The first Assassins are neat.
The Assassin’s Creed series is back after taking a much needed hiatus last year following the release of 2015’s Assassin’s Creed: Syndicate. Although the London-based epic was well received critically, audience fatigue had started to set in and many thought the series was long overdue for a break. Later this month we’ll be returning to the world of the Brotherhood. This time, if the title is anything to go by, we’ll get a look at where it all started; heading back to ancient Egypt in Assassin’s Creed: Origins.
In our four-hour preview of the game, I had the opportunity to see a lot of the early content that Assassin’s Creed: Origins has to offer; it sure was a hell of a lot of fun. The game has you playing as a character named Bayek, an Egyptian-born solider who is trying to protect his homeland and the people who inhabit it. Before diving straight into the story mission, we were advised to go out and try some of the side quests to get the hang of things and level up Bayek to make it easier to progress.
I started my session in a coastal town called Kanopos, and from there I ventured out to explore the surrounding area. It wasn’t long before I came across a group of villagers, offering a quest to recover the bodies of some community members who had been attacked by a group of wild hippopotamuses. While it might have been possible to fight my way through the heard of large animals, I decided to take a stealthier approach and sneak my way through the tall grass to drag the bodies out of the muddy water. After completing that task, another side quest opened up. I noticed as I moved from quest to quest that the side content has a lot of story elements, which keep things a bit more interesting. The developers have put a huge focus on telling these short stories, so there’s some reasoning behind the tasks that you’re doing.
One of the biggest areas of the series which has been overhauled is the combat system. Assassin’s Creed: Origins has moved away from the Batman: Arkham style of combat and more towards what seems to be a Dark Souls-inspired fighting system. Positioning, dodging and strategic attacks are important aspects of this new combat system, as opposed to mashing the attack and block buttons to take out the 20 enemies surrounding you. Also, the notable increase in the variety of weapons and gear that you can acquire really affects the approaches you can take in combat, compared to previous instalments. Weapons have different stats and each class has its own unique ability. When completing combat manoeuvres, Bayek builds up a metre that he can use to unleash the equipped weapon’s unique ability. This ability could be a one-hit, high damage attack on a single enemy or, another example I saw in my time with the game, an overcharged ability where for a short amount of time each attack dealt slightly more damage than normal. The change in combat feels a lot better than previous years and also offers a much more challenging experience.
Before engaging in an area, Bayek has the option to scout the environment using his eagle companion called Senu. Senu can mark enemy targets and points of interest for Bayek, as well as give you an overall idea of how to approach a situation. In one instance, where I was asked to rescue a captive from a bandit camp, I decided to sneak into the camp and wreak some havoc. Spread throughout the camp were a number of lions imprisoned in wooden cages. I approached each one and opened the door, letting them run wild. After the third cage had been cracked open, and the lions were running rampant and chasing around the enemies, I helped the captive escape by hoisting them onto the back of my horse and riding away.
One aspect that I found really interesting during my playthrough was that Ubisoft has put less of an emphasis on the hallmarked parkour mechanic of the series. While there’s still the option to climb a cliff face or scale the side of a building; the regions that I’ve played through so far were nowhere near as densely crowded with tall buildings compared to the last Assassin’s Creed title. This shows they are really trying to do something to change the series up a bit – but there were hints of some city based regions displayed on the world map.
The dozen or so missions that I did complete during my time all felt different from one another. I went hunting for crocodiles, scavenged for items to craft some new gear, survived a brutal sandstorm, got attacked by some vultures, stole a boat, explored a cave, and was chased by some soldiers in a chariot. But when zooming out to the world map at the end of my play session, it was surprising to see just how little ground I had covered. Assassin’s Creed: Origins has a lot to offer, and I’m excited to jump back in and get some more time with it once it’s released.