Assassin’s Creed belongs to a prestigious list of great gaming controversies, alongside loot boxes, Gamergate and the reveal that Mario is, in fact, not a plumber. How you feel about the series is generally considered a defining characteristic of you as a gamer. More often than not, you either love the series, or you hate it.
In the modern gaming world, it seems that the majority of people you meet fall into the latter category, most of whom have previously been enthralled by the titles, but slowly grew to harvest a deep disdain for the series. These people generally cite a continued spiral of average or subpar releases for their feelings towards the franchise. The result is that Assassin’s Creed has become a bit of a joke in the gaming world. A repetitious game that just won’t die. Even their jaunt into the world of movies ended in utter failure.
But here we are, again, with the release of yet another Assassin’s Creed, a series that has produced 10 games in as many years. Could Assassin’s Creed: Origins be the return to form fans of Assassin’s past have been seeking for years? Or could this just be another bullet in their ever-growing rack of ammunition?
Well, I have good news and bad news.
The Good News: It’s a Masterclass of Style and Gameplay
There have been many complaints about Assassin’s Creed over the years. Its awkward movements. Its bland and disinteresting combat. Its repetition. In Origins, Ubisoft seemed determined to change all that; and damn did they succeed.
Let’s start with movement and combat. Gone are those irritating occurrences of trying to climb something you should be able to, but you just bloody can’t — pretty much everything is climbable. No more getting stuck in stupid places. The movement feels so much easier too. It lacks that frustrating awkwardness. It’s smooth and intuitive. As it should have always been.
Then we have the combat, perhaps the biggest improvement of this game. Featuring a wide range of weaponry and options for fighting, the new system feels so much more like a brawler than the simple block-and-stab system of the past. Movement is free and attacks are with triggers not controller buttons, which makes it feel more weighted. Enemies are more dynamic in their movement too, and diverse in their abilities; they feel much more dangerous than they ever did before. Combat in the other games felt more like an addition to the stealth and assassination, one that you wanted to avoid. Now it feels like a core mechanic, something that you want to experience.
Speaking of stealth, not a whole lot has changed on that front. It works well, you can still do your nice little whistles and distract targets. This was one of the only things that really worked well in the other games; if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it, right? But Assassin’s Creed has done more than improve on its previous ideas, it’s developed new ones too.
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Chief amongst which are the new eagle vision, and the RPG-style gear and levelling.
Taking flight as Senu, your character’s spunky little eagle, you no longer just toggle the thumb-stick to see where enemies are and what your target is. Instead, you literally became an eagle, watching from above. It’s a great and welcome addition, one that adds something new to the series, gives the gameplay extra depth and enjoyment, and helps you engage more with the actions you are taking. Real eagle vision — wonder how long they’ve been pitching that?
To ensure they put the final nail in the repetition coffin, Ubisoft also introduced a Witcher 3-esque gear system. It’s not anywhere near as good or fleshed out as its muse, but it definitely adds something. With the ability to search for new and brutal weapons, switch between types based on your playstyle and preferences, and upgrade your implements of death, Origins goes above and beyond the usual, buy a new sword and stab with your hidden blade, style of play.
Besides the gameplay, Assassin’s Creed: Origins is set, in my opinion, with the best world the creators have ever put together. The Egyptian landscape is just stunning. Forget the fact this is a true 4K title, forget the fact it’s the most advanced in the series graphically, the sheer scale and beauty of the landscapes they’ve created are just mind-boggling. In an era of massive, open-world titles, it’s not often you actually stop to take in the world that’s been created around you; such is the level of detail we’ve grown to expect. Yet, with Assassin’s Creed: Origins, I regularly found myself taking a moment to admire the view. Perhaps it’s the ancient setting, perhaps is the detail they’ve put in, or maybe it’s a combination, but the environment you find yourself wandering around has to be one of the best ever created for a video game.
The Bad News: It’s a Hollow as a Termite Infested Tree Trunk
For all it’s improvements to mechanics and stylisation, Assassin’s Creed is baron when it comes to deeper sentiment. The story is as engaging as a quiz on Buzzfeed, and half as creative. The character’s feel lifeless and dull, a rush to set up the narrative and move along into the new, core gameplay elements leaves gamers with little taste of anything more than a barebones story. Things just happen because they do. The character’s don’t feel real, they feel like further mechanics of the game used to drive you from point A to point B. I found my Camel seemed to have more personality than the Protagonist I was forced to follow.
The result is a game that engages through gameplay, but has you disinterested in the narrative. Those who are obsessed with story-rich titles, like The Last of Us, The Witcher and even more light-hearted takes like South Park, aren’t going to find much for them here. Previous games in the series, most notably Syndicate and Assassin’s Creed 3, have put forward far better offerings when it comes to plot.
Simply put, this is not a game for people who like to get wrapped up in a new world, moving deep into the folds of a story, such as in Skyrim or the Arkham series.
It should also be noted, that while a welcome addition, the RPG, gear-collecting elements are slightly flat. You essentially just keep building up your stats as you level. There are no options to specialise and change up gameplay as with other RPG games; say becoming adept at swift attacks or a bit more of a heavy two-handed bruiser with tougher armour. The perk tree is also another example of one where you’ll be able to get everything as you level. There are no hard choices — should I upgrade this or that — because you know you’ll get it all later anyway.
Assassin’s Creed: Origins is, easily, one of the best titles in the series, perhaps even vying for my favourite. It’s not a perfect move, one we hoped it might be, but it definitely brings a lot of new ideas to the table is well worth picking up, even if you aren’t a huge fan of the previous iterations of the franchise.
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James is THG’s technophobic TV nut, movie addict and theorist crackpot. He’ll be bringing you features, insights and incoherent ramblings on all your favourite and least favourite shows and movies.