I still remember playing the first Assassin’s Creed in my dorm room. It was 2007, I had no idea where my life was headed, but killing NPC’s in style in ancient Arabia made sense. Assassin’s Creed didn’t introduce anything new, it’s essentially a stealth game with a combat system that misses the mark. But what made it stand out was its emphasis on culture. The series takes place over various time periods of time and each one, including Unity, managed to engage me in ways other stealth games failed. I felt like I was in that period of time and the added conspiracy themes of Templars vs Assassin’s helped further bridge this franchise.
However past attempts have made the series feel bloated. Ubisoft decided to follow the COD routine of releasing their AC titles annually and that’s not even counting the in-between episodic games. With Origins, Ubi made the wise choice of stepping back and giving the series a year break. No doubt this helped a lot as entering Origins felt refreshing. The interface, physics, and massive world of Ancient Egypt helped really set it apart from recent entries and truly feels like the first big step the series took since it began.
For starters the setting is absolutely breathtaking. The idea of ancient Egypt didn’t really click until I finally started playing. The world is massive spanning different types of towns, cities, and desserts. I spent a good portion of my journey just getting lost and trying to adapt and even then it wasn’t enough. However know that you can’t explore everything in one go. The story and your character level more or less dictates your freedom. Like most open world games Origins adapted RPG elements so fighting foes are determined how well you’re equipped and how strong your character is. Personally I don’t mind this a lot as having every corner opened from the get go will just spoil the fun.
Origins is what the title implies: the beginning of the lineage that would span generations. While at first there is no indication this is a prequel (in fact you could play the entire game without having experienced the previous entries) it does manage to setup the series foundation in terms of lore. The game’s main protagonist called Bayek, is a local enforcers who eventually gets involved in political issues. Things go sideways and Bayek suddenly begins plotting a personal vendetta on those who abused their power on him. The setup may sound generic but there is a real drive behind Bayek’s action. The whole time I couldn’t help but sympathize with him and the struggle he faces. Ubisoft have really upped the drama here but it pays off and as a result makes Origins is the best in the series in terms of plot.
The combat has been changed as well. Previously entries would rely on parrying and button mashing but now there’s a clear emphasis on blocking, attacking, dogging—and yes, that does sound a lot like Dark Souls combat but it does enough to stand out. It’s a more complicated approach and at times makes me wish things were dialed back to Black Flag. There’s also a deeper emphasis on gear and looting, the usual fluff we see these days. Not that it’s a bad on the contrary swapping my Bayek’s gear adds a whole new layer that rewards exploration.
The changes may seem harsh but at its core Assassin’s Creed Origins is still an Assassin’s Creed game. From the iconic hood to the parkour to the massive populated world—there’s a distinct flow that has defined the series for the past decade. Origins just feels like a natural evolution to that formula.