Title: Assassin’s Creed Origins
Platform: PC, PS4, and Xbox One (reviewed)
Developer: Ubisoft Montreal
Publisher: Ubisoft
Release date: Out now
tl;dr:: Assassin’s Creed RPG-lite
Price: $60 / £60
Family Focus: Click here for more information.

Ever since Assassin’s Creed Origins has been unveiled (and even prior to the announcement, there were rumours), Ubisoft has been going on about the game being a rebirth, of sorts, for the burnt out franchise. They actually brought some new and refreshing elements to the long running series, which makes it feel somewhat fresh. After a two year hiatus (well, almost… last year, we got Assassin’s Creed: The Ezio Collection; remasters yes, but proving once more that Ubi can’t go a year without anything AC related), the Assassin’s Creed title is back with a few tricks up its sleeve; some fun, and some really bad.

Assassin’s Creed Origins features Bayek, a Medjay, who’s doing his best to protect the people of the Ptolemaic Kingdom during an upheaval period. The Pharaoh, Ptolemy XIII, struggles to keep his kingdom in order while his sister, Cleopatra, is working behind his her brother’s back to prepare a coup to take him out. On top of that, the kingdom is under constant threat from Julius Caesar and his Roman Empire, while the kingdom’s people are afraid of possible invasion. It’s up to Bayek to restore order and become the first official Assassin. Overall the story holds up; much like other Assassin’s Creed games, players must work their way up and kill the evil head honcho.

Ubi added RPG elements to the open world series, so as Bayek accomplishes quests, finds new items, and discovers new areas, players are rewarded with experience points (XP), which will allow the player to level up and get strongerwith health and strength slightly increasing each time. Players also earn an Ability Point which can be earned across the Skill Tree, that covers both aggressive (such as throwing knives) and passive (gain extra XP when assassinating a target) skills.

The game features a vast variety of weapons, whether it be quick knife-like weapons right up to massive hammers, and they feel different enough to affect combat. Smaller weapons allow for attacks in quick succession, while two-handed weapons are slower, but dish out more damage. Additionally, weapons can be improved and upgraded at blacksmith shops. Interestingly enough, if Bayek is level 15 and players have been using the same level 6 sword for a while, they can upgrade it to match the protagonist’s level. Sure, it won’t become an all powerful weapon, but its stats will improve and be more efficient than at a lower level.

One fun and new feature in Assassin’s Creed Origins is Senu, Bayek’s eagle companion which proves to be quite useful. After players have selected a quest through the cumbersome navigation menu (quests aren’t on the map anymore, they have their own tab), they head towards the objective. Once they are close enough, the game will display a prompt that the objective is near, and they can call upon Senu. Once they do, players, as Senu, soar above the environment and can pinpoint the exact location of the target/objective, simplifying a once annoying nuisance of having to “guess,” where we’re supposed to go.

Now for the bad. The first letdown of Assassin’s Creed Origins is the menu navigation. Instead of moving from one option to another with the joystick, players have to move a dot around the screen to aim at the option they choose, as if the navigation was built from the ground up to be used with Kinect or Virtual Reality. Sure, it’s not a major issue, but it makes browsing through menus and items annoying and cumbersome.

And the other frustrating mechanic is unfortunately the combat. Instead of leaving the combat to the more intuitive face buttons, Ubisoft remapped the fighting mechanic to the shoulder buttons, making for a frustrating and clunky experience. While not all of it is bad – there’s a block and dodge button, using both shoulder buttons on the right for weak and strong attacks,  it makes pulling off a decent combo more complicated than it should. To combat this clunkiness, Ubi has instilled a targeting mechanic to allow players to attack the target of their choosing.

But it does get worse, combat wise. Attempting to take on certain targets who are a few levels higher than the player and with a crown icon above them is a big no no, as he will one hit kill you. One hit to empty 3/4 of your health meter, and a final finishing blow which you can’t do anything against. This is just frustrating not only because it might have taken you some time to reach the target, but once you restart at the checkpoint, all previously killed soldiers respawn (except the commanders). What fresh hell is this? Are we in 1990?

And for those who are more generous and helpful players, spread throughout the map are bodies of other players who have perished at certain points in the game. Investigating the death scene will trigger a sidequest to avenge the fallen player. A pretty much useless feature, unless you’re too kind. Additionally, players can capture pictures of breathtaking views the game’s environment has to offer. Again, for whatever reason, they show up on your map. I mean, why should I bother about other players in a single player experience?

Being an open world game, players need something to get around quick. Besides the unlockable fast travel point of interests, players can call upon their camel at anytime. Problem is, riding a camel is slow – very slow. Most of the time, I’d end up running to a destination instead at it was much faster. Bayek can also mount horses, which are much quicker more efficient way to get around Egypt.

Ubisoft has been known to show trailers ahead of a game’s release, with the final product not being fully representative of the preview, and Assassin’s Creed: Origins is no different. The game’s presentation baffles me. I expected Ubi to rework and introduce new gameplay mechanics, but it seems someone forgot to update the game’s visuals. It’s not to say the game is fugly looking; far from it. It does have a few beautiful environmental shots which can be captured, but the game’s character models, outside of cinematics, are generic and late last-gen worthy. While I hate doing comparisons, GTA V’s NPCs look better than most characters in AC:O.

The game is still riddled with glitches; a few of them even made me fail objectives, which really shouldn’t be an issue for blockbuster titles. Nothing major like the hilarity that was Assassin’s Creed: Unity, but still some nuisance. The game was built using Ubisoft’s Anvil (formerly known as Scimitar) engine, which dates back to 2007, so it might be time for Ubi to update it. Audio wise, the game’s score is as beautiful and majestic as one might expect. Voice actor’s work is actually solid and well delivered.

Despite Ubisoft’s best efforts to rejuvenate the franchise, it’s still somewhat falls flat. While the new features such as levelling up and upgrading skills are a welcome addition to the long running franchise, the revamped combat is the game’s major weakness. Considering it is a vital part of the game, it makes for a frustrating experience. However, as long as you can avoid combat by silently killing your targets, navigating around Egypt is a blast and a nice change of scenery for the stagnating series. If you have yet to dabble in the Assassin’s Creed series, pick up Assassin’s Creed: Syndicate instead. This one only applies to die hard fans of the series.

The Good

  • Definitely one of the biggest maps of the franchise
  • Senu the eagle is quite useful
  • Exploring Egypt is a treat

The Bad

  • Cumbersome button mapping for combat
  • Clunky user interface
  • Useless out of Animus sequences

Family Focus

Assassin’s Creed Origins is rated M for Mature and PEGI 16 due to the presence of blood, gore, drug reference, intense violence, nudity, sexual content, strong language, and use of alcohol. Ubisoft has been milking this franchise for over 10 years. I doubt assassins take out their victims with kindess.

This review is based on a review copy of the game provided by Xbox UK.