Developer: Ubisoft Montreal, Publisher: Ubisoft
Published: October 27, 2017, Reviewed On: PC
Tested On: Core i5-6500 3.2 GHz, 16 GB DDR4 RAM, Gigabyte GTX 1070 8GB, Windows 10
Assassin’s Creed: Origins is a major reinvention the series desperately needed, and by taking an extra year to work on the template, Ubisoft has brought us something that both feels very familiar, but also completely fresh. They essentially gave us a full-on RPG experience that both integrates well into a large map and the series’ staple game mechanics. This direction is something Assassin’s Creed needed and after 30 hours of rigorous game testing, I can easily say this is the best direction the developers could have possibly chosen. The map’s scale easily compares to the likes of Witcher 3, and unlike the similarly sized Ghost Recon: Wildlands, Egypt is filled with major cities along with unique landmarks of its era. Ubisoft kept modern elements of the series, which I feel was unnecessary with the new RPG focus, but game forces too few of those sections upon the player, which evens out the negatives. On the overall, Assassin’s Creed: Origins is a superb game experience and the series is back in action with an entirely new entry.
The new direction is very welcome for the series and Assassin’s Creed: Origins is not a full-out role-playing game. Provided I have only played a fraction of what the RPG games market has to offer, Origins still plays really amazing and its personally my second favourite RPG game after the stellar Witcher 3. The game’s expansive world provides hours upon hours of content, and after more than 30 hours in, I have yet to discover half of what the ancient Egypt setting has to offer. Bayek’s story is a blast to follow despite some minor issues reflected in poorly written dialogue, and Assassin’s Creed: Origins combines its story, gameplay and world into one excellent package to rank among the best RPGs to have come out in the recent years.
The beauty of ancient Egypt is gorgeously reflected in this game, which benefits the most from running on a high-end PC rig. The level of detail is stellar, and unlike Ghost Recon: Wildlands’ map, the world in Assassin’s Creed: Origins is filled with tons of secrets and explorable tombs. In a sense, the game notably combines the elements from Tomb Raider, Far Cry, Assassin’s Creed and The Witcher series into the one quality release, and because it combines those gameplay traits masterfully, Assassin’s Creed: Origins is not a bad game for doing so. Origins also retains a lot of gameplay elements we’ve come to know from the series, with signature climbing and parkour, although movement here feels more fluid. Speaking of climbing in the graphics section, the draw distance in Origins rivals that of Wildlands and Witcher 3, and its detailed cities further represent the high level of detail. If you can maxx out the settings in full, the game will look stunning, however if you intend to go for anything like 4K, a GTX 1080Ti if not 2 will be required.
Two major elements have been overhauled in this release in the series: exploration and combat. Exploration is much more meaningful now, and you no longer go by revealing icons on the map after climbing viewpoints. Those are still present, but only reveal side quest markers and an array of question marks on the map. Discovering those feels familiar to those who played Skyrim and The Witcher 3, with exploration that feels refreshing for the Assassin’s Creed series. You never know what you’ll find at the next question marker: it might be a ruined temple full of loot or could be an enemy camp, which can sometimes be a few levels higher than the player. This diversity ensures the player would never get bored of exploring the world of Ancient Egypt and Assassin’s Creed: Origins has nailed the authentic RPG feel I’ve come to expect from the likes of Witcher 3 and once again, I find that the move into the RPG territory proved highly successful.
The second, and objectively the most important part is the combat. While Assassin’s Creed: Origins retains most of the series’ signature exploration gameplay outside of combat, the latter feels much more challenging than the hit/counter combat of older games, and also fresh, well at least for the series. Through multiple weapons, fast and strong attack mechanics and dodge/parry, Assassin’s Creed: Origins felt immediately familiar to me after playing many action RPGs; but although its familiar to me and would be to many, these elements offer a fresh start from the repetitive counter-combat we’ve seen out of every Assassin’s Creed game prior. The new combat is a fresh direction for Assassin’s Creed, and I hope the trend follows with its sequels which should ideally now be coming out every 2 years if Ubisoft intend to build upon the strong success of Origins.
The size of Egypt’s map is absolutely enormous, and with recent entries Ubisoft is gearing up to release massive open worlds for many of their major series. While Ghost Recon: Wildlands didn’t exactly make its open world engaging in any way, or fun for that matter, Origins’ RPG style yet again plays to its favor. After 30 hours in, I still have to discover half of what the entire world has to offer (plus 2 new areas in the released DLC content) or even venture into completely unknown areas. In theory, you can explore the entire world of Origins from the get-go, however regions are broken down by player level required and many require level 30 and above. This is partly the fault of the game’s progression system which I will touch on later, but the player could at least explore these regions at their leisure and many of those would be helpful to see through the game’s Adventure mode if you want to reveal them right away. At the same time, gradually unlocking the map remains fun due to a gratifying feeling of exploring new areas as the game progresses. I have a little under half a map left exploring under my belt and I remain excited to visit and discover these new areas. The organic map discovery is what makes spending upwards of 60 hours on this game a good value proposition, and as previously mentioned, having to then travel to each point of interest from discovering a fast travel point is more refreshing than having all points revealed right away. This design is a huge improvement over the traditional Ubisoft open-world gameplay formula and I’ll be hoping Ubisoft incorporates the specific world design of Assassin’s Creed: Origins into their future titles. Also, can we please see an open-world game out of the next Splinter Cell sequel?
The story in Origins begins as a simple revenge tale, and soon develops into a structure similar again to Ghost Recon: Wildlands. Seriously, how many similarities can these games share? One’s a tactical shooter and the other is an RPG on the opposite side of the gaming spectrum but somehow Origins shares more in common with Wildlands than even its predecessors. Then again, it seems Ubisoft is starting to reinvent its games with the new Ghost Recon. Besides any of that, the story has very solid writing, and eliminating targets is only a part of Bayek’s long journey to avenge his song, get involved in Egyptian politics and even establish an assassins’ brotherhood while he’s at it. As my review is coming quite late, I don’t see why I can’t spoil some of the game as I’m sure many would have played this game already. The story is quite interesting too and rivals that of Black Flag, the Assassin’s Creed game that was the most fun in the last many years.
Side quests really shine as well, and a few can even be the strongest points of the whole game or at least highlights. Like this one fort that took me hours to beat even when I was 5 levels above the quest level involving that location. While not exactly interesting, its certainly memorable in my case. But there can be other prolonged quests that have multiple stories hidden behind them: a simple search for someone for example may land Bayek exploring an ancient pyramid – quite an abrupt change I would say. Many others may take a while to complete, and don’t be surprised to find quests that last many hours, however they can be extremely diverse and fun and also allow one to learn more about not just the world, but specifics such as Egyptian politics with Greece and Rome, poverty and bandit raids. Many in Egypt seem to be heavily oppressed by one thing or another, but I still found it fun to complete all of these side quests for that sometimes necessary XP. Sometimes Bayek ends up a few levels below the recommended level for next story quest, which can force a bit of a grind and is a slightly annoying feature when those who prefer story quests would want to play through the game. Yet again, since side missions are generally diverse and most are not boring, I don’t mind having to do something new instead of following a somewhat predictable storyline. Paired with enjoyable gameplay, Assassin’s Creed: Origins still remains fun after I’ve put 30 or so hours in.
It would be redundant for the reader to hear yet again about the revamped combat for the series, so won’t touch up on that in this category. The remaining elements that consist of previous Assassin’s Creed gameplay mechanics provide a nice blend to the new RPG combat, although some tweaks are noticeable as well. The climbing is much more fluent and some segments may require more running skill than we’ve come to expect from the series. Leaps of faith are still quite present, as well as sometimes annoying Animus segments. The modern story continues to be boring so I won’t discuss it, but this time the interruptions from Bayek’s journey are minimal. Assassin’s Creed: Origins is still partially a stealth game, which blends nicely with the RPG combat as I still have gameplay choices. I could stab everyone quietly in the camp to take over or I could watch my new swords easily slice up enemies as I just walk into a fight inside. There were a few nice touches such as ship combat segments taken out of Black Flag, but I didn’t find them as fluid or satisfying due to the simple fact they were rather short linear stories. As such, while Assassin’s Creed: Origins got rid of major issues found in its predecessors but retained a lot of gameplay from previous entries in the series, it also introduced a lot of new elements which in the end make a perfect blend between an RPG and the old-fashioned stab-em-up of Assassin’s Creed.
The game’s progression is often at odds with itself and serves as one of the game’s only weaker points. The skill system is not particularly impressive, and few skills actually make a difference or introduce a new combat system. For example, leaping shot is a great skill to have with ranged weapons, but there are far too few interesting ones in the game’s large skill tree. Most skills just offer a boost to XP or money earned and those incremental improvements don’t exactly serve justice to an otherwise stellar RPG. Levelling up is also fairly uneven and I often found myself checking off multiple side quests before I could proceed to the next story mission. As in any other RPG, player levels are earned through exploration, combat and questing and each quest features a suggested level. Gear is also broken down by levels and new loot is tailored to the current player level, although Assassin’s Creed: Origins enables to upgrade most weapons to continuously keep them in the inventory, which I found neat for my legendary weapons acquired with the DLC pack. But seriously, it’s a little bit cheating if you use those. The loot system is fairly generous with high-end or legendary weapons as well, and it’s always useful to keep at least one weapon of each type available – some combat encounters can be best taken on with specific weapons. Collecting loot adds to the fun of the game and kept me engaged throughout my entire playthrough, which is something every RPG needs to have and Assassin’s Creed: Origins otherwise delivered apart from its uneven progression.
What I really appreciated with the loot system was the diversity of weapons it gave me: 4 types of bows, dual swords, regular swords, dual-handed axes, sword and shiel, etc. This shows greater emphasis on player choice and there’s a fair bit of diversity in how the weapons handle plus the combat is extremely satisfying with meaningful hits and executions as in the Witcher 3. The combat’s flow has been designed really well and the screen never gets too busy with action, although the field of view is limited to the disadvantage of the player and its very easy to miss attacks incoming from off the screen (which is how I died a lot of painful times). While a minor issue, a field of view slider wouldn’t hurt or tilt of the camera can be changed to provide both deeper player immersion and eliminate some of these glaring issues. Assassin’s Creed: Origins also avoids the repetition seen in most Ubisoft games and while many exploration elements and travel time can be considered boring, it is all part of the game experience.
Assassin’s Creed: Origins also packs a few interesting features, such as its built-in photo mode that is easily activated by pressing down on both sticks of the controller. It’s a neat trick when you are doing reviews or want to share screenshots with others and while the mode is simple, it didn’t disappoint in taking high quality shots. The camera can also be rotated freely which provides for some great shots of the game’s environment, however its worth noting that the mode is only limited to Egypt and can’t be activated during the modern times. The game’s exploration mode has also been talked about a lot, and comes as part of 3 DLC packs available to download for the game. This mode removes all combat out of Origins and adds commentary about the game’s locations and historic context – it’s basically for those who want to take a break from all the action and enjoy a relaxing game. The other two content pieces – The Hidden Ones and Curse of the Pharaohs I’ll be fully reviewing in the future so they will get their own separate articles.
Assassin’s Creed: Origins gave the series a fresh breath it needed and has established the franchise as a fully-featured RPG which served greatly to its benefit. The overhauled combat is a nice change from previous entries and the RPG focus really shows through progression, questing and the plot. Origins is really enjoyable to play and offers us a setting many have wanted for years with its enormous map of Ancient Egypt. The plot is not complex, but side quests serve to further flesh out the lore of the game’s story and its world, and give players something diverse to do from the main plot. Mission design is executed perfectly for the most part and Assassin’s Creed: Origins offer more player freedom than ever thanks to its multiple weapons and the RPG-style combat. Ubisoft succeeded with reinventing the series and Assassin’s Creed doesn’t feel stale anymore with this entry. If anything, the RPG focus is a feature that should be used in all following releases. Assassin’s Creed: Origins is definitely worth checking out and offers an extensive amount of content to get through.