When most people hear Ubisoft, one of the most often franchise that first comes to mind is Assassin’s Creed. It’s one of the most recognizable, and largest, franchises to date, despite criticism of several of the last entries. It’s spawned numerous sequels and spin-off games over all platforms, plus a mediocre movie to boot. Assassin’s Creed Syndicate released two years, and ending the hiatus is Origins. Ubisoft decided to start from square one. They went back to the drawing board and completely overhauled and redesigned many of the game’s primary systems, all in preparation to explore the very beginnings of this expansive franchise.
Before I go further, I need to add in a disclaimer. The review copy that I received did include the day one patch of Assassin’s Creed Origins, and it came with items available in the Deluxe Edition of the game. The copy was provided to me for free by the publisher. Also, this review will be as spoiler free as I can possibly be.
Did the increased development cycle make for a better game than the most lauded game in the franchise, Assassin’s Creed IV Black Flag. The game has definitely taken big strides and while it has big ideas and an absolutely brilliant overworld, I was quickly distracted by a game with odd story pacing and a plethora of bugs.
We start with what can be described as awkward at best. The incoherent introduction contains several flashbacks in a shoddy attempt to explain Bayek’s backstory and his incentive in seeking The Order of the Ancients, ultimately setting off to uncover the identities of this shadowy organization for very personal reasons.
Violence is expected in the Assassin’s Creed franchise, and Origins is rife with violence; understandably so. But it felt like the game was very insistent at remind you that death is basically a means to an end. No matter the cost. You see many scenes of violence against women and children, more awkwardness as the game seems to almost place a vast amount of emphasis on moments such as these. They quickly became onerous, and all without the satisfaction of a vision of a truly abhorrent antagonist to cap it all off. What you do get is antagonists that are barely fleshed out. With each, you are delivered personal monologues, which are tied to the overarching theme of Origins, but they lack substance. Motivations never become clear, and you aren’t really invested enough to care about them one way or another.
While I am absolutely in love with many of the new features and some of the mechanics, which we will get to shortly, my biggest let down is in the poor presentation of the narrative. Key characters are barely characterized thanks to quick cut scenes scattered throughout. And it’s unfortunate that you have fantastic voice acting, but the animation (particularly the often stiff facial animations) just doesn’t reflect the talent. The NPCs programmatically wave and flail their arms about as the characters, including Bayek, remain immobile.
I also found several moments in which the NPCs were supposed to be in the cut scene, but were not. Now Bayek appears to be talking to the wall. And while the story definitely tries to hit you in the feels (being a new father, there is a scene early on that hits me right there), the bus and errors in the game overshadowed the efforts.
Side quests are nothing new to the franchise, and they are pretty much the same as previous installments. You’ll find quests littered throughout the land of Egypt, which become necessary to complete in order to get better weapons and much needed experience. There were many educational moments in the side quests, and character development for Bayek himself, but they were inconsistent with some falling flat on their intention, and some succeeding.
A new thing in this installment are daily quests. A player will receive a random rare weapon at completion of these quests. I completed a few of these, and it was all for the drop, but not to keep. The bonus items that come with the Deluxe Edition kept me pretty well equipped through the beginning stages of the game. No, I broke down the weapons in order to enhance other pieces of armor. There was nothing notable about these quests and, just like the rest of the game, they were littered with bugs. From endless dialogue loops to glitching NPCs preventing quest completion, I often found myself restarting the game in order to complete the quests.
Bugs were not just localized to side quests, they would sometimes hinder story progression as well. One that happened pretty early on put me into a perpetual loading screen; seemingly neverending. 15 minutes later, I decided it was time for a restart. The second time this happened to me, I waited a little longer, but ultimately came to the same resolution. It’s kind of disappointing to see a triple AAA title in one of the most recognizable game franchises is still suffering these kinds of issues at launch, even with the lengthened development time. Unity was mocked for its bugs, and despite the extra time Origins is not looking much better.
In spite of all this, I did genuinely enjoy the game. The open world experience is breathtaking. The environments are gorgeously crafted and each of the areas you visit have remarkably distinguishable identities. I became obsessed with finding vantage points upon which I could grab incredible screen shots for various personal uses. Maybe Ubisoft spent a little too much time on this, rather than focusing on the aforementioned issues because this is the way to be successful in open-world design.
The mechanics of the game have been simplified, which makes scaling buildings, rock faces, and other objects is relatively easy this time around. The challenging puzzles are still scattered throughout, but they did a great job making these experiences smooth.
Another new feature is Senu, Bayek’s eagle companion, which has many benefits. Getting a bird’s eye view of the land around you will give you ample opportunity to survey the environment, targeting landmarks, objectives, and other points of interest. Time goes on while doing this, so be careful of where you decide to launch him into the air. On the other side of the coin, while there has been significant advances to the combat mechanics, there is still room for more improvement. Combat feels more like an RPG as you see damage values fly off the enemies. There’s a color-coded loot system as well. The battles have a really good flow with weight to back it up, and it all stays very simple as you move through them. But it gets repetitive quick. You’ll find yourself in a pattern throughout game progression, which is unfortunate coming up against games like Shadow of War which has an adaptive AI, evolving as you play.
The skill tree in Origins will allow you to expand Bayek’s aptitude in ranged or melee combat. You are awarded one skill point per level, and sometimes when you complete location objectives, which you can spend in a branching tree offering a handful of abilities, many of which can make the many encounters in the came less of a nuisance. Skills in the tree range from the ability to equip a second ranged or melee weapon, to giving Senu more tricks to aid you in your quest.
Helix Coins can be earned by completing in-game achievements. Purchase with these yields a variety of rewards from extra AP points, materials, weapons, to cosmetic items such as mounts and outfits.
Assassin’s Creed Origins delvers a deeply satisfying open world in the lands of ancient Egypt. The rich environments and breathtaking visuals just barely compensate for the issues I experienced. Exploring is just as fun as anything else the game has to offer. I am sure that the glitches and bugs will be addressed with patches as time moves on, but let’s hope that Ubisoft can work quick enough so as not to scare off new and old fans alike. If you’ve got the patience, it is worth getting at launch. If lack patience, delaying your purchase by a month or two may be the better route for you as kinks get ironed out.
3.75 / 5