After the collectively bland releases of Unity and Rogue along with the markedly better Syndicate, Assassin’s Creed went dark. E3 2016 came and went with no news of a new Assassin’s Creed coming. Was this the end of the Assassins? Nope, October 2017 came with the release of Assassin’s Creed Origins for PS4, Xbox One, and PC. After a year break, the expectations were high, they’d taken time to go in a new direction.
A Tale as Old as Time
Origins takes us back further than any game prior. Set in 49 BCE you play as a mercenary/soldier, Medjay Bayek, who is working alongside his wife, Aya. They’re out to take out a cult for killing their son.
As the player, you can empathise with grieving parents, and it has a very real effect on their relationship. Bayek wants this to end so he can get closure, and Aya wants to fight the good fight and focus her whole being on it. Their marriage doesn’t make it to the end of the game, and it’s shown very well through their characterisation. Bayek is soft and fatherly, seemingly being a Medjay as a means to an end rather than because he likes killing. Aya is fierce and has a strong sense of justice, wanting something more for the world. She’s the O R I G I N S of something bigger. Yeah, it’s pretty on the nose.
The main antagonistic force is the Order of the Ancients, they’re after the pieces of Eden to control the world. Sound familiar? That’s because they’re proto templars, templars before the revelation of Christianity and all that. It is a reasonably sized group, each having an animal-based moniker e.g. The Heron, The Ibis, The Crocodile, etc etc. The leader being Ceasar’s lieutenant Flavius, The Lion.
The story of Bayek and the Order of the Ancients is only important as far as it’s an introduction to the O R I G I N S of the templars and Assassins. Aya should have been the main character as she is the main driving force of the game. She pushes Bayek to pursue the Order, and she starts the Brotherhood of Assassins. Bayek is just along for the ride, and he sure doesn’t enjoy it.
They spend the game teaming up with Cleopatra to topple Ptolemy III to replace him with Cleopatra as Pharaoh. Then Cleopatra sides with Julius Caesar and by extension the Order, abandoning Bayek and Aya in the process. Following this, Bayek and Aya take down the Order and save the day but unfortunately, not their marriage. Aya leaves for Rome, takes Bayek’s abandoned necklace as the new symbol of the assassins, and that’s it.
The Main Part, for Whatever Reason
Gone are the faceless protagonists of the last 4 games. There hasn’t been a consistent future present protagonist for four games. The last one was Desmond and we all know how well that went for him.
Introducing Layla Hassan, a researcher for Abstergo tasked with searching for Isu artifacts. Although she doesn’t end up looking for any, she gets distracted by her own snappy one-liners and some mummified corpses. Layla takes the newly found DNA of Aya and Bayek and puts it into her own modified Animus, much to the distaste of Abstergo.
She exits the animus every now and then to talk to her friend and helper, Deanna Geary. Layla is fine. I need a better word than fine. One sec. Thesaurus.com reckons not too shabby works, and if it’s good for them then…Layla is not too shabby. She’s a little too quippy for my liking and has this whole defiant monologue after taking down a platoon of angry Abstergo soldiers. She’s just… not too shabby…
She lies through Bayek and Aya’s life, get’s forcefully and violently fired from Abstergo, before William Miles shows up and recruits her for the Assassins.
The Meat and Potatoes
Thankfully, for the first time in a long time, combat feels fresh and different. It’s like a simplified version of the “Souls” series. Mash the right bumper to victory. Weapons are more diverse than ever with variations of swords, daggers, dual wielding, hammers, staves, axes, maces, and three types of bows each with their own arrow type.
The change is incredibly welcome, peep any of my other analysis’ and you’ll see the combat hasn’t changed much over time and getting a new combat system is tasty. But it’s just kind of meh.
A Lot of Noise Without Much Substance
The melee weapons come with two adrenaline options: a heavy damage dealing strike, and a nerfed Super Saiyan mode which puts you in more danger than helping. The different bows just make it more frustrating to manage ammo. All in all, it’s not too shabby.
Mobility is completely nerfed, gone is the grappling hook, and horse-drawn carriages are nowhere to be seen. Egypt is a wide-open desert with small villages and towns dotted around the map, not a lot to climb, not a lot to see. You have a horse again, and you can call it from anywhere. You can also swap it out between different variations of the horse or camel, and it’s very cosmetic.
Forts are back in force. At every twist and turn, you can expect to find one full of enemies. They’re a little tedious as there isn’t a decent reward for taking them down. The Order is presented as a flow chart of targets, but they’re all main targets and it just serves as a yardstick for progress.
Eagle sense is gone, it’s been replaced with an actual Eagle. Senu joins Bayek as an animal companion that Bayek has a telepathic link to. It lets the player fly over areas to identify mission objectives, and mark enemies to aid in stealth and combat.
The map is huge but poorly utilised. What good is a giant map if you don’t use it? To finish Origins only a third of it is necessary to explore, the rest is just optional. A lot of the individual locations are beautiful, and exploring the tombs is super fun. But why would I try and seek them out in obscured areas when my quest objective is somewhere I’ve already got the fast travel point for? It’s such a shame, and it’s one of Rogue’s many problems that has carried over to Origins. Unity and Syndicate used the whole map for their story quests, and it feels like a massive wasted opportunity.
ARE YOU READY TO RPG?!
The RPG elements have been dialled up to 11 in Origins. The level cap is no longer 10, it’s 40. Each level has skill points to help upgrade your stats. The skill tree is broken into three somewhat intersecting paths: Warrior, Hunter, and Seer. Or, for the layman, melee, ranged, and others. It’s not too shabby, and at the very least makes more sense than levelling up to level 10 and calling it a day.
Side quests are abundant, each giving EXP to help with the levelling. A lot of them are completely optional and annoying, while others are very much not optional and lead to the discovery of the Order members. Can I guess what they are?
Origins serves to introduce the series as a through and through RPG game, with more of a focus on player control and choice. All the staples are here, dialogue options, customisable character (outfits, hair, mount), and side quests. It was bold, but they didn’t push it too far as if they were still worried it wouldn’t work. Even though the last 3 games have all had RPG elements.
Assassin’s Creed Origins is the revitalisation of the series. It falls a little flat in areas but it can be excused because it was trying something new. It’s pretty good, I’ve certainly played better RPGs and better Assassin’s Creed games but it definitely sets up some good mechanics and qualities for the future. I give it 8th place, as it’s not too shabby.