Assassin’s Creed Origins – At the top of the pyramid

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Fans have been asking for it for a long time, and their wish is now granted: we finally have the chance to visit ancient Egypt in an Assassin’s Creed. Don’t worry, Ubisoft took up the challenge hands down, making some significant changes to the formula, which was in great need.

This year is the tenth anniversary of the Assassin’s Creed series! Ten main games in ten years (if we count Brotherhood, Revelations and Rogue), as well as a multitude of spin-offs on mobile and portable. That’s why last year’s break felt like an eternity!

This break has been greatly beneficial for everyone. Players had some fatigue from the series, especially for those who had missed a few and ended up with a stack of games all a little similar in their backlog… Unity was not up to Black Flag: it unfortunately discouraged some people from getting Syndicate, even if he was in my opinion one of those who was worth it.

Fortunately, Origins is a new beginning that changes some systems anchored in the series from the very beginning, resulting in a breath of fresh air. This redesign of the series is not new: Ubisoft Montreal began to think about it after the release of Black Flag. Origins has been in development for four years (Syndicate came from Ubisoft Quebec), and it shows.

The grandiose beauty of Egypt

I don’t think I’ve stopped as often to look at the landscape in any game other than Assassin’s Creed Origins. Even after dozens of hours, I am amazed by the level of detail, the architecture, and the simple fascinating beauty of ancient Egypt faithfully reproduced in Origins. I feel like a tourist (and time traveler) who has a unique chance to observe this slice of history.

Inspiration is good

From the outset, we see that the changes made to the series are mostly systems from other franchises. One could blame Ubisoft for copying the competition, but in truth, there’s no harm in applying the game design innovations of recent years to improve its franchise. When you draw an arrow in mid-flight, you are entitled to a practical and “badass” slow motion a la Shadow of mordor or Max Payne (or Breath of the Wild, who himself copied Assassin’s Creed with his ugly version of the towers to climb, then…).

The bird from Far Cry Primal is my favorite addition. Not only does it make sense in the context of the game (the eagle is a symbol of the series), but it helps us enormously during infiltration sessions. You fly over a fort as the crow flies, you can tag enemies, determine an optimal course and establish a strategy. Previous games always made me a little angry when I tried to infiltrate a camp and a “surprise” enemy turned my stealth attempt into 1 vs 30 combat. I wondered if the eagle was actually a concept of Origins (in development for 4 years) that was tested in Far Cry Primal released in 2016, but hey…

A combat system less “Batman” and more “Dark Souls” (I am told, I have never played Dark Souls), which is not at all the button-mashing of yesteryear. No quick-time event: you have to ride to dodge shots, and these rolls are not unlimited. We must be attentive and precise. At least, until your equipment is so effective that you can face hordes of Romans without worries!

An assassin, it murders!

But the most important change is the return to the roots. An assassin murders. Ironically, this is what Ubisoft seemed to have forgotten for quite a while, while the majority of missions were to do absolutely everything except this! Your main goal is to eliminate the Order of the Elders, because they control Egypt in a dishonest way, but also for personal reasons that I will let you discover.

But besides these main missions, most of the side quests take you to a fort protected by many guards. These forts contain two optional objectives to complete, which grants you a significant number of experience points. You must kill the captain(s) and steal the treasure(s). Since you are never forced to kill everyone, it’s always a lot of fun to plan your move to be as discreet as possible.

These missions are very numerous, but always wrapped in a varied scenario coating. The NPC will tell you: “Find my brother who was captured!”, “Avenge the death of my family!”, “Go get my horse back!”, but in the end, these are all Far Cry infiltration missions, in which you strategically eliminate enemies one by one. Important point: most of them take place in the open air. I always found the missions inside painful (especially in Unity), since the limited vision forced us to follow a precise path determined by the developer, otherwise it was very difficult to survive or not alert all the guards in the country.

I could blame Assassin’s Creed for being repetitive, but in truth, these forts are those most fun missions. Action and stealth are the reason we play these games, not for missions where we follow someone or listen to conversations…

I played it on a standard PlayStation 4 and on the performance side, we shot around 30 frames per second, sometimes more outside the cities, sometimes less during complex scenes. It never affected my experience or night in the fights. This is the price to pay for such a beautiful open world game, with no loading time between the different areas, in which you can see very far on the horizon without fog. If you’re a performance junky, you’ll have to shell out for a PS4 Pro, Xbox One X, or high-end PC. On the other hand, several PC users report that the game uses their CPU at full capacity (causing crashes, blue screen, etc.). They blame the anti-hacking protection, but Ubisoft assures that this is not the case. Who to believe? I haven’t tried the PC version, but the reviews on Steam are very favorable, so this may be an issue related to a particular CPU model. Maybe a patch can fix these problems in a few weeks.

So much to say, so little time… To conclude, here is a list of cool stuff in Origins, so as not to make a 2000-word review:

  • Playing with the cap down, since Bayek is not hiding from anyone
  • Watch crocodiles fight against hippos, and pick up the “loot” once it’s over $$$$
  • Visit the pyramids, faithfully rebuilt thanks to the help of Jean-Pierre Houdin, an expert in the field
  • Hallucinations due to the sun in the middle of the desert
  • An endearing and very human hero
  • Call your camel (or horse) at any time like Roach in The Witcher
  • Taming a lion and having it fight for you
  • Ben-Hur races in the racecourse

I was expecting an Assassin’s Creed that is coming back in force by modernizing, that amazes with its fabulous settings, and that corrects some of the problems of the series. That’s exactly what I got. Origins is not perfect, but rises among the best in the series, and among the very good games of 2017. I recommend it for any fan of the series, but especially to those who may have put the Assassin’s Creed aside for a while. This is the ideal time to dive back.

A step forward for the series. Redesign of several systems (combat, inventory, skills), while returning to the sources on the gameplay side (more assassinations) and scenario side (the origin of the assassins’ guild).

The most

  • Several major changes to the formula
  • Fascinating scenery
  • More interesting, albeit repetitive, missions

Cons

  • Some bugs, as always
  • Virtually mandatory side missions

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