Assassin’s Creed Origins Review
I just finished up most of my play-through of Assassin's Creed Origins, and I have A LOT to say about this newest installment to one of my favorite franchises.
Origins changes quite a few things that AC veterans may find uncomfortable -- I did -- and also introduces a few new mechanics that I think you'll really enjoy. My review is going to cover general topics, and I'll dig into the micro of each of my points within those categories.
First we have the story, which I have always found in AC games to be compelling and overly complex. Origins takes place in Egypt during the Ptolemaic period (48 BC). This is the time when Cleopatra's brother Ptolemy was pharoah, but the country was heavily dominated by Roman incursions and influence under the rule of Caesar (the one who was stabbed by the Senate).
The main story focuses around Bayak, a Medjay (like a peace keeper), and his wife Aya, as they work to try and protect the kingdom from all sorts of bad things. Their son, Khemu, was murdered by a group of masked men who we know all too well to be The Order of the Ancients -- forerunners to the Templar Order. This drive for vengeance consumes Bayak, while his wife Aya is consumed by the call of duty to Cleopatra, who she believes to be the true pharaoh.
On the real life side of this story is Layla, who is working for Abstergo as a researcher looking for a relic in Egypt. She stumbles onto a tomb containing Bayak and Aya, and relives their memories using her modified animus. That's essentially the only "real life" part of this story that we see.
In general, a good story, though I wished for more. See my critiques in the expandable section below.
Spoilers & Story Critique
I really liked the relationship between Bayak and Aya. Both my wife and I (who played the game side-by-side as we have the past 3 AC games) felt their bond was unique to the series, and made their interactions special.
We did not like how it ended with them separating. Bayak and Aya eventually call it quits because they realize being together reminds them too much of their son. Bayak, consumed by his hatred for his son's killers, was distraught. Aya was betrayed by Cleopatra who basically joined The Order of the Ancients for her personal gain (in marriage to Caesar), and that made her feel like garbage.
To re-channel their emotions into something constructive, they come together to form the Brotherhood of Assassins. Aya, who is truly the founder of the Assassins, is actually Amunet, who you may recognize from the story in AC2. Really cool tie-in here.
I really enjoyed how the story wove the Assassins into the story of how Caesar (grand master of The Order of the Ancients) died. It was Aya who orchestrated that stabbing and assassination.
In general, I just wish they had stuck together and realized they were stronger together, and that fighting in the shadows WITH their love was completely doable.
At the end of the story, in "real life" we see Layla meets William Miles, a mentor to the Assassin Brotherhood who convinces her to come along with him and at least consider joining the Assassins after its clear that Abstergo tried to kill her and screw her over.
Combat, Gear, & Skills
Combat radically changes in Assassin's Creed Origins. There's no counter system at all, and combat feels a lot less fluid. Instead, it's based on a more real-time feel where the enemy is just going to outright keep attacking you, and you can do the same. There's the ability to block and parry somewhat, but mostly it's about finding opening to execute combos and attacks before the enemy can get in theirs.
I did not like this combat system nearly as much as past games. It felt at times uncontrolled, chaotic, and really unrefined. I'm used to playing as a skilled Assassin, and not a sword-and-board gladiator feel.
Character progression is tried to skills you purchase with ability points which are earned every time you level up and from finding ancient tablets. I felt like by the time I finished playing the main story, I had all the abilities I wanted. There are three trees, one focusing on ranged, one melee, and one 'tools' or 'different' abilities. I liked all the skills well-enough, and the system was neither make it or break it for me.
Gear was cool because it was a big step up for the series. You could choose two bows, two melee weapons, a shield, a tool, a mount, and a cosmetic outfit. For stats outside of weapon damage, you upgraded your hidden blade, ranged damage, melee damage, armor value, and ammunition count. I like how this system provided a loot drop mechanic that meant something, while also incorporating a hunting system.
In order to upgrade your gear you had to spend a significant amount of time hunting wild animals. At first, I thought this was a little tedious. I quickly picked up on using Senu to spot game everywhere I went. You also need things like ore and wood, all of which comes dominantly from taking out caravans -- super easy, just come up behind them and stealth kill your way to victory.
Overall, combat was meh. Gear was great. Skills fine. Upgrading gear and character power was neat and new.
Senu - Origins' Version of Eagle Vision
Want to know how eagle vision was invented? Well, Bayak has a eagle named Senu who can fly high above and spot everything. Tada! That's how it got its name.
Senu can spot enemies, harass them (when upgraded), find wild game, find obejctives etc. Senu is a 100% mandatory key/crucial component of the game. Senu's perception is upgraded as you find more eagle points.
While a really, really cool mechanic to take control of Senu and fly around freely, I desperately missed the ability to flip on eagle vision and see through walls. Senu was more of a drone that would tag enemies for you. Not quite the same.
World, Setting, Missions, Progression, etc
The world is bigger than any past Assassin's Creed game. I think it feels bigger than even Black Flag including the ocean. Sure, a lot of it is open desert that seems unused, but it's huge.
From climbing the great pyramids, to sailing the Egyptian rivers, to exploring the streets of Memphis, it's all very cool.
There are times I felt a little bit of what i call open-world fatigue. It hits when you constantly have to run around and travel back and forth to places which happens a lot of AC Origins.
Side missions are all over the world. As you discover a new area, chances are you'll uncover quite a few side quests that just pop up for ou.
Main story missions will send you around the world to some degree, but a lot of exploring really falls on you as the player. You'll want to be sure you go out of your way to reveal those areas that might have more quests. Numerous times I got bored of side quests and progressed my story to the point of needed 3-4 levels before I could progress further.
Overall, the world is gorgeous. It's more 'living' than any other AC game. It's huge. Missions take you around, but there's plenty to explore. I think the side missions get boring, but they yield good rewards, some nice lore, and do give you the progression element you need.
Missing the "Assassin" Feel
This is my biggest gripe with Assassin's Creed Origins, but it's a problem inherent to a game that tells the story of how the Brotherhood came to be: I often didn't feel like an assassin. I didn't feel that 'badass' feeling I crave.
Many times I missed my double assassinate. I missed peaking on corners. I missed sneaking around and having to complete missions without being detected at all. I missed blending in with crowds, throwing money on the streets, the clandestine meetings, assassination contracts, etc. I missed being feared and known.
My wife is getting my The Ezio Collection for PS4 for Xmas so she can play through AC2, Revelations, and Brotherhood with me. Those are such good games, and after that we're playing Black Flag. I need to feel like an assassin again.
Bottom line: Really good game. The story bothered me at times, but I get it. Combat was good in its own right, but I missed being that stealthy assassin. The world is absolutely gorgeous and huge. Progression is better than all the past games with how gear is handled, and hunting actually made sense to me for the first time. I'm obviously going to recommend the game to anyone who has played past AC games, but I think this stands alone more than any previous AC game for newcomers to the franchise.
Time Played: 43 hours
I want to go back and complete a few more missions and max out my character's level so that I am ready for the DLC coming soon!