Assassin’s Creed Origins is a great game, with wonderful characterisation, beautiful visuals and audio, but too much water.
I initially intended that to be snide, but it’s actually pretty dead-on.
ACO takes us back to the beginning of the Assassin’s order, when men were real men, women were real women, and murderous packs of hyenas in the middle of the desert were REAL murderous packs of hyenas in the middle of the desert. Set in Egypt around 50BCE, ACO puts us in the shoes of Bayek, a Medjay who seeks to avenge his dead child and punish those who would destroy Egypt for their own gain.
As the tagline goes, it all starts with one… except it doesn’t really. Bayek’s wife, Aya, is also out getting her revenge on, and just as much of a badass as her hubby. It’s sweet to see a couple joined together by murderous grief, although Aya is criminally underused as a playable character; you let us alternate in Syndicate, Ubisoft, a couple of missions here and there isn’t the same thing. Both characters grow as the game progresses though, and the origins of the Order are properly established as the pair move from simple vengeance to protecting something more important than a single life.
The development team for Origins previously worked on the aforementioned Black Flag, which shows in the naval combat and is presumably why it’s my favourite since Cap’n Kenway’s time, and they also clearly saw how good The Witcher 3 was, because they’ve adopted a lot of new tricks. Hitboxes and actual combat are important now, dodging and blocking to avoid a painful death, and a free aiming bow is a literal godsend; archery done well is the key to my heart. But it’s trite to simply say they copied TW3, because much of Origins has kept the classic Assassin’s Creed style, only… better. That’s the only word; it’s better.
World design borrows from TW3, or maybe The Division, with areas locked off not by glowing white walls of desynchronisation, but by overpowered enemies; yeah, you can go there, but remember that pack of hyenas I was talking about? Well these are the REAL ones. Level up and come back later. But it retains the AC style, with viewpoints littering the map, offering breathtaking views of gorgeously realised environments.
There’s also a ton of water, so get your swimsuit on; Black Flag-lite underwater sections add some fun variety to all that time Bayek spends spitting out sand. You’ll wonder initially why you can shoot your bow underwater, then get swarmed by crocodiles and realise that’s why. Try to flee? Hippos. Hippos everywhere. This is FarCry levels of animal aggression, but damned if it’s not hilarious and keeps you on your toes.
Loot is vital, with upgrades and RNG finds the name of the game. The hidden blade is also no longer a guaranteed insta-kill; better get to harvesting materials. Oh yeah, there’s crafting; of course there’s crafting. Those damn hyenas are a great source of soft leather, and I never tire of hacking a soldier from his horse to steal some wood, one of the rarest components early on.
Bayek is a North African Spiderman, climbing literally anything, sometimes at inappropriate times like when I’m trying to be stealthy. Scaling viewpoints is rarely a chore now, and more often than not is a simple 30-second beeline to the top to chill with your eagle pal, Senu. Yes, eagle vision now involves a literal eagle, feathers and beak and all. Thanks for that, FarCry Primal. But eagle pal is best pal, even though Assassin’s Horse is pretty epic too, and the only way to travel across the deserts of Egypt.
The soundtrack is awesome as well, and is playing as I write this. Very thematic, and highly recommended, even though the music seems to randomly swell and had me scrambling to remove my headphones before I went deaf. No idea what that was about, so maybe take precautions there.
Also, standard PSA: DON’T PAY FOR MICROTRANSACTIONS. UPlay is not only better (read as not game breaking), but the ‘free’ Helix credits are a joke. 200? Great. Everything is at least 250. Sneaky sneaky, Ubisoft. You don’t need them to enjoy this game, even if I can’t quite see it as true Assassin’s Creed.
Look, don’t get me wrong, I love this game, and almost everything about it. But I’m against the homogenisation of gaming, and this just doesn’t feel like the Assassin’s Creed I remember. Maybe those days are gone, and Division’s Creed: Primal is what we’re going to get from now on. I’m not complaining, just… mournful, I guess. I’m also not a fan of MTs, but at least you know what you get and hey, if you’d rather make things easy for yourself, who am I to judge? You do you, Medjay.
All else aside, Origins is a return to quality, if not the exact form we’re used to. Innovation and adaptation is the way forward, but I’ll always have a soft spot for the Altair and Ezio days with no hitboxes, limited environments, repetitive combat… Wait, why do I like them?
It’s Assassin’s Creed, Jim, but not as we know it.