Assassin’s Creed: Origins is a much bigger, way more ambitious game than Syndicate. It is no longer just about one or two cities, but all of Egypt. This highly-developed scale defines the gameplay. There are still the classic assassin missions: the good old stalking, stealth gameplay, the deadly leap from above – with the blade forward or to fire a Predator bow in slow motion. The fighting system, however, grows significantly with its footstep: You shoot from the back of an Arab at full speed, a specialty of the Egyptian army. You can also use a carriage with several horses in front.
There are camels, which are great because you sit high and enemies can’t really reach you with their swords. Assassin’s Creed: Origins is developed by the team that once was responsible for the great Black Flag. Above all, however, Origins wants to be a role-playing game, a true RPG. Gone are the days when developers hit you with equal-to-the-ground opponents – you level your character, use skill trees on three different paths, and change your clothing depending on the task and fighting style style. Whether you want to be a warrior with protective combat armor, or a light, silently trimmed Caftan that suits an assassin well. Oh, and it looks stunning in 4K on Xbox One X. Ubisoft has a fine eye for detail and I fell in love with the architecture from the very first minute.
You don’t start as a new soldier. Bayek is an elite soldier to begin with.
There is a reason this story is labeled Origins: Ubisoft wants to finally tell us about the secret roots of this order. That’s a change in tone as well: no longer you start as the fresh recruit, but our protagonist Bayek is basically a high-ranking police officer in the Egyptian society. People pay him respect and he is a trained fighter. There’s no more playing around, because Origins is all about skill.
There are Khopesh swords and lances, axes and rods as well as shields made of wood and bronze: the range of your weapon plays a much bigger role than before. Assassin’s Creed is known for the hack-and-slay combat system, where you can slay an entire squad of enemies with just one pirouette. Jump attacks, for example, must now be better timed and can go empty when the opponent rolls away. The shield for blocking is essential, the A.I. is intelligent in finding your weak spots. In a classy RPG fashion, you have to level up a huge variety of intertwined skill trees and loot for the right equipment to be ready to take on elite soldiers or even monsters from the Egyptian mythology.
It is still difficult to estimate how much of God of War-styled creature slaying will be in the game, but Ubisoft already confirmed that there are dungeons, and of course the pyramids where you’ll find the guards of the gods. There are a good amount of special bows for this kind of occasions as well: the Predator is very precise, almost a kind of antique sniper. Another fires five arrows at a time, well-suited for hydras.
No more mini-map, it’s finally about exploration without pressure
Ubisoft Singapore says good-bye to the series formula, and I’m very happy about that. There’s no mini-map on which to bounce thousands of icons; instead, the Canadians would like to invite you to explore and enjoy a good ride. There is only a compass in the style of The Elder Scrolls for orientation, but really you can wherever you want. The entirety of Egypt is ready for discovery, so we are not just talking about one city like in Unity but actually an entire country with military bases, giant ports, little villages and of course a ton of temples. You can call a large map, but overall, the HUD does not look as invasive as before. Sure, there is still crafting and a hippo delivers very thick skin, which in turn can be used for new clothes.
It doesn’t feel like stockpiling anymore and that’s a good thing. Assassin’s Creed: Origins is all about organic discovery like in Zelda: Breath of the Wild and that is a nice compliment. Also, the game world is wonderfully animated, because the side quests are not your usual “kill five crocodiles“ tasks, but we can save a dead man’s life by bringing back a statue to his tormentor – a morose priest featuring Anubis head.