Taking a break in the gaming industry seems to be a rare thing in the industry this day when you have yearly blockbusters like Call Of Duty and not to mention Assassin’s Creed. Ubisoft heard our strain and complaints with the yearly releases and how it was holding back any true progression with the AC formula. Assassin’s Creed: Origins is the entry we got after the one year break and you can definitely feel where the R&D process was spent and the extra time was used in the extended development cycle. AC: Origins is a paradox in that it may remind you of the first game in the series but at the same time feel very different. So what trade-offs have been made to make this game unique and does it live up to the past legacy or hold a candle to the fan favorite Assassin’s Creed 2?
AC: Origins is a gorgeous game, whether playing on base model consoles or not. The PS4 Pro and Xbox One X both supply 4k experiences for this game which make it an even bigger sales point for those already sunk into the hardware. However, the detail on a base Xbox or PS4 alone is stunning when it comes to the animals, plant life, lighting, landscape, and overall minuet details. AC: Origins possibly has some of the best waves of water you could ever see and is just stunning all around. The character details such as hair and polygon smoothing on some of the backdrop civilians could use work while overall the main characters look pretty good for the most part.
STORY AND CHARACTERS
Players take on the role of Bayek, a self proclaimed medjay (the old Egyptian Pharaoh guard) who is all but non-existent at this point. The time is around 49 BCE and it centers around Cleopatra, the last active ruler of the Ptolemaic Kingdom of Egypt. This is important because it drags the Roman Empire into all of this and helps set up key figures you meet like Julius Caesar. In Bayek’s case, the story is a tragedy for him and also his wife Aya. Very early in the game a shadow group known as “Order Of The Ancients” trick Bayek into killing his son because he refused to help them uncover ancient secrets.
This brings up the issue of Bayek’s character. Bayek is peculiar as he is overcome by rage and revenge but he still acts normal around the other people around him. His self-proclaimed role as medjay means to him that he should also protect and help Egypt’s people. This being so he has to interact with a lot people and especially those he knows well. Its brilliant in a way because you feel like Bayek lives behind a mask.
The thing is, when you really start looking more at what isn’t related to us, we notice that Bayek’s heart is filled with hatred and revenge but his face and outside feelings (beside when facing his aggressors) will not show it. You have several “love” scenes with him and his wife but to some, Aya and Beyak are too chipper and there is never the human emotion of sadness or depression that would definitely fit somewhere into all that. Instead of Aya and Bayek “sexing it up” all the time, there should have been more of the emphasis on the actual loss aspect. The game doesn’t seem to care and truth be told, the son is only there so brief and strung around that you may feel no attachment. Its hard to care if the characters seem to shrug it off so quick.
Besides that we do generally have a quip where we enter the “modern world” and introduce the whole Animus and Abstergo tropes. You get to play as Layla who has went on her own to find memories of the now mummified and dead Bayek and Aya. Its cool if they are working up to a modern Assassin’s Creed game to send off the series in a blast but it just feels like filler as it always does. These stories could be told better and perhaps richer without all this, so one might genuinely hope there is a purpose for it in the works. Still, its a staple of the franchise, so its most likely here to stay.
Combat is the big change of this year and its now more open and free in a lot of ways. Controls have changed for better of worse and now its much less “Batman” and more crowd control and tactical. You can’t just blindly swing and the variation of enemies from archers to big bulky shield guys and those in-between, take planning. You can stagger opponents and even counter blocked attacks if done just right and dodge when necessary. It feels more in the kin of “Dark Souls combat” but just not as robust, of course.
With this change also comes a bigger and perhaps more controversial change for the wrong reasons. Enemies have level bars now and based on that they have a bigger health pool and sometimes cannot be assassinated in one hit. Taking more hits in the body is a nice idea… and with different soldier tiers, it makes it more “game-y” and that is fine. The issue is that head-shot arrows on a non-helmeted target usually will not kill and of course the issue of the assassin blade not assassinating… is laughable. As some have said, without Aya… this game has no real “assassin” feel about it because you’re always getting cheesed by higher level dudes unless you grind hours on end.
This is not to say its not the right direction… because it is… its just that its taken itself too serious and punished the stealth player. You get a skill tree in AC: Origins which lets you focus on a build that can be one of three classes or a mix in-between. Become a Hunter, a Warrior, or a Seer and get special abilities that mix up the game. Once again, this isn’t a bad step either but it feels like the main game formula might have been nerfed to make these more relevant. Just introduce more heavy armored guards with thick helmets and let the little peons and assassin targets be rewards for our fine marksmanship or stealth abilities.
NOTE: You level up with each mission but equipment must also be upgraded to be be effective. You can find weapons in chests but things like the assassin gauntlet and armor strength need to be crafted. You hunt animals in the game and take their pelts or raid carriages full of supplies and use them to build new gear upgrades. Hunting is fun in this game and I believe you are going in the right direction Ubisoft but you need to carefully look at how serious some elements should and should not be that these types of things build up on.
Why do we need loot boxes and selling of “time” in pay to play single-player games? Ubisoft and Warner Brothers both seem to think this is a good idea. AC: Origins has this currency called “Helix Points” and they are “proud” to give you some for free in hopes you’ll get addicted and buy some with real money to speed progression. We will talk about progression in a minute but let us stay on topic. Keep in mind, you can also buy some items out-right without gambling for them but to say it still isn’t “pay-to-progress quicker” would be a lie.
There is a section in the store that even calls some of the things you can buy, “Time Savers”. Please ask yourself the question… “If I don’t have time to actually play the game… why did I buy it to begin with?” Sure, you don’t have to buy anything in the store but AC: Origins sure makes a plea in its overall design to entice you to buy them. For starters, the side-quests are so plenty and level capped with increasing difficulties that you cannot simply just play to enjoy the story. This leads us to the part where we talk about progression a little deeper.
AC: Origins builds a rich world and it forces you to crawl like snail through it. It was mentioned before that all soldiers have levels now and with that being the case, main missions (and even side) will be nigh impossible if you aren’t 1-2 levels close to the recommended level (in most cases). Side-quests are nice to be there IF you want to do them but let us be honest, the game practically forces you to do them if you want to progress (or hey, you could always buy them helix points and progress quicker, right). Simply put, side missions are basically pseudo main-missions… because you are forced to do them to level up enough. AC: Origins walks too close to the online MMORPG formula, with excess grind, and it certainly is not an MMORPG, where you’d expect this.
The side-effect of ham-fisting the incentive for time savers and adding a required grind makes you actually lose interest in the story rather quick too since its so spaced out (in opinion). It’s a shame really because the story and time period is very interesting.