Assassin’s Creed has become something of a household name in gaming since the release of the titular iteration almost a decade ago. Fans of the franchise are some of the most die-hard available, standing alongside the developers, Ubisoft, throughout recent tumultuous launches. This, combined with the fact that the series was in the dangerously repetitive pattern of being an annual franchise, the once adored open-world adventure game started to become stale and despised. Assassin’s Creed Origins has the honor of being the tenth main iteration in the series but many believe the long-developed title comes too little, too late.
Ubisoft has boasted a four-year long development window on Origins, created as per usual among the company’s finest at their Montreal Studio. They lay claim to a plethora of recognizable titles such as Rainbow Six, Splinter Cell, Far Cry and of course, Assassin’s Creed. One can argue that this isn’t necessarily a saving grace, as the studio is responsible for successes and failures alike and are the constructors of the “Anvil” engine that all Assassin’s Creed titles have run on since conception. This of course, is the same engine that displayed a shocking amount of glitches, bugs and errors upon launch of Assassin’s Creed Unity – a title dubbed the ‘first true next-generation Assassin’s game’. The initial outing of the current “AnvilNext 2.0” engine was indeed with Unity.
In an interview, the creative director of both Assassin’s Creed Black Flag and Origins, Ashraf Ismail, had a lot to say about developing the title. He stated “…we wanted to do a proper Assassin’s Creed experience but one that felt more modern – something people had not experienced before”. This is an obvious reference to the sheer amount of changes made by the studio in this release. He goes on to promise, “…every NPC and animal in the world has a purpose, a function, a day-night cycle. They need to go to eat, sleep, go to the washroom.” This statement bears a distinct similarity to an early promise made regarding Ghost Recon: Wildlands, another Ubisoft title, in which the world was slated to be a living, breathing environment with persistent NPCs. Upon launch it became severely apparent that this wasn’t the case.
As usual, it seems Ubisoft are making admirable promises to the gamer as to what they have in store for the full release. This has been a recurring theme across the majority of Ubisoft’s franchises and something which has left players with a reprehension towards sequels for most titles from the developer and a reluctance to pre-order or invest interest.
So, What’s New?
Ubisoft came forth and offered a bounty of information regarding Origins and the leaps and bounds made with development and furthering the franchise in what is slated to be the biggest, best title yet. It is alleged that they have taken inspiration from titles such as Witcher 3 and Dark Souls – iterations of two of the most critically acclaimed franchises available. Origins has been built with many traditional RPG elements in mind such as a skill tree system, conventional leveling and a weapon-leveling system. The protagonist, Bayek, has a level cap of 40 and has three distinct paths to follow regarding the assignment of skill points: Seer, Hunter and Warrior.
Weapons can be leveled and upgraded at various blacksmith locations and a loot system has been implemented to better aid the abundance of “tomb raiding” opportunities scattered around the phenomenally huge map. Also added is the ability to maintain and upgrade mounts in the form of boats, horses and camels.
The Egyptian paradise Ubisoft has created is self-penned as the largest and most open environment they have ever constructed. One quote from CD, Ismail, reads; “…when we started this game we knew it was roughly the size of Black Flag‘s world, if all of the water was replaced with land.” If true, this would easily be one of the biggest open-worlds available on console to date. They have boasted a true, seamless sandbox world in which the player has absolutely no ties to where they go or what they do. Quests are allegedly equipped with level requirements, so exploration and delving into side content is advised.
An intuitive day-night cycle and weather engine is also present. The developers have done away with the traditional “Ubisoft Open World Formula” and have claimed that for the first time in a decade, viewpoints are not the mandatory way to reveal the map. Areas will be “unfogged” upon exploration. This will come as a small, yet refreshing change to the players bored of the franchise thus far.
At E3 and in the days after, Ubisoft showcased the element they are most proud of in Origins – the Combat system. Gone are the one on one, linear, parry-and-counter systems of games past and welcomed in is the biggest overhaul in Assassin’s Creed history. Enemies are more intelligent and will use teamwork, speed and overwhelming power, forcing the player to adopt a faster, more tactical style of defense and attack. This will consist of a mixture of dodging, shield blocking and bow attacks. Each weapon behaves differently and the protagonist will need to use a concoction of tools in order to bring down the bigger, heavier enemies.
A stamina and adrenaline system has been implemented, along with “special moves” that can be activated sporadically throughout combat. The entire engine has been re-designed right down to the controls – it’s no longer face buttons but the bumpers and triggers that a player will use to do battle. Bayek, the main character, is a skilled bowman and can activate a slow motion effect when engaging enemies with his arrows and there are a range of finishers that will incorporate any weapons Bayek has on his person at that time.
Unlike previous titles, the player can collect up any weapons their foes drop and keep them for themselves to use if they so desire. Ubisoft have also teased the inclusion of “epic” boss battles strewn throughout the game, to fully test the player’s combat comprehension. In other forms of combat, Ubisoft have put a focus on mounted battle and included the ability to upgrade and armor your mounts; they have also teased that naval battles will feature prominently in this release, given the success in previous iterations.
New features that have been shown include the dismissal of the iconic “Eagle Sense” from the game – this has been replaced by a literal Eagle. Enter Bayek’s own personal pet, whom the player can assume control of at any time to scour the ground from the skies and tag enemies. This is a feature taken directly from Far Cry Primal, in which the protagonist has the exact same ability but with an owl. Also included is gladiator-fighting, in which the player can participate in populated battles and boss skirmishes for rewards. Ubisoft have also stated that underwater exploration is possible at free will for the first time in the franchise’s history.
What does the Gaming World expect from Origins?
Initial impressions are tentative at best, given the franchise’s standing in the gaming industry. Ubisoft are finding it hard to gain the trust of the general audience, no matter how good early reveal content may seem. Comments taken from various online communities display some feelings in a clear-cut manner, from “… I’m expecting another broken release”, to “… they need to sorely re-evaluate their repetitive open world formula,” and “… honestly, I don’t have much reason to expect anything good at all”. Ubisoft will have to display a flawless launch, whilst providing all content that they have promised at the standard they have set. If Origins is anything short of perfect, there will be serious repercussions for the company in any further planned launches.
The enormous changes to the title could receive a bittersweet reaction at launch, as it may alienate some of the long-standing fans of the franchise in an apparent attempt to appeal to a wider, more mainstream audience. Leaving the franchise on hiatus for two years was a good decision by Ubisoft, as it has created a sort of thirst among the fans for an injection of ingenuity and amendment to the series. However, responses from early play-demos at E3 and other events include claims that the gameplay is “still the same old ‘go here, kill that guy, go there, kill this guy'” procedure found in previous titles.
There are also worries present that Ubisoft may have created Origins with a “soft reboot” purpose in mind. This has been discredited by the company, stating that it is well and truly being kept within the confines of the lore. Nonetheless, Ubisoft will have had to work hard to ensure they give the story a firm and resounding beginning as this would essentially pave the way for every game launched thus far, lore-wise.
At this stage, it’s difficult to determine exactly how Origins will play out. On one hand, it could be another Ubisoft promise-gone-awry, with a plagued launch and repetitive story or it could be the savior of the entire franchise – a much needed boost for the entire series. In my own personal opinion, as a die-hard Assassin’s Creed fan, I have extremely high hopes for the launch and pray in my heart that it will be everything it promises to be. Assassin’s Creed Origins launches worldwide on October 27th, 2017 on PS4, Xbox One and PC. For gamers who are new to the series, read up our article covering a look back on the Assassin’s Creed franchise since release.