Back in Time – Assassins Creed:Origins

It’s been 10 years since the first Assassins Creed title hit the shelves, and blew the mind of a whole generation of gamers. An action adventure series which has gone on to spawn 20 different games, as well as books, merchandise and in this authors opinion, one pretty ordinary movie, (Michael Fassbender notwithstanding); there even are rumours of a Netflix series in the works.

The 20 or so games developed for the span the gambit of platforms from PC and console to Mobile OS and handhelds like Sony PSVita and Nintendo DS. The games are set throughout history, The Crusades, Renaissance Italy, the French Revolution, Victorian England, and the October Revolution, just to name a but a few of the points along the timeline of humanity.

The games have met with mixed reviews over the years, as all sequels in a long running franchise tend to do. Poor narratives, weird modifications to combat mechanics, poor voice acting, buggy as hell… The more recent titles, Assassins Creed Unity and Syndicate (set during the French Revolution and Victorian England respectively) righted what many felt was a failing franchise, they did this in part by recreating Paris and London of the era with a such a staggering level of detail and accuracy that mere words do not do justice.

2017 sees their latest incarnation “Origins” which is set in lower Egypt and eastern Libya, around 49 BCE. You take on the role of Bayek, a madjay, who were essentially a police force which severed and projected the pharaoh’s regional interests and their subjects.  I assume that Bayek and his cohorts (there will be cohorts, there always are…) will go on to form the assassin’s brotherhood.

The initial narrative setup left me wondering what the hell was going on, but you soon discover that an evil force, the “Order of the Ancients” are controlling Egypt, through the child pharaoh, Ptolemy the third, younger brother to Cleopatra. You have a score to settle, as you discover through that time-honoured troupe… “The flashback”, they attempted to exhort your help by threatening your son, and through tragic circumstances, making you accidently take your son’s life. Fuelled by the need for vengeance, you begin your quest to bring down this evil cabal.

I have to confess that I never really got into the franchise, I did play the last 2 major console releases but most of that time was just spent exploring the wonderfully rich recreations of cities from a time long since passed. So, it’s hard for me to compare to much of the combat mechanics for example. In fact, I spent so much time exploring, rather than killing people, that my children refer to Assassin’s Creed: Unity as the “The Parkour Game” or the “Game where you play a really old Batman”.

The game is a pretty standard offering compared to the previous titles, from what I know of them there are obviously the main quest story arc’s but, unlike the two previous titles, there are hundreds of side quests spread across a massive open world map. The brief flirtation with co-op play in Unity, hasn’t carried forth into this title either, but you do you have change to seek revenge for the death of other players.

I am really enjoying Ubisoft’s latest offering from this franchise, the visuals are fantastic, the ancient world at the height of its glory, is visual stunning. There are few new elements to the game, for example there is a fairly standard coloured coding rarity system has been implemented for equipment and loot drops within the game.

The Fog of War mini map has been replaced with a directional compass like those seen in Elder Scrolls. There is a crafting mechanic which allows you to kill wildlife indigenous to the region and soldiers to gain resources to upgrade your equipment. Your faithful companion Senu, an eagle which you can use to gain “Eagle Vision”, an ariel view of the area which can not only spot and mark potential prey for the afore mentioned crafting system but can also assists pinpointing targets for your current quest.

The combat mechanics seem simpler (or I’m getting better, at this style of combat) and as with previous titles there are riddles to solve and fragments of historical notes hidden throughout the game and even some weird Easter eggs, like this one where you can find a Stone Tardis.

I am at this point in the game I’ve only just arrived at Alexandria (meeting a contact, which the game recommends you be at level 10 as a minimum) so I have yet to really get into the narrative or explore this new world. In fact, there has as only been one….”: flash forward to an Animus user, a young archaeologist who is accessing Bayek’s memories (I don’t much care for this story element….it for me, ruins an otherwise great franchise and individual narratives…so I tend to ignore it).

This game is going to take me a while to get through, partly because I’m pretty poor at this style of game, but also because as I mentioned, this is a world is huge with dozens and dozens of quests. I do like a title, where I feel like I’m getting my money’s worth in the single player campaign and it looks like it’s going to a lot of fun, freeing the peoples of this ancient land from hidden evils that seek to rule them.

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