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It’s hard to write about Assassin’s Creed: Origins and not mention the release history of the franchise. With the exception of the first two games (released in 2007 and 2009) Ubisoft has pumped out a new Assassin’s Creed title annually for almost a decade. Despite becoming one of the most popular series in the industry and being financially successful for Ubisoft, fans and critics alike began to express a great deal of fatigue and frustration with the games. Listening to the critiques levied against them, Ubisoft decided to take a year off from their hooded assassins and spend an increased period of time refocusing the format of the series. This extra development time has proven itself to be the best decision Ubisoft could have made, because Assassin’s Creed: Origins is arguably one of the best games the studio has released to date.

Set amidst the sand and stone of ancient Egypt, Origins takes the franchise to the earliest point in its timeline. The new assassin for this game, Bayek of Siwa, is a man on a quest for vengeance. When a shadowy organization murders his young son, Bayek sets out across the desert in search of those responsible. Joining him on this quest is his wife, Aya, who happens to have one of the most crucial roles in the story.

In typical Assassin’s Creed fashion, Bayek’s journey allows him to mingle with some of the most influential historical figures of the era, such as Cleopatra and Julius Ceasar. Without spoiling anything, it’s almost single-handedly due to Aya that Bayek is able to make these connections. Unfortunately, the inclusion of some of these characters (despite being performed phenomenally) completely halt the story and attempt to change it into something else. The plot in Origins is at its best when it’s about Bayek and Aya trying to find justice for their child while also trying to keep their marriage alive. The added focus the historical figures bring on politics and military strategy slows down the story and completely removes all emotion.

Story issues aside, the actual setting of ancient Egypt is masterful. One of the greatest parts of a giant open world game is exploring everything it has to offer and learning about the world that’s being presented. Origins manages to simultaneously function as a giant sandbox (no pun intended) for you to explore and have fun in and also teach you about a culture and time period. From musty old tombs, lavish palaces, and small fishing villages, Origins is packed with a variety of locations for you to discover. These locations are also packed with detailed notes and side quests that convey information on what it was like to live in this period. Taking things a step further, there’s a free “discovery tour” mode releasing soon that will actually give players a guided tour through the world and further break down the culture, history, and life of ancient Egypt. Ubisoft’s commitment to celebrating this time period and teaching players about it is worthy of respect and stands as a fine example of the potential of games as educational tools.

With a large open world like this, having meaningful activities is important in order to keep players engaged. For the most part, Origins falls into the typical Ubisoft checklist for open world game design. There’s outposts to capture, animals to hunt, secret areas to scavenge, and points of interest to visit. While these things might be commonplace for the genre, they’re handled excellently here and the backdrop of the Egyptian setting adds a breath of fresh air to otherwise overdone features. I loved sneaking through bandit camps and quietly assassinating enemies. I found my encounters with crocodiles and hippos to be heart racing and memorable. Seeing the pyramids in the distance early in the game and finally reaching them felt like a reward. I also got to scale them and slide back down, which was pretty cool.

Where Ubisoft managed to really shake things up with the Assassin’s Creed formula is by adding a leveling system. As you fight enemies, discover new areas, and complete quests, you gain XP and level up. Egypt is divided into many regions, and while you can freely visit any of them, they all have a recommended level for trying to tackle them. With just a level or two difference between you and your enemies being a huge deal, it actually gives you an incentive to explore and complete side quests in order to be ready for whatever comes your way. I never felt like Origins was unfair in its difficulty, and if I found myself having a tough time against foes I could always go back to a lower leveled region and complete some side quests to level up. As long as you heed the warning of the level recommendations, you shouldn’t have to worry too much.

There’s also improvements made in the combat system, and while it’s become a bit of a cliche to say, Assassin’s Creed now has similarities with Dark Souls. Origins has a fairly robust loot system that allows you to equip Bayek with an arsenal of weapons that all function differently. Swords provide a decent amount of damage at the cost of range, clubs deal massive damage at the cost of speed, and bows are every stealth aficionados best friend. Melee combat has a large emphasis on positioning, countering, and waiting for that one perfect moment to get a strike in. Successfully landing hits and killing foes increases Bayek’s adrenaline meter, which can be used to unleashed a devastating overpower attack when full. Each weapon type has its own overpower attack, so it’s worth playing around with all of them until you find one that fits your style.

While some fights are unavoidable, stealth is a perfectly viable option in most scenarios. I preferred to avoid open combat and stuck to the shadows, quietly using my bow to land headshots on my unsuspecting victims. Regardless of which approach you take to combat, landing hits and killing foes grants XP, which is used to increase your health and damage and level Bayek up to unlock new skills. The skill tree is broken up into three branches; The Warrior, The Hunter, and The Seer. The Warrior branch is where you’ll find the majority of your melee related skills, such as extended combos, the ability to use a shield to charge enemies, and an increase to the rate at which your overpower meter fills. The Hunter trees focuses on your stealth capabilities and allows you to efficiently use Bayek’s pet eagle to survey the battlefield and tag enemies. Lastly, The Seer branch is devoted towards things such as getting better deals at weapon shops, crafting thrown weapons, and even taming animals. Every ability across all of the branches feels helpful, and even if you reach the level cap (40 in the base game) you can continue to fill your XP bar and gain points to distribute on upgrades.

For those who really enjoy the combat, there’s a bunch of late/end game content for you to dive into. From powerful fights with war elephants, to a full fledged gladiator arena with a bunch of crazy boss fights, there’s still ways to challenge Bayek’s capabilities in combat long after the main story missions are completed. There’s even occasionally event bosses that take the form of Egyptian gods for you to slay. These fights only appear for a couple of days at a time, so it’s worth routinely checking back in and having a go at them. Besting them in combat unlocks legendary pieces of equipment, so they’re a good way of powering up Bayek even further.

As is the case with all of the main Assassin’s Creed games, Origins has segments set in modern time as well. These parts are tricky to discuss without going into spoiler territory, so all I’ll say is that I thought these segments were interesting plot wise, but underwhelming from a gameplay perspective. They do a terrific job at bridging the modern day plot into the next arc, but they aren’t exactly captivating to play. That’s not to say that these moments make this an experience to skip, it’s just to give you a heads up that Bayek’s part of the story is the one you should play this game for.

If anything, my biggest surprise with Origins is also my biggest piece of praise. During my entire 85 hours spent with this game (that time is going to be shorter if you don’t go after the Platinum trophy like I did) I never once encountered a bug, glitch, or any kind of weird animation hiccup. The fact that an open world game of this magnitude was such a pristine ride is mind blowing. I don’t know if it’s just because of the extra year of development time the game got, but this was one of the most technically stable experiences I’ve ever had with an open world game.

Lastly, I’ll leave you with this tragic (and slightly humorous) tale that perfectly captures my thoughts on the game. I was cleaning up some room on my PS4’s hard drive and decided to delete my save file for Assassin’s Creed: Black Flag that had just been sitting there for a couple years. Well, I hit delete on the wrong one and deleted my 35 hour save file for Origins! After initially freaking out and saying a few choice words, I decided to suck it up and restart the game. Here’s the thing, I never once felt a sense of boredom or repetition playing through that first 35 hour chunk again. Origins is a game that delivers a world that’s such a joy to be a part of that having to replay a lengthy portion of it again felt like a privilege and not a chore. If that’s not a testament to how great the game is, I don’t know what is.


The extra year of development time on Assassin’s Creed: Origins was a wise decision. This is a large sprawling game that not only gives players a lot to see and do, it teaches them about a specific place and time while still being fun. There’s parts of the story that drag it down a bit, but the core tale of a husband and wife seeking revenge for the lost child is powerful and captivating. Along with completely revamped combat, a robust loot system, and an expansive leveling/upgrading feature, Origins makes a handful of welcomed additions to the Assassin’s Creed franchise. However, when all is said and done, it’s your time spent exploring Egypt and learning of its culture that makes it truly special.

SCORE: 9/10


– Zack Burrows