Assassin’s Creed Origins

Released in October 2017 for the Microsoft Xbox One, Sony PlayStation 4, and Windows-based PCs, Assassin’s Creed Origins is an action-adventure video game from the developers at Ubisoft Montreal that largely continues the ages-long conflict between the Brotherhood of Assassins and the forerunners of the Templar, the Order of the Ancients. Set in ancient Egypt during the Ptolemaic dynasty, Assassin’s Creed Origins features sweeping vistas and gorgeous desert landscapes in what is perhaps one of the most thorough recreations of ancient Egypt ever put to binary. Assassin’s Creed Origins follows the story of a Medjay named Bayek who is alive during the reign of Pharaoh Ptolemy XIII, a king that is struggling to maintain his kingdom but who harbors ambitions of expanding its borders nonetheless. Mentions of historical luminaries such as Cleopatra, deposed by her brother and seeking to return to the throne, and Julius Caesar help to ground Assassin’s Creed Origins during a period of time in world history that is often the subject of epic movies, books, and video games, making Assassin’s Creed Origins one more in a long line to capture the magic and intrigue of ancient Egypt.

Since this is an origin story, a lot of the narrative focuses on the beginnings of the Brotherhood of Assassins. If you’ve played the other games, this should be a rich, rewarding experience for you, filled with answers to questions and possibly spurring new theories as you play. This doesn’t mean you have to have played the previous installments in the Assassin’s Creed series to enjoy this game, but it might help. This is one of the major downsides of playing any long running series, especially one heavily dependent on lore – you will find yourself searching the Internet for answers on more than one occasion, and some people don’t like that. The general historical background surrounding everything is not tough to research, but the ins and outs of the Assassin’s Creed mythology itself could take some time to figure out.

As in previous games in the Assassin’s Creed series, this one will jump back and forth between the present day and the time period presented in the gameplay. This is to give you some perspective on each character as well as show how the daily lives of the characters impact their choices in the narrative. The focus on Bayek as the hero is an interesting one, especially given the reluctance to show the lives of commoners in ancient Egypt. Living as a normal guy in Egypt adds something to Assassin’s Creed Origins and it makes it a deeper experience in the end. Often these games involve someone ordinary being thrust into events that are extraordinary but, luckily, Bayek is not only the above but also happens to live in particularly extraordinary times indeed. With Caesar poised to invade Egypt and place his lover Cleopatra on the throne, this game takes place in the beginnings of the Roman Empire, a continent spanning power that set the stage for European culture for generations to come and which is considered by many to be the high point for the development of European culture in the ancient world. If you’re familiar with the lore of Assassin’s Creed, then you know that this is the beginning of everything the other games talk about in their storylines. With a unified continent under one empire, the struggle between the Order of the Ancients and the Brotherhood of Assassins can rise to new heights, reaching even the mind-bending global conspiracy levels they reach in later titles.

And that brings us to the graphics in Assassin’s Creed Origins. While the series is always known for its top-notch production and amazing recreation of scenes and historical areas, Assassin’s Creed Origins’ Egyptian setting is distinctly one of its best and most exotic. Vast areas of ancient Egypt are recreated in loving three-dimensional form and you will be tempted to spend as much if not more time exploring your surroundings than you will in actually playing the game. Ubisoft Montreal spared no expense in the recreation either: From photo realistic monuments to detailed layouts of their interiors, Ubisoft Montreal really did their homework and it deserves to be commended. Heck, they even included an interior space in a pyramid that had been recently discovered – and which no one knew what was in that room. In fact, the mysterious void in the Great Pyramid was a relatively new archaeological discovery and one that Ubisoft didn’t hesitate to throw into the game in a show of appreciation and dedication to authenticity. A setting that doesn’t get enough love in video games, Assassin’s Creed Origins’ ancient Egyptian set pieces make this a standout title in the series graphically. In fact, Ubisoft seems distinctly aware of this and has even included an exploration, historically-themed downloadable content package for Assassin’s Creed Origins called Discovery Tour. Kudos to Ubisoft for realizing that many of us are very into Egypt and wanting to play the game, including this mode. Of course, for those who love the gameplay and intense action of Assassin’s Creed, Assassin’s Creed Origins is probably more than enough to fulfill your appetite.

Sporting some of the tightest gameplay around, Assassin’s Creed Origins tweaks the style of previous games without messing it up too much. Those of you who have played previous Assassin’s Creed games will find a lot of familiarity here with few modifications to make the experience jarring for you. That said, if you don’t enjoy stealth action, then Assassin’s Creed Origins might be tedious for you. As in previous games, the emphasis is not on taking the whole world down but rather doing it one person at a time. While your character always feels powerful, they are not omnipotent nor are they intended to be. You are an assassin, meaning you have to learn how to use stealth and how to maneuver around environments to remove your foes. Going in guns blazing is a strategy, albeit one for failure.

In this respect, though, Assassin’s Creed Origins shows its age and the experience begins to crumble from a gameplay perspective because of this. While the setting and story really help carry the game at times, the gameplay’s adherence to modes established in previous titles makes for a jarring experience as you switch between gameplay modes. Never difficult to the point of tedium or frustration, Assassin’s Creed Origins rather feels like a retread in an unfamiliar world. That is, the game relies heavily upon your knowing the deal and if you don’t know anything about the Assassin’s Creed series then this might be a bit of a change of pace for you. In this regard the gameplay of Assassin’s Creed Origins recalls the classic PlayStation stealth action title Tenchu, a series that also relied heavily upon assassination and not getting spotted. While your player character in Tenchu was armed with a vast array of ninja abilities to take down people with in combat, the character was always awkward and even clumsy while on the field fighting against others. This is largely the case with the player in Assassin’s Creed Origins. You can fight others, you just want to avoid it as much as possible. This makes for a much slower paced action game and really leaves you no other option. In the beginning you can get away with being clumsy and loud but towards the end of the game this will result in certain death. Again, this isn’t a detraction from the game but instead a question and a warning to those gamers that think Assassin’s Creed Origins is one of those titles with “multiple ways” to play. It doesn’t have multiple ways to play and, if stealth is not your thing, it is an experience you should probably pass over.

Otherwise, Assassin’s Creed Origins is  a blockbuster, triple-A title and worthy in every way of its series storied history. Like the big Hollywood flicks from which it takes its inspiration, Assassin’s Creed Origins is an experience from beginning to end. An epic and a historical narrative, Assassin’s Creed Origins straddles the fine line between being an action brawl fest and a considered game, always preferring the gameplay style it pioneered while also rewarding players with a rich narrative and deep lore. Gamers that enjoy exploration and uncovering mysteries, as well as those who enjoy global conspiracy theories, will love how Assassin’s Creed Origins weaves all of this together into world history to tell a tale of generations of conflict between opposing factions that lurk in the shadows of everyday life. Overall a masterful epic tale and a wonderful video game to boot, Assassin’s Creed Origins is easily one of the best titles in the series and one of the best action games available on the home consoles and Windows-based PCs. While you don’t have to be a fan of the Assassin’s Creed series to enjoy this game, you might find yourself walking away from this title eager to try the other games in the series and uncover more of the global mystery surrounding the templar and the Brotherhood of Assassins.