“Assassin’s Creed: Origins isn’t quite the best of the franchise. Instalments such as Assassin’s Creed II and Assassin’s Creed IV: Black Flag serve as examples of the best the series has to offer but Origins is certainly up there, blending RPG elements and new gameplay mechanics, reinventing the series when it was at risk of becoming stale.”
Level progression can be a tricky thing in video games. Make it too easy to level up and midway through you’ll be lambasting through enemies like they’re cardboard. Make it too hard and you’re forcing gamers to monotonously grind to get through the main story, a task that should be the game’s primary focus for the player to complete. It’s pleasing to say that Ubisoft Montreal’s Assassin’s Creed: Origins does it perfectly and to great effect on the player. Early on in my Origins career I, playing as protagonist Bayek, came across a settlement where a high-level enemy fended off my every attack and struck me down with a blow to the chest. I returned with vengeance, only to meet a similar bloody fate. “I’ll return later and have my revenge,” I say to the nameless foe. Twenty levels later I still have not had my revenge. Further attacks have left minor damage to my enemies armour but he has responded by mercilessly sticking his sword in my neck and causing me once more to retreat with sorrow. I know the only way to defeat him once and for all is to level up and then belittle him in the way he has me.
“It is apparent how much the series has changed since Syndicate, the last instalment just two years ago.”
Main story quests act very much the same way as my lust for retribution against my nemesis. A recommended level is attached to each quest and often this is higher than the player’s current level. The way to keep progression moving is to explore new locations, complete side missions and loot treasures. Ancient Egypt is the playground and it is massive. At the time of writing, I have played for almost twenty-four hours and only uncovered perhaps 60% of the map. It’s a tremendous area that is surprisingly vast and takes patience to travel across. It might even be too big at times, its scale daunting when you realise how expansive it is. Most activities in Origins will reward you with XP meaning you’ll always be furthering your level bar.
It’s a little disappointing that Origin’s world can sometimes seem empty. There is always something to do but areas lack the volume of collectables previous Creed games boasted of. For some, this will be music to their ears but for this player who relished in searching for chests and Helix glitches, areas of the map feel a little desolate. Side missions are plentiful and one of Origins’ strengths as they are varied and have emotive resonance, their storylines never treated as trivial or mere errands. These make-up for a large amount of gameplay, essentially replacing collectables. A related irk is the sparseness of areas where free-running is a traversal option. This aligns with historical accuracy but with emphasis on your mount to get you from location to location, there is little point to climbing up and leaping to buildings. Origins give the player the chance to scale a country as opposed to a single city but it’s saddening to see one of the series trademark gameplay staples given minimal attention to.
Another change, which is mostly for the best, is the combat system. Gone is the button mashing to attack and to counter. In its place is a heedful and attentive system that encourages players to plan and scrutinise each of their encounters. It is all too easy to be surrounded by enemies on foot and horseback, neither shy of attacking you with a sword upfront or an arrow from behind. Some enemies seemingly can phase through your shield defences making encounters frustrating, especially early in the game when your health is so low that stubbing your toe could steal an entire block of health from you. For all its woes, it does make each encounter one of tense and uncertainness, and walking away from a fight leaves a sense of accomplishment to be had.
“Not every new feature has been seamlessly implemented and the loss of series trademarks is disappointing. It’s impossible to not call it fun, however, and it continually encourages the player to keep exploring and find all the secrets Egypt has to offer,”
It is apparent how much the series has changed since Syndicate, the last instalment just two years ago. Foundations of that game reappear here, being able to ride horses and carriages while attacking enemies of the same stature but these similarities are few and far between. Origins resemble that of the RPG genre of video games. You can upgrade your weapons for hefty prices (drachma are easily found but in often small quantities) but every time you acquire a new weapon, it’s worth checking its statistics to see if it can give you the edge in an enemy encounter. The customisation is a rewarding feature which makes my Bayek feel unique to others. The different types of weapons will change your playstyle considerably. Select the heavy axe and Bayek’s blows will be slow but heavy. The double swords make for quick slashes at a time but you need to move in close for them to strike. It makes each players time with Origins their own.
There is so much more to discuss in regards to Assassin’s Creed: Origins. Eagle vision is no longer a metaphysical ability and is replaced by Senmu, an actual eagle that scours the land and spots items of note and enemy positions. The secret tombs and the rewards they reap, a photo mode (a first for the series), the reappearance of the modern day setting.
Assassin’s Creed: Origins isn’t quite the best of the franchise. Instalments such as Assassin’s Creed II and Assassin’s Creed IV: Black Flag serve as examples of the best the series has to offer but Origins is certainly up there, blending RPG elements and new gameplay mechanics, reinventing the series when it was at risk of becoming stale.
Not every new feature has been seamlessly implemented and the loss of series trademarks is disappointing. It’s impossible to not call it fun, however, and it continually encourages the player to keep exploring and find all the secrets Egypt has to offer, all the while levelling up and proving yourself to the hordes of soldiers waiting to gut you. And soon nameless foe. We will meet and I will kill you. Just you wait. I just have to level up first is all.
By Alex Lewis