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Assassin’s Creed: Origins Hands-on Preview: Don’t make me axe you twice

Ubisoft (surprisingly?) decided to give Assassin’s Creed a year off in 2016, giving the franchise some time to breathe. This couldn’t have come at a better time — people had clearly lost faith in each yearly iteration. By taking a break and setting Origins at the beginning of the Assassin’s Creed timeline, this is Ubisoft’s chance to wipe the slate clean. Origins’ aim is to impress long-time fans, bring in new ones and court lapsed players, all at once.

In short, no easy feat.

The new protagonist, Bayek, is a Medjay — part of an elite group of Egyptian soldiers. I was told the position is quite influential… but apparently not enough to command any respect with the first NPC character I interacted with. The aforementioned jerk was beating a young boy, and when questioned gave me plenty of attitude along with a story about the boy’s connection to missing treasure. As the wonderful bloke that I am, I offered to fetch the missing loot in exchange for the boy’s safety.

My first move was to — obviously — turn into an eagle in order to scout the nearby area. Soaring above the town, I located two statues that the missing loot should be near… along with more than a few guards. I dove down to the bottom of the local lake and found what I was there for: sunken treasure. I also lucked out and obtained a shiny new bow from a nearby chest. Assassin’s Creed: Origins has a larger focus on RPG elements than previous entries in the series; its new loot system is very much a part of that. There are different tiers of loot with various extra strengths, perks and abilities. Think Borderlands, Destiny or World of Warcraft, but with a hooded guy armed with a hidden blade.

New bow in hand, it was time to approach the ship covered in bad guys in order to loot the second treasure stash. Ever the Assassin, I stealthily lurked in the shadows, snagging the treasure without stirring up any trouble. Who needs a high-tech drone when you’ve got an eagle?

As I expected, Mr. Jerk was ungrateful and wouldn’t stop hitting the innocent boy he had promised to lay off of. I only had one logical course of action at that point: assassinating him. It wasn’t graceful. It wasn’t sneaky. Hell, it almost wasn’t an assassination — I fumbled the first attack, struck him with the second and at that moment, two guards came to see what all the commotion was about.

The guards made the right after call after seeing my less-than-impressive combat skills and began attacking me immediately. As I had recently proven I wasn’t any good with my sword, my first instinct was to get the high ground and reassess the situation. With that in mind I jumped up on a small rock and relied upon my new bow. A couple well-placed arrows to the face at short range, and it was time to see what else the demo had to offer.

The Arena offered another taste of combat, pitting you against waves of enemies, interspersed with bosses, for chances at loot and experience. After my previous embracing encounter with the city guards, I decided it was time to learn how to chop people up in the name of justice. Things were far from easy at first but it only took me a few minutes in the Arena to become comfortable with the game’s new battle system. Enemies of both the melee and ranged variety come in waves of four or five; there are also rotating spiked pillars scattered around to punish prospective assassins who aren’t paying attention. Once I gained a little confidence swinging my mighty axe and began to know the map a little, I was no longer having any trouble with the waves of baddies. I decided it was time to knock it up a notch and take on a boss.

Mr. Big Bad was, of course, accompanied by a usual crew of nasties. Once they were out of the way it was time to hack away at the man himself. Trying to keep my distance, I decided it was safest to use the long reach of my axe — but very quickly, I realised I was hardly dealing any damage. Changing tactics, I positioned myself so the boss was between me and a group of the rotating spiked pillars that had given me such trouble in the early rounds. I staggered the boss, forced him into the spikes and began my victory cheer.

Assassin’s Creed: Origins is a chance for Ubisoft to redefine the series. I liken it to an Etch-a-Sketch:  clearing away your previous work, small pieces of the former project will remain and be worked into the new sketch. Origins is still Assassin’s Creed, with a stealthy, exploration-filled open world that now possesses RPG elements. I’m worried that in trying to redefine the series, it may be taking on too much and lose some its charm. Half an hour of hands-on isn’t enough time to get true sense of this, so we will have to wait and see how it pans out.

Assassin’s Creed: Origins heads to Windows PC, Xbox One and PS4 on 27 October.

Stevivor was flown to E3 2017 as a guest of Ubisoft to cover the entire event. This relationship does not prevent Stevivor from covering other publishers’ titles, nor does it impact the opinions of any other of our authors covering E3 2017.

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About the author

Shane Wall

I'm just a simple man trying to make my way in the universe. A game geek turned audio engineer/musician. Shane's life is a delicate balance of video games, music and science fiction.