Assassin's Creed Origins
Whenever I play a new Assassin’s Creed game, I feel like someone trying to rekindle my love for an experience long past. The roller coaster of emotions the series has taken me on, veering between enraptured enjoyment and seething dislike depending on the entry, has been incredibly tiring to the point of just wanting to swear off the series were I any more willing to do so. After some time with Ubisoft’s Assassin’s Creed: Origins, I am more optimistic about the series’ willingness to reinvent itself than I have been previously.
“It is a question we ask ourselves,” starts Origins director Ashraf Ismail. “Is Assassin’s Creed just about a hidden blade and a hood?” Ismail describes the conventions of the series, from leaps of faith to tombs, as things the team has to consider. After eight mainline games, trying to make an Assassin’s Creed game that captures every game’s essence is nearly impossible, and the conventions of the series have to be challenged to create a unique, modern game. Origins accomplishes this by revamping the fighting system, introducing loot for weapons and armor, and tying homages to the series to new mechanisms.
The World Fights Back
For the first time, battles are not about just presenting mild inconveniences on your way to the next objective. If Bayek is forced into a position of needing to engage in battle, he is equipped with a weapon, a shield, and a bow to fight his way out. When I came across a fort to take out, I headshot a few enemies and engaged the rest in close combat. I got well and truly beaten by other shielded enemies before I finally stopped trying to play the game like every other Assassin’s Creed title and actually get aggressive with enemy bandits. It is not expressly more difficult than other games in the series, but my mindset with the game had to change before I could tackle it effectively.
This Is Not Just Bayek’s Quest
The previous Assassin’s Creed title released in 2015, Assassin’s Creed: Syndicate, had two protagonists telling equal parts of the story as a contrast to every other game following a single character. Assassin’s Creed: Origins walks that idea backwards, but not completely. Introduced at Gamescom, Bayek’s wife Aya acts as his partner and confidant, though it is not known if she is playable. However, it sounds like there will be more playable characters than just and Bayek.
“It is primarily Bayek’s story and journey, and this is the decision we had made because it was what we came to in terms of when we were building this experience, the narrative, the gameplay, this is the experience we wanted to create,” Ismail said. “So, it was a choice that we made [to focus on Bayek]. Having said that, we have other playable characters, we’re just not yet announcing who they are.”
Making Side Quests Matter
As the last member of a group of warriors, Bayek ends up getting lots of requests from the people that inhabit the world. Some citizens tasked me with chasing down a child stealing coin purses in town. After chasing him down, I ended up defending him against some bandits. The thief explained that his family had been sold to bandits to use as thieves, so I was sent to check out the place they were apparently being kept. I discovered a ship fire and, in the process of investigating what went wrong, I had to convince a merchant to tell me what he saw by breaking his wares. Eventually, I freed the child thief’s sister from her captors and she asked me to meet her somewhere else to help exact her revenge. Side quests are nothing new for the series, but it is certainly one of the most extensive ones I’ve played in the Assassin’s Creed games and helped the world-building immensely. It also was not about tailing anyone, which is a plus.
The Challenges Of Accuracy
Assassin’s Creed has always had some problems being culturally sensitive. Middle-eastern Altair was played by Nolan North, an entire game set in France only had British accents, the series has made some decisions for presumably marketing reasons that ended up backfiring. With Origins, Bayek is made as authentic as possible, from voice to skin tone to dialogue, but not every character is quite as accurate.
“In terms of the more British accents, it was actually, that was the balance we did when we have a Greek character. So, for example, Cleopatra [having a British accent],” explained Ismail. “Having said that, we tried to stay true to all, representing all the different cultures that exist there. Egyptian, Greeks, Romans – we tried to make sure they sounded as accurate as we could.”
I left Assassin’s Creed: Origins not entirely convinced this would be the game to redeem the series for anyone who has lapsed. There have been a number of bad games in the series, but perhaps the bigger concern is the how few and far between the great ones have been to even it out. Origins could end up being that game, but we’ll find out on October 27 for sure.
Check out our gameplay of Assassin's Creed: Origins below.