I slipped into the darkened Roman encampment on the edge of the Nile, moving unseen through the shrubs, luring guards to meet my hidden blade and be placed neatly within the reeds so not to be discovered. I made my way to the main pavilion, where I found my prey; the commander of this garrison, asleep. My blade slowly and quietly bled the life from him without anyone else aware what horror had just transpired here.
Quickly making my way out of camp, I eluded the soldiers on patrol, back out through the recently discovered cavern entrance, which takes me through a lion den. Dispatching the alpha, I was able to tame the big female of the group and bring her to my side as I ventured back to town.
“Excuse me” a voice called out. An Egyptian woman stands garbed in a shaggy robe. She tells me that her son was taken by a camp of Romans nearby asks me to rescue him and kill the man responsible.
I check my map and see the marker is in the same bloody camp I had just been to!
“Oh for fuck sake!”
Assassin’s Creed: Origins in a nut shell.
The latest sandbox, explore the map by climbing towers and scanning the area, enemy camps to kill the leaders of, and hundreds of collectables scattered over the map like some kind of maniacs treasure hunt, in this copy/paste Ubisoft game that they seem to keep churning out.
They had taken a year off of the annual releases of the Assassin’s Creed series to really put together the best that they could do, and if this is the case, then they really needed to work a little bit harder.
It is not to say that AC: Origins is a bad game, not at all, it is just that I have once again found myself a little disappointed with the franchise after more unmade expectations, and a glimmer of hope of what could have been.
One thing I said in my History of the Creed article is that the games need to focus on the story. They have sacked off the future storyline of the series and had wishy-washy versions ever since the death of the lead character in AC:3. Since then the future stories have been pointless and add nothing to the game. In fact in Black Flag (which is regarded as the series’ finest), the future story confused us even more in an already confusing story.
This time around we play a former Abstergo (the big bad company) employee who has gone to Egypt to explore the memories of an ancient assassin, the first in fact, as they form the very creed itself, and we learn the origins of them.
However, we are given hundreds of text and audio files on her laptop to learn more, but it is just such a dull time consuming way of giving us this info, that 90% of players won’t even bother to read it (I know I didn’t). A lot of work has gone into the game, but in the wrong way. Like the history of the main setting of the game is available, and it is clear that the team has once again done their homework on their setting, but the information is only available through endless text files that we could just easily go onto Wikipedia to find out.
Anyway, this former Abstergo employee can explore a small area around their camp, but there is nothing here and time away from the memories of the assassin just feel like we are hitting a brick wall. Even the big reveal at the end of the character who comes to visit her is a let down. A character cannot be exciting on their name and link to another character in the series alone, they need to be worth the wait. Chances are, this future storyline won’t go anywhere, much like that unanswered question in Black Flag about the Oracle in the future and the past, and all of this will be for nothing. So it asks the question; why even put it in there?! Just sack off all this bollocks and just focus on the main story!
In this case it is Bayek of Siwa (who we hear the name about 100,000 times throughout the course of the game), who is a Medjay (again something we hear another 100,000 times); who are some kind of ancient Egyptian helpers. If you need a man killed, call a Medjay. If you need four heron feathers found, call a Medjay. If you need an item stolen, call a Medjay. They pretty much do any old odd job someone might have knocking about.
Anyway, the game begins in the heat of the moment as Bayek is just launching his attack against his enemy, who we have no idea about anything and no relations to anyone, as we are given NEW controls to use!
From AC:1 – AC: Syndicate, Assassin’s Creed has used the same control scheme and this new Dark Souls-esc fighting took me a while to get the hang of (as I found myself ducking every time I wanted to take a hit), but that is my fault. Not a fault in the game. As the game cannot be criticized for enhancing their gameplay (an aspect of AC that was not actually broken), as this is something that does make a series evolve.
So we are given no information and must learn that Bayek’s son was killed by proto-Templars (the baddies of the entire series) and Bayek must travel across the ENORMOUS map hunting them down, as well as being mad about the Greeks and Romans who have invaded various regions of Egypt and so the world Egyptians know is starting to change.
Bayek and his wife work alongside Cleopatra and Caesar to kill the Templars who have wronged all of them.
Of course naturally the main antagonist is not someone we have heard of before and so killing them, and getting retribution for Bayek son’s death, feels a little all for nothing.
There are some nice moments when we finally do kill the targets where we get some one on one time with them in the Duat (the realm of the dead), which is not an uncommon thing in AC, but we get a more meaningful personal moment with these targets… which would have been good if we actually cared about them or knew them before hand.
The main questline feels a bit pointless and was not the best story that could have been told when it came to forging the very Creed that has entertained us (sometimes) over the last decade.
In fact this will be the last I will speak of the story, as it is just that unmemorable. It is just a shame because if Ubisoft actually put some effort into it, then the game would be amazing, as there are some great things to be found here in Assassin’s Creed Origins.
This is the perfect setting for Assassin’s Creed as Egypt has ancient tombs, dangerous wildlife, mountains, canyons, pyramids to climb, and vast desert wastelands to traverse. Origins really does a great job in this aspect. It looks beautiful and exploring the desert on horse or camel back, having hallucinations or discovering something hidden buried beneath the sand, is excellent.
The main probably is that, like every Ubisoft game now, it is littered with collectables and location check lists that just make us feel like we are conducting business and crossing things off.
I know that this is more for 100% completionests, but there is not much else for us to do. If we stick to the main quest then we will be thoroughly disappointed. We can’t do that anyway, as some areas of the map and some quests have a minimum level in order to do it (otherwise you will just be insta-killed by the enemies), so you do need to do some grinding now and again.
I found myself doing all of the quests in one area before moving on, but this lead me to doing some bastard side missions that actually feel pointless. I regret wasting a lot of my time on them and when I finally got down to about 16 left (out of the hundred + that feature in the game) I sacked them off and just focused on getting the main story done.
One of the worst things is what I mentioned in this review’s intro. It is that you come across a camp and decide to clear it, only to pick up a side mission a little later that sends you there, so you may as well have just waited and done it then.
I swear that there is a side mission for every single camp in the game.
It is a shame as in the first tutorial area of Siwa, I completed a camp and picked up a quest item which was not even for a quest I had picked up. When I finally did pick it up, I was able to just hand it in. In fact Bayek even made a comment on how he had done it already. I thought that this was wicked as it allowed me to do what I wanted and if I picked up anything then I could just hand it in as and when I discovered the quest giver, much like Skyrim, but alas this was not the case. I ended up having to revisit a lot of areas just to try and do it all.
Even though I was not going to 100% it, I did feel like I wanted to do a huge chunk of AC: Origins, which I felt that I did, but I really do think that this altered my opinion on it.
The game brags about having over 100 quests, but when these quests are go to location A and kill B, or pick up B, and return, then it just feels like a complete waste of time. How are you going to get people to put the effort into completing it if you did not take the effort to make it in the first place?
There were sessions I had of this game that felt dull and boring. I was just wadding through side-quest after side-quest, trying to do them all, and it was not fun. Most of the side missions suck. There are a couple that are good, usually when exploring some ancient tomb or ruin, but most of them are very basic indeed. Which makes me feel that Ubisoft, instead of spending the time polishing the game, they were busy making the game as bulky as possible; making the map colossal and throwing in as many pointless missions as they could think up.
They have thrown in a battle arena and a chariot race, but these are just the new throw away gimmicks that plague the series and will not be seen again after this.
Gameplay-wise, there is very little that has change from the previous titles, other than the Dark Souls combat. It is just that the buttons have been mapped differently (Heavy attack and Light attack, along with shield and melee, are now assigned to the shoulders), and there is a lock on system that allows you to focus on one enemy, which is good for one on one battle with a human foe (as animals run around too much shuffling your camera around constantly), but in a multi-person battle, you have no idea what is going on, so it is best to leave it off. In fact I completed the game without it, as sometimes there is something like a projectile which has a targeted zone appearing on the floor, most of the time I was not able to see this because of the slightly zoomed in camera focused around the targeted enemy, so I found it better to just hack and slash.
It is the same basic RPG that the series is known for. You gain XP from enemies, missions, location completion, etc, and gain levels, which gives you a point to spend on three different skill-trees, allowing you to unlock abilities previously available in other games (which is a classic now in AC games).
You find various weapons and shields that have higher attack power than your current one, and that mixed with the sheer number of weapons you find, means you are constantly micromanaging your inventory (which has no limit) so you can stock up on shit loads of everything, but destroying old weapons allows you gain resources for crafting, or in other words, upgrading your equipment (such as more arrows, more damage with your hidden blade, better armour, etc).
It is just all the same Ubisoft (Far Cry, Watch Dog’s, Ghost Recon) thing we have seen before.
We have an eagle which acts as a drone used for spotting enemies now, and this works really well… maybe a little too well. We can scan enemy bases and mark up every target (inside and out) with little ease.
Oh, we have a Witcher-esc item scanner thing, which allows us to see nearby collectable items in a circular zone around Bayek.
There is a really cool Easter egg for those of you who have played Final Fantasy 15. I won’t say what it is, but if you have played that and am playing this, then it is worth engaging in the hidden side mission to discover this Easter egg.
It would have been brilliant if this only appeared if you had a saved file of FF15 in your console, much like the classic quotes from Psycho Mantis in Metal Gear Solid, but it is another misstep from Ubisoft.
So the game remains much of the same, but just on a bigger scale, yet Ubisoft have not yet learned that quality is so much more memorable than quantity.
When I sacked off trying to complete every pointless side-quest, I did enjoy the few little extra things that I did. I explore the entire map, unlocking all the various locations and getting the last few viewpoints I needed, traversing the vast desert looking for something to explore, taking down the Animus glitch (which was a massive Egyptian god boss in the middle of the desert), I took on the various War elephants hidden on the map, and climbed the highest mountain, which was all a great bit of fun. It is shame that this sort of stuff is not the main focus of the game.
There are some sea combat missions as well, which I can only assume were shoe horned in to make us remember Black Flag, but without proper context, these just take us away from the main game. It is not a patch on the boat battles of BF, and not being able to modify the ships, makes them even more pointless time wastes that is the main bulk of this hollow game.
I had to really push myself to finish the main storyline, as on Saturday I just had a 3 hour session just to finish the main quest line off, leaving the final 12 side-quest not to be complete.
If I would have left it on this note, then I would have given this a lower score, but the next day I gave it one more play session and did a few more fun stuff that I wanted to do; achievement hunting, the hardest side-bosses in the game, completing a couple of extra bits here and there, and it was a really good note to finish the game on.
Overall, Assassin’s Creed: Origins is unfortunately more of the same. It is not the Black Flag we had hoped for, and there is far too much pointless activities to be found on its enormous map. You have to commend Ubisoft for making it so big and so damn good looking, but in reality it is a polish turd.
While it is not a bad game, AC: Origins was another dull mark against a once great series in this pointless origin story of how the assassin’s creed was formed.