After two years of waiting, Assassin’s Creed Origins is finally here. It’s the first time the developers of the series take so much time between releases. Was that time worth it? The short answer would be a resounding yes. For the long answer, well, you just have to read my review, because there’s so much to say about this game.
I like to keep my reviews pretty much spoiler-free, so other than some basic background information about the main character and the general geographical and historical setting, I will not be spoiling anything.
A GAMING WONDER
Assassin’s Creed Origins is set in Ancient Egypt during the Ptolemaic Period and just as in previous games, it mixes reality with fiction to continue the series’ compelling story. The amount of hard work, talent and artistry that a team needs to have to recreate Ancient Egypt during this period is out of this world. The people over at Ubisoft Montreal have recreated an insanely detailed world. All the pieces of this game, from voice acting, to clothing and architecture contribute to making your experience one of a kind.
CONTROL LEVEL: ANIMUS
Firstly, I feel it is important to note how well the game controls. As soon as you start the game, you will notice your character, Bayek, controls like a dream. That’s not to say that previous Assassin’s Creed games had bad controls, it’s just that in Origins, the formula is improved upon considerably. The distance between your character and the camera has been slightly adjusted, the animations for walking, running and all matter of climbing have been tweaked. During my time playing, movement felt more realistic, less floaty and in general, I felt like I had more control over my character.
A LIVING, BREATHING WORLD
The improvements in animation are not limited to the player-controlled characters though. The vast amount of NPCs that populate the game’s expansive map, especially in the game’s main hubs, have a lot of things to do in the background, while you go about your business. You actually feel like you’re part of a world where these background characters have a daily life and errands to run. The immersion doesn’t stop there. Assassin’s Creed Origins succeeds in recreating the most realistic looking and sounding animals I’ve seen in video games ever. Be it camels, horses, hyenas, species of wild goats, birds, hippos (or something lurking in the water which I won’t spoil), it was incredibly satisfying to see fauna in a game that doesn’t feel robotic. A few of the older games in the series had this issue but in Origins, a lot of work went into creating detailed models and natural animations for animals. There’s something incredibly satisfying when you do silly things like turning the camera to look at a camel’s life-like behaviour and expression or marvel at Senu’s majestic wings in flight in the setting sun.
Viewpoints are back in Assassin’s Creed Origins but with a twist. They only serve as a way to ‘defog’ the map, revealing all points of interest and things Senu, your eagle companion, can interact with. With Senu’s help, you can view the map from a bird’s point of view with full control of its movement. This allows you to mark enemies, treasure, loot or other objects or areas of interest. If you’re looking for specific ingredients in order to craft something, Senu can help you find what you seek. Senu’s inclusion in the game is a very welcome one. Not only is the eagle companion incredibly helpful in planning a strategy when you want to tackle a new area, but she also has a wide range of abilities that can be unlocked, the simplest example of which is to attack and harass enemies.
More than any previous game in the series, Origins has a lot to offer in the form of RPG-style character customization and levelling. Your character has a natural progression without feeling like an unstoppable killing machine. Certain enemies, depending on your current level, cannot be killed and overpower you. Levelling up doesn’t feel tedious though. Completing missions, side objectives, daily missions or hunting is among the many things you can do to gain experience points. The user interface does a great job of keeping track of all this and I have to commend the team that was responsible for choosing fonts and designing the game’s HUD and UI to be as user friendly as possible. All in all, the game gives you the freedom to choose which direction to go in terms of skills learned, outfits, weapons as well as their upgrades.
Combat has been completely reworked in Origins. It is definitely more accessible and easy to understand than the older games and offers multiple styles for players to experiment with. From heavier weapons to lighter sword/shield combinations, you can choose what works for you and really get into some serious ass kicking. Bayek can use regular swords, sickle swords, dual blades, heavy clubs, heavy blades, scepters, spears and his bare hands to fight the wide array of enemy types. The game does a good job of limiting how invincible you might feel by making enemies way above your level unbeatable. This way it encourages you to explore the area you’re in, level up and experience the game’s full gamut without skipping through half of it because you have a few powerful attacks that allow you to obliterate anything in your path like an Egyptian Terminator. Changes in combat also apply to the visual front with visible damage on your character after each fight. Blood spatters realistically around you when you fight, forms pools, stains the water around you and your outfit. It looks bloody great.
TRUE IMMERSION IS NOT PURELY VISUAL
I mentioned before how much work went into crafting a world that feels alive, with top-notch work in terms of animation. The same level of attention to detail went into the architecture, environment, weather effects and character models. Major cities and towns are recreated with historical accuracy, clear inscriptions and incredible texture work. Some players may even recognise events and areas from their high school history class, as is the case with almost every game in the series. It is fascinating and incredibly immersive to be in places you’ve read about 10 years ago in some textbook and recognize events and important parts of daily life of the period, intermingled with the game’s fiction.
Regarding the rest of the in-game world, where do I start? Playing this on the Xbox One X was absolute eye candy. Dynamic sandstorms and skyboxes that make you abuse the screenshot tool every 5 steps you take. A draw-distance that I thought impossible on consoles. Visual variety. Hell, I could even see the incredibly small individual tiles on floor mosaics. While I’m sure it looks good on other consoles as well, on the Xbox One X, Origins looks perfect. I spent a laughably long time using the in-game screenshot tool and captured dozens of stunning pictures. It’s addicting when a game looks this good. My favourite shot is of Bayek petting a few sweet kittens. Thank you Assassin’s Creed Origins developers. If you’re getting an Xbox One X and something to impress your friends, this is the game to do it with.
VOICE ACTING AND SOUND DESIGN
Not much to say here other than the fact that voice acting is handled extremely well here and is consistent with the levels we’ve come to expect from Assassin’s Creed games, if not better. The soundtrack fits the setting and, dare I say, gets the heart pumping whether you’re exploring or suddenly had your sneaking plans go down the Nile because you were spotted. Entering large buildings causes your voice to echo three-dimensionally. Sound propagates naturally whether you’re indoors or outdoors. Wearing an outfit that covers your mouth causes your voice to be somewhat muffled, further adding to the long list of immersive features in the game. Immersion is key in Assassin’s Creed Origins and sound design contributes to that in a huge way.
Assassin’s Creed Origins succeeds in every goal it sets. The game is incredibly polished, well-made and serves to remind naysayers why the series is so popular in the first place. The way Ubisoft Montreal tackles the creation of an interesting fictional world mixed with real-life historical events is nothing short of a miracle. It lets gamers know that the Assassin’s Creed series is strong, evolving and will never disappoint. It is one of the few games in recent years that I honestly felt are pushing the industry forward as a medium and as an art form. It plays well, looks well and sounds well. It’s one of the best games of the year and you should not miss it.
Review copy was provided by Ubisoft and reviewed on Xbox One X.