The sum of all parts is greater than the whole was a term coined by Aristotle, today, we call it synergy, and I wholeheartedly see that term being an apt representation of Ubisoft’s return to the Assassin’s Creed series. After the juggernaut success the series saw with Assassin’s Creed II, Ubisoft consistently released game after game each year, culminating with the good, but not great Assassin’s Creed Syndicate, along the way the franchise hit bumps in the road and fatigue settled in. At one point, I was obsessed with Desmond’s struggle, each revelation he encountered was something I needed to dwell on and figure out before the next game rolled around – I would even frequent community boards hounding for clues and leaks, anything to get my fix.
Then each year the series got just a bit more convoluted with spin-offs, comics and mobile games that I lacked interest in or couldn’t find the time to sit down with, I grew tired of the series and felt disappointed by the way Ubisoft pushed out games.
Coming back two years later with a soft reboot is the only move I found made any sense. With so much lore existing and not enough time to absorb it all, Ashraf Ismail and his team at Ubisoft Montreal did the right thing and dialed back the game’s mechanics and the era we played in. This is the origin of the Assassin’s Brotherhood.
I was skeptical all the way up until the weekend before release, there was a stigma I had built in regard to the series and I wasn’t aware of what to expect or to think about what was shown at industry events and to the public.
Everything I thought went out the window when I sat down and experience the new vision for the series seeing Bayek, his struggle and the ancient world we learned about in school was some unfamiliar territory in gaming. Ancient Egypt, Alexandria, Memphis these were historic cities full of culture, life, and stories – the teams at Ubisoft created a country full of all those things, where going from a village to the bigger city feels like a legitimate journey full of danger, riches, and stories to uncover.
Playing as Bayek brings forth a feeling of joy, he is as charming as Ezio, but as savage as Connor, playing as the Medjay, an ancient police force that used to oversee the protection of the pharaohs of Egypt, are now no more – gone are the days where being a Medjay meant something. His tale is heartbreaking, as Bayek and his wife Aya are devastated by the loss of their son, it is up to the couple to unravel the mystery behind the circumstances of their son’s death and the people pulling the strings behind the incident.
As Bayek unravels the truth of his son’s death, the story often goes to dark places, something I wasn’t expecting and a first for the series, I genuinely appreciate how dark the game pushed the boundaries of my expectations, the tonal shift provides a shade of the series I didn’t realize would work well, but with the way things played out, it’ll be hard to leave that move behind.
After an hour of playing, the whole of Egypt is open, and you’re free to do what your heart desires. Returning to the series is a playable modern day third-person section that is woven in between Bayek’s tale, seeing the studio bring back something we’ve all been asking for since Black Flag took me by surprise the first time I left the Animus, and Layla, who is an Abstergo employee, has no idea she is working on a front that the Templars use to control the population is a nice touch, allowing us to connect with her in a way we couldn’t with previous games.
Combat in Assassin’s Creed Origins has shifted away from the previous entries in the series. Instead, Ubisoft adopted a Souls inspired combat system, allowing for more visceral encounters with soldiers, raiders, and animals. Bayek can block attacks with LB or L1, as well as parry with a timed press of A/X and LB, L1 which stuns enemies and gives Bayek enough time to take his opponent down. Light and heavy attacks are mapped to R1/RB and R2/RT and Square/X is now a dodge button. With a loot system implemented for the first time in the series, you’re constantly swapping between swords, spears, heavy weapons and different bows, and all the weapons feel different.
Moving away from an action-adventure game into a straight up action RPG, Origins introduces an experience system, a first for the series. Everything is tied to this system, and everything you do adds to your tally, areas around the map are tied to level suggestions, attempting to tackle an area above your level will result in death but there’s nothing telling you not to go to those areas. I found myself wandering into territories finding new quests, hunting for materials, taking pictures and discovering hidden tombs. Everything felt organic, never feeling out of place, and never penalizing me for moving to another quest in the middle of finishing up the main quest. There’s a ton of freedom given to us, it’s a trust relationship I can’t see myself going without in the future.
Senu was a sore spot when it was revealed that in lieu of Eagle Sense, we were given an actual eagle to help our hero in his journey. I didn’t approve of Senu and I’m glad that I was wrong about this. Using your pet eagle to scout forts, hunt for treasure, locate targets and gain a better sense of what you’re up against fits in well with the setting. Dozens of hours in, and I find myself counting on Senu for everything, she’s Bayek’s most trusted friend and a tool at his disposal.
I played Assassin’s Creed Origins on PlayStation 4 Pro, and I did encounter a fair share of texture pop in, as well as minor issues with having Bayek freeze in place unable to move or react to the environment and the only solution was fast traveling away from the area and returning to the area I was in. Minor things like NPCs not standing on the ground and hovering a foot in the air was a constant thing that occurred in each village.
After a stagnant entry set in Industrial London, the decision to forego a yearly cycle and focus on providing a coherent game was the right choice. Invigorating the series with new blood and new mechanics provides a unique experience full of quality content, interesting characters, a beautiful backdrop to play around in, and most importantly, a fun game start to finish. I have one question as I close my review: what took the series so long to get here?
EDITOR’S NOTE: Assassin’s Creed Origins is a big game, and we have two different reviews about the game.
Surprisingly enough, it’s been two whole years since we’ve gotten an Assassin’s Creed game. Shocking everyone, Ubisoft announced that the Assassins would be taking a hiatus last year, breaking a nine-year release streak. Now, Ubisoft and the Brotherhood are back, and they’re taking us to Ancient Egypt! Assassin’s Creed Origins has players take on the role and story of Bayek, in Ancient Egypt (or I guess present Egypt for Bayek). This is a game that any true fan of Assassins Creed has been waiting for. The game that finally tells the tale of the Brotherhood’s Origins.
Origins is definitely one of a unique Assassin’s Creed. The entire way the story is being told is different, starting more in the middle of the story rather than the beginning. The combat system is also totally different, and it’s great! The bumpers and triggers do a majority of the combat and defense. You can control your melee weapon, shield, and bow with the bumpers and triggers. The game also now requires you to lock onto enemies while in combat. I prefer this control scheme much better, it gives the combat a tighter feel while also retaining a sense of fluidity. It’s also nice on the hands having the combat controls localized to one region of the controller rather than all over. Also, the ability to use a shield is new to the series and it’s definitely an addition I would like to see stay.
One thing I’m a sucker for in video games is crafting systems. I love gathering things and upgrading my gear and usually, it’s something I try and get done in the first half of the game. Origins introduce a new crafting system in this game and it’s great. The crafting system isn’t really unique, but it’s definitely new to the world of Assassin’s Creed. Something that shocked me about Origins is, weirdly enough, a number of climbable objects in the world. In the previous Assassins Creed games you would look at something, think you can climb it, and end up just running up it and falling back down. Origins presents us with the complete opposite. I was looking at things thinking there was no way I could climb them, but to my surprise they were climbable. This really adds more depth to an already very open world.
Origins sees the return to the classic Assassin’s Creed formula that was the backbone of many of the great AC games such as Assassin’s Creed II, Brotherhood, and Black Flag. Thankfully, the team who worked on Black Flag returned to take the reins for this journey and I could not be happier. As much as I loved Syndicate, it just didn’t have that classic Assassin’s Creed feeling, and Unity…well…we’re not going to talk about Unity. The game also gives us another great protagonist in Bayek. The Origins protagonist mashes together what was great about the past Assassins into one lean, mean, Templar killing machine. He brings humor to the game but is also pretty damn intimidating when he needs to be. I’m glad to say we can add him to the Assassin Hall of Fame alongside the likes of Ezio, Altair, and Evie Frye.
The settings are breathtaking. The visuals of Egypt have always been a fascination of mine and Ubisoft definitely painted a pretty picture here. The view of Egypt from atop one of the Great Pyramids is rivaled by few other sights in modern video games. Traversing the Nile is also a big part of getting around. When I played Origins earlier this year the water was something that really took me by surprise, and now that I’m able to spend more time with it it really amazes me how beautiful it looks. Either the paddle wading through the waves or knocking some poor fisherman off his boat and the splash that follows, Ubisoft has done a phenomenal job with their water.
The game does, once again, feature a storyline set in the present day. This is an alright feature, but I don’t feel like it’s too necessary anymore in the series. I feel like if they left it as an Assassin’s story and took out the modern day elements people wouldn’t mind too much. These just feel shoehorned in (post Desmond story of course), as such was Black Flag and Syndicate, as is Origins. When we took control of Desmond, the modern day story had a flow of characters we could learn about and grow to know and care about. Now we take control of some random person each time, a person we do not care about.
Right off the bat, we’re introduced to a sort of mouse style way of navigating menus. This is totally unnecessary and isn’t great. This is definitely my biggest issue with the game, as minuscule as it sounds. There’s no reason to include this mechanic. It reminds me of PC games when they get ported to consoles and the team doesn’t bother to make a better menu system. That’s obviously not the reason for this, so why? Why must they hinder my menu-navigating? It just makes my time in the menus much longer having to ‘drag’ that cursor all around.
Quite a few framerate stutters. As much as Ubisoft fixed a bunch of things wrong with the series in Origins, they still can’t perfect the performance it seems. There were far too many framerate issues in the first 30 minutes alone for it to be an issue for me. Frozen animations were also a big problem. Say you were walking and the angle changed, the character would pause for almost a second before resuming their stroll. With now 10 years of Assassin’s Creed and Ubisoft still can’t seem to get faces right. The faces and hair textures should be getting better at this point, shouldn’t they? They still seem to be stuck in 2012 with their faces. They don’t move naturally, everyone looks like a puppet. It’s frustrating when you know what Ubisoft is capable graphics-wise. Their environments are incredible. Faces, not so much.
Assassin’s Creed Origins is the best Assassin’s Creed game since Black Flag and has the feeling of the classic Assassin’s games of olde. While it’s not a giant leap forward, it’s still a step in the right direction for the franchise no doubt about it. Although I did face some of those pesky classic glitches, and Ubisoft’s inability to make a good face, a number of things they got right in this installment greatly outweigh the negatives tenfold. The menu is awful but if you don’t spend too much time in it, you’ll be fine. The game is loads of fun and it’s seriously addicting, there’s a reason I haven’t finished Stranger Things yet and it isn’t because of personal restraint. I’m not going to give my regular spiel about who should buy it. This game was made for Assassins Creed fans, so if that’s you then you’ll enjoy this game.
[A copy of the game was provided to us by the publisher for review purposes.]