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Finally Playing the First Assassin’s Creed

I know that I'm getting the Ezio Collection on PS4 (annoyingly cheaper on Amazon than usual) for Christmas tomorrow because my Wife has enjoyed playing Unity, Syndicate, and Origins with me so much that she wants to go back and see how the series got started.

But wait! Could this be the opportunity I've been waiting for to actually trudge through the very first Assassin's Creed?! My wife said it made the most sense to her to start at the beginning, so we're doing it! 

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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.

Story

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

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.

The Verdict

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.

thumbs-o-up

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!

Pros

  • check
    Gorgeous world and setting of Egypt captivates.
  • check
    Main story has its ups and downs, but succeeds in telling the story of how things begin.
  • check
    Character progression works really well for the style of gameplay, and creates a baseline model for the franchise.
  • check
    Senu was a really neet way of exploring and seeing a true birds-eye view.

Cons

  • minus-circle
    While fitting for the character and time period, I didn't like the combat nearly as much because it was too aggressive and lacked that counter-kill feel.​​​​
  • minus-circle
    I wanted to feel more like an assassin.
  • minus-circle
    Despite thinking Senu was neat, I missed Eagle Vision.
  • minus-circle
    I wanted there to be more "real life" stuff to further the overarching story.
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Assassins Creed Origins: What a Wondrous World

As a devout fanboy of the Assassin’s Creed franchise, you better believe I’m diving head first into Assassin’s Creed Origins. Set in the Egyptian era, and featuring some of the first (in a long time) major innovations for the series, Origins has me completely engulfed in its wonder.

A formal review will eventually come (before the end of the year), but to lead up to that review I want to write about things I love and experience as they happen.

I want to really emphasize the world in Origins. The Egyptian setting features places like Alexandria, Siwa, Giza, and Memphis. There are all sorts of deserts and crypts and open-world areas to explore. There are waters with boats, huge open deserts, grand ancient cities, and deep tombs. There’s so much to explore and see that some may even find themselves suffering from open-world fatigue.

The best way to explore the world and experience Origins first hand really is to just set off in a direction (generally toward a major story objective) and just see the world as you go. If you play to “complete” the world, you’ll burn out. Play to live the journey, on the other hand, and you’ll see the world naturally unfolds around you.

The world itself really plays a part in the experience. Traveling through the desert, I’ve already be faced with a burning bush (yep), mirages, hallucinations, ambushes, heat exhaustion (that I feel like quite literally lights you on fire), and even curses — yes, it was raining frogs at one point.

You’ll also feel immersed in the world by having to hunt animals to upgrade your gear. There are more RPG elements I’ll go into in another post at another time, but suffice it to say you have to have leathers, hides, pelts, wood, and ore to upgrade your gear — and you NEED to upgrade — so you’ll have to hunt to get those resources.

The last part of the world that I find so wonderful is your eagle, Senu. This eagle companion has replaced your dormant sixth sense that you had in past Assassin’s Creed games, and literally become ‘eagle vision’. You take control of your eagle and fly through the skies. This provides both an aerial view of what’s happening below, and an awe-inspiring view of the scenery around you. I sometimes take flight just to look around and explore the big picture.

If you like open-world games, Assassin’s Creed Origins definitely scratches that itch for me.

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The Rest of the Year is Full of Blockbuster Games

There are so many blockbuster games coming out in the next couple of months. This year is going by so far that many of them snuck up on me. I checked Amazon last night for something random I needed to buy, and then suddenly I realized all these games were releasing within months or even weeks.

Uncharted the Lost Legacy

Uncharted: The Lost Legacy

Release Date: August 22, 2017

Status: Pre-Ordered​

Why It's On My List
I fell in love with the Uncharted series only a few years ago. From the moment I actually (finally) sat down and played the first, I was hooked and quickly finished all of the games that were out. Last year, Uncharted 4 brought the end of the story line featuring Nathan Drake, paving the way for new Uncharted games to feature other characters. In The Lost Legacy, we'll be playing as Chloe and Nadine -- a very interesting combo. I'm eager to see how the gameplay and story play out.

Destiny 2

Destiny 2

Release Date: September 6, 2017

Status: Pending

Why It's On My List
Graev and I played the original Destiny through the storyline. I enjoyed the game because of its co-op shooting experience, but didn't stick around for any of the end-game gear grind or "raiding" or multiplayer pvp gameplay. Destiny 2 is on my list to get if Graev takes the plunge.

Assassin's Creed Origins

Assassin's Creed Origins

Release Date: October 27, 2017

Status: Pre-Ordered

Why It's On My List
I love the Assassin's Creed franchise. Similar to the Uncharted series, once I played one of them (Black Flag) I was hooked and went back to play the entire series. I've been waitng for an Egypt setting for years! Super excited to see how they improve upon the AC franchise in Origins. I'm definitely hoping we see more holistic improvements and less emphasis on sub-systems. Advancing the story is also on my wish list.

Super Mario Odyssey

Super Mario Odyssey

Release Date: October 27, 2017

Status: Pre-Ordered

Why It's On My List
We are so, so long overdue for a good Mario 64-style platformer. I'm excited for two reasons: (1) It's on the Switch, and (2) It's going to have awesome graphics compared to previous Mario games. I'm apprehensive about the bizarre setting and real-world juxtaposition, but from what I've seen in previews there's still plenty of traditional Mario platforming. Then there's the "no game over screen" concept that fascinates me.

Battlefront 2

Star Wars Battlefront 2

Release Date: November 17, 2017

Status: Pending

Why It's On My List
Battlefront (the original re-release) was just 'okay'. In a way it was a big let-down from the memories of past Battlefront games. Battlefront 2 appears to be trying to solve the issues (one of which being those stupid tokens). I'm hoping for a reboot of their ideas. Something with more cohesive multiplayer. Something with better maps, objectives, and a better overall experience. Graev and I would definitely play together. This remains Pending until we get a little closer to release.

These are just a few of the big ones that I have on my radar and pre-ordered or closely pending a pre-order. Did I miss any on your list?

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Assassin’s Creed Movie Trailer

The Assassin’s Creed movie trailer debuted yesterday on Kimmel of all places. Let’s take a look.

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My first thought (and Graev’s) is that it doesn’t look nearly as bad as I thought it would. Seriously, I wasn’t expecting much at all. This piques my interest significantly more than I initially expected. The Kanye track was ridiculous though, and whoever forced that noise into the trailer for a game’s franchise with such a rich musical legacy should be ashamed.

The movie is taking quite a bit of liberty with the story. The “real world” part of Assassin’s Creed has always been polarizing; You either love it or you hate it, and I happen to find it fascinating. AC games have always been confusing to the point of needing a Wiki to truly understand wtf is going on, but it’s gloriously complex. I hope it’s just the trailer conveying an odd Templar/Animus interpretation and that they stayed true to the story.

I can at least look forward to seeing it now.

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