for it to be. Ever since the very first game, I have always thought that the series was desperately crying out for a game set in ancient Egypt. Fortunately, it came at a time where the current generation of consoles is able to capture the true essence of this time period in stunning 4K and HDR. Simply put, Origins is one of the best Assassins Creed games in the series, and is certainly the best since Black Flag. Origins is proof that a developer, when given time and not constrained by annual releases, is able to come up with something spectacular in visuals, gameplay and narrative. I usually don’t connect with characters in Assassins Creed so much – Ezio was the only assassin who had an interesting personality. However, I can now add Bayek to the list of characters worthy of my emotional time.
Bayek is a complex character. He is a character fuelled by revenge, but is also self-assured and daring. Unlike Ezio, he doesn’t come from a very high-profile background. Bayek’s journey sees you witnessing the innocent being tortured mentally and physically by the corrupt leaders of Egypt. Throughout his journey, is has to make choices that makes him question his own morality, but without it coming across as too much of a sob story. For the first time also, Origins dives even deeper into the role-playing elements, and bridges the gap between what might be a traditional RPG and a normal action game.
Origins contains a very large map. It is gigantic, and even when you complete the 35 hour campaign mode, you will still only have seen about half of the map. During those 35 hours, you will be blessed with some of the best scenery, architecture and missions that have graced the Assassins Creed franchise. Ubisoft has never developed a game quite like this. The setting will have you traversing through empty lands, which although sounds like a chore, is still made beautiful when there are sandstorms to contend with. There are tall mountains to climb, and of course in true Creed nature, plenty of tombs to discover. As a child, I grew up studying ancient Egypt, and therefore playing through Origins and discovering various tombs dedicated to specific gods is a dream come true. The last time I wanted to spend time exploring in an Assassins game was Black Flag, and Origins has reignited that thirst for exploration.
The map is segregated into various cities. Many of these cities are devoted to specific gods, and therefore the culture varies from city to city. The people behave differently, the architecture is different and therefore I never felt as if I was visiting a familiar city. It looks like the developers have spent most of their time just studying and replicating the ancient Egypt era, and their efforts have paid off in abundance. I must also mention that as you travel from city to city, there are zero loading screens. Of course, if you fast travel, or play through the campaign mode where the gameplay cuts into a cutscene, there will be a short loading time. However you won’t ever have to wait to be loaded into a city once you visit it. Everything is entirely seamless, and makes for the most immersive experience in Assassins Creed to date.
The campaign mode is also the most diverse in any Assassins Creed game. Black Flag may have blessed us with naval warfare, but that game still lacked the diversity that Origins has. Origins will have you fighting in gladiator arenas, racing on chariots, carrying out stealth missions to obtain intel, assassinating pharaohs, and yes, there is also naval warfare! Origins’ campaign mode will never bore you, and those 35 hours will fly by and leave you wanting more. Even the side quests are varied, although many of them start off with the counterpart using the death of a family member as the motives for what they require!
The gameplay in Origins is the most refined in the series. It is easier to free-run and climb up buildings. In previous games, you may sometimes get stuck whilst climbing, or fall to your death incorrectly thinking that you can climb something, but Origins removes all of that. It makes climbing much easier and fluid. I don’t really care about the challenge of figuring out how best to climb a tower. I have done that in too many games, and I’d rather see Bayek effortlessly climbing structures. In Origins, you have that freedom.
As I mentioned before, Ubisoft has introduced RPG elements to the game. The XP system allows you to develop your character to suit your needs. These abilities let you be stealthier, kill better from aerial positions, use better intelligence to understand the paths your enemies are walking etc. If of course, you prefer the more aggressive approach, you can unlock abilities to help you in combat. You might be the type of gamer who just likes going around and pickpocketing. There are even abilities that let you become more effective at that. There are enough abilities for your Bayek to differ to my one by the end of the campaign.
Origins also does less to tell you how to play the game. In previous games, it would often tell you how to approach a mission, and sometimes reward you for doing it those ways. That would often frustrate me, as I would have to approach an assassination a certain way just to complete the bonus objectives. In Origins however, the game lets me decide how I want to approach a target, and doesn’t penalize me for it. I suppose the reason why the developers have done this is because the introduction of the RPG elements, as well as using animals from time to time, paves the way for countless methods that depend on the type of character you’re developing. After all, it wouldn’t make sense for you to develop a stealthy character, only for the game to tell you that you have to kill the target through a melee brawl!
The moment a game goes into RPG mode, there is a level of grinding to be done. Origins is no exception. Each main mission will tell you what the recommended level for Bayek should be. Sometimes, I found myself below that level, and therefore I would have to carry out side missions to get to the expected level. I sometimes tried to play the missions despite being lower than the recommended levels, but enemies would just destroy me too easily. This ensures that gamers do not rush through the story mode, but I don’t like that Ubisoft has decided this on the gamer’s behalf. Instead, the mission levels should be adaptable based on the player level, to make it challenging at all times without making the missions impossible. If I don’t want to do any side quests, I shouldn’t have to. Yes, there is something quite exciting about taking over a fortress of enemies that are higher levels than you, but I should be able to do that whenever I want, not when the game tells me to.
Origins also makes some improvements to the combat system, where you can now hit multiple enemies with one strike depending on how you throw the strike. This also means that you might end up missing all of them, and in such cases, almost certainly get countered. Origins requires you to be more selective over when you attack and when you block, due to the damage that enemies can now cause during combat. Knowing the enemy type also helps, as some of them are true heavy hitters but slightly slower, whilst others might be nimble. Enemies with shields are particularly frustrating, but can be beaten with patience. Long-distance archers are just cretins who deserve to die. Different weapons also have unique properties. Some do more damage, some block better, others give you health during attacks etc. Eventually, you will just use the one that does the most damage.
I’m not impressed with the introduction of micro-transactions in Origins. I appreciate that they aren’t mandatory, but the option to spend real money to buy Helix coins so that I can get new cosmetic items is a kick to the teeth, especially since the only way to obtain them is through the micro-transactions. I don’t like that there is certain content locked, that cannot be obtained through grinding, but must be purchased. Nonetheless, this is still minor since it’s all within the scope of the single player experience (I have a much bigger problem with companies who allow micro-transactions to let gamers ‘buy’ success in multiplayer).
My biggest issue with Origins is that Ubisoft has not brought back the multiplayer mode. I was the biggest fan of the multiplayer modes back on the previous-generation consoles. They were unique, innovative and more fun than most other multiplayer games. I have been waiting for Ubisoft to bring back the multiplayer for Assassins Creed, but Origins lacks it. Manhunt in particular had huge potential for eSports (although there would need to be a large delay in Twitch streams to ensure that players aren’t using the streams to find out where opponents are). I am disappointed that multiplayer is missing from Origins.
Despite the lack of multiplayer, Assassins Creed Origins is the game that I had been waiting for since the original. There has never been a more stunning setting than ancient Egypt, and my worry is that there won’t ever be a better one as Ubisoft has set the bar extremely high. The revamped combat system now requires more skill and patience, and the addition of the RPG elements allows you to develop Bayek into the assassin that you want him to be. The story is excellent and the characters are all well-narrated. My main concern is that the game won’t get the credit that it deserves, as Ubisoft decided to release it around the launches of other games with large single player campaigns (CoD, Battlefront, Wolfenstein and even South Park which is another Ubisoft title). Despite all of these blockbuster games releasing, I am very sure that none of them will look as gorgeous, or have the level of depth that Origins has. If you’re primarily a multiplayer gamer, it would be hard to justify getting Origins over other forthcoming titles, but if you are open to investing in a single player experience, look no further than Assassins Creed Origins.