With Assassin’s Creed Origins right around the corner, I was given the opportunity to head out to San Francisco to go hands on with about four hours of mid game content. Most of what has been showcased and played up to this point has been early content, so getting to really see what the meat and potatoes of the game was like was eye opening. After my time with Origins, I am more excited than ever to really return to the franchise.
Assassin’s Creed has been hit or miss recently, with the wild success of Black Flag, the lackluster reception to both Unity and the strangely last-gen exclusive Rogue, and the moderate reception of Syndicate. Assassin’s Creed Origins was a relative unknown, and a departure from anything the series had done to date. Once it was announced that Ancient Egypt was going to be the setting and source of Origins story, fans were thrilled. Long time AC fans have been asking for an Egypt setting since the beginning and ACO is finally going to deliver that. The problem with giving fans exactly what they want is that a large majority of the time, they have built it up so much in their head that it cannot live up to the expectations, no matter how great the final result. Origins looks, to me at least, to be a near perfect delivery of what people want and expect.
We were given a mid to late game mission to tackle, with an advanced build already set up for us. Assassin’s Creed Origins has you playing as Bayek, a Medjay and one of the original Assassin’s. Bayek was upgraded to a point that would be average for where we were at in the game, so things were not impossible but we were able to get a real feel for what a standard player will experience. It is also worth noting that we were playing on the Xbox One X which ran the game BEAUTIFULLY. Every detail was clear and crisp, with the truest near PC settings I have ever seen a console attain.
The first thing that players will notice is a complete shake up of the controls. Veteran AC players will have to forget everything that they have ever learned playing these games and learn a new control scheme from scratch. Combat is much simpler and more intuitive, as is the free running system. Running and climbing is no longer frustrating, with everything seeming to flow without thought as you run and move. Bayek feels like an extension of your will, as opposed to constantly feeling like you have to fight with the controls to accomplish a task. Since the majority of Assassin’s Creed games are spent either running, climbing or fighting, these changes make an enormous difference in how good the game feels.
The aesthetic is the next big change. Assassin’s Creed has tackled some beautiful landscapes, from ocean islands in Black Flag to Victorian London in Syndicate to the beautiful landscapes of Europe with Ezio there has been no shortage of scenery to admire. Origins is wholly different, with the Egyptian settings ranging from riverbeds with rampaging hippos, an oasis in the middle of the desert, tombs under a pyramid and everything in between. Origins is HUGE. We had four hours to explore a very small portion of the massive gamespace and I probably missed 75% of what was out there. The world is meticulously crafted, with NPCs living their own lives and interacting with one another separate from you and your influences. You can sit back and observe a conversation turn into a fight that results in the death of an NPC, then watch the Roman army step in and arrest or kill the perpetrator.
You can also choose to step in and kill the Romans and save the NPC, who then thanks you for your help. The world around you feels organically grown and alive, no matter where you are. An abundance of animals and hunting opportunity a la Far Cry find itself nicely at home in this setting. Nothing feels forced, if you want to spend a day hunting, go for it. If you want to pass the animals up and focus on human prey, you can do that too. The world is your oyster and you can do with it what you want.
The story that we were able to experience was meaningful and rich. I cared about Bayek and his wife, I cared whether the people around him respected him and helped him as opposed to feared and shunned him. I always found myself thinking from his perspective, which was wholly good. There is no malice in Bayek, he abhors the violence that he has to commit but understands that it is the only way to save the innocents around him. He is a true protector and I found myself playing with that mindset. Saving a random NPC from a hippo wasn?t a chore, I wasn?t doing it for a reward, I did it because that is what Bayek would do, no matter what. This translates over in every facet of the story we experienced and I believe this will be the strongest game in the series so far.
Upgrades and equipment borrows heavily from games like The Witcher 3, with an abundance of weapons to choose from, each with their own style, speed and bonuses. Different weapons work for different enemies and switching between them is made easy. Your progression follows several trees and you pick which you want to focus on based on your preferred style of play. No matter what kind of Assassin you are, Bayek can be the character for you.
Ultimately at the end of my four hours all I wanted to do was play more. Since my trip I have not stopped thinking about this game and all there is to do in it. Stay locked here at Gaming Age for more Assassin’s Creed Origins details in the coming weeks, as well as a final review for the game prior to its launch on October 27th.