Ever since Assassin’s Creed II sold 1.6 million copies worldwide during its first week of sale, Ubisoft have been throwing new sequels our way essentially every year. But after Unity’s faulty debut and Syndicate’s overfamiliarity, Ubisoft really needed to step up their game. Thankfully they surprised everyone by adding an extra year to the development process of their newest outing Assassin’s Creed: Origins.
Of course, two years between releases still is a short time in the greater scheme of things, but it was a relief not to receive another Assassin’s Creed clone before people really had any time of respite away from it. Now, gamers have been graced with Origins: set in the Ptolemaic Kingdom of ancient Egypt, with the Roman and Greek Empires lurking on the sidelines.
The story follows the footsteps of Bayek of Siwa, a Medjay (basically an Egyptian policeman-cum-bodyguard). After some clichéd traumatic events, Ubisoft take a more unique and refreshing approach to the character’s past, which makes his story a lot less predictable. Bayek is one of the best protagonists in the Assassin’s Creed franchise, ranking well alongside fan favourite Ezio. In fact, Bayek’s charm and personality shows how little effort Ubisoft had put into their previous starring assassins.
Bayek travels across Egypt, hunting down The Order of the Ancients, the forerunners to the series’ central antagonists the Templar Order. While more than a classic revenge plot, the story isn’t striking enough to distract from the bountiful side quests that all have charming and entertaining stories behind them.
The world Ubisoft have created is undeniably commendable. The environments are phenomenal. The deserts are vast and empty, yet still feel alive. The cities are overwhelmingly beautiful and grand. Ancient Egypt was very much alive and vibrant and Origins makes sure the player knows it in every second of play.
The gameplay is a lot more polished, too. Freerunning and parkour require far fewer buttons – simply press one button to go up and another to go down. Combat is more technical and fluid, punishing you for any impatience. Stealth feels more natural and yet more difficult. Senu – this game’s version of the renowned Eagle Vision, an actual eagle – allows you to locate targets, enemies, treasures and animals. Yet this doesn’t make you invincible. Most of the time keeping track of the location of enemies isn’t easy unless you’re monitoring where they are every few seconds. Upon being seen even for a second you have very little time to vanish back into the shadows before getting detected. Everything in the game has become more challenging but also a lot more rewarding.
Overall, the game is a vast improvement on its predecessors. It calls back to the original with its simplicity and takes after series pinnacle Assassin’s Creed II in improving everything and anything the previous games did before. The RPG style is adopted well and Ubisoft really makes it work. Progression in story, abilities and even Bayek’s personality are seamless, all of which makes Origins one of the best Assassin’s Creed games to date.