Assassin’s Creed is finally here after a two year break and many fans have been going “They have taken a year’s break, Ubisoft will surely deliver”. Well, they have sorta brought back the whole “Assassin’s vs Templar” plotline (Emphasis on ‘SORTA’) back, but it’s time to see how the game stacks up as an overall package.
Assassin’s Creed Origins is an action-adventure video game developed by Ubisoft Montreal and published by Ubisoft. It is the tenth major installment in the Assassin’s Creed series and the successor to 2015’s Assassin’s Creed Syndicate.
Assassin’s Creed Origins
This segment of the game has been changed quite a bit from the previous installments, keeping some mechanics from previous games, while also implementing mechanics from most AAA titles in the past 3-4 years.
The combat in Origins is a mix and match of something between Witcher 3 and Shadow of Mordor. They have clearly tried to make the game an RPG that prevents from being a button mashing hacky-slashy-lay-down-infinite-bodies endeavor; damage amounts pop out of enemies as you spank them and weapons have various levels accompanied by colors that indicate whether they are common, rare or legendary. It means that if you want the game to not be whack-a-mole fest, you better be holding the equipment of the highest level.
All that said, the combat is smooth and is easy for an average gamer to get into because most combat options aren’t hard coded and weapons can be switched on the fly. You can dodge while in the middle of an attack and you can also immediately switch weapons without much ‘risks’. Needless to say, the gameplay doesn’t evolve past mashing the attack button while rolling out of the way occasionally because the lack of enemy attack pattern variety tends to wear on pretty quickly.
The inclusion of RPG systems has also practically trivialized the stealth system that the franchise has been known for. Unless Bayek is around the same level as the enemy with upgraded equipment and all the little perks that come with being a “legendary” piece of equipment, you will only take out a chunk of the health of a higher level enemy through a stealth attack.
Now a person surviving a surprise stab in the neck is unheard of. The franchise has also done away with 100% synchronization concept which was a staple of the older games. While I stopped aiming for 100% in every mission, it was a good way to keep the player engaged and provided a sort of passive challenge to the active gameplay loop.
This limits the exploration quite a lot in the beginning because you simply can’t defeat an enemy who moves the same way as the rest of the enemies in the game just because the opponent can take a 100 hits while you die in 1. The fact that side quests are just XP acquiring mediums in which you just have to follow the mark on the map, kill or loot someone/something and return. Yes the side missions do touch on sensitive topics, but the key word here is “touch”.
Oh and XP; the game gives it to you in droves like a teacher over-appreciating a student. “Oh hey, you discovered a new location, here is 25 XP.” or “Here is 5 extra XP for shooting on the head (Which is a an acquirable skill)” are common occurrences. So basically, the game gives you XP to unlock skills who’s perks are that you can gain more XP by doing certain actions. It follows The Witcher 3’s example in terms of giving huge chunks of the XP through doing quests.
Apart from that, we have the traditional open world mechanics- towers, collectibles and of course, the drone. Senu is a mere predecessor to the drone from Ghost Recon Wildlands that is used to locate all kinds of stuff and it too can be upgraded to harass one of the guards nearby through unlocking a skill in the skill tree. The skill tree has clearly been lifted from Shadow of Mordor/Horizon Zero Dawn. The slow-mo while aiming with bow & arrow, the ability to turn an enemy into an ally etc, have clearly been lifted from the other AAA games.
A recent trend that Assassin’s Creed Origins continues is the decrease in difficulty of platforming. Earlier (By this I mean 4-5 years ago) there was some sort of challenge while climbing specific buildings, but now, all you need to do is press the left analog sticks forward and you can scale practically anything.
It’s also interesting to note that the franchise has done away with some of the fun side activities that the player could indulge in. Remember the villa enhancement side mission or creating a Brotherhood and sending assassins on missions or the tower defense part in Revelations? Nothing of that sort can be found in ACO. (Yeah I know that, story wise some of these make sense). The side missions can vary highly in narrative quality. Some quests can turn from a simple fetch quest to an intriguing discovery of the past while most of them are standard affairs.
Boss designs have always been a problem with the franchise and it doesn’t seem to be stopping any time soon. All bosses have bloated health bars with only 2-4 attack patterns which makes the game stale rather quickly.
Just like most (If not all) of the Assassin’s Creed games, ACO has a long sequence before revealing the name of the game as the camera pans to the sky. I almost got fooled into believing that the story was going to be good because of the scene with Bayek and his son, because it’s extremely tragic when kids die in the modern world. But before long, I realized that it was yet another revenge plot with no clear villain and just a sequence of “historical events” that no one would care to fact check.
As someone had rightly said- “A hero is only as good as the villain”. The lack of a motivated villain in ACO saps out any kind of charm that Bayek has because he isn’t motivated by what the villain is doing. He is just on a blind rampage to find the person who was responsible for the death of a loved one that is intertwined with the fight for power in Egypt (Among politicians of course).
The main problem with ACO’s narrative is that it doesn’t give enough time or development to any character apart from Bayek and a few others around him. The main story follows the same narrative structure as Ghost Recon Wildlands, that is, defeat a set of bosses to defeat another set of bosses to defeat the final boss. It’s essentially a set of waypoints within the quest system and gives you a clear indication of how much you have to grind to reach the next boss.
As has been mentioned in the gameplay section, some of the side quests do touch on sensitive topics, but it’s all fizzled out by the lack of actual depth. The problem is brought to the forefront when side missions are just “go to point X kill a bunch of bandits/guards or retrieve some item” with little context given to the mission. Some of them do hold more weight than previous games in the franchise, but don’t expect too much like branching stories and real consequences that will come back to you later in the game.
The skills not being tied to the main story or a quest is another weirdly unsatisfying aspect of ACO. Remember Leonardo Da Vinci from AC2? He helped us with the double hidden blade, sleeping darts as well as poison blade and it was integrated well with the main story. In ACO all you need to do is acquire some skill points and you’ll get all necessary equipment. This is excluding the crafting that somehow Bayek knows. Not a very nuanced way of handing the player all sorts of gadgets that the player has access to.
Graphics & Sound
This is one area that will always remain consistent with Ubisoft- creating good looking large open worlds with more blank spaces to walk around in. We played the game on a PS4 and apart from the heavy aliasing, texture pop-ins and motion blur accompanied by the ocassional fps drops to 15-20 fps during intense combat sections with dust being thrown around by horses, there wasn’t much to complain about.
ACO looks gorgeous irrespective of the in-game time and is definitely something to check out for the graphic whores out there. It’s easy to get lost in the photo mode which has become a staple of most open world games these days. Again, a weakness here that comes back to haunt ACO is the facial animations. It still amazes me how the facial animations of the initial Assassin’s Creed games were ahead of their times while ACO can’t match the quality of AC IV: Black Flag.
I do have a complain with some parts of the animation sequences. While the game runs at mostly 30 fps, there are some things like flags and birds that feel like they are running at 15 fps.
As far as sound design is considered, the in game SFX are pretty standard just like any AAA game. The OST is definitely standout though. It gives me the ACII feels and I just have a hunch that they have used the music from ACII and have layered it with their own beats to make it sound a bit different.
Yep, as usual there are micro-transactions in the game with provisions of buying resources, costumes, armor etc. I’ll let the set of images below do the talking.
Assassin’s Creed Origins doesn’t seem like a game that took a two year break for development. Rather it looks like, for one year, the corporate side of Ubisoft followed trends of highly rated/most selling games of the past 5 years and in the second year, asked the development team to just make something that was an amalgamation of the concepts that were used in those games. I wouldn’t recommend the game to everyone, but for those who play only a handful of games every year, it will most likely be a good pick up.