For the first time in a long time, I allowed myself to look forward to the new Assassin's Creed franchise from the French publisher Ubisoft which turns 10 in 2017. The result, to my relief, is staggering. Assassin's Creed Origins is a breath of fresh air that, according to the director of the game, Bruno Guerin, began to be developed shortly after the release of Black Flag (2013), even before the Unity (2014) and Syndicate (2015) . In addition, Ubisoft broke its annual production rate and gave another year to the new game to be finalized - and that decision can be felt at all.
The story has always had great appeal in the franchise, but this feature has been lost throughout the continuations. Origins brings back all the plotting power that was in the early games, with compelling and elaborate characters, intense narrative and a rather curious plot. Bayek de Siuá is an extremely relevant and as outstanding protagonist as the Ezio of Assassin's Creed 2, Brotherhood and Revelations. The warrior holds the position of Medjai, a kind of protector of his land, and it is quite evident that he is a good-hearted person and is there to do good, even by unconventional means. As Machiavelli once said, "ends justify means."
Origins happens in the Ptolemaic Kingdom, in which Cleopatra is expelled from the throne by her younger brother, Ptolemy XIII. In this context there are Greek and Roman occupations happening in the region, allowing the player to witness much prejudice and violence among the ethnic groups. Eventually, Bayek must help Pharaoh resume his reign to achieve his personal goals. The story of the protagonist is bloodthirsty and tragic, making it enough for the player to cling to the character and cheer for justice. As in Assassin's Creed 2, the hero goes out in search of revenge and, with the unfolding of history and with the knowledge that acquires, realizes that the hole is more below. Bayek understands that his role as Medjai is not limited to protecting the Egyptian people, but the population as a whole.
In ancient Egypt, the concept of Assassins and Templars (two groups characteristic of previous games), had not yet existed. In fact, Bayek is fighting a secret organization called the Order of the Ancients, which seeks absolute control through totalitarianism. The narrative of this conflict is quite exciting until the warm end. At the same time, the main villain is not as memorable as the members of the Borgia family in Ezio's trilogy games. He is powerful, but has few characteristics that set him apart from others.
When set in the present day, the franchise has left behind the cinematic scene scheme that it adopted in Unity and Syndicate, as well as the first person gameplay of Black Flag. In Origins, you control Leyla Hassan, the Abstergo corporation official responsible for commanding Bayek, who has no idea of the secrets that the company hides, but distrusts and has several conspiracy theories. The plot thickens at every appearance of Layla, and like any good killer, we again despise Abstergo. However, the end of the main campaign does not bring great happenings in contemporary life, so Layla can continue to use the Animus freely.
Back in Egypt, one of the notable details, but that does not significantly interfere with the experience, is the constant mention of targets already murdered as if they were still alive. It is understandable the possibility of the NPC not knowing the death of the character in question. However, the protagonist himself acts as if he knew nothing, contradicting Bayek's explicitness in announcing that he killed someone.
A highlight of Origins is the immensity of virtual Egypt. According to director Bruno Guerin, the current map is a bit smaller than the Black Flag - he even joked, saying that was how to get the map of the sixth game of the franchise and put sand on top. Despite having several water bodies where occasionally naval battles happen, the difference is that most of this Egypt can be explored on foot. Another detail is that you can cross the whole country, on horseback, camel or with his faithful eagle, Senu, without loading screen - this only happens when a great distance is crossed with Senu and returns to Bayek. In addition, each of the areas have a level range, so that facing enemies well above the level of the protagonist represents a trap.
The movement of the protagonist for Egypt is another aspect to be discussed. The freerunning system became looser, offering more naturalness when climbing and descending from buildings. However, as with any Assassin's Creed, there are several bugs along the way. In general, problems tend to be funny and have a good laugh. Take the case of the injured hyena:
However, there are bugs that hinder the gameplay, as was the case of the "A Rebel Alliance" mission. To begin the mission, I had to rescue a citizen, Theodoros, who was in captivity in a chariot. I defeated the enemies, opened the door of the cage, but my character refused to enter to save the man. I set it aside and went on another mission. When I decided to do this again, I repeated the process and managed to save Theodoros. However, I had to accompany him to his base. The road was not long, but the man stopped every five paces without apparent reason. This seemingly short journey, which would normally last between five and ten minutes, took twenty.
Other times made me frustrated, with Bayek grabbing the edge of a building during an escape, but then plummeting, leading me to death or forced combat. It is worth mentioning that Ubisoft will probably release updates to fix most of these errors (like this one in the video below, one of the most comical I found, but that forced me to restart the game).
Despite this, Origins is a great action-adventure game that leaves behind much of what the franchise has built - including combat. The game has adopted a hitbox system to deal damage, where you have to position yourself to hit the opponent - which is completely different from the automatic targeting system and simple counterattacks that trigger brutal sequences. It is possible to catch sight of an enemy, but this is not the best option when fighting with a group, since you can be struck from all sides, given the independence of the fighters.
And speaking of independence, Origins surprises by generating routines for each of the NPCs. Citizens and even animals have their own lives and chores, making it clear that the game world does not just revolve around the protagonist. Through Senu, I accompanied the day of an Egyptian citizen in Siuá, the birthplace of Bayek. I could see that. the woman slept, awakened, ate, worked, stopped to feed herself, went back to work, occasionally chatted with some other NPC, and finally went home to rest. Not to mention that it is possible to see when the citizens are doing their needs. I lost count of how many guards I killed as they walked away from the route to urinate.
This system of unpredictability increases the challenge factor, since people will not always follow a pattern of movement, ending with that basic method in which you wait patiently in a place until the target appears. In addition to "stalking", the Senu Eagle is also helpful in planning and executing his assault on a fort or finding hidden treasures. The player will use Senu many times and for a long time, since it represents the new "eagle vision" of the franchise.
In addition, Origins incorporated a system of levels and progression similar to traditional RPGs. To fulfill certain goals, you will need to level up through secondary missions and upgrade your equipment to take on the enemies to come. That way, the player is forced to progress on minor challenges to at least complete the main campaign. The process can be facilitated by the use of time-savings, which are microtransactions that result in game coins (drachmas), skill points, and crafting materials.
At times, the need to do side missions can be annoying, since the plot of the campaign is already quite addictive. However, the parallel narratives are good enough to leave Bayek's revenge aside for a few moments. There are also a number of activities to do, such as race track racing, arcade battles, tomb exploration, and a new system called Revenge, in which Bayek will find some other player's body and need to murder who killed him. Lastly, the Nomad's Bazaar provides daily quests and rewards with powerful equipment.
Grating to grow
Origins progression works with system levels and skill points that can be applied in the tree of abilities, which has three strands: the Hunter, who works mainly with skills of murder and hunting; the Warrior, who focuses on combat; and the Seer, who prioritizes special abilities such as smoke bombs, sleeping dart and wildlife training.
It is possible to equip different types of weapons, including spears, swords, daggers, batons, maces. With the right skill, I was able to equip two spaces of weapons: the spear to avoid proximity of the opponents and the sword to break the defense of those that were near. There are also four types of arcs, which vary the shooting mode and bring ideal functions from combat to stealth. Most of the time, I left the Warrior's Bow to apply high damage, and the Light to shoot multiple arrows quickly.
All of these types of equipment can be found in three levels of rarity. In addition to the enhancements applied to major weapons, the player will need to crafting in order to make the equipment stronger. For example, iron and bronze are added to enhance the hidden blade of Bayek, while leather is needed to enhance its armor. To gather resources, you have to hunt animals and loot certain enemies.
Bumping face in the sun
Origins contains purely cosmetic items such as costumes and mounts. Despite the rarity levels, Bayek can dress up in Altair's clothes or get only a towel: this does not change the performance in the game. The mounts also do not present differences in performance.
It's important to emphasize the beauty of Egypt, reproduced very well by Ubisoft - it's no wonder that Origins even has a Photography Mode: just tighten the analogue levers and the game opens an interface where you can move the camera, apply filters, give zoom and choose focus. Here are some images from my journey below:
As quoted earlier, Origins gives the feeling that the world does not revolve around Bayek, and with the environment it could not be different. The rains are scarce, but exist in certain places. The player can also witness the dreaded sandstorms, which happen unannounced and disrupt the moves of the characters. The cool thing is that storms are also inserted into narrative contexts. On the mission "The Scarab's Lies," bandits use the darkness provided by the sand to sneak a temple stealthily - until Bayek stops them, of course.
In what the scenario is right, the graphic elements of the game leave a little to be desired. I encountered texture rendering problems in hay and flower heaps, as well as in the faces of NPCs. In addition, I felt that I saw the same citizens in most of the secondary missions. With a few exceptions, like the fighter Hilarus of Crocodilópolis - of the mission The Champion -, the characters, not so aesthetically elaborated, are quite similar and little characteristic.
Who should play this game?
Players who have lost interest in the games Assassin's Creed can give the series a new chance, as Origins revolutionizes the franchise. This is also a good gateway for those who are curious about Ubisoft's most important franchise and enjoy open-world games with RPG features. And for those who enjoy games that teach history, Origins' single player experience ensures good hours of immersion in the contextualisation of Egypt and in the culture of the time, both Egyptian and Greco-Roman.
Bringing a decent storyline, Assassin's Creeped Origins lives up to its name and roots, while dramatically innovating gameplay. With a new system of progression, dynamic combat and fantastic ambiance, the game represents the best of the franchise. The immensity of Egypt is a wonder that deserves to be explored, despite some technical difficulties. That way, Ubisoft delivers the best gameplay experience I've ever had with an Assassin's Creed, surprising it by showing the advancement humanity had gained in such a distant period. Origins is one of the good proofs that the single player game market still thrives and produces great titles.
With very welcome changes in gameplay, Origins represents a necessary revolution in the franchise.
+ Lasting Campaign
+ Memorable protagonist
+ Various secondary activities
+ Immense and well-filled map
+ Fantastic gameplay
- Campaign with weak end
- Some compromising bugs