Assassin’s Creed: Origins

Developed by: Ubisoft Montreal
Published by: Ubisoft
Platforms: PlayStation 4, Xbox One, Stadia and PC

Released in October 2017, Assassin’s Creed: Origins is the tenth major instalment in the Assassin’s Creed franchise and the first title to introduce true open-world sandbox mechanics to the series, sharing more in common with the likes of Fallout 4 and The Elder Scrolls: Skyrim and MMORPGs than with previous Assassin’s Creed titles. Set in Ancient Egypt, there is a vast world-map of deserts, mountains and pyramids to discover, with over a hundred side-quests to complete and even more individual locations to explore and plunder. The entire combat system has been redesigned to focus more on action than stealth, although players can still infiltrate bandit camps and pick off enemies one by one if they prefer. Weapon drops are a frequent occurrence, allowing players to customise their fighting style and constantly upgrade their armoury, again sharing similarities with MMORPGs and the “loot system” seen in those titles. The sheer scale of the game is staggering and playing it on Xbox Series S highlights the amazing 4K graphics and attention to detail in the character models.

After a number of games set within Abstergo Industries with faceless modern-day protagonists, Assassin’s Creed: Origins introduces a new series lead in the form of Layla Hassan – an Abstergo employee who has built her own Animus in an effort to prove herself to her bosses, but inadvertently earns their wrath instead. Within the Animus, she inhabits the bodies of husband and wife duo, Bayek and Aya, who seek to avenge the murder of their son at the hands of the mysterious ‘Order of the Ancients’, a precursor to the Templars. Throughout the majority of the game, Bayek is the main protagonist and he is a compelling lead character, haunted by the death of his son and compelled to get revenge on those responsible. As is typical of an Assassin’s Creed game, there are also a number of historical figures that appear in the plot, with Julius Caesar and Cleopatra both featured prominently. The “origins” element of the title comes into play towards the end of the storyline with the official formation of ‘The Hidden Ones’, a prototype version of the Assassins. I really enjoyed how the story incorporated familiar and established aspects of the Assassins, such as the logo and the missing ring fingers, as originating from Bayek.

The game’s missions typically fall into three types: fetch quests, assassinations or rescue missions; many of which involve traversing to one of the army camps or forts and clearing them out. With so much game content (over 140+ missions), it is inevitable that the gameplay gets somewhat repetitive, although I find this to be a common issue with these types of expansive sandbox titles. There are the occasional inventive missions – most of which are tied to the main storyline – but for the most part, the gameplay is extremely repetitious. My favourite element was exploring the ancient pyramids, which adds a slight Tomb Raider vibe to the gameplay, but the game doesn’t really capitalise on these unique locations as much as you’d expect.

Graphically, the game is amazing. It is one of the most evocative game worlds I have ever seen with an incredible amount of detail to the locales and NPCs. The game comes with a free “Discovery Tour” mode that removes combat from the game and allows players to embark on a virtual museum tour with narration explaining key learning points from Ancient Egypt. It was surprisingly enjoyable to move from narration point to narration point, looking at the game’s animations (something I tended to miss as I moved from mission to mission) and seeing just how much research and historical accuracy had gone into the title. The Assassin’s Creed games have also had an element of educational value, despite their fictitious storylines, often introducing me to new eras and historical figures and this “Discovery Tour” mode takes that concept even further.

Another part of the game that really impressed me was the inclusion of wild animals and predators native to Egypt such as Crocodiles, Lions and Hippopotamuses. There were moments where I was genuinely terrified when a giant crocodile would launch out of the swamplands and begin chasing me – the movements and graphics were that realistic!

The game has two DLC expansions available to purchase, the first of which, “The Hidden Ones” takes place four years after the events of the main game and focuses on the growth of the Assassin Order as individual bureaus are set up in different areas, such as Rome and Sinai. Ultimately, “The Hidden Ones” serves as an epilogue to the main storyline and maintains much of the same gameplay mechanics, aside from an extended level cap and a handful of new skills. The Sinai region looks broadly similar to the Egypt of the main map, although there are more building sites filled with Romans and players can use zip-lines to traverse over them.

The second DLC expansion, “The Curse of the Pharaohs” feels slightly bigger in scope and introduces a more mystical element to the game with Bayek travelling to the Duat (“afterlife”) in an effort to put a stop to a curse bringing long-dead Pharaohs back to life. Again, the game introduces an extended level cap and some new skills, but with the inclusion of the afterlife as a locale, it also creates some truly imaginative new settings and some new enemy types. While the story felt more supernatural and spiritual than previous titles, I did enjoy the change of setting and the opportunity to delve more into the belief system of the Ancient Egyptians.

Overall, the main game took me roughly eighty hours to complete with another ten hours spent on the additional DLC – this is because I am a completionist and had to earn every achievement, including one for clearing out every location. This is definitely the biggest Assassin’s Creed title to date, and is possibly the most immersive one, allowing players to effectively step into the shoes of Bayek and live out an Ancient Egyptian virtual fantasy. While it is significantly different to previous titles, Assassin’s Creed: Origins still maintains enough of its charm and unique flavour to feel like an Assassin’s Creed title. Ultimately, I think I do prefer the older style of the games with a more concise and focused world-map and storyline but I did really enjoy the serenity of exploring the vast deserts of Ancient Egypt with Bayek.

Ambitious, daring and utterly immersive, Assassin’s Creed: Origins represents a true turning point for the franchise as a whole, and proves that it is ripe for reinvention.

Score – ★★★★

Assassin’s Creed: Origins is available on PlayStation 4, Xbox One, Stadia and PC from Amazon UK.


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