A Good But Not-Quite-Great Creed Title
After a short break, the long-running, open world game series Assassin’s Creed returns with another action packed adventure, this time in the sun-soaked deserts of Ancient Egypt. While there’s no denying the aesthetic and visual design of the game is outstanding, a lack of originality with the mission design and a lack of empathy toward the cookie-cutter main protagonist do hurt what’s otherwise an enjoyable offering. In true Ubisoft fashion there’s an overwhelming amount of busywork here too but with little in the way of innovation or originality, a lot of this feels very mundane and meaningless, intentionally designed to pad out the game time which holds Origins back from being the amazing game it so easily could have been.
There’s plenty of NPCs to talk to littered throughout the game
As well as progressing the overarching story about the Brotherhood and the Assassins themselves, the stand-alone story this time is set in Ancient Egypt, weaving its own tale of treachery, vengeance and revenge. You control Bayek, a respected Medjay in charge of protecting the Siwa Oasis who bears witness to a tragic incident that results in his exile from his home. It’s at this point that the game opens up and with it, an overarching quest to track down and assassinate the ones responsible for the incident befallen upon you early in the game. Peppered throughout the story are bursts of exposition that jump to the present day, expanding on the lore of the game and in true Assassin’s Creed fashion, plenty of historical figures show up in Egypt and become entangled in the main plot line.
Most fights devolve to one on one or two on one skirmishes
While the story itself is serviceable enough and serves its purpose to help bring Egypt to life and give your character purpose, the real meat and bones of the game comes from the exhaustively expansive world. It’s here that Origins excels and visually there’s no denying that Ancient Egypt has been recreated in incredible detail. Intricate details like muddy-green water splashing against rocks, rolling sand dunes and the breathtaking architecture as buildings tower over you all look amazing and give the world some much needed depth. The world is populated by a variety of NPCs too and whether it be people cleaning the streets, scholars reading scrolls or even soldiers patrolling the streets, Assassin’s Creed Origins does a really good job making its various cities and villages feel like living, breathing areas. It’s a shame then that the gameplay ultimately lets the excellent visual design down.
Most of the missions on offer revolve around tracking down and assassinating targets, elaborate fetch quests or travelling to new areas. While there are of course more in depth story missions than this, there’s little in the way of innovation with much of the mission design overall. Most of this would be forgivable if you could skip a lot of the side content but thanks to the levelling system at play here, the game constantly shoehorns you into engaging in a lot of the side quests to gain experience points to then move on to the next challenging story mission. This repetitive game loop is ultimately what makes Origins unravel. While it’s absolutely fine to throw a few fetch quests in, for those hoping to experience the story and avoid doing a lot o the busywork may find themselves out of luck. Expect to climb countless structures to synchronise new fast travel points, undertake constant chores for people in villages and empty strongholds to build up your level so you’re strong enough to tackle the next main story mission.
Some of the Egyptian architecture is truly awe-inspiring…
This structure that seems to be a staple of the series does grow tiring quickly and after such innovative titles like The Witcher 3 and what they’ve accomplished with innovative side quests, Origins pales in comparison. While this may sound like an unnecessary criticism – especially given the game has thrived all these years on its tried-and-tested formula – it also serves to exacerbate the issues the series has had all these years that still haven’t been resolved. The main culprit of this comes from the combat system which continues to be plagued with terrible enemy AI, even on the harder difficulty levels. When surrounded by swarms of enemies, these large-scale fights result in simple one-on-one or two-on-one skirmishes while other soldiers stand around waiting for their turn. The usual visual and physic glitches aside, this has been the biggest issue in Assassin’s Creed even as far back as the original game and it’s a trend that doesn’t seem to be coming to an end anytime soon.
Still, there’s hundreds of hours of content here and it’s very easy to career off from the beaten track and become engrossed in the variety of side quests and things to do the game throws at you. Question marks pop up on the map and UI every time you end up near an objective and before you know it, hours have slipped by as you find yourself compelled to explore every nook and cranny this beautifully realized world has to offer. Although the majority of content here feels mundane and unoriginal, oftentimes devolving to killing a certain number of enemies or collecting a certain item, there’s still a lot of enjoyment to be had and if you’ve played other Creed games, Origins is up there as one of the best.
…and the same can be said of the natural beauty on display too
There’s plenty of other positives with the game too, from the excellent soundtrack and voice acting to the welcome addition of historically accurate facts and tidbits placed throughout the world. Assassin’s Creed Origins isn’t a bad game and there’s an exhausting amount to do here but at time it almost feels bloated for the sake of padding out the game time rather than crafting a fully cohesive, stunningly robust world to explore. The story itself is enjoyable though but the real stand-out is of course Egypt itself which is simply stunning. While the gameplay and story may not excel as much as it could, the same cannot be said for the visual design. Origins looks incredible and boasts some of the best worldbuilding seen in a game in quite some time, it’s just a pity that the content within that playing space just doesn’t quite match up to the premise.