Assassin’s Creed Origins is fine, but its Photo Mode is splendid

I’m having an odd time with Assassin’s Creed Origins. It is, perhaps, the most “fine” game I’ve ever played. It’s fine. It’s fine. It’s not bad. There are bugs, but they’re not that bad. There’s… plenty to do? It is, I’ve found, one of the most bland games I’ve ever experienced. But goodness me, it lets you take a good screenshot.

I’ve found, as I’ve played the first ten or so hours, that I’ve had much more fun using the game’s photo mode than I have completing any of the quests. So I figured I’d share some of my snapshots with you.

It’s hard to really capture why I’m finding Origins quite so vanilla. It is packed with quests, side quests, random things to do and find, climbing, fighting, chatting, and even occasionally something akin to an assassination. It’s a vast depiction of 50BCE Egypt, in all its lots-of-sand-everywhere glory. You can ride camels, and punch hippos. And it does all of it in the most, er, functional way? It sure is functional!

But despite all of that – even the hippo punching – I’m finding it joyless. There’s just no spirit to it, no life. It’s flat like Norwich, a giant tablespread with only rice crackers to eat. I don’t dislike a single part of it, but I struggle to find anything I actually like either. I’ve been playing it for a couple of days, and it passes time in a perfectly ordinary way, without creating pleasure or pain. It’s neutral, like cream wall paint. It’ll do.

Funnily enough, considering the reason for this post’s existence, it’s not even that pretty. Running at full whack it often looks clumsy and cluttered, blurry and clunky. But every now and then, at the right angle, it suddenly looks really very lovely. There are moments of precise prettiness, and I’ve found a sport in capturing them as best I can, and really rather like the results.

Each of these below can be clicked on to see the ridiculously huge 3440ish pixels wide versions, if you need to print them out to wallpaper your kitchen or similar. I hope you enjoy looking at the pretty pictures as much as I have.


  1. lglethal says:

    Ok I have to ask. Why does your horse have glow sticks tied to its legs?

    • Freud says:

      I don’t think it’s a horse. I think it’s a unicorn.

    • Turkey says:

      It’s Ubisoft’s new horse stealth mechanic. Your horse leaves an after image to let you know where other horses saw your horse last.

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    Drib says:

    So much with the silly unicorn.

    Certainly that adds some joy?

  3. Vesuvius says:

    If it’s so mediocre… err… “fine”, why is it RPS recommended?

    • Someoldguy says:

      The magic of having multiple staff writing articles? If it relies on consensus among RPS staff, presumably John is the outlier. Wouldn’t be the first time. Or perhaps it’s largely down to the individual doing the full review to call it. We haven’t seen enough reviews from Edwin yet to know what game elements make a good impression on him and which do not.

      On this particular game, I side more with John. For me it’s a functional addition to the AC catalogue but not a great one.

    • woodsey says:

      Because the person who reviewed it for RPS who wasn’t John really liked it?

      • warkwark says:

        Normally I would agree: different writers, different opinions.

        But have you read the review? It was about as lukewarm as it gets. Since I noticed the Recommended tag before reading it, I kept expecting it to pivot, and start telling us about the awesome parts of the game. But it really never did.

        Meanwhile, I have read really glowing reviews on this site that never got that tag. Somewhat erratic.

    • Nelyeth says:

      Two reasons :

      1)Because there are actually several persons in the RPS team, and since it’s “Wot I think” and not “Wot we think”, some can perfectly find it great, and some “fine”.

      2)Because John Walker. Word has it, the last time he muttered the words “this is a good game”,the land shook, the seas parted, and this era of lootboxes, abusive DLCs and preordering madness began. Driven almost insane by the guilt, he swore he would never again commit such atrocity.

      • jimmybones says:

        There have been at least five* such events this year, then. I didn’t bother clicking through the entirety of 2017 as your second point should really be rewritten as “2) John Walker occassionally writes about a game he didn’t care for. This is so shockingly uncommon that he surely must be the sorest misanthrope games journalism has ever seen. LOL”

        link to
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        • Nelyeth says:

          T’was but a joke. Just a… joke. I thought I made it obvious enough. I was wrong.

          • kament says:

            Or was it? With all that’s happened in the world this year, I’m not so sure.

        • Unclepauly says:

          It’s hilarious that John has a page for this.

        • ColonelFlanders says:

          I think RPS needs to introduce /s tags.

          • Nelyeth says:

            I’m beginning to think so too. At this rate, I’ll have to chose between being a perfectly sensible human being and making some poor-taste jokes. Ugh.

        • Nelyeth says:

          I apologize for my low-effort attempt at poking fun at you, I know you’ve written some very positive reviews. But deep down in my heart, the reviews I truly enjoy are the negative ones, and I guess it’s the reason I’m trying to perpetuate the “John Walker is a grumbly old coot that doesn’t like anything” legend. As cruel as it sounds, John, could you please stop playing good games, and only write about terrible ones ? I’m getting goosebumps just thinking about it.

          • Harvey says:

            I too love negative reviews! John puts out the best ones here. My tastes align with John’s as well; if he *really likes* a game, I am going to try. that. game.

    • jimmybones says:

      I don’t recall Edwin Evans-Thirlwel, the author of said WIT, ever writing for RPS prior. He’s written loads for EuroGamer, however. Conspiratorially, it could be the result of Gamer Network making sure that its newest subject doesn’t admit to not caring for a an ultra-budget AAA release.

      I’m sure I’m wrong on at least one point, and dearly look forward to being told that I am.

      • Person of Interest says:

        Edwin has written for RPS in the past, but Origins was his first Wot I Think. I like his writing, but I have to bring my own weary cynicism when I read his stuff because he’s a bit lacking in that department.

  4. Urthman says:

    That is way more hippo blood than I ever wanted to see.

    • Someoldguy says:

      In any close encounter with a hippo, it really ought to be your blood all over the scenery. It’s take a 100lb bow, pinpoint accuracy and a lot of luck to bring one down before it turned you into jelly.

  5. lancelot says:

    I estimate the chances to see a penis or something resembling a penis in John’s posts to be about 35%.

  6. Tarn says:

    I feel it’s unfair to compare an Assassin’s Creed game to Norwich. Norwich is much more exciting.

    • Guiscard says:

      Norwich’s motto on their signs welcoming you on the roads do describe it as “a fine city”. Not brilliant, not terrible: it’s fine!

      To say it’s the equivalent of a table full of rice cakes is unbelievably harsh though. You could make a great 13th century England Assassin’s Creed setting out of Norwich, given its historical significance and architecture, pair it up with York and the City of London for the core trio of cities…

  7. BockoPower says:

    It’s good but why do so few games use Ansel and make their own Photo Mode instead? They have some agreement with AMD or is it too expensive? Isn’t it faster and less resource consuming to just put in Ansel?

    • KenTWOu says:

      My guess, it’s really hard to do it right, because of the way it works. Basically, Ansel is a camera hack, so sometimes it has issues in some of the games, especially in rendering of screen based effects. Judging by famous NeoGAF screenshot thread, Mass Effect: Andromeda was the worst offender in this regard (example).

      Besides, they’re making photo modes for console versions anyway, so what’s the point of not using almost the same code in PC version?

  8. Reverant says:

    I played perhaps 10 or 12 hours before uninstalling and moving on. The only thing I took from the game was the desire to go to the library for some books on Egypt. AC:O is, in all likelihood, a very good videogame, but in such a way that it makes one question the very things marketing tells us we must cherish in a very good videogame.

    • LivingfortheNight says:

      So, you paid $50 just to play for one day then uninstall?

      • Unclepauly says:

        These people with their disposable income, literally disposing it.

      • ThePuzzler says:

        $5 an hour for entertainment isn’t terrible value.

      • Dewal says:

        (10-12h of playing, for most people, is closer to a week of gaming than a day)

        But anyhow, he tried it and didn’t like it, so he stopped. Should he he force himself to play something he doesn’t like because he paid for it ? What’s the point of losing your time on top of losing money…

        Being able to stop something even after engaging oneself is actually pretty wise and not so easy to do.

        (RPS even wrote an article about such phenomenon – link to )

  9. CitizenX3639 says:

    After just recently playing Mad Max, in my review I said EVERY game needs photo mode. So much fun.

  10. Babypaladin says:

    Wow people really hate AC around here…

    • Sirius1 says:

      It’s not a hatred of AC so much as a weariness of Ubi’s cookie-cutter open worlds, I think.

    • Ghostwise says:

      RPS comments are relatively Fascist-free, but can be heavy on curmudgeons.

  11. AbyssUK says:

    The pictures are indeed lovely.. and it makes me sad.. such great work done by a talented team to make the game look so nice.. a beautiful exciting setting of ancient Egypt truly brought to life!.. then it seems (i haven’t played it) wasted by a lack of imagination. Open world games are seemingly forgetting how to be games… we are sick of fetch, kill, stalk quests.. bring some imagination in.
    Also I bet this still has some drug fueled side quests somewhere.. am I right ?

  12. mashkeyboardgetusername says:

    “It’s flat like Norwich”

    But Norwich is surprisingly hilly.

  13. RuySan says:

    Isn’t that a problem with every AC game?

    That it’s “fine” just “fine” (i.e. bland)

  14. welverin says:

    You got the Unicorn? I went for the mummy outfit, I wasn’t sure about my decision, now seeing the rainbow trails I think I chose poorly.

    Though the glowy eyes are cool.