Review - 'Assassin's Creed: Origins' (PC)
Egyptian Batman would be the best way to describe Assassin’s Creed: Origins. From saving civilians to detective work to an epic revenge tale, Bayek’s story and his abilities are more akin to the DC and Marvel superheroes of today than the other yesteryear protagonists of the Assassin’s Creed franchise. No problem is too big nor too small for Bayek. Add to that an incredibly expansive open world, a revamped combat system, and a whole new loot system, Assassin’s Creed: Origins is possibly one of the best superhero games on the market. I just wish it included a little more Assassin’s Creed.
After a tragic event befalls husband and wife, Bayek and Aya, they set off on a revenge quest to right past wrongs and in doing so cross paths with some of the most powerful figures of the ancient egyptian era such as Cleopatra and Caesar, resulting in major power shifts that will affect the history of not only Egypt, but the world.
The story of Assassin’s Creed: Origins has as little to do with the rest of the franchise as Thor: Ragnarok does with its predecessors. Though the game is called Origins, the Assassin Brotherhood doesn’t factor in until the last tenth of the main story and even then it feels shoehorned in a way that undermines the Origins name. Heck, Bayek doesn’t even get the Hidden Blade until a few hours in and the animus is barely relevant. The revenge plot is atypical of the franchise but the main drive that kept me pushing my way through the campaign was the wonderful relationship on display between Bayek and Aya.
Bayek and Aya had been subjected to the worst cruelty parents can endure but through thick and thin, the two are inseperable. Their relationship is made even stronger by the chemistry between the voice actors and beautiful writing. Anytime they were both on screen, the game felt electric, better than it had any right to be and when they weren’t together, I would lose interest just the tiniest bit. I was still invested in Bayek’s character whose stoic demeanor and dorky sense of humor propelled me through to the end; however, the husband and wife dynamic really made the game for me.
Things have taken a turn for the best since Assassin’s Creed: Syndicate. Incorporating mechanics from Ghost Recon Wildlands, a loot system similar to that of Destiny (not just their sweet cursory UI navigation), and a combat system resembling something between Dark Souls and The Legend of Zelda, Assassin’s Creed feels fresh again in a way it hasn’t since Assassin’s Creed 2. There’s a new level system similar to your typical RPG where Bayek will unlock skills by obtaining experience points acquired through completing quests and defeating enemies. The downside is that some abilities that have become standard for AC games are now locked behind an experience wall. The only excuse I can come up with for this is “It’s called Origins?” And much like Skyrim, certain areas of the open world are risky to explore as enemies above your level will have more health and deal a lot more damage to Bayek. Luckily for those who aren’t too fond of this system, there’s an option to have the enemies level with you so there’s never a singular enemy too high of a level for Bayek to take out.
As a part of this new level up system, there's also a new loot system. Weapons and shields are all now random loot drops, either through reward or purchasable via an in-game shopkeeper. The loot can easily be scrapped down to its raw materials and used for other upgrades on the fly as well, such as Bayek's armor or damage output. Unfortunately, there will be a lot of duplicates but you can make some pretty good coin from selling your worthless junk. What I love most about this system is the higher level drops will include weapons that will have status effects such as bleeding or poison, making Bayek even more unstoppable.
Combat requires a lot more patience than your typical AC. There’s no longer spamming the counter button until there’s a pile of bodies surrounding you. You’ll need to approach combat a little more methodically depending on your weapon type and make sure to always keep your thumb hovering over the dodge button to quickly evade incoming death. There are several different types of weapons like fast two handed daggers or heavy weapons like scepters and axes-which I love to death-that really change up the gameplay of Origins. Speed now factors in to your fighting style as well. If slow and deliberate isn’t your style since attacks will need to be timed a little more precisely, I say go with the dual daggers or sickle swords as they’re quick but deals less damage. Much like Dark Souls, there’s now a dedicated button for heavy attacks, which come in handy when larger enemies are open for attack but it also leaves you open so make sure no one’s queuing up to stab you in the back when you go for the kill.
Bayek's shield is incredibly handy as well and comes with its own abilities such as shield bash and parrying. The parry is very forgiving, just time it right when an enemy attacks and you can open them up for a counter-attack. However, if an enemy glows red, that means they're about to unleash an unblockable heavy attack so make sure to dodge out of the way as an attack like that will really give you a whallop. If you can match a heavy attack that glows gold at the same time, you'll counter them. It's very loosey goosy and I rarely ever matched my enemy but a simple parry with a shield will knock enemies off guard to ensure some good hits. Each weapon type has a sweet finishing move like the other AC games so when the last enemy finally goes down, Bayek will initiate a beautifully choreographed action and it’s oh-so-satisfying if the battle was a struggle. Unfortunately, each weapon type only has maybe two different finishers when I wish there were more.
Side missions are the royale with cheese of AC: Origins. When I was dreading the main missions, which consisted of the go-here-kill-this-guy blandness other than the intriguing relationship with Aya, I pursued the side missions, which are exponentially more entertaining. With many variations and surprisingly well written dialogue, there’s rarely a dull moment except for certain factors that I'll get to in just a bit. Taking many notes from the Witcher 3, dull fetch quests are suddenly engaging with rich character work and voice acting, and escort missions are turned on their head such as when a giant crocodile becomes the damsel in distress that I then have to escort back to her swampy home while she's chomping down on enemies. It was amazing. Much like Geralt of Rivia and especially like Batman, Bayek is Egypt’s greatest detective as a lot of the side missions put Bayek’s investigative skills to the test. Anytime I came across these missions, I was just as excited as if I were reading an issue of Detective Comics.
On a down note, the side missions are also the game's downfall. They're mostly still the dreaded escort missions and follow-and-talk missions. Yes, they change up the formula like I mentioned earlier with some good writing but it's still exhausting when I have to walk and talk with a character three or four side missions in a row and end up at the same end goal where I kill a bunch of dudes.
Exploring the open world of Assassin's Creed: Origins is incredibly rewarding as discovering towns and old tombs now grant you experience. The developers at Ubisoft have painstakingly recreated ancient Egypt and provided the player so much more freedom than previous entries. From the smallest villages to the largest cities, there's always something exciting around every corner and treasures to find.
Graphically, Origins is gorgeous and the best looking Assassin's Creed to date. Bustling city streets are filled with NPCs, wildlife fills the terrain, and the African deserts steal your breath away, literally in some cases as sandstorms will occasionally come out of nowhere. On my PC, the game ran at a buttery smooth sixty frames per second but for some reason, any time I would pause to scroll across the map menu, it would stutter and I'm not sure if that was the game or the optimization. Another issue I came across was pinning crafting tools to the UI from the item menu. Sometimes my item requirements would be on screen when scavenging, sometimes it wouldn't.
If any fans were hesitant to dip back into the Assassin's Creed franchise, Origins offers the opportunity to begin again for returning players and new players alike. With a great main character, well written missions, and a sprawling open world, Egypt should be next to visit on your gaming vacation. Be wary though, there isn't much Assassin's Creed in Assassin's Creed: Origins.