Assassin’s Creed is a franchise that’s struggled over the course of its ten years to bring in familiar elements people love while at the same time being innovative and ever-changing. Some games have succeeded more than others in that regard and some have, well, missed the mark in their leap of faith. But Assassin’s Creed Origins was advertised as truly new life for the franchise. After a year long hiatus for the franchise, Ubisoft takes us back to the beginning, while at the same time introducing a whole host of new aspects, features, and of course characters. Is it the new life the franchise desperately needed? Yes, it most definitely is.
I’ll run briefly through the story and character aspect of the game: Bayek is easily the best and most likable assassin in the franchise since Ezio. He’s like the super cool uncle that you wish was your dad instead of your actual dad. He’s gentle, he’s violent, he genuinely cares about the well-being of the people around him. Personally, he’s my favorite assassin.
Ubisoft also picked the most interesting time period in Egyptian history possible. You work with Cleopatra at some points and Julius Caesar is also featured quite heavily in the later half of the game. The landscape of Egypt shifts between small Egyptian villages and vast Roman settlements, with their own gladiator arenas and temples. It’s an absolutely stunning and beautiful world to play in.
The story itself is actually quite solid and Bayek’s reason for seeking out and killing the kind of pre-Templar order makes sense. The story isn’t particularly special, but it has some genuinely awesome moments and it’s good enough that it’s not a hindrance to the game by any means. And, yes, it does explain how the assassins came into being. There are two mistakes Ubisoft made regarding story in my estimation, though. There’s a second character that you can play as in Egypt at certain points, and this sometimes makes total sense and other times pulls you out of Bayek’s story in a way that’s annoying. But that’s a minor infraction. The larger one is the outside-the-animus story. It sucks. There’s no reason to care about what happens outside of the animus and yet the game insists on pulling you out every now and then. Thankfully there’s very little you need to do outside it, so if you want to jump back in almost immediately then you’re able to do so. But it’s clear that Ubisoft only includes these portions in order to stay consistent with the concept that they established in the first game. If they could turn back time I think (hope) that they would remove the modern day aspect altogether.
The story isn’t a particularly new template than some previous games, but the gameplay has definitely changed. The new combat system introduced is something along the lines of Dark Souls, but a little less nuanced and without a measurable stamina meter. For the most part it’s quite good and a large improvement on the previous modes of combat the franchise has sported. But it has its moments where it’s a little annoying. Stealth, on the other hand, has been simplified. There aren’t any dramatic ways to kill your targets like in previous games where, if you did everything right, you could enact a specific kind of execution. This can be a little disappointing, but for the most part the stealth is a lot more solid than in previous games.
Some other new aspects to the game have been introduced and, for the most part, they work really well. There’s a crafting system that allows you to upgrade armor, hidden blade (some higher level enemies can’t be killed with one stab), quiver size, etc. and it’s simple and easy to understand. The new skill tree is also helpful and features some cool abilities that are definitely good to have in a fight. And the introduction of Senu, your eagle companion, actually works way better than I originally though it would and I ended up loving it. Instead of eagle vision, you can control Senu and use him to scout out treasure, enemies, the best path to get through a fortress, and to find crafting items. It’s an introduction that I hope they keep in the series.
The leveling system also worked for the game as it means you have to do side quests to level up every now and then in order to be able to do the main mission. This could be considered annoying, but I didn’t mind much because the majority of the side quests are way better than what the franchise has sported in the past. Most of them even have some cool stories to tell and add to the host of things to do when the game’s story is complete. Not to mention chariot races and gladiator fights are a thing and they’re awesome.
All the previous said, there are some aspects of the game that aren’t exactly standout. The music in the game is good because Ubisoft clearly has the budget for an orchestra, but none of it stood out to me. It’s definitely not bad, but it’s not exactly great either. The voice acting, on the other hand, is really good. Especially Bayek’s. Sounds in the game overall fit the game well, but there’s nothing that popped.
The graphics in Origins definitely stand out and the world is absolutely stunning, but with that comes its own problems. Namely, loading times. Sometimes the loading times are reasonable, other times they approach unacceptable. The worst part is when they happen in between cutscenes, completely ruining the immersion. A dramatic event in a cutscene will happen and then they’ll switch to gameplay, or vice versa, and in between that switch there’ll be a loading time where the screen goes black and you get the loading symbol in the corner. It gets incredibly annoying.
At certain points the game struggles to maintain thirty frames per second. It’s not horribly often, and it’s understandable for a game of this size, but it happens enough to be noticeable and annoying.
Ultimately, Assassin’s Creed Origins, despite its flaws, is the best game the franchise has seen in years. Hopefully Ubisoft will know how to build on this game to deliver an even better one in the future. But for now this is a more than worthy installment and it’s thoroughly enjoyable.
Also available on: PC, Xbox One