The joys of travelling Assassin’s Creed Origins by eagle

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If my second favourite thing to do in Assassin’s Creed Origins is tomb raiding, my first favourite thing is travelling by eagle. Your character, Bayek, has a pet eagle called Senu which constantly follows in the sky above him, and you can possess it at pretty any time, sweeping your view up into its own. As Senu you can fly freely, ascending to extraordinary heights and roaming as far as the map allows, while Bayek waits far below.

Here’s the thing. If Bayek is standing, he’ll remain motionless, but if he’s riding a mount and you’ve set it to automatically follow the roads to a waypoint, he’ll keep riding as you fly. And thus you get to experience Egypt from the best seat in the house. There are limits: you can’t stray too far from Bayek, else he’ll just stop. But it’s remarkably free.

For a world so studded with monumental structures, riven by mountain ranges, smothered by dunes, and cut through by the Nile itself, getting to see it from above, alive with animals and people rather than through the abstraction of its map, is, well, it’s bloody marvellous. It’s beautiful and enveloping, a chance to forget the weird and emergent shonkiness of the game when it’s up close and personal. Well, apart from when you spy from afar a mad pileup of rebels and soldiers and a horse endlessly galloping into a wall.

In this Egypt, the pyramids of Giza are somehow almost always visible, there on the horizon, luring you into the world with the promise of spectacle. When I glide over the crest of a hill, I’m often bowled over by the view it reveals. And as Bayek races along the road below, you get an exhilarating reminder of the scale Oranges works at.

That’s a scale of both size and time. On foot, you get a sense of two worlds colliding, of the efforts of Greek settlers to build over the top of the remnants of thousands of years of Egyptian culture. But at height the clash is stark. You see how the Greeks’ clean-lined architecture stands over old sandstone walls and gateways without reverence, and how age has worn these edifices away.

It’s not just about the visual punch. I tend to leave the UI on and that makes traveling Egypt by eagle pretty practical, since Senu is fundamentally just a mapping mechanic, superimposing points of interest on the screen and allowing you to set waypoints without having to leave the world. That means getting to go on journeys of constant joyful distraction as you take little stop-offs, instantly switching back to Bayek to clear a fort, raid a convoy carrying precious resources, dive to open a booty-filled chest submerged in a river, smash up a Ptolemy statue. It’s open world map-clearing without the map.

Because of the whole synchronise thing, Assassin’s Creed was always about getting to high places and taking in the view. The eagle is an amplification of that, merged with Ubisoft’s habit of imposing open world design orthodoxy on all its games. It’s Far Cry’s enemy-marking binoculars, as transmuted into Far Cry Primal’s psychic owl and Ghost Recon’s drone. But Senu gets to be its own beast, a chance to experience a magnificent world from a fresh perspective. It’s the only way to travel.

25 Comments

  1. albamuth says:

    I hope one day Ubisoft re-releases all the AssCreed games, remastered, but with all of the framing story parts removed . In other words, with no stuff about corporations and aliens and “desynchronization” all all that pseudo-science genetic memory stuff that takes me out of the relatively enjoyable, historical-fiction action-adventure-RPG that it would be otherwise.

    • Fnord73 says:

      Imagine if they hired in a few of the writers from the Witcher team, and used their engine to actually tell a story!

      • EwokThisWay says:

        Oh hey, here it is ! The mandatory masturbation on The Witcher 3 in the comment section of any article about an open world game !

        Let me guess, you guys started the Assassin’s Creed series in the middle and never understood what was going on so you just decided that the story was bad, am i right ? Why should UbiSoft care about people like you and betray the ones who actually took time to play from the very beginning to understand the story like a normal person ?

        • f0rmality says:

          errmmm I mean I played every game from the beginning and never really liked the convoluted plot stuff. Or rather I would’ve preferred they go in a different order if this is how they wanted the games to go. start at the beginning and go through each assassins life playing as that assassin (and not as Desmond in the animus) and then watching the templars grow in power until we get a modern day AC where the watchdogs characters join in and we have DeadSec (as the modern assassins) vs Abstergo (modern templars)

          Then the games would’ve felt like they were ramping up each time because the Templars power would be growing constantly.

          But again, I never really liked the modern day stuff to begin with. I preferred being Altair, Ezio, the Kenways, Arno, the Fryes, and now Bayek. All fun characters who look cool and have great personalities (except Altair). And then there’s Desmond and his little rebel group who I found mostly just constantly interrupt the flow of the game to dump exposition on me about an overarching story I was significantly less interested in. Then for black flag, unity and syndicate it went super meta, which I didn’t hate quite as much.

          But I like how Origins is doing it now. I can either deal with the girl in the cave stuff when I want, or pretend she isnt even there and just stay as Bayek the whole time (which was my choice).

        • patrickpeppers says:

          Here to chime in that I’ve played the Assassins Creed game since the first and I can confirm the modern day stuff is the worst. I wish they’d abandon the framing device and just let the story tell itself in-game, without a dumptruck’s worth of exposition constantly interrupting the game-flow.

        • Chaoslord AJ says:

          Complete story can be read on the web. Overarching plot went nowhere for several game now.

    • skorpeyon says:

      I actually very much enjoy the modern-setting story, and considering they tried to phase it out, then brought it back with a vengeance in Origins I doubt it’ll be going anywhere for re-releases of the previous installments.

  2. Michael Fogg says:

    These gifs almost sold me on the game. Splendid. Can you also swoop down and dig your claws in some poor sod’s eyesockets? ;)

    • ReluctantlyHuman says:

      More or less! I know there is an ability you can buy that will make Senu attack enemies, stunning them, for you. I think you can manually control him to do something similar, too, but I’ve not actually used that feature.

  3. shagen454 says:

    I agree with Albamuth, that shit sounds good in theory but I have hated pretty much every AssCreed game to ever come out.

    This AssCreed, though – it might not be a 100% awesome Witcher style game like they obviously wanted. But, it’s probably the most “chill” version of Journey (with some pretty decent combat to boot) out there. Great relaxing game to play before going to sleep and definitely the most fun I’ve had in any AssCreed game.

  4. LennyLeonardo says:

    I love how Senu is always there. If you’re outdoors you can look up and see him circling overhead, and if you stay still for a bit, he’ll come and perch on Bayek’s arm. Really lovely touches.

  5. Ghostwise says:

    It’s an interesting alternative to just playing a little arrow on a simplified map, which happens all too often when navigating within game environments.

  6. Stevo612 says:

    Note to the author. The last sentence in the 4th paragraph says Oranges instead of Origins.

  7. Merry says:

    “a chance to forget the weird and emergent shonkiness of the game when it’s up close and personal”

    I have no idea what you mean by this, and don’t remember seeing a review that showed the same point of view of the game. It seems particularly out of place in a trivial item that is ostensibly about a specific one of the game’s mechanics, and doesn’t purport to offer a critical view in any way.

    Perhaps you would explain your comment?

    • EwokThisWay says:

      Don’t bother man, it’s not “cool” to say too much good about Assassin’s Creed so people always try to compensate by shitting a little bit on these games whenever they dare shine a positive light on them, you know, to be be clear that they don’t love Assassin’s Creed too much.

      They probably don’t really know what they mean by “weird and emergent shonkiness of the game when it’s up close and personal”, it’s just a way to say “oh hey, we’ve been praising Origins a lot recently, but don’t throw stones at us, it’s just very specific stuffs… it’s still just Assassin’s Creed LOL”.

      • Merry says:

        TheAngriestHobo says:

        “There’s been plenty of articles pointing out the game’s many amusing glitches

        Yes. Yes there have. But that is neither the domain of this (weird, emergent and shonky) piece, nor does Wiltshire explain what he means by it.

        I also suspect that he doesn’t know what emergent means, as it’s very much a non sequitur in this context.

    • TheAngriestHobo says:

      There’s been plenty of articles pointing out the game’s many amusing glitches.

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      kfix says:

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  8. EwokThisWay says:

    I find it so pathetic how we made people sort of ashamed to enjoy Assassin’s Creed games as what they are with years of ridiculous internet and media propaganda against the AC saga.

    Notice how all these article about AC Origins are always trying to take a detour to say how much they enjoy the game without saying “Assassin’s Creed Origins is an amazing game”. Oh we loved exploring caves ! Hey, travelling with the eagle is fun ! Damn, Origins is beautiful !

    • Pliqu3011 says:

      Yes, there’s definitely a world-wide conspiracy against Assassin’s Creed to make all those millions of people who buy every installment feel ashamed to enjoy them. You either love the games unconditionally and reflect this in your coverage, or you’re a propagandizing hack. Those are the rules, the Rules of Assassin’s Creed.
      Wouldn’t you agree the most accurate AC reviews are those running on TV during commercial breaks? Some objectivity at least!

      • Merry says:

        Pliqu3011 says:

        "Yes, there’s definitely a world-wide conspiracy against Assassin’s Creed to make all those millions of people who buy every installment feel ashamed to enjoy them."

        Argumentum ad absurdum isn’t clever, just very common. You can’t argue against what EwokThisWay said, so you invent something much more ridiculous and argue against that instead.

        It’s rather pointless really, and ironic that you should make a plea for objectivity!

  9. Chaoslord AJ says:

    The game does a few nice things but will not be remembered in the grand scheme of things some years from now. It’s the 2017 contractual iteration of AC borrowing from Dark Souls, Diablo, Breath of the Wild, Witcher 3 and other innovators.
    Flying the eagle while riding the horse on auto-pilot is pretty neat I admit though.

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