‘Assassin’s Creed Origins’ delivers a dramatic change for the series
You’ve never played an Assassin’s Creed game like Origins. And not just because you can ride camels.
(But also, you can ride camels.)
Ubisoft’s latest Assassin’s Creed adventure takes the story back to its literal beginnings: 49 B.C.E., before the formation of the Assassin Brotherhood. The setting is ancient Egypt, but long after the era of Moses and the building of the pyramids.
That’s not the surprising thing, however. With Origins, Assassin’s Creed completes a transformation that’s been underway since around the time Black Flag launched in 2013. It’s an action-RPG now.
You’re probably wondering what that means; it’s a lot of different things. Mechanically, Origins goes from one-button combat and multi-button parkour to one-button parkour and multi-button combat. There are light attacks, heavy attacks, charged heavy attacks, dodges, blocks, and even special attacks that you can trigger after filling up an on-screen meter.
In terms of the game’s structure, Origins relays its story and various subplots/diversions using a quest system. The world is completely open and various people within it are quest-givers; you talk to them, hear their story, and help them out.
Speaking of the people, no longer are the streets of Assassin’s Creed filled with mindless drones lacking any sense of identity. People in Origins live their lives by following set patterns through the game’s day and night cycles.
The Assassin’s games have always let you take on various murder targets in whatever way you chose, but now you’ll be able to — for example — follow one home and snuff him out while he’s sleeping.
That “living” world also means you’re left to deal with a variety of more natural threats. Yes, you can ride camels — which is way cooler than riding a horse — but you can also hunt, and be hunted by exotic wildlife like lions and hippos.
As you dig through the story, you’ll earn experience that levels you up — which, in turn, gives you an opportunity to unlock a range of abilities. The skill tree branches out along various disciplines, so you can favor melee/ranged/mounted combat, stealth, or scavenging.
Also: searching bodies for loot is an instantaneous process now after you press the button. Gone are the days of crouching over a corpse for three whole seconds as you pat it down.
Loot takes many forms in Origins; there are consumable items and crafting materials of course, but you’ll also collect different kinds of gear — weapons and armor pieces for various parts of your body. Gear is available in much greater abundance now and each piece you collect is defined by its rarity. Think Diablo here; the rarer it is, the better.
The star of this adventure is Bayek, a brown-skinned elite “Medjay” warrior who fiercely believes in preserving the culture and belief system of ancient Egypt. The world covers a vast swath of land, including Alexandria, the Nile Delta, the ancient city of Memphis, the pyramids, and — yes — the Sphinx.
The story is actually set thousands of years after the pyramids were built — at both the height of the civilization and the beginning of its decline. Bayek is pushing back against the unstoppable flow of progress, and the tension between his immovable beliefs and the unstoppable march of progress gives birth to the Assassin Brotherhood… somehow.
I spent about an hour playing Assassin’s Creed Origins during a pre-E3 event for Ubisoft and came away impressed with the way all of these pieces fit together. The shift to one-button traversal makes getting around the world a breeze, and the more involved combat mechanics really force you to consider your movement and positioning in every encounter.
Bayek also has a pet eagle that you can take control of with the press of a button. If you played Far Cry: Primal, it’s similar to that. You can fly your eagle around to spot quest objectives and mark nearby foes (and, later, upgrade it to help in other ways).
We’ll have some of that footage to share with you later in the week, but my first look at Assassin’s Creed Origins left a great impression. Ubisoft is clearly confident in this game, and you can immediately see why once you sit down to play.
Also, once more with feeling: rideable camels.