This is it. I have gone pass the Chronicles trilogy and through the previous games to a new era of Assassin’s Creed. What this new era has in store for me? Well, read and find out. As always, you can find the rank of the game here. So, let’s get into it.
Instead of going forward in history, Origins goes back to ancient Egypt. You play as Bayek, a Medjay who protects the Siwa Oasis. One day, he and his son are kidnapped by masked men and forced to open a secret vault. While fighting the masked men, he accidentally killed his son, which led to him exiling himself from the Medjay and hunting down all of the masked men.
There are many things different between this game and the ones that come before it, but story isn’t one that delineates from the formula too much. The plot still revolves around killing up the food chain, but I do think there are some smaller things around this that makes this game unique. For starters, this plot goes on for much longer, as for the story just keeps adding more targets to hunt. It does make room for more memorable story sequences like riding with Julius Caesar or all of the neat kill cutscenes with the main baddies, but it also felt never-ending. There were multiple points where I thought the story would end, but it just kept going on and on to the point of annoyance. The story eventually culminates in the discovery of the final boss, the head honcho, the man pulling the strings to be…Caesar’s right hand man Flavius who kind of just existed in the story up to his reveal. Plot has always been mixed with this series, but I don’t think this game nails the story.
While I think the story does a good job at showing how The Brotherhood started, I don’t think it goes over the traditions of them that well. Why does Bayek climb to the top of tall things and trust-fall into piles of leaves? Where did the hidden blade truly originate? It does explain some things like how the symbol came to be, but I wish there was a little more there.
This isn’t to say the story isn’t only bad. Just like in previous games, it’s the characters that can make or break a story, and I found the characters to be great in this game. Protagonists, antagonists, and everything in between all felt like real characters with character arcs and emotions. On top of that, there is a good chemistry between Bayek and his wife Aya, and watching them together is like watching to professional guns-for-hire who are also in love with each other. The characters are a joy to be around, but I don’t think it saves the story from being a okay slog.
If you were to look at the main games from Assassin’s Creed 2 to Assassin’s Creed Syndicate, you won’t see much difference. Other than AC 4 and AC Rogue, the games have mostly stayed the same in structure, combat, and world design. Even the two sailing games have a good amount of similarities to the rest. After Syndicate though, the series took a year hiatus to reinvent itself, and reinvent itself it did.
For the longest time, I complained about the lack of change to combat. Then, Unity changed it up and Syndicate improved upon it. Origins throws it all out and replaces it with a loot-based RPG system. With this new combat system, each enemy can be formidable (compared to older AC combat where you can combo kill an entire army), as for each enemy has its own level. How well you do against enemies is based on their level as well as your gear score and level. Not only is this aspect of the combat different, but action itself feels different too. You lock onto enemies, you can dodge or use a shield to parry, you have a light and heavy attack, you have a special attack that charges up over time, there is a skill tree where you can unlock new attack abilities, you have a bow and arrow, and so much more. This combat feels more comparable to RPG’s like Breath of the Wild than it is to previous AC games, and I think this change is overall very positive.
There are even more things to talk about in terms of combat outside of the gear score and levels. Bow and arrow can be used in the game, and it is a lot of fun to use. There are four different bow types, and each type has benefits and drawbacks. Also, when aiming at an enemy, you can see how much damage you will do with the bow, which I found incredibly useful. Just like the bows, there are many different types of melee weapons. On top of that, both bows and melee weapons have traits and even elemental abilities to vary things up. Differences can also be seen in enemies, as for there are a variety of common enemies, special enemies, and bosses as well. Just like before, you can attack or play stealth, but this games adds a bird that you can take control of to spot enemies, which helps a lot. Really, the only complaint I have in terms of combat is not being guaranteed stealth assassination kills based on enemy type and level, though I can see it as a way to stop players from going to high level areas early. The combat in this game has seen a major overhaul, and it feels like a true modernization for the series.
Just like the previous main entries, Origins is also an open-world game. Just like everything else in this game, though, things are different here. For starters, the map is ginormous, being a whopping 80 squared kilometers. It isn’t as big as AC 4, but that game was also mostly water, compared to this game being primarily land. Also, despite being a desert setting, this game does a good job at making diverse areas with deserts, cities, villages, mountains, and more. In this world, there is plenty to do outside of the main story missions. There are side missions that also have some good smaller stories to them, outposts to take over, tombs to explore, an arena to fight in, gladiatorial racing, locations to loot, boss animals to fight, mini events like assisting rebels or avenging a dead assassin, and much more.
As for getting around this world, this game offers some options outside of fast traveling. There are still sync points around the map just like in every other game, but this game also offers horse (or camel) and boat. Both horse riding and sailing are super simplified, with horse riding especially being easy compared to other games like Red Dead Redemption. Not only that, Origins offers the ability for the horse auto-traveling, which will travel to wherever you put down a marker without controlling it. It isn’t perfect, as for there are plenty of people you run over along the way, but being able to travel to a destination while being on my phone is great. Horse riding isn’t perfect, though, as for you can’t control the speed of the horse, and it tends to go slower near city areas. As for on foot, you don’t need to hold a button down to sprint anymore, which I think is a change that should’ve happened awhile ago considering I am pretty much always running in AC games. Parkour feels slower than previous games, but I also don’t think I did as much parkour in this game compared to previous games. Still, there are plenty of ways to traverse this huge map.
There is plenty to do in this game, but as the main missions got closer to the finish line, the gameplay started to feel grindy. Earlier, I said the story doesn’t know when to end, and the gameplay suffers as a result of this. As the main missions kept going on and on, they kept requiring higher and higher levels to complete, and leveling up took longer and longer to do at those higher levels. This meant doing an hour of side mission or location grinding just so I could do the next mission, which made completing the story annoying. Similar to this are the character upgrades, which are upgrades to your clothes that give you more health, damage, carrying capacity, and other passive boosts. These upgrades require materials to upgrade, but the required materials for higher leveled upgrades are rarer and harder to find, slowing down upgrading considerably. Your bird can mark material locations, but it only helps so much. Finally, this game has microtransactions for cosmetics, XP booster packs, weapons, and more. They don’t feel intrusive, but they certainly don’t help either. The game does start to show its true colors towards the end, but I still had a pretty fun time playing through side missions during this time.
One thing I do want to touch on are some of the more technical aspects of this game. For starters, I think this game was poorly optimized for PC, because my game was constantly chugging in more populated areas despite running the game on a GTX 1080 and an i7 processor. Also, as a result of the maps size and wanting to run the game better in general, I found large city areas to not be as lively as Syndicate or Unity. Despite the poor performance, Origins has a lot of quality-of-life improvements to its settings. There are a lot options around gameplay, graphics, controls, and even a benchmark test and performance chart. I played this game with a PS4 controller (which on PC can be a gamble), and was happy with the fact this game supports the controller and even has PS4 icons. The last thing worth noting is a photo mode, which means plenty of pics from me (and a gallery, which you can find here). Also, you can see other’s photo mode pics on the map if you want, which are neat to see. I love the options around this game, as for it made the experience a lot easier to play.
Once you see the credits roll, there is still plenty to do. You can still go around the map and complete all of the activities and side missions, though one flaw with this is a lack of a progression chart saying how many of each task to complete. There is a tool called the Animus Control Panel, which are a bunch of sliders manipulating various aspects of the game. There is also new game plus, which operates like any other new game plus. Finally, there is DLC content to play, as well as the ability to boost your level to 45 so you don’t have to grind to play the DLC.
The two major pieces of content in the season pass are The Hidden Ones and The Curse of the Pharaohs. Both offer separate, smaller maps to explore, and both maps offer the same open-world offerings as the main game. The first DLC, The Hidden Ones, is overall unremarkable. The area is small, the story is basic, and it doesn’t really do anything interesting. Curse of the Pharaohs, on the other hand, is much more interesting. Not only is the area more unique and larger, the whole game has a supernatural element to it. In this DLC, there are actually portals into four different afterlife locations, and each area also has things to do in them. There are also supernatural enemies and bosses to fight, though I can’t think of any difference between them and normal enemies. The DLC doesn’t count towards the rank, but they add even more content and even some interesting ideas to the game.
Something that I think is much more interesting than the DLC content, though, is a mode called Discovery Tour. In this mode, combat is taken out of the world and is instead filled with small tours exploring various aspects of life in that area during that time. In other words, they made the game into a giant museum. It may sound boring, but I found this mode to be fascinating. Not only are the various facts about life, events and locations interesting, I found seeing some of it actually happen with the NPCs surprisingly fun. On top of that, it shows just how well-crafted and meticulous this game is, and I think it does the best job at capturing the historical element of Assassin’s Creed that other games fail to do. There are few issues with this mode like not being able to auto-follow the trail of a tour and differences of the NPCs between Discovery Tour and the normal game, but I think this mode is one of the coolest modes I have ever played in a video game, and I wish more historical games did something similar.
In conclusion, Assassin’s Creed Origins is a step into modernity for the series. It makes a lot of bold moves, and while not all of it pays off, a lot of it does. Either way, I am glad that this game is trying new things. There is a lot to love in this game, and I can’t wait to see how it will be improved in future games. One of the biggest reasons Assassin’s Creed 2 has stayed at the top of my list is because of the innovations it made and the foundation it created that many future games in this series used. I think Origins has done the same thing for a new era of Assassin’s Creed, and I think many games beyond Odyssey will look back to this game. At the end of the day, though, I don’t think this game reaches the high heights of AC 2, as for there are enough flaws around the edges that keeps this game from being one. Because of this, I am putting this game at the number two spot.