In the latest installment in the Assassin’s Creed series, you play as Bayek of Siwa, the last Medjay. A protector of the Pharaohs of Egypt, Bayek begins his journey as one of revenge for the murder of his son at the hands of a shadowy organization known as the Order of Ancients, a masked group of puppet masters who truly control the happenings in Egypt. Through his vendetta, something greater than him, or his bloodlust, is born; the Hidden Ones, or more commonly known as the assassins.
While the game largely focuses on Bayek and his story, there are other actors that have parts to play. One of them is his wife, Aya. Though we meet her early on in the story, she does not become a playable character until later. We also get a glimpse of the modern world through Layla, an Abstergo employee who has gone, in a sense, rogue in order to prove her capabilities to her company by learning of Bayek’s life.
The World of Assassin’s Creed Origins
The game is set in Egypt, land of the Pharaohs, the Sphinx and the great pyramids of Giza, all of which you will see at some point or another in Origins. These are only some of the sites you will visit in this game, however.
First off, the map is huge… huge. I cannot stress that enough. When I found myself feeling like I had made some decent progress in a gaming session and had discovered a lot, I would always open the map and realize I still had quite a bit left to uncover. I fancy myself a bit of a completionist, so when I am faced with a map of this magnitude, I’m simultaneously happy and anxious. Where to begin? Where do I go next?
At first, I let the main story missions take me to wherever they may, visiting cities such as Alexandria and Memphis. Sometimes, I would take an hour or two and just go wandering through one of the many deserts that surround the area in search of stone circles. This is a side activity that has you match up a constellation to whichever stone circle you have discovered. Other times, I would chase down the answers to papyrus puzzles. These puzzles are riddles hidden in cities which give clues to their whereabouts. Upon discovering them, you are rewarded with a weapon, or shield, of higher quality. Regardless of what I was doing, I knew there was more to discover.
Side Quests and More!
Stone circles and papyrus puzzles are not the only things to keep you distracted in Origins. The map is littered with side quests, though some were a one-off; Go to this area, help this person and then move on. Others had their own miniature story told through several missions. I found myself scouring the map looking for more that may have popped up through my progression, and plenty of times they did. But, the ones you find are not the only ones to be had. There are certain characters you will meet that end up being key players later on who have several missions for you to do in their respective cities.
All of these side missions, on top of discovering a massive map and tackling the campaign, may seem a bit overwhelming. Thankfully, Ubisoft took an approach to experience, or leveling, in a sympathetic way. Taking note of your level, as well as the levels of your various opponents, will be crucial to your success. Some missions may be at a level 5 rating while you’re sitting at level 15. Other times, they could be vastly out of your range.
One such activity is one that Ubisoft started doing recently, the Trials of the Gods. My blunder was thinking I was better than I actually was when I took on this task for the first time. It’s an event that lasts for a week and offers up decent gear. When I first attempted it, I was around level 35 (40 is the current cap). While the event itself was suggested at level 40, I quickly realized that this was not an understatement. After doing little to no damage to the boss, I was faced with four or five minions that all had a skull icon above their head. It was then that I knew this was not for the under-leveled.
Another interesting addition to Assassin’s Creed Origina is Reda, a child merchant who offers daily special missions ranging from rescuing individuals and clearing out bandit camps to gathering materials for the reward of a chest that gives you the chance at high-end gear. All of these add to the depth and immersion of Assassins Creed Origins.
A huge map, tons of side quests, recurring boss battles, and a special vendor… But wait! There’s more! That’s right, in Assassin’s Creed Origins we also get loot drops and crafting. The loot itself can be gained from the aforementioned special vendor, Reda, or the Trials of the Gods. It can also be awarded for completing missions within the main campaign or dropped from tougher enemies. You can earn legendary gear, which is the highest tier of weaponry and armor, rather early on, along with the ability to purchase weapons, outfits and more through the store found in the start menu. They may not, however, always stay viable.
You may find you like a certain type of bow or sword that becomes underpowered over time. Fear not. At blacksmith locations scattered through Egypt, you can spend your hard-earned money to upgrade your weaponry and shields to match your level, all the while increasing the base stats on the piece of gear. In addition to loot drops and upgrading gear, you can also craft better versions of your assassin-specific armor and gear. Through the collection of materials such as iron, cedarwood, pelts, and leather, you can increase the damage done by your hidden blade, increase your melee and ranged damage, and increase your health by improving your breastplate.
Lastly, there’s the skill tree, full of fun and useful perks that let you choose how you want to play. You can put more time into the Hunter branch, improving your skills with the various kinds of bows found throughout the game. Perhaps you like to throw caution to the wind and go in guns, or swords, blazing. The Warrior branch is one for you. If you like to be cunning and set traps for your foes to fall into or set your enemies on their own comrades, Seer would be a prudent choice.
If you want to be a jack of all trades, then consider that most (if not all) of the skills overlap into other branches at some point. Each perk can only be unlocked by gaining access to one of its predecessors, and the master perks (Hunter, Seer, and Warrior) can be purchased with skill points as many times as you like. Unfortunately, there are some skills that almost seem like they were placed there to take up space. Skills such as looting when you melee-kill an enemy, or doing the same but when you stealth-kill them, felt like they should have been integrated into combat from the start.
The game is not without its flaws. Though it seems like it released without Ubisoft’s classic world-breaking bugs, there are still a few that linger. Thankfully, it’s nothing terrible. One issue that I found more often than not was when a target would be glitched through the world, moving outside of the playable area. Typically, I found these in the special missions given by Reda in his daily activities. There was a mission where I was tailing a chariot, and somehow or another it glitched through the world, only allowing me to watch the distance meter grow… and grow. A quick trip back to the main menu and reload solved the issue, but it was still agitating.
Another instance would happen every now and then, though I’m unsure if I want to refer to it as a bug. During a few missions, I would be tasked with escorting an individual out of a city, often times gaining the unwanted attention of guards in doing so. Having died a few times, I would respawn where I died while the person was back at the mission start. It became a chore after a short while to have to backtrack to the starting position, only to go straight back to where I just was.
Other letdowns come in the form of the gameplay and characters. As I mentioned at the beginning, there are points in the game where you play as an Abstergo employee named Layla. She seems placed into the game for the sheer sake of continuing to remind players that you are experiencing the game through memories. She has two or three snippets of gameplay where nothing of any real value is revealed. These segments often just featured brief dialogue that segues back into Bayek.
In my opinion, after the death of Desmond Miles at the end of Assassin’s Creed 3, the existence outside of the animus has dwindled in importance. You go from a faceless Abstergo employee in Black Flag to a faceless Assassin being talked to through a video feed of some kind in Syndicate, to Layla in Assassin’s Creed Origins.
My last negative reflection comes from some of the gameplay itself. Ship Combat: Yes, it’s made a return. From the brief missions in Assassin’s Creed 3 to the open waters of Black Flag, and even the toned down version in Rogue, the tradition of ship combat makes its return in Origins. However, it is easily the worst it’s ever been.
The controls are clunky, and steering the ship is aggravating at best. In order to speed up, you have to hold down the right trigger, while the right trigger is also used for firing your main artillery of arrows at opposing ships. Holding down the A button will get you up to ramming speed, but nothing else, whereas in Black Flag, you could set your travel speed and adjust it manually by pressing A. Now, gaining speed and maneuverability seems like a chore. Lastly, you have catapults that allow you to do larger damage (similar to the mortars on the Jackdaw), however, when you use it you stop moving, rendering it a double-edged sword.