|System: PS4, Xbox One, PC|
|Dev: Ubisoft Montreal|
|Release: October 27, 2017|
|Players: 1 Player|
|Screen Resolution: 480p-1080p||Blood and Gore, Drug Reference, Intense Violence, Nudity, Sexual Content, Strong Language, Use of Alcohol|
by Sean Engemann
Ubisoft’s decision to take a year off from Assassin’s Creed was a blessing from Amun. Not only did it allow fans and critics of the series a respite to garner a resurgence of anticipation for the next entry, but it provided the development team some breathing room to fashion a massive and breathtaking Egyptian playground, with fully fleshed out stories and characters, and every sand-kissed inch begging to be explored for rewards. Assassin’s Creed: Origins is like a freshly pounded piece of papyrus, with a new script of features infusing the series with some fresh lungs to breathe life into a franchise whose air was growing stale.
You’ll slip into the sandals of Bayek, a skilled Medjay who is instantly amicable and always eager to help the suffering from the corrupted hierarchy of Egypt, Rome, and Greece. Destined to become the first Assassin of the Creed, his compassion, cool head, and soft-spoken voice will have you clinging to every scripted conversation, despite the developers tossing the rules of word “origins” out the window in favor of a gripping narrative. His sultry tongue is matched by his combat prowess, and in Assassin’s Creed: Origins you are granted some flexibility to tailor Bayek’s abilities to your playstyle. The skill tree allows you to focus on melee combat, ranged upgrades, or stealth and supplementary abilities as you gain skill points. The branches will eventually intersect, creating a more wholly balanced warrior as you get deeper into the game, but the game still offers you the choice in every encounter on how to tackle the obstacle.
The combat itself is far improved from the old animations and single engagement system. Replaced with a hit-box format, striking is based on angles and precision, which allows you to manually target body parts for increased damage or the ability to incapacitate a foe. Like you, enemies have a level, displaying a baseline difficulty for certain areas and indicating spots that should be avoided until you are stronger. You also need to take heed when barreling into a group of armed defenders, as they all act independently and can strike together. It’s not so easy to parry multiple incoming blows with your one shield. Along with your bow and buckler, there are plenty of different melee weapon types to suit your style and exploit the vulnerabilities of the enemy in front of you. Sickles, scepters, maces, spears, and blades are just a few types to test out. You’ll need to understand each one’s individual effectiveness against various armor types and durable hides of creatures. Egypt is teeming with wildlife, like hyenas, crocodiles, lions, and the dreaded hippopotamus, all providing unique encounters and crafting materials once slain.
With the crafting, gear types, skill tree, and leveling system, Assassin’s Creed: Origins dives much deeper into the role-playing haystack than its predecessors. This may feel off-putting for fans who prefer the seamless and unhindered action presented in the past, but fortunately shifting and tweaking Bayek’s optimal loadout doesn’t force you into menu screens for extended periods, though manipulating a cursor with a controller is bit of a nuisance. It also makes the acquisition of loot a lot more enticing as you wander around the dunes of the Sahara and the shores of the Nile River.
There is no multiplayer component in Assassin’s Creed: Origins, though the game does offer a separate Horde-style gladiator mode that lets you take a break from the campaign and test out some combat challenges for gear and other loot. I’m surprised a co-op element couldn’t at least be squeezed into this arena mode, but Ubisoft swears by its focus on a robust solo experience.
Assassin’s Creed: Origins’s stunning backdrop makes it near impossible not to wander, and the game doesn’t force the main campaign down your throat. There is a very palatable Skyrim-esque motivation to finish the tutorial, take a left turn, scale a vantage point, and find your own points of interest on the horizon. With no minimap to guide you, tagging locations can be accomplished via Senu, your eagle “drone” companion that can be controlled for a bird’s eye view of your surroundings. Not only can you tag landmarks for future study, but Senu can also harass enemies and take down wild game.