Played on Windows.
Also Available on Xbox One, PlayStation 4.
With Humble Monthly Bundle for May 2019 starting with only including a single game, it’s time for me to cover Assassin’s Creed: Origins, this is the ninth game in the Assassin’s Creed Franchise, but it’s also the one that changed the formula the most. The question then becomes, is it for the better?
I’ve been an Assassin’s Creed fan since playing the first game and like most people thought it lacked something. However, I bought and played every main game in the series up to Black Flag, and stopped there for quite some time. So I’m looking at Assassin’s Creed through the eyes of both a fan and someone who hasn’t touched the series in quite a few years.
I did recently play Watch Dogs 2, and you can check that review for my opinions on that game, but I can say that Assassin’s Creed is a very different type of game, even while both games appear similar, and I’m thrilled to get back to Assassin’s Creed. In fact, I was planning on playing Odyssey when Origins landed on my desk.
Assassin’s Creed: Origins is very beautiful. There’s a large and vibrant world here where the player will explore ancient Egypt. It’s about 45 BC due to some events that occur in the game, though the game does play loosely with the time period, and similarly with the world itself.
That’s not to say the world is bad, but this is almost certainly not a perfect recreation of the world, though it is a charming one. Assassin’s Creed; Origins version of Egypt is interesting in all the right ways. There are a great many locations to visit and explore, tombs, temples, and a lot of people to meet.
The one place Assassin’s Creed; Origins works the best is the cutscenes. While there are two types, one with the players just standing around and one where the character fully act out the scene, the latter looks really good, and it helps make the player feel for the characters involved. I often sat back and just enjoyed the situation I found myself in.
The relationship between Aya and Bayek is a really strong part of Assassin’s Creed: Origins
In addition, there are a lot of unique characters, while many quest givers are ok looking, the main characters here are extremely well detailed. Bayek, the main character, looks great, and in fact, the game starts with him in a shaggy beard and haircut but after a part of the game, he shaves his hair producing a more iconic look for the character. Players are able to dress him up if they wish, and even return him to the bearded form.
The other characters in the story are solid, and while many aren’t memorable after their first introduction, after a couple of meetings you start to place each character with their group along with their name. It’s also fun to see Cleopatra and Julius Caesar. Both characters are obviously famous, though this is definitely where Assassin’s Creed; Origins plays the loosest with the timeline, as their stories seem to span days in the game, and at least five years in real life.
However, what really gets me excited with Assassin’s Creed; Origins is the location. So much of this world is built around the famous locations you’ve heard or seen. Whether it be the Sphinx, the Pyramids of Giza, the city of Alexandria with its lighthouse or so much more, a lot of care has been crafting the world, though I do want to call out that a decent amount of it is fake.
There are no accurate records of what ancient Egypt really looked like, and as such a lot of artistic license is used in the game. The end result is a very fun game to explore, but not necessarily the most authentic game. Though it doesn’t help that many locations feel duplicated around the world. There are a number of beautiful temples, but they all feel laid out similar to each other. There are unique locations but many of them are used for side quests and main quest lines.
Assassin’s Creed; Origins cutscenes are really good, as mentioned before. Part of the reason is that what is being said is important and interesting to the viewer. The main character, Bayek, actually has an interesting story and once it gets going, you’ll want to see it through to the end. Of course, it’s a story of revenge, but that’s what we’ve come to accept from Assassin’s Creed
The first five or so hours of Assassin’s Creed; Origins story is weak, however. Bayek starts off returning to his people after killing one of his targets in the opening cutscene and the player is thrust into a quick tutorial and combat with the target’s bodyguard. However, Bayek really doesn’t get developed as a character in this section.
Instead, Bayek starts to meet with people around Siwa, and the typical tutorial type missions are played out where the player learns the game, but the story just doesn’t exist at this point. Very quickly Bayek gets told to take out another target, and eventually will, suddenly Assassin’s Creed: Origins seems to kickstart itself into the story mode.
We even get some famous guest stars to pop their head in.
Now I hate saying that players need to push on to get to the good part. It’s why I recently released a discussion of Okami because a lot of people relied on that. At the same time, Assassin’s Creed: Origins really does get significantly better after that first section. I played the entire game because I got interested in the story, but that was after a very slow opening.
I will say that the story is a lot darker than I expected, and that first flashback is quite grim, though I do like the darker nature of this story, it might not be for everyone.
Up to this point, there’s a big piece missing from Assassin’s Creed: Origins. The entire game is based on Bayek’s travels in Egypt, and we haven’t even seen the modern day. After this point finally, the game does add in elements from the modern day. Though I would say the modern period is relatively weak, it’s only used about four times and each time you’re only in the modern world for minutes. The modern-day segments are there to link the game to the series, and to explain a few gameplay elements, but personally, I think the modern pieces don’t work as well as they are intended
In addition both the modern day and the past have the Assassin’s Blade appear because of course they do, however, neither really feel like a good addition to the story. It feels like it’s just “This is what an Assassin’s Creed game does.” In fact, I would say that I am sad they didn’t do something like Assassin’s Creed IV: Black Flag, making the real world into a simple video game company.
With Assassin’s Creed: Origins being the origins story, the obvious spoiler is the Assassin’s aren’t actually in Assassin’s Creed: Origins until the very end of the story, and this is a pure prequel. That’s not necessarily bad but the flow of the story doesn’t feel right for a majority of the game, but the story is interesting, it just doesn’t exactly feel like the type of story the series has reveled in. Though, this is actually a huge improvement for the series. Prequels can be tricky, but I feel like Assassin’s Creed: Origins arrived at the right time and place to tell its story.
After the opening, we get to know Bayek a little better and are even introduced to his wife Aya. This is where Assassin’s Creed: Origins takes off. We see Bayek’s family, his mission and the story start to progress. Much of the game is a revenge story, where Bayek and Aya chase after vengeance for their tragedy, and you start feeling for them. Not just as characters but the situation they are put in.
What is interesting is eventually you get to play as Aya a few times and while she’s only playable in very small quantities I like both the story around her and she tells a different but interesting story.
But the game really doesn’t have Aya feel like the main character and it’s a shame. She’s not playable outside of the few story missions about her. She’s not able to roam the land, and she doesn’t have any upgrades or abilities. Even her weapons are stuck on the default.
It’s odd for her to be the playable character when everything this game has given Bayek is missing from Aya and it hurts the narrative as each visit with Aya feels like a one-off moment, even though there are quite a few of them, and many major moments are exclusive to Aya. Her sections are solidly acted and look great, it’s just from a gameplay standard, she’s not all there.
In fact, the gameplay of Assassin’s Creed: Origins is all over the place. I actually think it’s better to forget what you already know about Assassin’s Creed and start fresh as this isn’t the same as the Assassin’s Creed games before it.
One of the major changes in the game is the lack of reliance on stealth. Most missions in previous Assassin’s Creed games were set up to be easier if the player avoided combat. In Assassin’s Creed: Origins the player is able to isolate targets and, even if spotted, is able to quickly dispatch them without the rest of the guards in the location being alerted.
Even combat has changed. No longer is the overpowered “counter” system in the game allowing the player to focus on a purely defensive set up, instead much of the combat is based on blocking, finding an opening or dodging attacks and then possibly following that up with an attack.
Part of me wishes the stealth was more important in Assassin’s Creed, but the ability to mix both combat and stealth does allow for a more interesting mix of strategies, and being seen doesn’t leave the player scrambling to restart from the last checkpoint.
There is an addition of Bows in Assassin’s Creed and while they work well, especially if fired from the shadows, they have limited uses. I actually found bows to be more effective in the middle of combat, for when an opponent backs off or I wanted to trade ammo for some quick damage.
Assassinations are still a major part of the franchise, though a smaller one.
There is one major change in the series, and it’s probably the single change to the game which will impact fan enjoyment whether positively or negatively. Levels have been added to Assassin’s Creed: Origins and they change the game. I know that levels and ability points have had some connection to Assassin’s Creed for a long time, however, the way they are implemented in Assassin’s Creed: Origins is controversial. Or at least should be controversial.
I know levels work in RPGs, but the defining features of Assassin’s Creed as a series are stealth and assassinations. The whole game doesn’t really revolve around combat, and while there was some stat-based gameplay as far back as the second game, it didn’t take much away from the core gameplay.
The rules of Assassin’s Creed: Origins’ system is that Bayek can level up, each level he’ll get an ability point and can use those to buy skills. This makes sense and I think has been a part of the series for some time.
The real issues of Assassin’s Creed: Origins’ problem begins when we talk about gear. Gear is limited by level. While you rarely get higher level gear, it can happen, and you won’t be able to use it until you reach that level. Most gear is inflated to your current level, so you won’t be receiving gear that’s not useful for you like in SoulCalibur 6. The problem is, you’ll need to change gear every couple of levels as you get a large boost per level. There is some gear that gives you even higher boosts such as legendary gear, but that only helps to unbalance the system more.
The gear itself does add an interesting element to combat as Bayek gets different types of weapons. Each weapon is different and has different animations and feelings. Twin daggers produce some very fast stab motions, while sword combat is what the series is best known for. However, heavy weapons like battle axes and maces will be slower but do more damage per attack. Similarly, there are four types of bows that also each feel different and unique and are used for different scenarios.
Sailing is also a major part of the game, though all I can say is it is a fast way around the waterways.
Each weapon type has a unique special power as well called Overpower which can be activated by an adrenaline meter and these also change up the gameplay a bit. Swords do a simple dash attack that causes a great deal of damage, heavy weapons give the player a berserk mode that they can be in to do more damage and so on. The point is the gear is just mindless levels, but there is some strategy to which weapon you’re taking, in theory. In practice, most weapons work very similarly and the challenge is from the combat, not from a particular weapon type.
The bigger problem is how important the gear becomes in battle. When you attack someone you can see their levels. The levels seem to be very important in damage calculations. If you attack someone 2-3 levels above your current level, you’ll do significantly less damage. At 5 levels, their level becomes a Skull to warn you, and you do almost no damage.
The thing is, a level 20 sword and a level 22 sword are different by maybe 10 percent of the damage, but there’s a huge damage reduction in the calculation that is not seen. But these changes also don’t work in the game. You have enemies that wear barely any armor, and flesh is mostly normal human flesh. A sword would cut a bodybuilder as easily as it cuts a couch potato, so how is the level 20 enemy so much stronger than a level 15 enemy?
The same is true for wildlife and more, and while this incentivizes the leveling, it doesn’t make for a better game. On the final story mission, I was 3 levels below the recommended level, I was forced to gain at least 2 of those levels before I was able to effectively damage the enemies in the level.
This could work for combat, but stabbing someone in the neck or head is a pretty damaging encounter no matter what. An untrained soldier doing that to a general would still find ways to kill them effectively. However, in Assassin’s Creed: Origins your assassinations aren’t instant kills. They do specific amounts of damage, and while it’s usually high enough to kill targets instantly, if you’re fighting enemies 2-3 levels above you, it’s no longer an “Assassination” but instead a “Sneak attack” that takes a large part of their life (60-80 percent). When you reach 5 levels again, you will find it to be closer to 25 percent of their life. It’s strange because the fun part of stealth games is taking out strong targets stealthily or skillfully, not doing damage calculations.
There’s a decent amount of Egyptian mythology though nothing too heavy, I would have loved more.
Now I’m sure some people will say this is just a new way to look at Assassin’s Creed, and the world of Assassin’s Creed: Origins is fine. But there’s a bigger problem. The first major target, or “boss” is level 5. I was able to assassinate him easily. But after the change and the world opens up, you’ll almost never find enemies around level 5. Almost every combatant will be level 10, and eventually, you’ll reach level 30 and 40 enemies, even the guards of all these enemies are higher levels than the first boss. The first “big badass” you have to take down is very weak, and the peon of the location for the final mission (level 35) isn’t just at the same power, but so significantly stronger, his breath would probably kill the original target.
The targets are supposed to be dangerous foes, but since each one is leveled, only the final two targets are “really” dangerous in Assassin’s Creed: Origins, the rest feel like they never tried to level up. And even these final targets, aren’t the strongest enemies in the game.
Of course, this doesn’t get to the rather cool parts of the game where literal gods are in the game which is a cool twist, but the level based gameplay doesn’t benefit the game as much as I think Ubisoft wants and seems to harm the game overall.
So allow me to ask a question, why the switch? Well, I think it’s obvious any time we see systems like this but, it’s microtransaction, it’s always microtransactions. You can buy faster leveling, crafting supplies which are hard to get, and affect your gameplay by getting new items and even ability points. Yes, there are cosmetics too, but Assassin’s Creed: Origins effectively shows the problem with these microtransactions systems.
It’s a shame because Assassin’s Creed: Origins works so well outside of this system, but even while I like 90 percent of Assassin’s Creed: Origins, the level based system adds grind to the game where it wasn’t necessary. It now has a reason you have to chase down the huge amount of side quests rather than enjoying the game your way.
Let me be clear, the side quests are enjoyable and work on their own, it’s just that the player is forced to play them when they just want to follow the main quest, and that doesn’t make the sidequests better. In fact, many players will skip through rather interesting side quest content because they want to get back to what THEY want to do. While I never had to farm for loot, as there are more than enough of that, the levels are so critical to the gameplay and having to gain 2 levels to be competitive isn’t a good experience and harms the game overall.
The ability tree is large and there’s tons of choices that make you slightly more powerful.
Similarly, hunting crafting supplies are interesting when you’re killing enemies like lions and wolves, but having to hunt down ore or wood, even while you stand next to hundreds of trees, just feels like a similar grind.
I have talked about the targets in the game a bit and this might be the biggest point of contention for fans. There are not many of these large bosses, and almost all of them are nameless til you reach them, and then a mission later they are dead. There are only two major bosses that feel like they get an acceptable amount of development but they are both in act 3. The rest are set up so you do a couple of missions to get the name and then immediately kill them.
What’s worse with the “bosses” is that you initially have 5 of them, one is killed in the opening cutscene, you then will kill the next one and then find out two more of the group have been killed off-screen by someone else. It’s part of the problem with this being a prequel, the contract nature, and the targets don’t get enough definition, and instead, Bayek and Aya get much more development. That’s leaning in the right area but I wish the scales were a pushed back a bit more so I could have a target that I can chase after a bit more.
Though the entire game is set in the backdrop of Egypt, and I do want to say that Egypt in Assassin’s Creed Odyssey is beautiful. It’s one of the best looking game worlds I’ve seen, and there’s so much to explore. I spent multiple hours just running around grabbing towers and just seeing the world, and it’s so well designed.
The entire Tower system is also a huge improvement as well, instead of “discovering” a map, the map is revealed when you reach an unknown area. Climbing a tower and synchronizing gives you the ability to fast travel back to that location as well as improve Senu’s perception ability.
Senu is Bayek’s pet, an eagle. While Senu is a very minor element of the story, she becomes your friend in the game because of how useful Senu is in the game. She spots enemies, objectives you’re looking for, and more. She’s a great companion not because the game tells you she is but because you use her to explore locations. By spotting enemies you see them through the walls, but beyond that, she can identify almost anything you’re searching for.
I also want to give a mention of the Discovery Tour. Assassin’s Creed: Origins talked about making a Discovery Tour which talks about the “Real Egypt” which made me roll my eyes in disbelief, but when I actually played it, I found it extremely engaging and the level of detail into the world is very good. I don’t fully trust how much research was done before the game was released or designed, but it was wonderful to walk through these massive cities and to hear what the game was being based on or different stories of the time period, and it made me want to see this same feature in all of Ubisoft’s games. The fact that this wasn’t in Watch Dogs 2 makes me disappointed and I’ve heard it is coming for Assassin’s Creed Odyssey “eventually” but I also want to see it in Watch Dogs 3 especially with it being set in London.
There are a few minor points I’d like to make as well. There’s a system that allows your mounts to follow paths. This system seemed to break quite often for me, especially when I was using it to go to a destination, I ended up just manually riding my camels or horses where I wanted to go, but seeing it break so often was disappointing.
Similarly, pathfinding of AI wasn’t always the strongest, at least four occasions resulted in Bayek “following” a character, who just stood around. I often would just switch quests and come back another time when the game would reload the missions and fix itself.
The chariot races and the colosseum were nice touches but I didn’t really enjoy them that much. Though it’s a perfect example of how much thought and care went into the game world and allowed the player to do whatever they wanted.
There are a few Ship to Ship combats, and they work extremely well. It just reminded me that I want another Black Flag and that I probably should play Assassin’s Creed: Rogue at some point.
At the end of the day, I don’t have much that made me dislike Assassin’s Creed: Origins. Assassin’s Creed: Origins felt like the exact opposite of Watch Dogs 2 to me. While both games had a great deal of content, Assassin’s Creed: Origins seemed content to allow me to focus on one task at a time. It allowed me to goof off and enjoy myself with the large and wonderful world they created.
The story started off very slow, but after getting past the initial section, everything started to fit together to make a great game. The story became really good and engaged me from that point to end. The world was beautiful every step along the way, and once I understood the new gameplay, I had a great time. While the ending of the game does feel like it goes on just a little farther than it should have, I have to admit I had an excellent time playing Assassin’s Creed Origins, though the level based gameplay and it’s ties to microtransactions does rub me the wrong way, overall, I enjoyed my time with Assassin’s Creed: Origins.
I give Assassin’s Creed: Origins a
Final Thoughts: A refreshingly new Assassin’s Creed though it does add in a problematic level/gear system, it’s still extremely enjoyable even if there’s the specter of microtransactions looming over it.
Stats: 34 hours played 27 achievements. (Uplay still doesn’t give totals)