Assassin’s Creed Origins marks a new beginning for the franchise. It aims to mix the best parts of the series with modern open world RPGs and a brand new combat system commonly found in Souls games. It mostly succeeds in all of the above, giving you a gorgeous world to explore filled with interesting side quests and rewarding open world activities.
AC Origins is arguably the biggest open world game this generation. The map is enormous, filled with gorgeous locales and vast deserts. Whether you are climbing pyramids or roaming around in its cities and establishments; the sense of scale and wonder makes you want to explore every inch of Egypt. Even when it felt like I was making good progress, I was consistently stunned by the realisation that there were many more regions left unexplored. There are quests everywhere you go, in addition to tombs, bandit camps, timed events, hidden treasure to find and other side activities.
Combat in Origins is the most noticeable change from previous games. It very much follows the Dark Souls control scheme of light and heavy attacks tied to R1/R2 with R3 for lock on. You can also use an alternate setup that maps attacks to face buttons. Bayek can utilize a shield and a bow, and can equip up to two melee as well as ranged weapons which can be accessed via the D-Pad. I like most of the changes to combat as it makes every encounter more engaging. Dodging and blocking are necessary to survive and depending upon the opponent’s level, you can die very quickly. It is now extremely difficult to come out unscathed when you are surrounded by enemies. It also takes the brutality of the setting into account and combat in Origins is made more aggressive to reflect that.
Stealth utilizes familiar systems as you will still spend most of your time hiding in tall grass whistling at enemies in order to lure them. Scouting is a key part of the game that can be done with the help of Senu, an Eagle that can find key objectives, tag enemies, distract them to help you sneak around or even mark their path.
By pressing R1 and R2, players can use their Overpower ability that lets you perform special attacks that are unique to the weapon class. There is a skill tree that lets you focus on three aspects of combat – melee, ranged and tools. Tools let you equip sleep darts, fire bombs, smoke screens and so on but the same skill tree gives you the ability to purchase rare crafting material or tame animals. Some of the other abilities include a shield charge, increased combo, controlling shot arrows, auto loot upon killing an enemy and so on.
Platforming isn’t as required due to the size of the world and I found myself mostly utilizing it to get out of a tight situation. There are a lot more open stretches in the game and even cities have a lot of space. Nevertheless, the movement is extremely responsive and the protagonist doesn’t feel sluggish or cumbersome to control. I did get into some issues where he would perform the opposite of what I wanted him to do while platforming, but they were extremely rare.
Combat isn’t the only thing that is vastly different as several key aspects of the series have also been changed. There are no more sequences and memories, and the game follows a standard open world rpg structure of questing. Players get equipment as loot and rare items often have special affects like bleed or poison on hit. The equipment system isn’t that expansive as you can only equip weapons, bow and shield in addition to outfits. Still It’s incredibly satisfying to explore hidden tombs in search for these rarer pieces of equipment that can completely change your combat style. Your base health and damage are governed by your level as well as your bracer or breastplate that can be upgraded using crafting material.
Since it reimagines a lot of the fundamental design elements of the series, it makes a huge difference in how players approach the world and what content is available to them. The game is a lot less linear and throws players straight into an open area filled with side quests and points of interest. I do feel that the world at times feels too spaced out, as it extends the time it takes to go from place to place. Quest markers will often make you run around, and in some cases you will spend more time on the road than completing your objectives. Thankfully you can tell your mount to follow the road and press one button to auto walk. This QOL feature makes it convenient for you to go on quests without sacrificing the vastness of the world. The mount itself feels great to control should you choose to go to the desired location on your own.
All quests come with a suggested level and trying to complete it when you are more than a couple of levels below can lead to frustrations. You will die in a few hits and enemies will feel like sponges. That on its own is not an issue, but the main story objectives are too far apart in their level requirement. Which means that if you decide to focus on the story for a while and aim to play a few hours of the main quest, it will extremely difficult to complete them unless you are already at a level above the suggested one. Even if you are, there is always a chance the next quest main quest is 3-4 levels above yours. And of course you will not get enough xp to gain multiple levels, which forces you to do side content before moving on. As an example, after finishing an early main quest that recommend a character level of 5, the very next one said that I should be level 10-11. This massive jump happens over and over, and it completely breaks the flow of the game
Perhaps the most absurd design choice compliments this idea. Your assassinations with the hidden blade are no longer instant kill if the enemy has more health than the amount of damage your blade deals. Its incredibly frustrating to first plan your attack only to realize that you cannot use your most viable stealth tactic because you are 1 level below requirement or did not find enough iron to upgrade the blade. During one particular quest, Bayek gets betrayed and then must assassinate the person who broke his trust. After freeing myself and getting my equipment back, I went to the desired area only to discover that my hidden blade doesn’t do enough damage to kill the regular patrolling enemies in one hit. Open combat is not even an option since you will die very easily. Thus I was forced to retreat and finish my side quests before moving on with the main story.
In previous games, there were a few instances where a particular memory would give you trouble if you did not have the necessary upgrades. But otherwise they would let you play the main sequences or whatever content you wanted without any hindrance. At max you had to spend a bit of money to get new equipment. I have never felt this helpless or experienced anything close to this when it comes to the level gap between main missions and the frequency at which you are required to upgrade/level up. It completely disrupts story momentum when you have to grind levels every 30-45 minutes.
Thankfully, most of the side quests are interesting and feature the game’s more lively characters. Clearly inspired from Witcher 3 and more recently Horizon Zero Dawn, the stories accompanying them are engaging. Aside from the overuse of bandit camp related quests, I enjoyed solving the problems of the people that inhibit this world.
The main story and characters however definitely needed more variety in its themes and storytelling. I found Bayek to be incredibly boring for most of my playthrough. His story is a revenge tale that spends too much time on things that are not directly related to the events that haunt him. While his desires and motivations are noble, his personality and mannerisms are far from interesting. It almost seems like Bayek as a person does not exist outside of this quest of vengeance. Moments of character development are also incredibly rare and as a result I had a hard time investing in him. It doesn’t help that most of the supporting cast suffer from the same fate.
Playing on a PS4 Pro, the game’s performance remained solid throughout. I did not encounter any major frame drops, even during the more chaotic sequences. Assassin’s Creed Origins is a tech wonder with gorgeous art and assets. The game crashed on me once and during a particular boss fight, Bayek would refuse to move unless I pressed X upon getting knocked over. Other than that, I did not face any major bugs or glitches.
Assassin’s Creed Origins is massive, beautiful and brimming with content. If you preferred the main-story driven nature of the previous games, you will find the game’s pacing frustrating. But that should not stop you from experiencing the many ways it aims to improve the gameplay and the surprises it has in store for fans of the series.