Review Assassin's Creed: Origins
So far, I’ve pumped around 15 hours into the latest installment of Ubisoft’s Assassin’s Creed franchise, released October 27, 2017, and as you’ll see throughout my review, there’s a lot to love about Assassin’s Creed: Origins, but there’s also some critiques that are well worth questioning the decision-making that went into some of the game’s features. I know what you’re thinking--but Matt, you regularly criticize large gaming corporations like Electronic Arts, how could you buy a game built by Ubisoft? Well, my friends, there are no traditional “lootboxes” in this damn game, and boy is it REFRESHING.
The setting of Assassin’s Creed: Origins (which I’ll just call Origins from now on) is ancient Egypt circa 50 BCE. Right about the time in which Rome was on the cusp of collapsing into Civil War between Pompey and Julius Caesar. Remember, this is the time of Cleopatra, so technically we in the modern day are closer in time to her than she is to the beginning of the ancient Egyptian civilization (yeah, it’s absurd). This becomes apparent as you are exploring the desert region south of Alexandria--ruins buried in the golden sands exhibit just how old Egypt is, and it’s pretty awe-inspiring. For an ancient history nerd, exploring Egypt during this time period is just unbelievable. It’s so damn cool. If you like history, you’ll get a ton of joy just running around Alexandria, climbing up the Pharos (I legitimately got chills), hearing poets talk in the Library of Alexandria, and just exploring the ancient world recreated in this game. There’s just something so special about exploring an ancient civilization. The attention to detail around the environments is just incredibly well done--I stopped to watch an embalmer working at a temple and stood there for a few minutes just observing! What other game can say it does that?
Anyway, Bayek is our assassin of choice this game, and I have to say I really quite like him. He’s written well, he’s well-realized, and the voice actor does a wonderful job. I’ve seen Bayek grow throughout my time playing the game as well, which is really impressive. Specifically, Bayek’s relationships with children are very well done; even the chance encounters that he has on side missions do a really great job of exhibiting just how distraught he is over the loss of his own son. His interactions with children are real, and show his humanity and empathy, which is a stark contrast to murdering Ptolemy’s soldiers, their blood covering his face and chest. I’ve really grown to feel for Bayek, and I think that his character is one of the stronger ones we’ve seen in an AC game.
As usual, ship battles in Assassin’s Creed are just completely dope. The controls are fantastic, the feeling of steering the ship is fantastic, and there’s just something innately satisfying about ramming the bow of a trireme into another one that is just hard to put into words.
In terms of gameplay, I’m fairly satisfied with the combat mechanics. There are different weapons and weapon types, each with its own pros/cons, fighting style, as well as special ability. I’m partial to the sickle sword and heavy axes right now but am sure I’ll find some more that I love (except the spear….hate that damn spear). The looting system is also pretty solid, and the abilities system allows for you to customize Bayek and focus him in on what style of assassin you’d like to play as.
Also a shout out to the riddle scrolls! They are fun to figure out and oftentimes give you a nice piece of loot. It’s rewarding to have some challenging problems to ponder over in an open world game, but that also give you a direction and some concrete hints to uncovering their mystery.
Last pro--there are no damn “lootboxes” in this game (there is a store) and boy is it refreshing. Like truly refreshing. I don’t think about lootboxes, I don’t hope for randomly generated loot, and it doesn’t even matter anyway, because it’s a single player game. You may say, well Matthew, actually there are lootboxes. Well, I’d reply, ‘that’s why I used quotes.’ There are heka chests, which you can buy with in-game money and get a random item. But why? Why would you do that? This game gives you all the loot you need if you just play the game. There’s absolutely no reason to purchase a heka chest (which you can only buy with in-game currency) and the only reason to buy an item from the in-game store is if you want something for a cosmetic reason. Yes, you can buy weapons as well, but as I said, the developers have given you zero reason to do so, because you get equally as good items just by looting in-game. So, again, unless you want an item from the store for a cosmetic reason, there’s no reason to buy anything. And it feels so damn good. It just feels good to play a game again without those distractions.
Alright, with that out of the way, I’ve got some constructive feedback about Origins too. My main issue is that the main questline is average. It starts out strong, has a lot of momentum, but after you finish the Alexandria portion of the main quest, it just feels a bit repetitive in terms of overall story and just a bit cliche: big bad order of baddies, go kill them all. And yeah, I get it, it’s a game based around assassination, so what else am I going to do? As I haven’t completely finished the main questline, I do hope that there are still some twists left for me yet, but I’m not totally sure it will get much better than average/good.
In terms of repetitiveness in general, which has been a main critique of the series previously, I’d say Origins balances it pretty well. I haven’t overtly been frustrated by anything in particular except that there are a lot of retrieval missions--whether I’m retrieving an artifact, a person, or a bale of hay, I’ve done a lot of retrieving.
Sometimes the combat is a bit challenging as certain enemies do a lot of damage which can feel cheap when you really can’t do that much damage, but there’s only been one instance when I was playing where the combat felt completely unfair, but I resolved it on my second playthrough.
And my last complaint--why is Cleopatra’s accent british? It is completely jarring and unnecessary and the game does SUCH a good job otherwise of accents and languages. I just have no idea why she has a british accent. It makes no sense and really every scene with her in it is completely ruined because of this choice. It’s such a shame too, because here we have one of the most powerful women in the ancient world and her portrayal as a serious, strong figure in ancient history is completely unraveled by a modern british accent. It’s truly absurd.
If you’re looking for the tldr; here it is:
If you haven’t played the AC games in awhile, Origins is a great jumping in point to try it out again. It’s a lot of fun; the combat and assassinations are fluid and the story is alright enough to keep one engaged. Yes, it’s a tad bit repetitive but not nearly as much as previous installations. My recommendation would be to power through the main questline, and only do side quests when you need to level up to the recommended level on a quest (these are there for a reason and are quite accurate). Similarly, if you’ve never played an AC game, this is a great version, and you should go for it.
If you have played some of the recent AC games and you are on the fence, I’d say you can probably pass on Origins but pick it up when it’s on sale!
And in general, if you are on the fence and you haven’t played The Witcher 3, then what the hell are you doing reading this review--go buy and play The Witcher 3 right now.