Ever since Assassin's Creed II came out in 2009, there has been a steady stream of major Assassin's Creed games, with one launching every year until 2015. With the general perception of the series turning rather negative (especially after 2014's disastrous entry) the main series then skipped a year to refocus, leaving fans with nothing but a 2D offshoot. The hiatus has finally come to an end and Assassin's Creed Origins has launched, seeking to massively overhaul the formula while bringing the series to the new and interesting settings. After a few hours with the game, I feel confident enough to give some initial impressions.
Assassin's Creed Origins wastes no time tossing you into the game and stepping into the shoes of Bayek. Opening up with a few seemingly unconnected but intense cutscenes before dropping you (literally) into a boss fight, the game puts you right at the center of the action in less than five minutes to get you used to the all-new combat system. Yes, new combat system. Gone are the days of simply blocking and killing your enemies like it doesn't matter. Instead, you'll be chaining light and heavy attacks with dodge rolls and blocks to try to outmaneuver your enemies. This is much closer to an actual RPG, right down to all of your hits producing damage numbers. Every weapon you get has its own stats that you'll need to change your equipment and keep your weapons fresh to avoid getting killed in combat.
If there's one thing I couldn't help but notice, it was the large weapon variety and how each weapon had its own uses. During my short time with the game, I found swords, spears, maces, halberds, knives, sickle swords, scepters, and more. Each of these weapons had unique fighting styles that altered how I approached combat. For example, maces and halberds were slow but easily broke through shields, while scepters had long-range and were super fast but I needed to rely on charged attacks to get through defenses. Even bows have this variety: hunter's bows were good for long-ranged attacks, warrior's bows allowed me to shotgun five arrows in the area immediately in front of me, while light bows don't do much damage but did allow rapid fire.
While combat may have changed, platforming is largely unchanged. You'll use the same free climbing system to get around buildings, holding one button to have Bayek move up and another to move down. While it may work the same as most other games in the series, it felt noticeably smoother and faster. It feels as if the amount of areas Bayek could grab on to had been significantly increased from the past few games. I spent less time searching for the next handhold and more time just climbing up buildings or rock walls. I didn't even find myself getting stuck at weird angles either, which was a blessing. Oddly enough I did find some strange jank with just regular movement. A couple times while running around Bayek got caught on something and couldn't move.
Speaking of Bayek, I got to spend a bit of time learning the story of this fallen Medjay. The game appears to pick up somewhere in the middle of the story. Bayek is on a roaring rampage of revenge against five mysterious masked men who seem to have wronged him in some way. The opening cutscenes see Bayek finding and killing the first of his targets, and through the plot, you'll be learning both what led up to this and the events that follow. I'm still at the beginning of the game and don't understand much quite yet, but I'm more than excited enough to see the tale continue.
Of course, it's not Assassin's Creed if there isn't a bevy of side content. As soon as I entered the open world for the first time I opened up a map and found plenty of question marks just waiting for me to explore. Enemy garrisons that need to have their leaders killed, tombs that can be explored for rewards, towers to climb to get better views of the map, and more. There's also a good chunk of side quests available. One side quest asked me to sneak into a stronghold to rescue a farmer that had been imprisoned for the act of protesting. I figured this would just be a quick in-and-out saving him, but getting there I found he had been tortured and killed. The quest then changed to retrieving his body and bringing it back to his family. It felt meaningful and not overly repetitive, which was a good thing after the last few entries.
If there's one thing I've learned in my first few hours, it's that Assassin's Creed Origins is a beautiful game. My first view of the town of Siwa was all I needed to know that. Every detail is meticulously created, and I loved getting to high points to just take in the view. It seems Ubisoft is aware of how lovely their game is as you can enter a photo mode at any time. The pictures you take from this photo mode are then shared on the world map, available for anyone to see that lovely view the way you saw it.
If you've said you want the Assassin's Creed series to finally change, then Assassin's Creed Origins is the reinvention you've been waiting for. While I haven't played enough to make any final judgments on the game just yet, I have played enough to see that I'm really enjoying my time with it.