Wot I Think: Assassin’s Creed Origins

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A soft reboot four years in the making, Ubisoft Montreal’s Assassin’s Creed: Origins is one giant step back in time plus a smaller step forward in terms of world design, a stumble in terms of its levelling system, a sideways hop as regards combat and an exercise in jogging on the spot in terms of missions. This is exactly the kind of complex footwork that leads to messy accidents during parkour sequences, but somehow, the game keeps its balance throughout, though it’s not quite the revival I was hoping for.

The bulk of Origins unfolds in North Africa, during the decline of Ptolemaic Egypt around 100 years BC, and is the tale of Bayek, a Medjay – think god-bothering policeman – on a quest to avenge his son’s death at the hands of a powerful, scattered cult. As per not-so-fine tradition there’s a modern-day component, featuring everybody’s favourite villainous VR company Abstergo and an absolute avalanche of backstory documents, but it takes up less than one hour in a 30 plus hour game. You’ll also spend a little time in the shoes of Bayek’s Medjay wife, Aya, whose sense of the bigger picture occasionally feels like a segue into the original Assassin’s Creed, and occasionally like Ubisoft passing judgement on its own recurrent structures and cliches (including its preference for leading men). As she says to Bayek at one point, “I must build a world that is larger than our griefs.”

Bayek himself is one of Ubisoft’s more sympathetic protagonists, angry and hard-wearing yet not above the odd chariot race or round of hide-and-seek with the kids. Before I get to him, though, here’s a quick paean to the intricacy of the game’s historical recreation and in particular, the old man I saw seated in a corner with a collection of odd clay pots near the Library of Alexandria. In a functional sense the man was just background noise, his only role within the game to look spooked when randos decked in colourful weaponry fall off nearby buildings, but his air of concentration caught my attention. As I watched, he selected a pot and tapped it delicately with a hammer till it broke, revealing a shiny new-minted arrowhead, which he added to a pile on his left. I was delighted and mystified. How did the arrowheads get into the pots, and where did they come from?

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Many hours later, while roaming the lush, darkened city of Memphis in search of a renegade priest, I found the answer: a man hunched over a coal fire, melting down pieces of iron which he then carefully poured into similar pots using a pair of tongs. Of course – the pots weren’t pots, they were moulds. I took a moment to savour the thrill of actually learning something about a long-buried society, under my own steam and without any exposition, in a game that otherwise defaults to killing people, hiding from them or killing them while hiding from them. Then I ran up a fortress wall by accident while turning a corner, and a man with a tower shield kicked my head in.

To play Origins is often to be hit by what I can only describe as acute “verb envy”, as the grandeur and delicacy of the setting chafes against the small, broad range of ways you’re able to act upon it, a range that is a little bare-bones even by the standards of Ubisoft’s famously repetitive open worlds. Bayek’s story takes him from the pyramids of Giza (already falling into ruin) to the sacred pools of Shedet, home to the crocodile god Sobek, but there are essentially four kinds of activity throughout: find the thing (or, at least, follow the waypoint), rescue the hostage, acquire objects, and kill one or all of the dudes.

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Many chapters commence with an overwrought detective sequence in which you call upon a mystic pulse ability to highlight suspicious objects, such as giant vats of poison. Then it’s off to a fortified garrison, outpost or naval yard, where you’re free to use any combination of stealth, acrobatics and bloodshed to ruin everybody’s lunchbreak on the way to your objective.

In one of many nods to the Far Cry and Tom Clancy sequels that have flourished in Assassin’s Creed’s wake, Bayek has a pet eagle Senu who can be remote-controlled to flag up tactical props such as alarm braziers (which you can booby-trap), and grumpy lions in cages (which you can shoot open from afar). There are animals out in the wild, too, from flights of cranes to dangerously inconspicuous crocodiles, all a source of upgrade materials for your various tool bags and armour pieces. They don’t play as extravagant a role as in, say, Far Cry: Primal, because much of Origins takes place inside walled encampments, but every now and then you’ll parkour straight into a tiger while flanking a position, and things will get rather chaotic. I once found myself up a tree, wiggling around to avoid arrows while several enraged hippos pawed at the trunk.

If Assassin’s Creed: Origins deals from the same old pack, Ubisoft Montreal does shuffle the cards with some artfulness given the greater amount of ground it has to cover. Those fortified areas are sufficiently varied in structure to host a number of missions per region; they can be rinsed of threats and treasures the first time you visit, or returned to once you’ve amassed new abilities and better gear.

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The quest design is relaxed enough that you can almost always wander off mid-mission if you’re losing interest, and every side story has enough intrigue to dispel the tedium of scaling yet another gatehouse in search of yet another corrupt merchant or captain. Origins uses its source material to good effect here, introducing you to Ancient Egypt’s animalistic pantheon, ornate funeral rituals and festering tensions with the ascendant Greek and Roman civilisations as it feeds you waypoints and targets. It’s easy to forget that you’re going through the motions when you’re chatting to a man whose job is pulling somebody’s brain out of their nostrils.

The subject matter also lends itself to some wonderfully textured location design, not just imposing and detailed but expressive of potent social divisions and vast distances in time. Greek shrines are made up of freshly cut marble and terracotta, their painted wooden trellises relatively unscathed by the blowing sand and sunlight. Egyptian monoliths are grander but shabbier, facades dimmed by age, often better integrated with the low dwellings that surround them. The sounds travel great spans, too, from the chants, pipes and drums of a temple rite to the insect hum and squelch of the farmlands along the Nile, where you’ll glimpse tall ships sliding across the horizon.

Bayek feels at home in this setting in a way other Assassin’s Creed leads often struggle to, thanks in part to some beautifully judged context-sensitive animations. Walk him through a field and he’ll reach out absently to brush the stems. Stand near a fire and he’ll hold out his hands to it. Catch a lift aboard a fishing boat and he’ll lean casually against the mast, facing the pilot.

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In a broader sense, your Medjay profession allows you to convincingly play the part of open world oddjobsman, after the example of The Witcher’s Geralt – a figure of mild dread to whom people are nonetheless prepared to entrust their secrets and grievances. You might question whether Dragon Age’s Inquisitor really has time to track down a lost book, but for a wayfarer like Bayek it’s all in a day’s work, as is breaching the Pyramids themselves to bring certain predatory souls to justice. Even the bodycount you’ll amass, the usual point of departure between player agency and character motivation, doesn’t feel entirely out of sync. Bayek is a bit of a zealot, happy to execute the odd smalltown blasphemer or purge a few bandit camps while chasing bigger prey.

In battle, he’s the most capable Assassin to date. Origins swaps the series’ traditional smallscale duelling and countering for a more aggressive and flexible system backed up by a three-branch unlocks tree (in essence, bows, melee and gadgets) and an absolute deluge of lootable gear. Armed with light and heavy attacks, a shield and a pocketful of smoke bombs and firebombs, you’ll charge though mobs where other Assassins might have retreated to the sanctuary of a haystack – whittling away at multiple health bars at once, and flattening bigger foes with uber-moves that are powered up by dealing or receiving damage.

It’s a recipe for gratifying freeform mayhem, all slow-mo guard breaks, splattery finishers and quickfire alternation between styles – slow, pulverising strikes with a halberd one second, a flurry of poison arrows from your light bow the next. That’s providing you bear in mind the game’s constrictive levelling system, which often obliges you to chew through sidequests if you’re to make headway in certain missions or regions.

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Tackling an opponent several levels above you is by turns frustrating and a shambolic exercise in taking advantage of the AI’s less than surgical wit. You’ll drop 30 feet to land blade-first on somebody’s neck, only for them to shrug you off impatiently as though dislodging a cat, then spend five minutes playing kiss-chase around a rock. In the process you might fall foul of the game’s stealth systems, which are bafflingly fiddly given Ubisoft’s pedigree in this department. I often struggled to work out from feedback whether I had gone incognito, which amongst other things determines whether you’ll execute a silent kill from behind or merely slash your target playfully across the rump. Enemy perception can be hard to gauge – once roused, guards are sporadically able to see through walls – as can the time gap between breaking line of sight and enemies losing interest.

These annoyances fade after a dozen hours or so, even as the feeling of over-familiarity intensifies. Ubisoft’s open worlds have always operated a bit like global fast food chains – conjuring up huge and opulent landscapes packed with the fruits of painstaking historical research, only to serve up the same greasy little nuggets of homogenisation. A degree of design economy is, of course, inevitable even when you aren’t talking about games as expensive and complex as Assassin’s Creed, but a game billed as a franchise refresh really ought to have a bit more to say.

Still, Origins handles its creative inheritance more elegantly than some open worlders, not least because unlike, say, the first game’s Altair, its protagonist actually feels like he is of this realm rather than merely in it. And if the levelling and to-do list grate, the series has never offered a society and a landscape so worthy of close attention. The next game needs to be transformative, but this is a fine place to spend time while it gestates.

Assassin’s Creed Origins is available now for Windows via Uplay and Steam for £49.99.

92 Comments

  1. Eightball says:

    I don’t think you should assume you’ve actually *learned* anything in AssCreed that’s actually historical. For instance, the institution of the Medjay seems to have ceased about a thousand years before the game’s setting. What makes you think they’re portraying arrowhead production correctly?

    • stevex says:

      Who cares if it’s 100% correct or not? It’s a good game nevertheless.

      • Eightball says:

        The author does, since they wrote this:

        > I took a moment to savour the thrill of actually learning something about a long-buried society, under my own steam and without any exposition, in a game that otherwise defaults to killing people, hiding from them or killing them while hiding from them.

        I’m just pointing out that it’s not necessarily true that they learned anything, at least anything that is *true*.

        • Kadashman Enlil says:

          Well, I can tell you those arrowheads shouldn’t be iron. Bronze is fine, those were cast. Iron arrowheads were forged.
          An example of how arrowheads were made in antiquity can be found here: link to youtube.com

          When it comes to ‘historical accuracy’, AC:O’s greatest glory lies in the details great and small – but there also lie lots of mistakes and anachronisms.

          If you want to rely on AC:O to learn stuff, best find some way or person to help you distinguish between what’s accurate and not. That can be fun in its way.

          • colw00t says:

            Iron casting won’t become widespread for about 1200 years after this game is set, yeah.

            But, as is the way of things, it had already been invented in China, 400 years before the game.

    • jeremyalexander says:

      All Assassin’s Creed games have employed people with Masters or Phd’s in the historical era’s within the games to ensure as much historical accuracy as possible, I should know because I went to college with a friend who worked for them on more than one game. They do change things where needed for story, artistic, or gameplay purposes, but they have always cared about getting as much of the history correct as possible. Much more effort than you put into your petty little middle school insult. And since you have no reason to be here if you don’t like the series, you’re a poser that just wants to spew hipster hater vapid negativity and that’s more pathetic than anything in any of these games. Have a lovely day.

      • kament says:

        That escalated quickly.

      • Unclepauly says:

        Did I read the same comment you did?

      • Gormongous says:

        And they asked my graduate advisor to work on one. He asked how much creative input he would have, and they sheepishly admitted none: the game was already in beta and they were just looking for a big name to sign off on what they’d done. Needless to say, they didn’t get him to do it.

        Also, honestly, a lot of the changes that the series makes to history are frustratingly pointless and arbitrary, even as someone who’s aware of the need for compromise in game design. One of the assassination targets in the first game is William the Old, marquis of Montferrat… except that he’s the right-hand man of Richard Couer de Lion instead of his sometime opponent, is sporting an inexplicably Norman haircut with his head shaved from the ears back, and (most curiously) is in his thirties and not his seventies! Jade Raymond said that they went with William and not his son Conrad, who actually was assassinated by the Assassins, because Conrad was assassinated in 1192 and the game takes place in 1191. That’s what the designers at Ubisoft think about when they think about “historical accuracy.” The games are great for the physical experience of being in a historical space, but I’ve yet to play a single one that’s persuaded me the the devs talked to anyone with a graduate degree pertinent to the game. Not calling you a liar, just reflecting on my personal experience as a professional historian who plays a lot of “historical” games.

        • Kadashman Enlil says:

          You might be interested in the interview Bob Whitaker, an American history professor, did with Maxime Durand, Ubi’s permanent ‘in-house’ historical researcher. Durand explains how Ubi – currently at least – goes about doing research fort heir AC games. It’s the ‘History Respawned’ podcast no. 36.

          You can read an ‘outside look in’ from the point of view of Laurent Turcot, who was an advisor on AC Unity in an interview for the University of Sheffield’s ‘History Matters’ website (link to historymatters.group.shef.ac.uk).

          ‘At the end of November 2014 they told me what they wanted me to do. I had to organise 6 hours of training sessions, in English, for the Toronto team who were in charge of recreating the Latin Quarter. And they sent me this crazy list, extremely detailed. Straight off, I told them ‘do you have any idea how much work that is?’ I did it anyway, but the six hours were really packed. I gave them tonnes of images, film clips, etc. Stuff that wasn’t very specific but showed more a way of thinking like someone of the eighteenth century. If you’re a specialist of a historic period, you can guess how the people of that period would behave and appear because you understand the wider context. You would never, for example, put a wristwatch on Robespierre. But they didn’t have this kind of understanding. So the point of the training was to give them a kind of instinctive reflex, to ask themselves, ‘would this have worked?’

          Turcot and his fellow advisor, Professor Jean-Clement Martin, published a book on their experiences, ‘Au coeur de la Révolution – Les Leçons d’histoire d’un jeu vidéo’. It hasn’t been translated into English as far as I know.

          Anyway, Turcot is careful not to criticise Ubisoft (too) much, but you do get the impression that the problem with projects like these (the same applies to historical movies) is that the overwhelming majority of the people involved, from the top downwards, really have no idea whatsoever.
          Even if you hire a couple of professors who provide lots of pictures and try to give you a sense of the time and place, that doesn’t mean that the project leaders and development teams are suddenly 100% able and willing to ‘do it right’. It also doesn’t mean that all the compromises made are sensible and the best possible ones, or that the liberties taken are the smartest ones from a historical, narrative or even gameplay perspective. They are just the decisions made by a range of individuals for all sorts of reasons, some of them probably fairly stupid, silly or (in hindsight) easily avoidable. However, once these decisions are made they probably tend to stick. This may be unavoidable, given the relentless pace with which modern big budget games are produced (certainly the Ubi ones, being assembled from bits made by their various studios all over the globe).

    • Imperialist says:

      I went to school for historical studies, and i can point out that you committed the gravest, and easiest sin of all regarding your assumption: That historical examples and texts are “fact” or highly accurate in any way. The way our history is painted is in largely broad strokes, and the best way of understanding it is to cross-reference texts, to get a glimmer at the truth. Thanks to this thing called the Dark Ages, much documentation has been lost, and we only have an idea of what came before it thanks to a resurgence in the Middle Ages and the Renaissance, and even then, much of it could be people spreading half-truths or outright lies and any way of telling has been lost. In terms of AC, i think it is folly to expect historical ACCURACY, but as long as its plausibly authentic…is that not well enough? Take Gladiator, for example. A great movie, very entertaining…but largely fictional. Are you not entertained?

      • Kadashman Enlil says:

        You obviously never talked to somebody who does Roman history for a living or a serious hobby. The movie gets props for (temporarily at least) increasing interest in Roman history, but not much else.
        Kathleen Coleman, who was hired as historical advisor for the movie, later clearly distanced herself from the movie. There’s a lovely quote of her to illustrate the nature of the advisory process:

        ‘One message of the production office said: “Kathy, we need a piece of evidence which proves that women gladiators had sharpened razor blades attached tot heir nipples. Could you have it by lunchtime?”.

        Ultimately, Gladiator wasn’t a success because of what it got ‘right’ or ‘wrong’ in a historical sense. Gladiator was a success because it had the right cast, the right director, the proper budget for opulent visuals and a simple yet effective story.

        Was it a good historical movie (in the sense of being both a good movie AND a decent representation of what we do know of that time and place)? Nope.

      • Eightball says:

        Dumb post. For starters, if you really went to school for historical studies and didn’t sleep through all the classes you’d know the Dark Ages is an antiquated, political term developed during the Renaissance. Historians don’t use it as it is an unprofessional pejorative.

        Secondly we can know lots of truth about history. The fact that we don’t know with 100% accuracy every single detail doesn’t mean we can reject falsehoods and establish truths.

        Thirdly I wouldn’t watch Gladiator and feel good that I *learned* something, which is the assertion about AssCreed I take issue with.

  2. percydaman says:

    “The next game needs to be transformative, but this is a fine place to spend time while it gestates.”

    Everyone of these games seems to be the one we’re supposed to play while being patient because the next one is gonna be killer. All the while they just seem improve in lil dribs and drabs.

    • Gordon Shock says:

      This.

      And meanwhile we accept mediocrity. Is it so hard to skip this one and send Ubi a message?

      • fearandloathing says:

        Instead, this one gets RPS recommended badge. Baffles me, leaving the landscapes aside I can’t see anything in the review that’d make this game stand out.

    • RichUncleSkeleton says:

      Yeah, I’ve been hearing “the next one is going to be the one that finally shakes AC up” since about AC3 and it just hasn’t happened. Ubisoft is way too timid to ever go full BotW and radically revamp their #1 cash cow.

      • jeremyalexander says:

        Or maybe since it is a massively successful series, they rightfully feel it doesn’t need a major overhaul. If you kept going to work, did the same thing with minor adjustments to make it better each day, and they kept paying you millions of dollars, you’re going to tell me you’re going to blow everything up and wreck that formula. Yeah, okay. They do what every other successful industry in the world does if they want to last. They maintain a winning formula, and make incremental improvements based on feedback and internal decision making. That’s the real world, like it or not.

        • RichUncleSkeleton says:

          Well, Syndicate bombed and they decided to skip a year because of it. So maybe the formula isn’t perfect? I guess we’ll find out if Origins underperforms too.

    • Shadow says:

      Yep, the next game has needed to be transformative for the past 4 games. Rogue could’ve been, Syndicate could’ve been, Unity could’ve been, Origins could’ve been.

      But same story as always with Ubisoft and its generic game templates.

      Haven’t played an AssCreed game since Black Flag, and honestly I don’t feel I’ve been missing anything other than momentarily awe-inspiring landscapes.

  3. BaronKreight says:

    I haven’t played it yet. I intended to nitially but then something held me off. The setting is kewl and all. Still the game looks like the same old AC. New combat? From what I’ve seen it’s a clickfest. No stamina, click click click… until the enemy dies. Towers, busywork, leaps of faith with that whooosh sound and landing into a stack of hay, eagle/owl, three-way “RPG” skill tree, killing, killing, killing, killing… I mean if you are a teenager, this is 10/10 GOTY for you.

    • TychoCelchuuu says:

      Yes, as we all know, teenagers love combat systems with no stamina mechanic, towers, and eagle/owls. That’s what the teens are into these days.

      • noom says:

        In my day we were more into stealth systems with no feedback, motorways, and some (but not all) fruits.

      • BaronKreight says:

        No, we all know teenagers love dynamic experiences and being an all powerfull cool looking hooded superhero who can do parkour 24/7 easily while making bullseye shots from his bow. These things never change.

        AC started in 2007. If you are a teenager nowadays you probably didn’t even play that first game. Such wow.

      • Vandelay says:

        Don’t know what teens you are talking about. All the ones I know go about all day giving out money and opening mystery boxes. Being able to open boxes without knowing what is in them is all they care about.

    • Cederic says:

      Wait, you want a ‘stamina’ mechanic in which the protagonist, a highly skilled assassin in his prime with excellent parkour abilities and substantial close combat training, can only swing a sword three times before he’s totally knackered?

      I don’t.

      • colw00t says:

        Having some sort of limitation on how long the Assassin could hang from a bridge by two fingertips might make the climbing vaguely engaging, as opposed to just being “walking, but with more complicated animations.” Having a stamina meter might be the best thing they could do with the climbing. Make me judge how far I can go before a rest to shake my hands out when I’m climbing something huge. That’s how actual climbers work.

    • Czarus says:

      There’s no stamina bar, but every weapon only allows you to swing a certain number of times before you run out of steam. You can easily die if you are swinging wildly against more than two people, or even if you are just swinging wildly against one tough opponent. It’s definitely not a click-fest the way you are making it out to be.

    • pentraksil says:

      Yeah, they key word here is “I haven’t played it”. Because if you did, you would know that combat is not just a clickfest (like previous ones), towers are almost irrelevant, mini-games and overcrowded maps with tons of useless activities are no longer there. The quests are actually good and interesting. The game is not the best game ever, or perfect….but it is far from the same AC we had before. And can we stop with this “teenagers like this I am smarter than them” BS?

  4. hjarg says:

    And all of that is forgiven, for Ubi has nailed something else totally right. Egypt, itself. The most perfect, detailed, nuanced and so on setting I have yet to see in open world games. Desert, Oasis, Nile delta and Upper Egypt. Hellenistic Alexandria and old-fashioned Memphis. Small villages, towered by huge Egyptian temples. Perfect. I’ve spent hours just looking at Egypt in all her glory.

  5. Kurokawa says:

    Hmm, sounds a bit more stale than the preview bits I read and watched over the past week lead me to expect. Unfortunate.

    Also, not a single word about the monetization model and its effect on the game? I’d consider that essential information for any “AAA” review nowadays.

  6. Towerxvi says:

    I find people’s endless appetite for these games pretty baffling. I enjoyed the first two games, but had my fill, and the fact that they don’t to my eyes appear to have notably changed since then seems crazy, given their obvious economic viability.

    I guess the pirate ship one is probably an exception.

    Though don’t get me wrong. If it’s doing it for you, hey, knock yourself out. I just don’t know what gives it such staying power.

    • Turkey says:

      I’m starting to think that’s their main audience. People who play a couple of them and get bored with it. It’s just that the concept is so strong that it keeps attracting new players who play a couple of games and get bored with it.

    • Maxheadroom says:

      100% my thoughts exactly – Played and enjoyed the first 2 but tired of the series after that (save for ‘the pirate one’ that I picked up in a sale last year on the basis of everyone banging on about it)

      I’ve a friend though who is utterly enamored with the series, buys every iteration on day one and plays it through to completion, and I just dont get it.
      Good on him n’all i guess, I can only wish there was a series I could get that excited about.

    • kament says:

      The games differ enough, if not much more than, say, FPS-games (and AC is pretty much a genre of its own). But it’s not the formula itself, it’s that the games are that little bit too formulaic to really get into them. Visual clutter doesn’t help, neither does almost universally reviled metastory.

      But the core gameplay still has enough going for it (not everyone’s cup of tea, naturally), and they spice it up with wildly different environs and (somewhat) different abilities enough to keep their audience interested.

  7. Turkey says:

    Please confirm if you break the Sphinx’s nose off in this game. It’s the only thing I’ve cared about since Origins was announced.

  8. lancelot says:

    Solid logic. People liked the outposts, the bow, the owl and the wildlife in Far Cry? Okay, they’ll like those in AC too. Unity seems like a major breakthrough (in some ways it was) compared to this.

    I believe developers occasionally acknowledge the problem of the lack of things to do in those huge complex worlds, but I think another problem is the feedback: “Press F to press F”, detection indicators, numbers showing the damage. So despite the huge amount of work that goes into creating the game world, the actual gameplay process is still happening through non-diegetic means.

    • PlinyTheWelder says:

      Numbers can work though. I’m finishing a piece on horizon zero dawn that specifically points out that the numbers work in that context because of the myriad different damage zones on the robot enemies.

  9. MiniMatt says:

    The “memories stored in DNA” thing that AC rocks always reminds me of my fave bit of genetics trivia:

    Anyone who’s vaguely European, or can point to a vaguely European relative is the direct descendant of anyone in Europe alive in the 9th century. So you’re a direct descendant of King Harald of Norway, and of Emperor Charlemagne (and so according to AC have their memories stored in your DNA).

    And the isopoint for the whole world is somewhere around 1500BC – you’re related to everyone who ever lived prior to that.

  10. xvre says:

    No mention of the tedious grind required to level up in order to progress through the story and the convenient and totally coincidental real money crates that the game offers you to buy…

    • Deano2099 says:

      There is no grind. The “sidequest” content is as story-rich and mechanics-rich as the main storyline content. If you don’t enjoy doing those you’re not going enjoy doing the rest of the game either, so there’s no point leveling up.

  11. Vandelay says:

    Seems to me that they have made improvements to the Assassin’s Creed aspects, but we are still very much in the Ubi-open world mold.

    Which is a shame. Around the time of Far Cry 3, I was thinking Ubisoft were the most interesting of the AAA publishers, but they have pretty quickly grown stagnant. The Assassin’s Creed series has needed a shake up for many years. This might be a step in the right direction, but there is still some improvements to be made.

    Ubi in general need to look at the games they are doing and start mixing things up in their big titles, as I feel they are going to reach a point where they are going to release a bunch of high budget games, all basically the same and none of them selling.

    • kament says:

      I understand that they are selling though, for the time being at least. It’s a miracle they change anything at all.

    • Deano2099 says:

      As someone who enjoys these games and has played them all: Origins *is* a major shake-up. Certain fundamentals of the series have been thrown out (you can no longer stealth kill any target on the map) and there are major changes in focus (stealth has been dialed down, fighting mechanics dialed up). Leveling is entirely new, as are the masses of different loot that can also be leveled.

      I’m not entirely sure what people are expecting when they talk about needing a big shake-up. They’re not going to dump the entire game concept that’s served them so well for so long. But as departures go Origins is pretty radical for long-time fans.

  12. Ghostwise says:

    There are other actions, actually. You can pet the cats and they purr and when you leave they meow for more and get underfoot.

    THIS IS THE BEST ACTION.

  13. MaxMcG says:

    What about the microtransaction stuff? Curious about that. Also, what of the stories about the DRM maxing out CPU’s etc. etc.

    I’m so put off by AAA games these days.

    • Quite So says:

      Agreed. I stopped buying all EA and Ubi games a few years back, and don’t feel like I’m missing out on anything. There are enough quality games whose publishers don’t treat their customers like criminals that one doesn’t need to support the main bad actors in the industry.

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      maenckman says:

      The CPU usage is insane. It’s the first game I can’t run at constant 60 fps (i5 4690k @ 4.2 GHz and a GTX 1080) regardless of the graphic settings. But then again, after playing for 1 hour I was already bored as I saw what the game was going to be: busywork. I stopped and continued playing Breath of the Wild… Origins is a gorgeous game though. I just can’t stand the Ubisoft formula anymore and hope I have learned my lesson and next time don’t fall for one of their beautiful worlds with nothing interesting to do.

      • MaxMcG says:

        Yeah – busywork – I’ve had my fill of games that involve grinding, I do’t have the time and I’m certainly not going to pay money to by-pass that same grind. Instant pass for me.

  14. onodera says:

    Is there camera deceleration? Of all TPS games I’ve played I think only Mass Effect had a nimble camera that didn’t feel like a deadweight.

  15. Laurentius says:

    Game looks so lush and pretty is so tempting to give it a go and then in a nap moment all Ubisoft “thingies” appear and the charm is gone. Icons infested map, nebulous skill tree, whole templar -assassins business treated with straight face and I don’t feel a temptation anymore.

  16. Marclev says:

    I didn’t really get the sense from the review if this is worth bothering with if you’re bored with the Ubisoft Open World formula as seen in their other games (or maybe the sense I was meant to get is that it basically isn’t)?

    How much is this basically Far Cry 4 with an Egyptian skin vs. something novel?

  17. Nibblet says:

    Really? This micro transaction infested drm ridden mess gets a “RPS Recommended” tag?
    So much for RPS not changing after being bought out by a major corporation.

    • Person of Interest says:

      I’m baffled by the Recommended tag too (placed by accident?) but come on, RPS editorial has always been strictly separate from the ads department. Staff have made it very clear, there’s no “native advertising” on RPS.

      But seriously. Edwin can barely muster any enthusiasm for this game in his review, except for some of the glorious AAA assets on display. Adam was far more excited for AssCreed Syndicate (“my favorite Assassin’s Creed game”), and that didn’t get Recommended. Why give the badge to the series this time?

      Edit: I scanned the Eurogamer review, which also got a Recommended badge. It was a bit clearer on what made the game stand out, but still seemed like a wishy-washy recommendation. I can’t help but feel that if an RPS staffer reviewed this game, they would not have given it the thumbs up badge.

    • Marclev says:

      Huh? I had to double-check that after reading your comment, but you’re right. It’s very surprising, as the review came across as “Meh, it’s ok if you like this sort of thing” as opposed to a glowing endorsement.

      Maybe the decision to add the tag wasn’t made by the reviewer?

      Also no mention of micro-transactions in the review. Seeing how controversial they are, well … one can only speculate.

  18. tres says:

    Ctrl f: lootboxes

    0 results

    Microtransactions in a singleplayer game (LOL) and not a single mention or warning about it, or the fact that the game is build around grind to force you to spend money unless you enjoy wasting your time on things that are designed to be repetitive and intentionally boring.

    So how much does it cost to buy a positive review for your game on RPS these days? Are you guys cheaper than IGN or not yet?

    • Deano2099 says:

      Well you wouldn’t find anything searching for lootboxes as there aren’t any in the game. At least, not in the way you mean it. The only randomised content in the game is a merchant that sells you a random legendary weapon. But that’s for in game currency, not UbiBucks. I mean, technically you could spend real money on UbiBucks, then switch that for in game gold, then buy the boxes with it… but there’s not much point. You find equivalent strength weapons fairly often anyway.

      There are microtransactions for fixed elements, marked as “time-savers” that just let you see extra stuff on the map, or outright buy skill points, but there’s zero reason to buy these, and these specific microtransactions have been in the series for the past five years or so now. (Far less offensive here than in Unity, where one of the maps could only be bought with UbiBucks, and there was no other realistic way of locating all those items short of following a guide, meaning it was basically a must-buy if you wanted to 100% the game. Not a single review mentioned that.)

      So yeah, the reviewer could have included everything I’ve just said, but it amounts to microtransactions not really being an issue.

      • Marclev says:

        The fact that they’re there at all is an issue for many, myself included. In my opinion including micro-transactions in a game, especially a single-player game, that already costs $$$ at the outset is basically highly cynical and absolutely _wrong_ on a fundamental level.

      • KvP says:

        The ability point accumulation is slow and gets slower over the course of the game, to the point where you’re getting one, maybe two per hour. It’s an extremely drastic change from the RPG-lite pacing of the previous games and the purpose is evident – one real-money ability point pack will save you four to five hours of grind.

  19. Phantom_Renegade says:

    Is there, at any point in the game, any of the following:

    1. Instant fail stealth sections

    2. A section where you have to follow someone and listen to a conversation where, if you are detected you fail the mission, but it turns out that the people you were following knew all along you were there and reveal this in a cutscene where control is wrested from your character?

    The second one made me so incredibly mad I quit one of the AC’s and never played again. The other is just stupid game design. Either of these will make me not buy the game.

    • Zenicetus says:

      I would like to know this too, because insta-fail stealth/listening missions were the sore spot in the otherwise good AC pirate game. I don’t remember anything that bad in the most recent Syndicate game, so maybe that’s a sign that this one has ditched those missions.

    • pentraksil says:

      I played for over 35 hours and never had any quests involving eavsdroping, stupid chase missions, or stealth follows that make you desync if you don’t follow certain objectives. I haven’t seen any ” Do not get detected” missions at all. Desync happens only if you die. In most cases you can even try and run away, the area would get alerted and start searching for you, be on guard, target would hide….but you could still get in and try to assasinate for example. It becomes more difficult, but still no desync.

  20. Premium User Badge

    phuzz says:

    I’m disappointed we’re not calling this AssCreed:Oranges.

  21. Raoul Duke says:

    “Of course – the pots weren’t pots, they were moulds.”

    Um, SPOILER ALERT?

  22. 9of9 says:

    So, this is kind of a long shot, but what the hell.

    I’m finding that I really struggle to find reviews of AssCreed games I can rely on, because apparently I enjoy the series very differently from everyone else? So I’m curious if there’s anyone else with the same AssCreed preferences who can give me pointers about Origins.

    AC1: I really liked the idea, and played through it for the novelty, but found the lack of variety in its missions and broad repetitiveness kinda frustrating.

    AC2: This one was great.

    Brotherhood: A bit too much of the same as AC2 with less stuff, but also a very good game.

    Revelations: Still finished it, but it was dragging thin. Loved the setting.

    AC3: Quite liked the slow period-drama intro, but stealth gameplay was hugely frustrating and the characters were bland. Ultimately never finished it.

    AC4: Hated it hated it hated it. The arcadey ship combat sucked, the stealth sections sucked extra hard, the insta-fail missions sucked, everything about this game was awful.

    Unity: This… this is actually kinda my favourite of the series? I liked the story, I liked the setting, and the gameplay felt like a massive improvement on all the previous games. The stealth gameplay actually worked! For the first time in an AssCreed game! The awful boat sections were gone and it’s the best looking game to date, as well. Also, it had all those awesome interiors. It’s the only game where you could actually go inside a wast swathe of buildings seamlessly, and that added so much to the feel of the city for me. Damn that was a great game.

    Syndicate: Played this only briefly. Felt like a step down from Unity in every way, still annoyed at myself that I got suckered into buying it by all the reviews. The gameplay feels both really arcadey and really frustrating, the style has gotten super campy, couldn’t take any of the characters seriously, the visuals seemed like a massive downgrade from Unity, just none of it clicked.

    So… anyone else have a similar AssCreed track record? Hazard a guess where Origins sits relative to all that?

    It feels more serious and earnest than Syndicate, which is good, but it also looks like it suffers from bland, uninspiring characters like AC3 did, who go about doing sternfaced things really sternly, that it’s really hard to care about. I’m not sold on the setting either – Egyptian cities and monuments look great, but most as I can tell from the gameplay, you seem to mostly be breaking into brown, non-descript compounds.

    I seem to enjoy AssCreed most when it’s about exploring massive, beautiful cities and least when it’s about crouching inside bushes and eavesdropping on generic nobodies. Oranges seems like it’s mostly the latter? Nothing about it seems in any way compelling, but everyone seems to be liking it.

    • SanguineAngel says:

      HELLO THERE! Yes! I would say that I felt precisely the same about the series. Your thoughts reflect my own nicely. Especialy on the blandness of AC3. AC2 and Unity are my favourites by a country mile. I think that it’s because they both have such a spectacular sense of place.

      Sadly, I’m not touching Origins for a while so can’t fill you in on it but I WOULD be interested to hear your thoughts if you get it? To me, it looks like it might have a shot at top 3 AssCreed games.

    • Deano2099 says:

      Hmm – I would say the game feels more like Unity than any other AC game. But with the caveat it feels really quite different from all of them still.

      The stealth has been dialed back a bit and the combat dialed up – I find it’s a lot more “sneak around, occasionally get caught, kill everyone in the immediate area (you don’t get the entire base running at you) then going back to sneaking. Rather than having to run away and try again when you get spotted.

      Downside of that is that the stealth doesn’t feel as good and feels a bit more random when you get spotted etc. Not a single eavesdropping mission yet.

      Unity’s Hitman-style assassinations are gone, but replaced with a much more freeform assassination system, almost like the first game. So more freedom, but it can feel a bit bland.

      There’s a lot of access to building interiors.

  23. Osito says:

    The fact that lootboxes and monetisation has not been mentioned at all in a review of a game that receives a recommended tag makes me very worried about the future of RPS. I fear that one of my favourite games websites is about to go the way of most of the others. Sad.

    • Premium User Badge

      Ninja Dodo says:

      What’s with all the loot-box obsessives lamenting the imagined decline of RPS based on a review not mentioning their favourite subject: loot-boxes. Did I mention this game has loot-boxes?

      I think I look forward to this monitization model disappearing as much as I look forward to gamers no longer whining about it.

      • pentraksil says:

        I actually agree….people panic about loot-boxes more than loot-boxes actually being important part of these games, like the games are built around them…..

    • Deano2099 says:

      Because. There. Are. No. Lootboxes.

      And the microtransactions are the exact same things as have been in the past 3 games that no-one gave a damn about. (And they’re utterly superfluous)

      • Premium User Badge

        Ninja Dodo says:

        I haven’t played this one yet, but yeah, it was there in Unity and it was completely ignorable. If you did even half the side-missions you could easily unlock all the weapons and armor and I never got the sense that I needed any extra equipment. AC has never been difficult. The only noticeable problem with it, really, is that it makes the game more bloated by adding a bunch of unnecessary items. It is, at worst, inelegant.

        • KvP says:

          Origins feels very different from Unity / Syndicate, mainly in that ability point accumulation is noticeably slower after the first 1/3 or so of abilities are bought and they start costing more. Not for nothing that this is the first game in which you can pay $ for them.

          • Premium User Badge

            Ninja Dodo says:

            >this is the first game in which you can pay $ for them.

            That’s factually incorrect. I don’t know about Syndicate, but you could buy points for real money in AC Unity.

            link to kotaku.com

          • Premium User Badge

            Ninja Dodo says:

            Looked it up and Syndicate is the same (link to gamespot.com). Are you being misleading on purpose, or did you just not bother to research anything you’re saying?

          • Deano2099 says:

            Unity had a single real money purchase (a map for one set of items) that was not obtainable in game, and made getting those items a real pain otherwise. In that way, it was strictly worse than Origins, which has no such purchase.

  24. Deano2099 says:

    Since everyone keeps asking about Lootboxes:

    There is one vendor in the game that will sell you a random legendary weapon/shield for 3000 drachma. That’s the in-game currency that you get from looting, completing missions, selling excess items and so on.

    The pool of legendaries it chooses from are every one available in the game proper. You can get them all as quest rewards and such.

    Technically you can spend real world money on in game currency, and then spend that on the “lootboxes” but really, that’s pushing the definition.

    There are also some straight up microtransactions that are “time savers” which allow you to buy maps, skill points and costumes. All of which can be found in game too.

    The game is absolutely designed to be played without paying for anything. Just by clearing the side-quests as I play I’m already finding myself hugely over-leveled for the story quests. The side-quests are as plot and mechanics heavy as the main story quests, though that’s as much a function of the story quests being a bit naff as the side quests being that great. If anything it’s under-tuned and pushes your progression ahead of the curve with a bit too much ease.

    • kament says:

      The game is absolutely designed to be played

      A-ha! So you have to actually play it to get the stuff! That means grinding! (Heh, with AC it’s not that far-off sometimes, really) Checkmate, you AC-apologist.

    • Premium User Badge

      maenckman says:

      You say the game is designed to be played without paying for anything. How can you be sure? If there is no incentive for the player to pay for microtransactions why would Ubisoft include them in the first place? Even if you are right and it isn’t a big deal in Origins there is definitely a trend in AAA productions trying to make extra money by implementing microtransactions. I somehow can’t imagine this has no influence on game design.
      There may be players who have the time and motivation to overcome the tedium without paying for legendary items, XP boosts, maps and whatnot, but that doesn’t change the fact that it is tedious by design.

      • Deano2099 says:

        Because the side-quests that award the XP, materials and stuff draw from the exact same (shallow) pool of mission types as the main story quests. So if you find them tedious, you can spend money on micro-transactions to access the equally tedious main missions.

  25. Hyena Grin says:

    Haha, this doesn’t exactly read as an RPS Recommended WIT. They are usually more glowing, while this is pocked with complaints. Ahh well, put it down to writing style I suppose?

    Still, nice to see someone reviewing an Ubi game that doesn’t vocally air their life-long grudges against Ubi every other paragraph. Looking at you, Brendan ;)

    Ubi has their formula, not everyone loves it. Obviously.

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