Assassin’s Creed is one of those franchises which started out strong but after a few games the shine began to tarnish. I’m not sure what state Origins was in when Ubisoft decided to give it extra time to iterate, but it was clearly time well spent. Origins is exactly what the series needed to make it new and wonderful again. It’s not perfect, but it sets a great roadmap for the future and the imperfections can be honed into something even more incredible. This is our Assassin’s Creed Origins Review.
The two main characters of Origins are Bayek and Aya, with most of game time spent playing Bayek. Both characters are on a quest for vengeance; a quest which although incredibly important to them isn’t all consuming. They do not take the view their vengeance is the only thing which matters and hang the world, in fact Bayek often expresses concern about the costs of their actions. This is conveyed so deftly there is never a moment where I thought he was wavering in his conviction. He was just recognizing the fact even doing what you believe is right can come with some real consequences. This is something which is rarely ever explored in video games and the fact it was included without making Bayek seem weak is impressive.
Through the course of their shared journey they find themselves in league with Cleopatra, in fact Cleopatra is the one who says, “it’s time for assassinations” when Bayek and Aya join her. Until that point it had just been Bayek and Aya’s personal mission for vengeance, afterwards they had more of a higher purpose to what they were doing. Their joining with Cleopatra is really the first moments of the Brotherhood of Assassins being born. This alliance also allows the player to see not only how much they care for and respect each other, but also how their different ways of dealing with things affects one another. It’s an interesting and mature look into their relationship.
The only area the story let me down at all is there are a few points where things are set-up in such a way as they implied I’d have to make actual choices and would influence how the game played out, but they did not. For example, when I was on my way to meet Cleopatra for the first time I was given a litany of protocols I was supposed to follow or risk raising her ire. As a result, I expected there to be some freedom to do things during that meeting, but it was just a cutscene. I’m not really looking for a fully branching story with different endings or anything, but having how a player decides to do things matter on some level would be intriguing and add another layer of intrigue. Or at the very least don’t make it seem like there might be some choice where there is none.
Side quests are a thing of beauty in Origins. Sure, they can often fall into the standard fetch and get quests, but they always seemed to really matter to the people who asked for them. These quests are also of the sort where it made sense why the person asking wasn’t just doing things for themselves and why a Medjay like Bayek was needed. A few of these quests also led to some interesting quest chains, which not only kept them engaging but also fleshed out what life was like for these people.
It’s also worth noting some caution is worthwhile in picking up side quests because the requester isn’t always honest about what they want. At one point I decided to do what I thought would be a quick quest for a merchant, except it turned out he wanted me to escort his daughter who was incredibly annoying. So, I bailed on it (by running out of the area because you can’t drop quests) and went back to my more important tasks. Unfortunately for me when I was sneaking around a garrison later it was too close to the quest area and she reappeared yelling at me to take her to the damn market. This was merely an annoyance because the guards couldn’t see or hear her, which although hilarious was still frustrating.
The combat overhaul is also a welcome change which for the most part worked well. Some of the controls were a bit odd though. For example, to use the Overpower skill on a controller you have hit the RB and RT buttons at the same time which is a bit awkward. Also, shooting bows felt a bit more natural with the mouse and keyboard controls rather than the controller controls. The bow thing only became an issue because there is a fight where I could only shoot a bow and rapidly firing the bow was important. Aside from the weirdness of some of the default keybindings combat worked well. It was active and required some amount of skill to do well. I’m looking forward to seeing how they move this combat style forward and refine it more in future games.
Along with the combat overhaul came different weapon types, and there really isn’t anything I don’t like about this implementation because it allows even further customization of playstyle. For melee combat I mostly stuck with sword and shield because I like the combo of offensive and defense; it’s also nice to smash bad guys in the face with a shield. For bows I nearly always use the Predator bow which is the sniper bow. My personal preferences aside though all the weapons types work well, and different combat styles will find different things useful.
The abilities skill map was easy to understand, and the abilities augmented combat in interesting ways. The warrior branch adds a lot of active skills like a shield break and a skill interrupt. One of my favorite abilities, from the Hunter Branch, allows Senu (your eagle companion) to stun a target for you which is particularly helpful with patrols. In addition, this skill gives her a passive ability to randomly attack anything I was in combat with. This is not only helpful but also leads to a lot of guards cursing at this crazy eagle who’s attacking them. Hilarity ensues.
For the most part ability points are gained when a level is gained and early on they come quickly. However, later levels are gained more slowly and abilities deeper in the trees cost more points. Because of these two things it seems better to pick a branch you want to focus on first and get some of the powerful deeper abilities sooner rather than later. At the end of each branch is a master skill which is a passive buff and can be purchased multiple times for one ability point each time. There are also extra ability points which can be earned by exploring tombs and can help with filling out some of the later abilities.
I love how crafting was handled in Origins as well. There’s six items I had the ability to craft and really it was less of crafting things and more just upgrading them. If I wanted to focus on getting materials for one item, there is an option to “pin” it. Then whenever I looted any crafting supplies there’d be a pop-up telling me how close I was to being able to craft that item. I really appreciated not having to dig through all kinds of gear and trying to decide what stat sets were the best to craft. Having a simple and straight forward crafting system is a nice change from other RPGs. For anyone concerned about not getting to change how the character looks through equipping new gear, there is an outfit system and different outfits can be unlocked through gameplay. Additionally, as items are upgraded their look will also change into more refined versions so over time my gear did become progressively more epic looking.
Exploring the open world is a rewarding experience in Origins. Every map is stuffed full of hundreds of things to find and explore, hours can easily be filled just exploring. However, exploration highlights my one real gripe with the map… or more specifically how the map works with the rest of the menu system. Every time I would close the menu I’d start on the page I had previously been on when I next opened the menu. The one exception to this is the map. No matter how many times I closed the menu on the map when I reopened it I would start on a different page. This was particularly annoying because most of the time the map is the only reason I opened the menu.
For anyone who finds it difficult to play for long sessions the auto save feature in Origins will be a godsend. While there is no way to save the game when you want to, Origins saves very often. If something were to happen where you had to suddenly stop playing you’d only lose a few minutes of playtime. Working in concert with this feature is the ability to reset a quest to its last checkpoint. This is helpful if you somehow managed to bug a quest or say if you wanted to get rid of an annoying escort… hypothetically speaking. These two features are probably the best features for busy gamers who sometimes have some unpredictability in their playtime.
All in all, Assassin’s Creed Origins is the best Assassin’s Creed game in years. I’m really tempted to say it’s my favorite game in the series period but it’s too soon to know for sure on that count. Hopefully this is a rebirth for the series and we’ll see further iterations and continuing in this style moving forward.
Note: Our copy was reviewed on PC with a code provided by PR.
- Previous Assassin’s Creed Games
- Witcher 3
Overall Score: 9.0
- Well written story and characters
- Engaging and fun combat which can be augmented to fit any playstyle
- Gorgeous landscapes and easy to use photo mode
- Exciting and interesting open world to explore
- It is a resource hog on PC
- Some of the default keybinds for combat can be a bit of a pain to use