Open world rpgs are among my favorite type of video games, and when I first read rumors that the next Assassin’s Creed game would be centered in Egypt, I could not contain my excitement. Thankfully, the 10th installment in the franchise does not disappoint. Between what has made the franchise generally successful in the past and some new additions, Assassin’s Creed Origins has firmly established itself as one of the more polished games in the franchise.
Set in ancient Egypt, Origins offers players the opportunity to take part in the actual origin story of the assassins. Bayek, a Medjay responsible for the welfare of the people in a social sense, is a man led by revenge. This rage leads Bayek to fight against Ptolemy XIII and the Order of the Ancients, a mysterious group of masked men responsible for abducting Bayek and his son. Eventually, Bayek enters into the favors of Cleopatra who seeks to gain power from her younger sibling, Ptolemy. Along with the help of his wife, Aya (at times playable), Bayek manages to manipulate the political environment of the region, which includes interactions with the Greeks and even Julius Caesar, for the benefit of his revenge.
Overall, the story of Origins is strong and compelling. Several moments pulled on my emotions and the greater arc of the narrative balances political messages with the personal stories of a man seeking to restore order both on a personal level and nationally. A number of the quests, both from the main story and side narratives, explore emotionally charged matter to keep the player engaged with the struggles of Egypt’s people. With each quest, I felt that I was helping someone, that my actions had impact even in the corner of some small village in the desert.
Stealth & Combat
A welcome change to the franchise comes in the form of combat. As always, stealth plays a significant part in AC games, but in Origins, Bayek feels a bit “heavier” than other assassins. His movement is slower, and his stride lumbering. While perfectly capable of stealth, I felt as though Bayek was meant for combat, which was fine by me. He’s aggressive and can perform combo, quick, and heavy attacks on enemies. His shield may protect him for a time against lunging enemies or when up against multiple foes, but Bayek can also dodge their attacks or take advantage of more stealthy options.
Initially, Bayek won’t be very successful fighting too many enemies at once, and you’ll need to watch your approach. A number of weapon types can be used (dual swords, heavy blades, heavy blunts, regular swords, scepters, sickle swords and spears) and are in relative abundance throughout the world along with a variety of bows. Each weapon will also have a stat or two such as poison or critical hit. Of course the standard hidden blade is a must and becomes available after a time.
The game also has a leveling system which lets you unlock new abilities and cater to your individual play style. This progression system plays into which weapons are usable at your current level and now come in common (blue), rare (purple), and legendary (gold) form. Each weapon will be at a certain level that can be upgraded at any time to match Bayek’s level. Weapons can be upgraded as many times as you like, so hold onto those legendaries even if they’re level 1.
And as with another Ubisoft franchise, Far Cry, players have options for completing objectives. You can use your eagle, Senu, and her eagle vision to scope out the area, whether it be a military outpost or a bandit camp. Move in stealthily, release a caged lion, or charge in lighting oil jars as you go. The options are yours for the making.
World & Activities
Outside of Assassin’s Creed IV: Black Flag‘s world, Origins is my favorite. Admittedly, I have a bias toward Egypt. I’ve always wanted to travel there, and I’ve collected information on the Sphinx as an archetype for a few years now, so that may have impacted my excitement for this game. However, it is undeniable that much of the world is beautiful and appears alive and authentic.
Anyone familiar with an Ubisoft game map will find much familiar with Origins‘. Icons denote the locations of cities, outposts, tombs, and other points of interest. Despite the desert local, the game is fairly balanced with open spaces and areas to explore. The main story can probably be completed in around 30 hours, but there’s plenty to do by way of sides quests and enough to see to last players at least twice that time. I ended my completionist run at 75 hours.
Side quests and activities are abundant in Origins. The game doesn’t completely avoid the bane of open world fetch quests and the like, but it does a decent job at keeping many quests relevant; quests often are revealing of character, turmoil, and political conflict in the game. Players will have the opportunity to solve mysteries, track down missing characters, fight in the arena, race chariots in the Hippodrome, and even engage in ship-to-ship combat (as part of the main story).
Outside of these regular activities, if taking screenshots is a favorite gaming pastime for you, the game features a photo mode, which only makes sense for a game with so many interesting temples and locations. I loved finding crumbling temples, ships lost to the sand, and other gems throughout the world. There’s much to capture in terms of culture as well. As a side note, I will not complain if more games keep adding photo modes.
Criticism & Final Thoughts
Assassin’s Creed Origins is one of the better open world games I have played and is one of the best in the franchise. The game does have that characteristic Ubisoft “feel” in that there will end up being hundreds of icons on the map and so many side quests to complete that the game can feel overwhelming at times if you get caught up in the map. And while this isn’t an ill exclusive to Ubisoft titles, it’s still worth mentioning. This is of personal preference, but I think that the music could have been stronger and the story, while overall cohesive, could have used additional polish.
The only thing I came across in the way of bugs had to do with Bayek getting caught on the edge of something. But with some crouching and jumping, I was always able to free him. As with past games, there’s a lot to climb, and the developers seem to be improving this mechanic. Bayek is able to clamber up a lot more structures and natural formations than previous assassins and the “holds” or “catches” are more seamlessly part of those structures. There aren’t as many ugly ledges noticeably sticking out screaming “here! grab here!” However, Ubisoft could do more to improve the fluidity of the climbing/parkour system.
After two weeks with the game, I can say that the weapon and enemy variety, leveling and combat systems, story, and world are enough to make Origins a must buy for fans of the franchise and for newcomers. It’s just a fun game. Getting to explore ancient Egypt as Bayek was a joy, and the hours were well-spent. If Ubisoft continues to spend time on each new entry, the franchise could see some significant growth with the next few titles, and that’s an exciting prospect.