‘Assassin’s Creed Origins’ Review: A Smooth And Thrilling Return To Form

NOTE: The following review has been re-published and re-edited from it’s original source at UP YOUR GEEK, but the writer is still the same. 

Well, it’s official. The long-awaited new installment to the popular Assassin’s Creed franchise by Ubisoft has arrived and the consensus is slowly rolling in from the general public and I decided to chime in as a massive fan of this franchise. 

Since 2007, Assassin’s Creed has been one of the largest and most recognizable video game franchises, rivaling big names like Activision’s Call of Duty franchise. It is one that has spanned numerous sequels and spin-off games which span across nearly every console from the XBox 360 to the PSP to the PS Vita, novels, comic books, and even a live-action film. After taking a two year hiatus from the franchise with Assassin’s Creed Syndicate, Ubisoft decided to start from scratch, re-group, and re-invent the way the games work on a fundamental level. Assassin’s Creed Origins, like Ubisoft, goes back to the very beginning of this ever-expanding world that we’ve gotten to know since Assassin’s Creed so we can catch a breath of fresh air that could not be more appreciated and puts it above many other 2017 titles because of the amount of innovation it exhibits.

Generally, Origins is a proof-of-concept that a franchise can potentially bounce back and redeem itself after receiving middling to negative reception on the last two installments in the series with Unity and Syndicate as well as low sales which clearly didn’t sit well with executives who felt it best to go back to the drawing board in 2015. I truly do believe that it is on par with Assassin’s Creed II and Revelations, and if not then it still holds a favorable position somewhere within the rankings. Ubisoft got the formula right this time, from taking an outdated system and simplifying it to taking a few pages out of the playbook of the competition. Like many gamers and critics who have paid close attention to every detail behind the development of this game since E3 it’s obvious that the game has noticeable similarities to CD Projekt’s The Witcher 3. Although, they are not 100% comparable in terms of quality. Nonetheless, Origins does hit the right notes in a lot of the right places for me and feels like something that I think fans, old and new, can easily embrace without any hesitation or cynicism. Particularly when the genre of single-player games are arguably on thin ice.

The story of Assassin’s Creed Origins takes us back in time to Ptolemaic Egypt and follows the life of Bayek of Siwa, guardian of his small desert village who suffered a horrible tragedy at the hands of the Order of the Ancients, who are working in the shadows and as we already have seen to have an Apple of Eden and they are starting to get an idea of how it works. Technically, this is really before the Templar and Assassins are established in the universe, like the title insinuates, so it’s more about Bayek and his fierce wife, Aya whose motives do not go beyond revenge as they hunt down members of the Order.  This does not really make for a compelling cause for the Assassins but then again, Ezio re-invented the order and he too was motivated by revenge initially so it may just play into the constant ironies behind them. That is, however, one of a few other story flaws. The game starts off with a very choppy and slightly incoherent beginning that isn’t really clarified until later into the game. It took me a minute to understand the chronology of events which may be rather off-putting for those who expect a more straightforward and coherent introduction in a story. Although, it is like nearly all installments in the sense that it has great characters and plenty to do to vastly compensate for it. No, seriously. There’s so much to do as you traverse across a map that is roughly the same size, if not larger than that of the Caribbean map from Black Flag.

lighting.jpgThis has to be one of the most impressive and ambitious maps that I’ve ever seen in a game and an Assassin’s Creed title which makes full use of the Egyptian scenery to an even greater affect compared to even what Assassin’s Creed II did for the Italian countryside or Black Flag with it’s exotic Caribbean setting. There are moments where you legitimately have to wonder if you’re looking at a picture of an actual Ancient Egyptian ruin or an area of the game like the Pyramids of Giza. That is how well it makes use of the tremendous power of the “next gen” consoles like PS4 and the Xbox One compared to a majority of other games that run on those consoles. After playing just 14 hours of the game, there is obviously still plenty left for me to experience and even when I’m several more hours in I’m sure I will still never be all the way done with it and won’t want to put it down.

The gross amount of things for a player to do in Origins will feel almost overwhelming at first but like with any RPG-styled game, there’s always a pay-off of some kind that keeps you engaged and prove to be rewarding endeavors. You can explore abandoned tombs, conquer forts by silently taking out their denizens or by brute force and taking out the whole Roman force that occupies them. Whole packs of animals can be hunted down and used for resources that can be used for crafting or upgrading weapons and armors. Abandoned buildings can be looted for whatever valuables they may have like drachmas or a higher level piece of armor. Mysterious riddles exist to be solved using only your with all throughout the vast desert environment. Avenging other players whose bodies can be found lying around because they were unsuccessful in killing heavy level foes. Completing daily quests for better gear and cosmetics. It’s an endless world and not even the micro-transactions like Helix Credits can diminish the experience like it would with most other AAA titles. You will not need them unless you want an extra outfit or a unicorn mount (No, seriously. There’s a unicorn you can buy in-game) to show off. There’s also the added bonus that game director Ashraf Ismail said there will be plenty of events in-game where you can win those Helix Credits as a compromise for players spending their time on these difficult events. It’s an all-inclusive game, with or without the DLC and season pass which is exactly what I and many others are looking for.

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As for the technical aspects, it largely stands firm with minor faults that don’t happen all too often. There are occasional quirks with the audio where it may not sync, certain textures may not pop up, and facial animations are a tad stiff compared to previous games which have always been near flawless but I am certain that these are just common day one glitches that nearly every game experiences and will obviously be fixed by Ubisoft in the coming weeks when it is patched. Ubisoft has had plenty of time to learn from the mistakes of prior entries like Unity which was filled with bugs and glitches galore and account for potential issues that may arise during this period of time. They’ll certainly fix it faster than they did with other games, which had few technical improvements to speak of. The biggest technical improvement in the franchise which everyone has been looking at is the combat which as I said earlier is something that yields inspiration from the likes of The Witcher 3 and Dark Souls 2. It is a system that requires actual strategy and not just the same repetitive button mashing that the franchise was championing for years and really forced players to try their hardest at improving their stealth tactics. This is why sometimes stealth may be a better approach if you are encountering an enemy of a higher level or facing multiple enemies at once and you want to spare yourself the trouble of possibly dying because there’s just too many foes to take ou but that is more up to the player than it has ever been before. If you manage to land a hit on your enemy, they will not fall for the same tactic you pulled on them before so this definitely makes for the interesting challenge of having a player switch up their game plan and keep them on their toes. Particularly if they fail to land a hit which creates an opening that their enemy will of course exploit and deal heavy amounts of damage. This honestly is what I look for in a game whenever I start to consider purchasing it or playing it. I want it to feel like a fun but difficult challenge and I want it to be coming from the developers which the combat definitely comes off that way. I don’t want it to just be a game. I want it to be a full-fledged experience!

 

FINAL VERDICT: 9/10

Assassin’s Creed Origins is a largely smooth return to form with small flaws that really do not have much of an affect on the overall experience and immersion where the gameplay is at it’s finest. It is an entry that yields an emotional and heartfelt story that hits close to home. If you’re looking for a game that will keep you occupied for an extremely long time and could maybe be a strong contender for Game Of The Year then look no further. Assassin’s Creed is back in style and in action!