Assassin’s Creed: Origins – Move over, Black Flag
When I play Origins, I literally get goosebumps. It’s that good.
When I am at work, I think about playing Origins. When I am driving, I think about Bayek and his agony over losing his son, and the honour he displays as a Medjay, and how he enjoys protecting the weak and the poor.
When I lay down to sleep and close my eyes, I see the majestic sand-swept landscapes of Ancient Egypt and her starkly-contrasted areas of lush green life along the banks of the river Nile, and I curse the need to sleep, because I just want to go back there.
I want to spend more time with Bayek, searching tombs, climbing all over ancient Egyptian cities, fighting enemies, diving off tall objects into haystacks, righting wrongs, kicking Roman and Greek butt, eviscerating gladiators, collecting weapons, crafting upgrades, and everything else Assassin’s Creed: Origins lets me do.
I want to take photos with the in-game Photo Mode that lets me frame shots and add filters and effects, all the better to capture the beauty and majesty of the world, the character design, and the effort the developers poured into its detailed presentation. I would totally add a few here, but honestly, I am struggling to find them on my Xbox, and Google isn’t helping, so enjoy the screenshots I captured instead.
If it sounds like I’ve fallen in love with the game, that’s intentional, because I have. Origins is the realisation of everything I’ve wanted to see in a game since I started playing them when I was 11.
It’s gorgeous, the main character’s struggles speak to me, it’s both fun and satisfying to play, there’s a huge open world to explore and discover, and I get to ride around on horses and in chariots being an honour-driven badass. It’s also entirely single-player with tons of things to find and uncover (and satisfying achievements/trophies!), which is exactly my jam.
That I don’t really get the connection to the other Assassin’s Creed games, apart from the fact that I’m playing as a person re-living the memories of the first Assassin via her own custom-built Animus, is a plot detail I’m prepared to skip over.
Sure, there’s an over-arching story about stopping some group of shadowy people who want to “take over Egypt” by assassinating them one by one (thereby forming the genesis of the Assassins that feature in the rest of the series), but it played second fiddle to Bayek’s quest for revenge, which was far meatier for me.
It seems, then, that Assassin’s Creed games work really well when they focus less on the historical narrative. Just like Black Flag was more about piracy and Edward Kenway himself framed by the battle between the Templars and Assassins, Origins is about Bayek and his story, with some assassin lore trimmings.
I can’t review this year’s Assassin’s Creed game without saying something about its polish. As you may already know, Origins got an extra year of development time thanks to Ubisoft rushing AC: Unity for the game’s then-annual release cycle and the subsequent less-than-enthusiastic reception of the next game, AC: Syndicate.
That extra development time really shows: the game is gorgeous, the setting exceptionally detailed, gameplay reasonably bug-free, and it’s packed with quests that someone clearly put a lot of thought into.
But the biggest payoff is the overhauled combat system that Ubisoft had the time to put in: gone is the “press Y to parry and X to win” style of previous games, replaced by a somewhat Souls-like system of enemy-targeting, blocking, and careful timing that takes more skill to master.
Also new to the series is an RPG-lite system of skill unlocks and a loot system, more welcome changes that had me enjoying Origins more than I did previous instalments.
Ultimately, Origins offers the kind of meat and substance that it likely wouldn’t have had without that extra development time, and I am massively happy that Ubisoft took it on the chin to get it right this time around.
Assassin’s Creed: Origins Review – Verdict
The result is a game I am absolutely smitten with, that I will enjoy re-playing when I inevitably buy it for PC, and which will stand up for a long time to come as a shining example of open-world game design done right.
So, if you like open world games, you’re an Assassin’s Creed fan, and you are even remotely interested in the notion of exploring a gorgeous virtual Ancient Egypt, do yourself a favour and buy Origins. I’m willing to bet that even if you don’t love it like I do, you’ll still find something to appreciate.
Assassin’s Creed: Origins was reviewed on the Xbox One, and a copy was provided by the local distributor. It retails for R999 on PS4/XB1, and R849 on PC.