“…the silver disc of the moon peeks out from behind a cloud, painting the buildings and surrounding dunes a muted monochrome. From your perch atop the three storey mud-brick building you have an uninterrupted view of the entire desert fort. Several small structures cluster around this larger central one, all of which are surrounded by a thick wall standing almost fifteen feet high. This wall, which forms a rough, protective square around the compound, provides an excellent defence against the imagined phantoms of the night.
A wry smile touches your lips. That same wall proved no obstacle at all for the real enemy. You.
Heavy footsteps crunch the compacted dirt somewhere below. You peer over the edge of the tall construction, but the thick shadows are impenetrable, masking whoever is down there. A gruff voice calls out, asking the sentry at the gate if all is well. Curses follow when there is no reply. There will never be a reply, you muse. That particular sentry had felt the steel of your blade as it sliced his throat from ear to ear.
The owner of the voice steps out of the shadows into the pale moonlight. Even from this height the breadth of his shoulders mark him as a large, powerful man. Your breathing quickens. The leopard skin cape draped from those broad shoulders, the large, spiked steel-headed mace clutched like a child’s toy in his huge fist, both denote him as your intended target. The man you travelled five days across the unforgiving desert to assassinate.
You stand up, balancing easily on the outer rim of the flat roof. A deep breath, calming the underlying excitement. A quick check of your blades, and then you step out into thin air, plunging towards your victim, a bird of prey swooping down onto its quarry…”
Have you ever wanted to be a master assassin, bringing death to your foes in a bygone era?
No? Just me then. Except the popularity of the Assassin’s Creed series from Ubisoft proves it’s not just me, after all.
The newest instalment in that long line of video games is Assassin’s Creed: Origins. This one takes you all the way back to the beginning of the Assassins, set in the twilight years of ancient Egypt. That’s an era that I’ve always had an interest in, and so I was looking forward to the game from its initial announcement.
Safe to say, I wasn’t disappointed, as the 100 hours gameplay I put in during the first ten days after the game’s release testifies to. I finished the story. I visited all the places and collected all the things. I got the platinum trophy (I play on PS4). And I enjoyed every minute of it. I’m not done with the game, either. It’s still a lot of fun to dive back into that ancient world, plus the developers have plans to add extra content, both free and paid for, which will hopefully add a lot more hours of enjoyment.
So why, exactly, do I like Assassin’s Creed: Origins so much? Am I a die-hard Assassin’s Creed fan? Well, no, I am not. In fact, the only other game in the franchise I’ve played is Black Flag, because pirates. Who doesn’t want to be a pirate, am I right? No? Just me again then. Truth be told, I didn’t enjoy that game as much as I thought I was going to, and as such I’ve never completed it. Not even come close to completing it.
Origins was a different animal though. Ubisoft promised a very, very large open-world environment. They said they had re-vamped the gameplay, adding a more RPG feel to it, and completely overhauled the combat system. That was enough for me to give them the benefit of the doubt, especially when coupled with the ancient Egyptian setting. In my opinion Ubisoft delivered on all of their promises.
Is the game perfect? No, of course not. Very few, if any, video games are. Besides which, what constitutes perfection differs from person to person. It’s almost as if different people like different things. Shock horror. But, for me, Assassin’s Creed: Origins has far more positive points than negative ones, and that can only be a good thing.
Just what are all of these positive and negative points? Forgive me, but I’m not going to list every last one, this is just a ‘my thoughts’ piece, not an in depth review. So let’s start with some of the positives.
The story line. I really enjoyed the story in this game. I can’t go into too much detail because that would end up with major spoilers, but it had me engrossed, and I was really able to emphasise with the major characters. I felt for them too, things weren’t easy. There were also very few trips back to ‘reality’ via the Animus, and those few trips were short and sweet, so your immersion isn’t broken too much.
Map size. The map in Assassin’s Creed: Origins is huge. I travelled in a straight line from north to south, on foot, on horseback, on boats, depending on the terrain, and it took me twenty minutes. I also did the same west to east, and though the distance looks shorter it took me the same amount of time. I’ve heard various people say that the majority of the map is empty, and while this is somewhat true, it’s not the entire story. You are, after all, in ancient Egypt, so the majority of cities and settlements will be clustered around water sources, and as such there is a lot of wilderness out there. But it’s not as empty as looking at the map might suggest. Go for a wander and find out what really is out there.
Combat. As promised, Ubisoft really did overhaul the combat system. You feel as though you’re a lot more involved in the combat sequences, with the availability of light and hard hits, combos, special moves, and the all important ability to dodge. You have a large variety of weapons to choose from to match your playstyle, including straight swords, sickles, heavy blunts, sceptres, dual daggers, lances, various shields and a collection of differing bows. Each weapon type has it’s own moveset and special ability.
Visuals. The game looks gorgeous. I played on a basic PS4 and the visuals were still very impressive. Those of you who know me will know that in open world video games I’m a bit of an explorer, and can’t resist climbing the next hill to see what’s on the other side. In a lot of games this is frustrating as the draw distance is so limited you fail to get any sense of scale. Not so In Origins. In this game you can see for miles, and really get the sense that you’re in the middle of a vast and sweeping land. There is incredible detail in everything you can see, even down to the small insects. Hours can also be wasted with the built-in camera option (all the images in this post are from my play through, taken with the in-game camera).
So what about some of the negatives? Well, for me, one of the main ones is the skill tree. When you first open it up you see that it has three branches – hunter, warrior and seer. In RPG terms these basically equate to dexterity/agility, strength and magic. I initially looked forward to creating a character based on one of those skill branches – I usually play a dex build in games like that, so I was looking at the hunter branch. As it turns out, as you progress through the game you’re able to acquire the majority of skills in all three of the branches, you just have to decide which ones you would like first. I was a little disappointed, as I would have like to have been able to create a character based on how I like to play, instead of ending up with a generic one, basically the same as any other player’s. A minor point, but still, it would have been nice.
Also, sometimes the character movement seemed to be a bit clunky. I’d either get stuck on some seemingly innocuous part of the landscape, or I’d end up jumping from the top of a cliff instead of climbing down it like I wanted to. This is a problem in a lot of games, to be fair, but getting killed by bad game mechanics rather than something in the game itself, or your own stupidity, is always annoying.
At various places across the vast landscape you might just happen across a tomb, either in a pyramid, of which there are several, or hidden in the side of a cliff, in a canyon, or cave. I would really have liked to have seen these tombs to be a lot longer/deeper, and a lot more challenging with the amount of traps and puzzles contained within them. The result of watching too many Mummy movies over the years, I guess.
So, all in all, as I’ve already stated, I really enjoyed playing Assassin’s Creed: Origins. I had a blast playing it, and am looking forward to playing a lot more of it with the upcoming added DLCs. In my opinion it was very good value for money. It cost me £50, and so far that has worked out at 50p per hour. Bargain.
Just remember though that all of this is just my opinion, and should be treated as such. As always, if you want to buy a game, then it’s up to you to do your own research and make up your own mind.
As always, that shallot.