Releasing on a year-on-year basis and despite having some launch issues with later games, the Assassin’s Creed series was always pretty much well received overall.  However, with its last proper release, Assassin’s Creed: Syndicate (2015), Ubisoft decided that the series was to take a break (at least from new titles and not remasters) and therefore, we would not see a new Assassin’s Creed title release in 2016.  So here we are in 2017 and we are greeted with an origins tale of before the Assassin’s brotherhood really began (which also confirmed the ancient Egypt rumoured settings), with the 10th major instalment, Assassin’s Creed: Origins.

In Assassins’ Creed: Origins we play the role of protagonist, Bayek, who with the aid of his wife Aya, as Medjay’s they have sworn to protect the people of the Ptolemaic Kingdom, who sees them forge an alliance with Cleopatra, who was banished by her very own brother, the Pharaoh, Ptolemy XIII.  However, their heroic actions have rustled a fair few feathers by an accent order hell-bent on shaping the world how they see fit, an order known as The Order of the Ancients (which I’m sure sounds very familiar to fans of the series).

Let’s begin with the world of Origins and let me tell you, it is huge.  It may not have the open sea’s that Assassin’s Creed IV: Black Flag had to offer, but in terms of land density, this is the largest world you could ever wish to explore in the series, it ridiculous.  A world as large as this one will naturally comes with methods of travel and given the time period in which this game is set, travelling across the ancient Egypt lands will be provided by your trusty horse and/or camel.  Sometimes having such vast lands to trek can at times feel like a chore if not implemented correctly, but the landscapes in Origins are such a joy to behold, unless you need to get somewhere quickly and Fast Travel your way across the map, exploring this world is an absolute pleasure full on wonders, which is no surprise as to why Origins also features its own Photo Mode, full of tweaks and filters.

Having a huge world to explore in an Ubisoft title should come as no surprise, but one criticism that has plagued their open-world titles, is that much of it is littered with filler, in terms of this series, Assassin’s Creed: Unity springs to mind.  Thankfully, AC Origin’s is not only full of quests (main and side-quests), but each and every one feels like they have a genuine purpose.  Not only from a narrative perspective, but also when it comes to rewarding you with in-game items or XP to level-up our protagonist; Bayek.  Whether it be full-on set in stone scripted missions or seemingly random events, the world of Origins feels alive and never has you feeling short changed on activities.

Origins also features daily and weekly events which will see you rewarded with more luxurious gifts.  Some of the daily events involve helping a young boy named Reda, who somehow is a prestigious vendor who has stock of Rare and Legendary items.  If you are successful, Reda will reward you with one of his luxurious items.  Reda also sells loot box items called the Heka Chest.  Now before the alarm bells start to ring, these are not real-life cash fuelled microtransaction based loot boxes, as they are only purchased via the in-game currency.  There are of course items that you can purchase in Origins with real-world cash by purchasing Helix credits (something that has been in the series for years now), which range from cosmetic outfits, mounts for your horse/camel and weapons.  You can as always, also purchase “Time Saver” packs, which give you additional in-game coins, crafting resources or ability points to level up Bayek a little quicker, but I’ve had no urge to purchase any of them.  As one, I want to play the game properly and two, the grind to level-up seems like a fair progression.

For a while now, the Assassin’s Creed series has always had an RPG-like levelling system, albeit, it was a little basic, but it served its purpose quite well.  However in AC Origins, the developers have gone several steps further to give us a levelling system that will help shape Bayek, something not to dissimilar that we might see in an actual RPG title.  The skill-tree is quite advance with several paths, split into three main categories, Warrior, Hunter and Seer.  If you just concentrate on the main missions, I doubt very much you’d upgrade Bayek to his fullest in one playthrough, but by partaking in as many actives as possible (and you’d be mad not too), I don’t think you’ll have many problems maxing him out, which is all the more reason not to buy those three ability points available in the Helix store.

One of the main reasons the levelling system is so much more advanced then what we’ve seen in previous games, is that not only can we upgrade Bayek himself, but also much of his gear.  Ranging from melee weapons, ranged weapons and armour.  To level up his items, you’ll have to go on treasure hunts to search for valuable items hidden beneath the lands and pyramids, but also hunt down some of the wildlife, which includes lions, crocodiles, hippos, vultures and much, much more.  Again, if you wish, you can buy Helix points, but by doing so, you’ll be depriving yourself on much of the joys that AC Origins has to offer.  Other than being accompanied by his bad ass wife (Aya) from time to time, Bayek’s trusty side-kick, Senu the eagle (perhaps the origins of the series iconic symbol) will never leave his side.  Senu can scout ahead for enemies and items of interest, and if you purchase certain upgrades, he can also attack some enemies if you wish.

Combat has also had somewhat of an overhaul.  No longer do you bash the Square/X button to attack, but now those attack buttons have been re-assigned to the R1/RB and R2/RT triggers.  This I must admit, took a little while to get used to, especially when becoming very accustom to how previous games were played, but once you do get used to the new combat commands, the combat feels more fluid and strategic than ever before.  There are times as you level-up that you might feel a little over-powered as you take down some enemies a little to easier.  Thankfully though, if you do ever feel that way and you want more of a challenge, then for the first time if the series, Assassin’s Creed: Origins features difficulty settings, Easy, Normal and Hard.  The difficulty can be changed on the fly, going back and forth if you wish.

One aspect of the combat that I really do appreciate being improved is how enemies attack you.  Previously enemies would seemingly line-up to attack you one by one.  Now enemies are more prone to attack you at any one time, forcing you to be on your toes and more aware, and makes you countering/dodging even more vital.  Some of the other controls have also been simplified, such as running and climbing.  You still may scale down objects with the press of the Circle/B button, but now much of your climbing will be done by pressing X and X alone, which takes some of the challenge away in some aspects, but I guess that’s all down to personnel preference.   Running/walking at various paces is also all done via the analogue sticks, so there’s no need to hold own the R2/RT button when doing so.

In conclusion, its difficult trying not to get too carried away, but it seems that the two year break implemented by Ubisoft has done this series wonders.  Some of its aspects aren’t really all that revolutionary, but what it has given, is the developers time to fine-tune an experience that was in desperate need of, as even with AC Unity and Syndicate, the series was so close to peaking, if it wasn’t for some of its technical short-comings, which could very easily be blamed upon Ubisoft pumping out a new game of this stature every year like it’s some kind of sports title.  From its gameplay, visuals, luring world and engaging quests, Assassin’s Creed: Origins is a title not only shaped by the love of the developers.

I just hope that Ubisoft have truly learned from their mistakes, because releasing an Assassin’s Creed title every two years is exactly what the series needed (especially with its weekly and daily events adding an evolving life) and has resulted in arguably giving us not only the best game in the series for quite some years, but some could argue that Assassin’s Creed: Origins is the best that the series has to offer.  For the first time in a long time, I’m genuinely excited for the future of this beloved and ‘iconic’ series.  In fact, one might say that Assassin’s Creed: Origins is that important, it may have not only revitalised the series, but it may just have saved it.



Author

Richard Lee Breslin
Richard Lee Breslin

Gamimg has been my life for 30+ years and will always be my passion. I have a BDes Hons Games Development and Digital Media, and I hope to one day turn my passion for gaming and writing into a living. My favourite gaming series are Resi Evil, Metal Gear Solid, Silent Hill, Assassin's Creed, Uncharted and The Last of Us. I collect gaming merchandise, comics and movies. I love football (namely Aston Villa) and WWE. I can also often be found wondering the outskirts of Raccoon City. Follow me on Twitter @Solidus5nake