Assassin’s Creed Origins takes us further back in time than the series has ever taken us before, back to Ancient Egypt where the Assassin’s Brotherhood began! This latest instalment brings revamped gameplay, stunning graphics and exotic new locations to explore.
While each game in the series has brought exciting new settings and characters from history, the gameplay in the Assassin’s Creed games has been fairly consistent throughout the years. Controls have been tweaked only minimally from one game to the next. Assassin’s Creed Origins has broken the formula with innovative new controls and gameplay. For example, the parkour is much more intuitive and less frustrating. You can now only jump if there’s something to grab hold of on the other end, so slight angle misalignments no longer end in frustrating falls. It’s also a lot easier to scale buildings as handholds aren’t as scarce.
The stealth has also been improved and is more forgiving. If you’re discovered by an enemy, instead of your cover being immediately blown, you have a moment to react before they sound the alert. This makes a lot of strategies feel more intuitive, for example, you can run at an opponent and take them down rapidly without breaking stealth. You also don’t have to be in the perfect spot to execute a scripted assassination like in previous games, you just have to be out of sight until your target gets close enough to take them down.
The combat starts very limited, with a shield block, a light attack and a heavy attack, but the game has adopted some RPG elements, with skill tree progression allowing you to learn new moves as you level up. I love this approach because you really feel like you’re becoming a more powerful assassin over time and you can choose which areas to improve first based on your personal play style. It also means that rather than having your entire skillset at the start of the game, which can be overwhelming, you instead incrementally learn abilities and have time to practise and master each one.
While I’ve found myself drawn into the world thanks to vibrantly beautiful locations, I am finding writing to be a little dry, and Bayek, the game’s protagonist, a bit dull. The story starts in the middle, with little context as to who you are and why you’re going around killing people. Through playable flashbacks and forward progression, each end of the story slowly gets revealed but there’s still so much in the world that is left unexplained and consequently dilutes immersion. There’s also an absence of lore about Ancient Egypt. In the previous games I really loved learning about the historical settings and being able to convince myself I was having an educational experience and not just running around killing people. In a world so ripe with juicy, historic potential, during a time in history I’m not greatly familiar with, I’d love to have little tidbits of learning during my travels. Still, the stunning architecture and costume design provides plenty of satisfying eye candy.
The world also rewards exploration with a salient liveliness brought about by interesting NPCs and so many animals of all kinds. As I wandered the streets of Alexandria, I saw a man sitting outside his shop molding a pot on a surface he was spinning. Cats circle your feet, meowing, while rats huddle around food stalls and squeak as your approach them. If you leave the city and enter the wilderness you’ll find plenty of dangerous animals too, such as crocodiles and hippos, which you can hunt to upgrade your equipment.
I feel compelled to remove half a point in my rating because the game has a store where you can purchase both vanity and time saver items (weapons, skill points etc) for real money. I don’t think stores like this have any place in a single player, full priced game and I really hope this new trend doesn’t take off. I found it even more abhorrent when I saw that one of the featured items was a unicorn mount, a mythical animal which has no place in a historical fiction/science fiction game (ok pseudo science fiction, but still!) and just feels like a patronising money grab.
Assassin’s Creed Origins brings some well designed combat and parkour enhancements to the series which shaves some of the slightly frustrating edges off the gameplay of the previous games. The new skill tree keeps the gameplay fresh and the player feeling like they’re progressing in their competency. The setting is fascinating, with many beautiful historic locations. The writing is a bit uninspired but there’s a few livelier quests and the world itself is interesting enough that I didn’t find myself bored. I think fans of the series will love this latest instalment with its polished gameplay and visuals.
Assassin’s Creed Origins is out now on PC, PS4 and Xbox One