Game Review: Assassin’s Creed: Origins

Release date: 2017
Version played: Playstation 4 in 2017/2018

The tenth main game in the Assassin’s Creed franchise, the open world stealth-action-adventure Assassin’s Creed: Origins is the chronologically first and is set in the Ptolemaic period of Egypt. Players control Bayek, a grieving father and husband who works as a Medjay – a sort of policeman/protector – in his hometown of Siwa. Through his desire to avenge the death of his son, he has run ins with various historical figures across the sprawling Egyptian landscapes, and is able to utilise various weapons and tactics to cut a bloody swathe through his numerous enemies. As always, there are multiple side quests, exploration and combat activities to mix things up between the campaign story.

+ Bayek may be the best protagonist since Ezio (or Edward, if like me you preferred the pirate). Bayek is shown to have many flaws, and a personal story that rivals the most tragic of plays. His interactions with the less serious participants in his life show a personality sorely missing from many video game protagonists as of late
+ the overworld of Egypt is unbelievably huge, almost overwhelmingly so at times. All throughout there is really dynamic worldbuilding, including lots of letters or notes hinting at interesting locations to explore which may have otherwise gone unnoticed
+ the combat is great, but if you are lucky enough to get a good weapon early, as I was from one of the treasure hunt side quests, then it is incredibly easy. Also unfortunately, there are no penalties for taking the offensive against any and all enemy strongholds, but I suppose it is the choice to use stealth or not that gives the most satisfaction (see: Watch Dogs 2). To be fair, this lack of stealth makes sense in terms of the story
+ there are a huge number of side quests, such as Papyrus scroll riddles which lead to treasure in the overworld. Hunting down (or being hunted by) the enemy Philakitai, ten unique mini-bosses, was a favourite activity, and having them rock up at inopportune times made for some of the most exciting combat I’ve played in quite some time. Despite these intrusions, it never felt cheap, as it was always becaue I allowed an enemy soldier to light the signal fire of the outpost I was massacring
+ there are so many smaller animations that make things feel more alive. Bayek will limp when jumping from too great a height, will shake himself off after getting wet and cover his face in blinding sun or sandstorms. Most importantly, Bayek will also automatically pet the cats if you crouch near them
+ I’m a sucker for a good in-game camera mode (see also: Forza Horizon 3 and Horizon: Zero Dawn), and this game has one of the best I’ve seen. A large number of technical options, for those that like to experiment with exposure, temperature, depth of field etc. are matches by the sheer detail you can capture. The below photo was taken in-game, and every area visible can be traversed. I’ll attach a few more down the bottom here, just because I had so much fun taking them

assassinscreed_origins_2.jpg
This screenshot was taken in-game, and shows everything from the pyramids of Giza across to the lighthouse in Alexandria, and you can walk from point to point with no loading.

– the story is frustratingly cliched. After setting out against a few personal enemies, your list of targets seems to grow every time you think you’re done. These new additions never feel like they are actually part of the overarching story, especially after some early story flashbacks paint a different picture to what Bayek and Aya seem to think is going on
– similarly to the above, in the same way as previous games there is a modern day story alongside Bayek’s, but it is so incredible underdone that it is hard to even think about it without getting mad. The paper-thin “characterisation” of one of these characters in particular is almost laughably bad, leading to a moment of such forced drama that I finished the scene dumbfounded that someone would approve such a plot point
– I ran into far too many technical issues to not warrant a mention, such as dismounting my horse and falling through the world, or somehow walking straight through a wall and being stuck there until I reset. Once or twice is forgivable, but this was just too much
– just as a small, personal negative: I always like the ‘weird’ easter eggs/special locations in these sorts of games. I know Ubisoft is not adverse to them, such as with the Blood Dragon eggs in Far Cry Primal, so I was a bit disappointed that there was not much in that vein here. A few moments when wandering through the desert were probably the closest, but I live in hope that somebody will find something weird in the coming months

> I spent the entire game thinking to myself “no wonder the architecture is similar to Brotherhood, they are set around the same time”. In actuality, Brotherhood was set in the 15th century, whereas this was very early in the first century. I’m an idiot sometimes

Should you play this game: Once I was able to overcome the sheer size of the world, and focus on a few quests in particular, this was an incredible enjoyable game. The updated vertical movement (a takeover from Syndicate) worked perfectly, and the new combat was a huge improvement, even if it was a bit too easy. The story left much to be desired, but the time taken between installments was only a good thing, and this was definitely one of the best games in the series, although it is not quite my favourite.

As promised, here are a few of my other screenshots. I saved a lot of them, so this is just a sample:

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