Reviewed on PS4, copy supplied by publisher.
Did you know ancient Egyptians spoke English, but with heavy vaguely North African accents? Well they did. They were also responsible for 19 Assassin’s Creed titles being released over the course of ten years. Depending on who you ask, this is either a terrible thing or an okay thing. I won’t lie, I haven’t been a fan of the Assassin’s Creed series for a long time, but the good news is that Assassin’s Creed Origins remedies this.
The game tells the origins of the fabled creed of assassins – as the title suggests. For the most part, this gorgeous open world title is a greatest hits compilation of past AC games, but it still manages to do its own thing and stands out due to its strong characters, compelling setting and variety in gameplay.
The story has you play as a Medjay named Bayek and his wife Aya, as they battle with their past amongst the turmoil of Egypt in 48BC. It’s actually one of the first Assassin’s Creed games I’ve played and not been bored to tears during the story segments. The stakes were high enough and the emotional journey strong enough to keep me engaged.
That being said, the future/animus story line still comes across as jarring to me, even though the narrative of this aspect in Origins is slightly more interesting than in others.
Playing the game itself there is a deeper sense of immersion for the player. Egypt is wonderfully realised, and just exploring temples, the wilderness and cities is fantastic. On a PlayStation 4 Pro the visuals were up there for games I’ve played this year, especially for one with a dynamic and open world such as this.
While the main story will keep you fixated – with your usual set of “kill this dude” mission types – the game’s crafting and side missions add depth and variety. It’s all very much in the Ubisoft ball park, with towers to climb, points of interest to discover and collectibles to gather. Criticisms here aren’t exactly new, from Far Cry to Watch Dogs, we’ve talked about how Ubi like to stuff their maps with icons for a while now. The only difference with Assassin’s Creed Origins is that I was actually motivated to check out the angry swarm of markings on my map.
Getting around the large map can be a pain in the butt unfortunately. In Assassin’s Creed Origins you have a camel at your disposal to ride around on. This camel can auto-ride itself to an objective marker, which sounds good in theory. However, in reality I found the camel flips out and loops around in circles more often than not. The humped idiot runs 200 metres in one direction, only to double back for 200 metres, and then double back again in an endless loop of pointless and long camel donuts. This is particularly annoying if you want to move to a point that’s far away and leave your game running to make the journey whilst you grab a drink, only to come back and see your dumb ass camel has been doing laps of a sand dune for the past five minutes. On a few occasions my camel also ran into an enemy stronghold because it didn’t walk around the danger zone, getting me killed in the process. Saying all this, camels are kind of assholes in real life, so maybe it’s intentional.
Not all the animals in the game are dicks though. The bird you can use to tactically survey maps is a familiar but awesome addition. Ubisoft have a trend of adding similar features across a range of their games, and this is one I can get behind. The Far Cry Primal bird was kind of rehashed in Ghost Recon Wildlands with drones, and now it’s back as a bird in AC Origins. But hey, it’s a cool mechanic for scouting a level and planning your assassination, so I’m a fan.
When it comes to actually being a lethal assassin boy, the level design in Origins makes the variety of weapons at your disposal pretty damn exhilarating to use. As with past AC games you have a fair bit of choice for how you take on a target, and picking the right tool for the job is something that is worth weighing up for practicality and fun. If you’re taking on a small army, you might want to drop the blunt weapon and dual wield swords for aggression and speed. Or if you’re like me, you’ll just sneak around firing arrows at everyone from the shadows.
Now it’s time for the mandatory 2017 “look at these naughty microtransactions” part of the review. It’s kind of hard to avoid games selling stuff to you now, which really sucks. It sucks a lot, especially in an open world single player game.
Most of the microtransactions in AC Origins are cosmetic items that you can get in-game anyway according to Ubisoft. However, the micro menu has a habit of loading up when you’re trying to customise your character with regular old clothing. On several occasions I opened the menu hoping to quickly equip a new sword, only for the store to pop open and show me all the loot I could be spending my money on. I’m sure this was just me accidentally hitting the wrong combo of buttons, but once you’re in, leaving isn’t a quick process, and for those like me who adore alternate costumes, it’s a sinister temptation.
Overall, Assassin’s Creed Origins is Assassin’s Creed at its finest. The sheer magnitude and beauty of the world, with roaming and dangerous wildlife is worth experiencing, even if you’re not a fan of previous titles in the franchise.