Assassin’s Creed Origins Review – Flawed. Fantastic. Fun.

Assassin’s Creed, a franchise that had taken the world by storm many years ago, may have found itself caught in quicksand since the last two big titles, Syndicate and Unity, became colossal blows to its reputation, especially with all the bugs that infested its presence upon release. Personally, I wasn’t too engaged after Assassin’s Creed 2, where I found that the philosophical dimension of the game had been dropped, and I called it quits after the whole feather debacle. They had previously announced that they’ll be taking a year off to properly build the next title, Assassin’s Creed Origins, from the ground-up. Hopefully, also for Ubisoft pull their beloved IP out of the sand trap it has been sitting in after continuous cycles of year-on-year releases. What good does one year do for a triple-A title? Apparently, quite a lot, so stick with me and let me show you what I experienced with Assassin’s Creed Origins on the PlayStation 4.

To begin, we are introduced to Bayek. A Medjay, which is the Egyptian for Liam Neeson. Only this time, the bad guys didn’t kidnap his child, they killed him. And boy, is he ever going to use his very special set of skills to find you and send you to the afterlife. However, In the midst of his murderous rampage; Bayek and his wife, Aya, soon uncover a far more sinister plot.

 

In a Nutshell

If I were to crudely pick apart this title, I would say that it has the open world of maybe FF15, the quests and bow badass-ery of Horizon, the combat of Dark Souls, and some RPG mechanics of the loot-hoarding Destiny 2. This is only an approximation however, so at some points AC Origins does it better or worse than the games I mentioned above.

Production (4 / 5)

First of all, I’d like to congratulate Ubisoft for finally leaving their old engine behind and making a world that deserves to be on current gen consoles and PCs. I was certainly taken by the graphics when I first saw it. I’d however like to note that while Bayek and other major characters certainly look great, less prominent NPCs and locations are suffering from a case of copy-paste. And unfortunately the reduced attention to detail will rear its head to remind you which ones are minor characters.

Audio cues from minor characters like simple conversations when you’re sneaking around or just moving about the city, or when guards are shouting orders to each other in the middle of combat help contextualize your situation at any given time.  Also, while not exactly stellar, the insertion of terms unique to that time period of Egypt was a great detail to help with the immersion. The same can be said about each character having respective accents.

Music in the other hand, was pretty spot on, adding instruments that felt like they were accurate to the era and location made playing in Egypt feel all that more authentic. How Assassin’s Creed Origins would change music depending on the situation was hardly noticed as the themes felt consistent with each other and whatever time it was used for. And no, while I don’t think I’d find myself wanting to buy the OST I honestly can’t think of anything better to fit for it.

The unfortunate ‘sore thumb’ on this department would be the frame drops the game experiences if enough things are happening at once. It doesn’t necessarily make the game hard to play since it’s rare for this to happen in combat situations, but seeing the frame rate take the chug on my PS4 does make me flinch when it does. I find the game’s bugs more tolerable than this, which I’ll get back to later.

Mechanics (3.5 / 5)

The most immediate thing you’ll notice AC Origins change about its foundations is the combat. Heck, it’s the first thing you do. The pace is much faster, with a combat system that’s hard to distance from the ‘Soulsborne’ series. You lock on one target at a time, you use shoulder buttons to attack or block, you can dodge-roll, you can parry, sound familiar enough to you yet? Though there is the overpower bar that lets you turn into a beast when it’s full. Being a fan of the ‘Soulsborne’ franchise, I got on this train pretty quick and I like it in general. I had hoped that enemy tells were a little better and actions a bit more responsive. But hey, no more accidental wall climbs when you’re actually trying to kill someone, so that’s definitely a plus by my book.

AC Origins also introduces several ways of keeping you as powerful as you need to be. You can almost always find potentially useful weapons in chests scattered around towns and forts. Or if you simply like other gear better, you can keep them upgraded to match your level. You can also push your stats further by upgrading your basic gear such as arrow quiver capacity or breast plate armor reduction by gathering its relevant materials and crafting it from within the menu. Also, as an RPG, you get to pick skills from 3 disciplines, that of the warrior, the hunter and the seer. Hybridizing between the three is encouraged as the recommended method between fighting, sniping, or sneaking tends to vary every now and then.

Probably the most underwhelming change in this title would be the basic nerf to stealth. This is understandable, though, as detecting enemies was way too easy in previous installments. Using your hawk to gain a bird’s eye view (I know, right?) of any area is an interesting way to scout for enemies and objectives. It’s also a huge help that scouting with the eagle is no longer restricted. Unfortunately, if you end up far enough, there’s a good chance that the game will have to reload its stage when you recall the bird.

While stealth is in my opinion, nerfed, mobility has received a huge boost in AC Origins since so much of the terrain, no matter where you are, is quite possibly traverseable. Heck, you even get a horse that can use Waze, and it’ll take you anywhere you want. You’ll have to respect the level restrictions, though. Since if the level gap is wide enough, even assassinate attempts will not take an enemy down.

Content (5 / 5)

The Maps of any Assassin’s Creed game might as well be considered as a character in their respective installments and Origins is no exception. In fact, I believe their latest entry has vastly improved not only by making all of the maps interconnected to make up a much larger world, but they have also managed to make distinct looks between towns and cities while keeping their general look unified. Whether you’re swimming around a lake, sifting through a sand storm in a desert, walking around a city, or on top of a summit, you can very much tell that you’re somewhere in Egypt. And thanks to your horse that can use Waze and a fast travel system you slowly unlock with synchronization, it’s much easier to enjoy all the locations.

While title advertises unveiling of how the Assassins came to be, which does do that, the real star of the show are all the quests you can do as you progress through the game. They help you get some needed grinding done to meet level requirements to accomplish the major objectives within the game. And the grind doesn’t feel like much of a grind, either. Each one you do will have some story in it, usually related to the situation the story is currently in. Though sometimes, you may feel like skipping through what they have to say, especially if it’s quest backlog. But you won’t get that tired feeling for most of the quests because while you can tell there’s repetition in them, they get more complex as the game goes on. It helps in the ‘I want to see what happens next’ department quite heavily, there’s also the huge variety in how quests are done and presented to you. It can be going on a treasure hunt, an assassination attempt, a rescue mission, an investigation, or even helping somebody do chores. Somehow, all of the above makes you feel like you’re the unsung guardian of the people while you do them. If content is king, Assassin’s Creed Origins is certainly a contender for the crown.

Also, the fictional story of Assassin’s Creed has historical events and individuals play a part in it, which is something they always do. I don’t really think it’s terrible or particularly stellar, but I do feel like it’s unintentionally benched by the enormous list of other things you can explore within AC Origins. But hey, if you’re a fan of the series’ lore this one seems to be an entirely new story both on the sides of modern and past. Aya and Bayek are generally likeable protagonists while Layla is pretty forgettable to me at this point, that is until you figure out her full name.

Features ( 4 / 5)

A flamingo walking underwater? That’s a feature!

Ubisoft’s tradition of having bugs in their open world games holds true in this release as well, where you may have something like minor graphical errors, to sound suddenly clipping out and everyone loses their voice and even the occasional impeding of your quest progress. Thankfully, most of these are can be ignored and quest save points can be reloaded to make these a minor inconvenience at most. There’s also some pretty obvious patching done to hot fix these errors so they eventually go away. While the extra year for development didn’t seem to give the game the polish we were expecting, it’s nice to see that they’re active in dealing with the bugs in the best way they can.

On the flip side, Assassin’s Creed Origins promises regular challenge events that you can take on. There are also daily quests that allow you to net at least one of their loot boxes a day. It’s actually pretty cool that they’re allowing a system for you to regularly a loot box get without being forced to buy it with cash, as it is mostly recognized as another cash-grab attempt within the triple-A realm.

They know glitches happen and they’re sorry.

They also have DLC planned later on, in both paid and free forms. Horde Mode, being a the free one, appears to be a battle arena generally just to have fun with the combat system to see how far you can push your character. Two story arcs are planned later on which will be available for purchase in 2018, but can be attained with no extra cost if you buy a season pass which also lets you have some exclusive equipment in tow. The quality of these said expansions remain to be seen, but if the base game is any indication, we’re in for quite a treat.

Overall (4.5 / 5)

I would celebrate Assassin’s Creed Origins’ release as the franchise’s return to form, as I have never been quite engaged by any of their entries since Assassin’s Creed 2. A feat that did not come without it’s sacrifices. Spending that extra year in development, while may leave a bit more wanting in terms of polish, has given so much more in content and revamps to play style.

It has picked up on what works in the current gaming generation and was willing to drop what had caused irritating or painful experiences for their players. While this has risked AC Origins to lose much of the identity of the series to become what it is, it has resulted in highly engaging and mostly cohesive game play.  When I have a hard time putting down the controller, that’s usually a good sign regarding a game’s quality, and it’s also a bad omen for my sleep schedule. This title has accomplished both.

In hindsight, what generally bothers me is how the exploration, combat and stealth of Assassin’s Creed Origins are generally good, but not great, especially for stealth. If Ubisoft had created something truly remarkable on one of these areas, I’d probably have a much higher opinion of the game. It’s also a bit sad that you can’t interact with cities and normal citizens as much as you did before; at most they’re accidental road accidents or quest givers. Being able to hide among the crowd, creating a diversion, all that’s gone, though admittedly it makes sense in the lore, I do miss being able to pull off tricks like that.

However Bayek is above trickery, or rather, he has yet to welcome the ways of becoming a hidden one. And watching this all slowly unfold before you is enough of a hook for me to recommend this for anyone looking for a worthwhile adventure to play.

Took me a while to understand what this was about. THEN IT HIT ME.

Assassin’s Creed Origins on the PS4 takes a leap of faith and nails it, scoring a 4.2 / 5.

This game is available on PlayStation 4, Xbox One, and PC.

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