It’s hard to review a game like Assassin’s Creed Origins without first mentioning the long and tumultuous legacy of the Assassin’s Creed franchise. Launching in 2007 with the very first Assassin’s Creed, players worldwide were intrigued by the games innovative parkour system and creative story concept. But it wasn’t until the Renaissance setting of Assassin’s Creed 2 in 2009 that the franchise truly hit its stride. With upgraded graphics, parkour, combat and a far more engaging and likable protagonist, Assassin’s Creed 2 was long considered the franchises apex. Since then the series has had its ups and downs. For every exemplary entry in the franchise such as Assassin’s Creed Black Flag in 2013 and 2015’s Assassin’s Creed Syndicate, there has been a huge misstep such as 2012’s Assassin’s Creed 3 and the universally panned Assassin’s Creed Unity in 2014. It’s because of this roller coaster ride of quality that many players were skeptical when Assassin’s Creed Origins was announced at E3. Would this newest entry be the saviour of the series? Or would it be the latest in a long list of failures?
I’m incredibly glad to say that Assassin’s Creed Origins marks a new high point in the series, perhaps even topping my previous favourite entry, Black Flag. Taking players back to ancient Egypt and the very beginning of the Assassin Brotherhood, Origins tells the story of Bayek the first Assassin, and his journey for revenge. Previous entries in the series have largely succeeded or failed based on the likeability of its main character. And if Origins is to be judged based on this factor alone, then it could be considered a major success. Bayek as a character combines some of the best aspects of previous protagonists. He’s funny and friendly, like Ezio and Edward Kenway. He has a rich menagerie of friends and acquaintances, never falling into the tired old lone wolf trope of other main characters. But while Bayek is a nice guy, he can still switch to a more stoic and serious character when the situation demands it, like Conner and Altair before him.
Assassin’s Creed Origins has made some very significant and welcome changes to the series core gameplay. Combat is by far the most noticeable change. Gone are the instant parry kills and spamming of counters. Combat also now relies on hit boxes for the first time, providing the fights with an added sense of accuracy and skill. Bayek won’t be zooming around the battlefield like Batman anymore. This change brings a welcome level of strategy and threat to fights.
In previous games in the series, I would confidently stride into the melee and engage a small army of enemies without a care. The new combat system in Origins forces players to carefully consider their odds of survival, with the number of enemies having a serious impact on success. This increased difficulty would be a problem if it wasn’t for Origins improvement to the stealth aspects of the game. Approaching a combat situation now becomes a lesson in patience and strategy. Infiltrating an enemy base, popping headshots from afar with my bow and whittling down the opposition is always a treat. The combat is also bolstered by the new types of weapons available in Origins. While the game doesn’t offer the same wealth of options as some previous entries in the series (Unity being a prime example), it makes up for it by making each weapon feel different. The difference in gameplay between a short sword and a curved sword is surprisingly drastic, and finding the weapon for you is all part of the fun.
These new weapon variations are complimented by the games all new RPG style loot system. A first for the series, this new loot system is one of the most welcome changes the series has ever implemented. Weapons now have different stats and status effects linked to their rarity. This isn’t a revolutionary system by any means, but it works so well for this series it’s surprising it hadn’t been done sooner. Finding a new rare or legendary sword with a unique effect like poison or fire damage is always a thrill. And the game also smartly allows players to upgrade their weapons to meet their level. This means that the fancy sword you got early in the game can be upgraded to match the level of weapons further down the line. Like previous installments in the series, Bayek can also wear different types of armour and clothing. This is perhaps one of my biggest disappointments with the game, while the armour provided is very cool looking; the number of options feels severely limited compared to previous entries. However a welcome change is that armour is now purely cosmetic, and does not relate to stats at all. This is a great change for a player like me who values in-game fashion (c’mon, you do too. I know it).
Assassin’s Creed Origins story is one of the series strongest to date. The game features a present day storyline like previous entries in the series; however that is one of the few things the game has failed to improve on. It may just be my personal experience, but the present day stories have never interested me, and Assassin’s Creed Origins is sadly no different. Whenever the game forced me out of the Animus into the present day, I quickly lost interest and rushed through to get back to Bayek’s story. Tasking Bayek with hunting down a clandestine group of powerful and corrupt individuals, the main story takes the player all across the games gorgeous and expansive game map. From arid deserts to humid swamps, the environments for Assassin’s Creed Origins are refreshingly diverse and enjoyable to explore. The game has also wisely adapted the collectable system from previous games. With the addition of the new loot system, players have more of an incentive to explore every area and loot every treasure chest. The game also contains several tombs, many of which contain puzzles and other challenges to complete. These tombs reward Bayek with new weapons and free skill points for the games progression skill tree.
One of my favourite new additions to the series is the Phylakes. Phylakes are unique enemy bounty hunters, working for the Pharaoh himself. These Phylakes wander around the games map, hunting for Bayek. Each Phylake has a cool name such as ‘The Outsider’ or ‘Iron Bull’ and have a unique look. They’re also incredibly challenging to combat, with most Phylakes always seemingly a few levels higher than Bayek. These levels mean a lot too; even a skilled player would be hard pressed to defeat one of these unique enemies if they are more than 3 or 4 levels higher than the player. This brings a new element of danger to gameplay. Early in the game before I had reached a significant level, I would have to quickly run and hide whenever a Phylake was near. When I finally mustered up the courage and level to confront one of these unstoppable enemies, it was perhaps the most intense experience I’ve had in the entire game. Each Phylake also gives the player a unique legendary weapon upon their defeat, adding extra incentive to tackle these dangerous foes.
Assassin’s Creed Origins is a huge win for the Assassin’s Creed franchise and brings a welcome change to the series aging design. With improved combat, a rich and varied environment, a gripping story and a likable protagonist, Assassin’s Creed Origins is a must play for fans of the series. Assassin’s Creed is back; let’s hope they can keep it up.
So what do you think of Assassin’s Creed Origins? Are you ready to see where it all began, or would you rather stay in the here and now? As always, let us know in the comments and on social media!