Assassin’s Creed Origins

Assassin’s Creed Origins is the tenth game in the Assassin’s Creed series. I’ve played the first seven, but gave both part eight (Unity) and nine (syndicate) a pass. Origins is apparently something new, and it was created after Ubisoft finally took a break from yearly releasing new additions to the franchise. Let’s have a look.

The story

The game starts with a view of Pharaoh Ptolemy visiting the town of Siwah. A man looks up at him from the crowd. Flash forward a year. The same man, now bearded and with dreadlocks, kills a man named Rudjek in a temple. Flash again, the player takes control of the bearded man – called Bayek – to fight Rudjek’s bodyguard outside.

Sound confusing? Yeah, that was my initial feeling as well. I actually checked online to see if I had not accidentally started one of DLCs I’d bought with the game. Origins starts ‘in medias res’ and then takes it about five steps too far. I guess the idea was to give the player a quick action-filled opening and not bog it down with exposition.

The problem is: I have no clue who Bayek is or why I should care about what he’s doing. Character is king, and Bayek is not it. I included this exact thing as a writing smell, and for good reason. I think I love Assassin’s Creed II’s opening the best, followed by the first game, and then interestingly enough, the third game (which otherwise sucked). I’ve mostly forgotten the openings of the other games, but the Origins opening will most likely stick with me as ‘that opening that really sucked’.

As the game progresses the story is revealed in more depth, actually explaining why Bayek is killing these people. It’s still a bit cliché, but it works well enough.

The world

The game world of each of the Assassin’s Creed games is as much a character as the protagonist is. I can’t even remember the name of the protagonist in Assassin’s Creed: Rogue, but I do know it’s the one set in North Ameria with all the ships and all the ice.

Each Assassin’s Creed game takes a point and time in history and brings it to life. The crusades, Renaissance Italy, Victorian London, and in Origins: Ancient Egypt.

Of course, Ancient Egyptian history spans a period from thousands of years before the birth of Christ to the time of the Roman conquest. The pyramids at Gizeh were built three-thousand BC, where the famous Valley of the Kings was used from 1500 BC to roughly 1000 BC, and Alexandria was only founded 300 BC.

Origins takes place at the late end of that spectrum, partly in Alexandria itself. It features the famous Cleopatra and Julius Caesar, and shows us an empire filled with the things we know from ancient Egypt, as well as the Greek influences brought by Alexander the Great. All in all, a very cool setting.

The gameplay

In some ways the game is the same as previous installments, but in other ways it differs a lot.

The game is open-world, as the previous games were as well, but the game has clearly taken a page from The Witcher III. The opening scene leads to an hour-long prologue in a single area of the game, after which the actual title rolls. Like in the Witcher, all quests actually have a backstory and associated cutscenes.

The way character leveling works is also more like an RPG than I’ve seen before in any Assassin’s Creed game. You have a level, and a skill tree, and certain areas are meant to only be played at a certain level. Wait, where have I seen that before? Oh yes, in RPG’s, most recently in Dragon Age 3.

One of the interesting new mechanics is that you can use your bird Senu as a kind of drone to scout out enemy camps and pinpoint game objectives. It’s a fun addition to the game, and makes the stealth sections work again since they were broken somewhere around the third game.

I have mixed feelings about open-world games, as I’ve written about before. Unfortunately, publishers have fallen in love more and more with them. I think over a dozen came out this year alone, and it could well be twice or even three times that number. Not only have publishers fallen in love with them, they’ve made them increasingly huge. Not for a love of a large world, but to deliberately make the games a chore.

That’s right, games are being made huge and boring deliberately. Why? To sell you short-cuts. In the Assassin’s Creed Origins store you can buy ‘time savers’ to make you level faster, get resources, or in-game money. And by ‘buy’ I mean ‘buy with real-world money’. It’s pretty messed up really. Imagine theaters playing loud music through a movie and making movie-goers pay extra to have it turned off.

Conclusion

I like origins, where I loved a game like Senua’s Sacrifice. Longer is clearly not better. On the other hand, the game is a lot better than Assassin’s Creed Brotherhood and Revelations. It’s a fun way to spend your time.

If you like the franchise, you can’t really go wrong with this one. If you hate open-world games, steer clear. And if you want a truly meaningful experience, go play Hellblade: Senua’s Sacrifice.

Author: Martin Stellinga

I'm a science fiction and fantasy writer from the Netherlands

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