The importance of going home in Assassin’s Creed Origins

Sometimes it’s good to go back to where you came from in open world games. When the content is the world, travelling through it can often feel like you’re gobbling it up, every virtual kilometre a chunk of media you’ve greedily consumed rather than occupied.

But they rarely give you much reason for retracing your steps. Levelled rewards are rarely worth the journey; storylines and quests are often all used up. Towns, jungles, villages are left frozen in time, a snapshot of less sophisticated times. Now their challenges are less keen, their demands on your expanded skillset simplistic. Their NPCs repeat the same declamations as they ever did, ignorant of your world-spanning achievements.

While these worlds are physically non-linear, they often feel the opposite, locations standing as staging posts on a winding trail rather than interconnected places. Then I played Assassin’s Creed Origins, which goes out of its way to seed the places you’ve barrelled through with reasons to return.

Go back to Siwa, the player character’s home, and people greet him with hearty, “Bayek, you’ve returned!” For me it was a moment when suddenly Bayek’s character came into focus. I realised that he’s a meaningful figure in this world, and a treasured member of this community in particular. It was something I hadn’t really paid much attention to in cutscenes, but played out here in the open, emerging through my choice to go back, the sense was more powerful.

Talk to Bayek's childhood friend and he'll recount the things he's done since they last met.

Oranges is good at providing that emergent flavour of connection with its Egypt. I was heading back through Giza one time when I noticed a yellow question mark on the HUD, indicating an undiscovered tomb was nearby. Loving those tombs, I found my way in, only to find it looked vaguely familiar, and not simply because of asset reuse.

I’d been here before, as Bayek vocally confirmed. It was the very tomb in which we’d killed Rudjek ‘The Heron’, hours of playtime earlier, the moment when Bayek had performed, badly, his first assassination. The game opened a quest and Oranges switched into its ’investigation area’ mechanic, presenting several objects left behind by Bayek’s character-defining scuffle – an arrow, The Heron’s mask – so he could reminisce. “The smell of the blood I spilt still lingers here,” he says.

There wasn’t any more to this quest. Once the clues were found it played a quick cutscene and it ended. But it was a chance to remember where my playthrough had originated and how far I’d been since. I’d finally mastered the controls, found some fave clothes, travelled far and wide. And more: it fitted that event into a wider whole: the Heron’s people had re-sealed this tomb, performing burial rites for him. It was a rare moment of quiet in a game that often feels restless.

Oranges doesn’t half whistle you through its enormous world quickly. The story bashes you from Siwa into Alexandria, Giza, Krocodilopolis, Memphis, Faiyum. The quests are not complex and characters pass in and out of your view before they’ve had much chance to make an impression. There are usually many sub-quests to find across the cities, fields and scrub, but they’re easy to overlook and to leave behind when the main quest thread seems so impatient to move on.

But if you take the time to trek back through an area, you’ll come across not only those quests but also new ones. Oranges deals with the repercussions and what-happened-next of the events in the main story, reintroducing you to characters and involving you in lives that suddenly feel like they exist outside of Bayek’s own.

Revisit Faiyum, for instance, and you’ll catch up with the grieving parents of a girl who you earlier saw murdered. Her mother, Khenut, weeps at a shrine; her father, Hotephres, once a proud rebel, is stricken with inaction just as Bayek has cleared the way to revolution.

Honestly, the way that storyline plays out, like so many of Oranges’ sidequests, is not remarkable, and Oranges’ verbs aren’t exactly expansive, so on the surface it’s a few more wooden and slightly improbable conversations, a few more fights, an assassination of a bad dude and rescuing some rebels from a camp. But the sentiment of coming across the effects of an event you were involved in before transcends them. It makes you feel less like you’re skating over the surface of a simulacrum of a world. Going back helps you believe you’re playing in a world worth saving.


  1. joer says:

    They say “Bayek, you’ve returned!” the first time you enter that town. The story being that you weren’t in the town for some time and your first entrance to the town in-game is actually a return to the town.

    I’ve been playing through this one but I have run out of reasons to play seemingly well before the story was over. Characters feel all kind of flat and I am not intrigued by the setting. As for gameplay, there is almost no stealth at all and combat seems to necessarily involve a lot of lengthy, getting hit animations, as the roll feature is not nearly as effective as past games.

    • pentraksil says:

      No stealth? The game has to force you to stealth or something? Because you can play through the entire game only using stealth, picking off guards one by one….Not sure what kind of stealth a game has to have for you to say “it has stealth”. Really curious. It is not perfectly implemented, but to say there is no stealth is completely false.

    • Zenicetus says:

      There is plenty of stealth in the game, but you have to choose that approach. And thank God there aren’t any forced stealth, eavesdropping, or tracking missions that insta-fail if you don’t do them perfectly like previous AC games. Give Ubi credit for that, at least.

      I used stealth for everything in the early levels of the game, out of necessity. Later it’s kinda optional once you’re geared up and skilled up, but I still will usually take out every guard in a fort one by one, leaving the last commander wandering around and wondering where everyone disappeared to.

      The repetition of that approach would normally be boring in a game this long, but they did a good job of making each fort, compound, and bandit hideout look different enough that it always felt like a fresh challenge.

      • joer says:

        I overstated. There is stealth, and it’s pretty good mechanics. However, there is no incentive for the stealth later on and that has led me to almost entirely disregard it. Early on stealth is needed. Later, stealth is not needed at all and just slows things down. No bonuses to do things stealthily. No excuses through mission objectives requiring stealth (like keeping the assassin’s identity secret, for instance).

    • Hyena Grin says:

      Considering RPS has a long history of unrepentently hating Ubisoft games (sometimes writing negative articles before the games have even come out), it’s fascinating to me that you think RPS is in on some conspiracy to prop up one of their games.

      The fact is that Origins addressed a lot of the complaints that RPS had with the Ubisoft open-world formula, focused the game on a few things, and did those things pretty dang well. The combat is more skillful and involved, the story and dialogue writing is improved, the characters are more three-dimensional, the open world is less repetitive, the meaningless collecting busy-work is gone.

      What’s left is an extremely solid game, and RPS (or at least, Alex) has acknowledged that. Consider that it’d be weird to make a bunch of constructive criticism, have that criticism addressed in almost its entirety, and then scuff your feet and grumble ‘YEAH WELL IT STILL SUCKS.’

      It’s been interesting watching the Ubisoft hate machine try to churn out vague reasons why Origins is a bad game even after it addressed the vast majority of its reasonable criticisms. All that’s left is the complaint that it’s ‘more Assassin’s Creed,’ as though the only way for Ubisoft to make a good game is to abandon the IP altogether. As if iterating on a design and fine-tuning a particular experience is never worth doing.

      They are, frankly, a bunch of soggy cabbages who need to lighten up.

  2. Meat Circus says:

    There’s been a suspiciously high amount of RPS ramping of a game so obviously mediocre in every respect.

    It feels like *somebody* in RPS really wants to make AssOranges happen when it’s not going to happen and I don’t understand why.

    Is it because all of the genuinely transformative openworld games were console-exclusive in 2017 and PC gaming is forced to bottom feed?

    Cos I can’t think it would be best to say nothing at all rather than to make fools of ourselves pretending Ubisoft have anything interesting to say about the future of openworld gaming in 2018.

    • Dominic Tarason says:

      It could be that the writer just enjoys the game. I picked it up over the holidays and I’m having a good time with it, too. It’s on a great many other PC-centric sites’ best-of-year lists as well, so it’s not just RPS that seems to have warmed to the Egyptian sun.

      Perhaps you just don’t like it? That’s fine, too.

      • Meat Circus says:

        It was *fine*. And I know PC gamers were denied any actual truly good Openworld games because AssOranges was all we got, and beggars can’t be choosers I suppose.

        But this pretence that AssOranges did anything interesting from the same old shit Ubi releases three times a year frankly beggars belief and insults our intelligence.

        • LennyLeonardo says:

          I don’t know if you realise this, but you’re being quite rude.

        • Doug Exeter says:

          2 paragraphs of a perfect example of a insufferable elitist knob. People like you are the god damn worst. Now go ahead and post a 5 paragraph screed why I’m wrong while unwittingly proving my point.

          • TimePointFive says:

            I’m with you. Gottammm this place can be the most insufferable place sometimes.

          • Sgt_Big_Bubbaloola says:

            TimePointFive: You should try the PCGamer comments section sometime…………wooooo mama!

        • shagen454 says:

          Burn some Frankincense – purge your dank nan’s closets, then send those old dirty dark demons into your neighbors house and conjure in some AssCreed: O. A heavenly game Ubisoft actually got done right.

        • Zenicetus says:

          It isn’t a perfect game, but Ubi cleaned up its act considerably with this one. Aside from the major accomplishment of creating a vast open world that manages not to repeat too many assets, they *almost* got rid of the silly sci-fi plot distraction, and there are no meaningless collectibles. All the question marks on the map lead to XP, gear or loot, and loot feeds into the gear upgrade cycle. Crafting is balanced well enough that you can use it or mostly ignore it, depending on difficulty setting. It’s lightweight crafting, which I appreciate. Combat is improved over the previous games, with a larger choice of how you want to use different weapons and skills. Stealth works fine, and it’s never forced.

          There are things I didn’t enjoy, like a few plot sequences that were too heavily scripted for cinematic effect, bordering on a QTE-level annoyance factor. I could have done without those. Overall though, it’s tied for my game of the year with Divinity OS 2.

          • brad says:

            “they *almost* got rid of the silly sci-fi plot distraction”

            This is what I find baffling, both ACO and DoS2 suffer the exact same incoherent narrative control, both were shockingly bereft of information about what was happening, to whom, why and where. They both had wonderfully crafted worlds, gorgeous artwork, amazing production values in all aesthetic endeavors except where it absolutely counts the most – narrative. DoS2 I can forgive because Larian’s budget was about 1/250 the size of Ubi’s, and having played plenty of their previous games I see strong progress being made on a shoestring budget – but the AC franchise hails from verdant narrative stock, slowly chiselled down to a nubby ghost of it’s former self, there’s no more well written edu-tainment codex to both increase your knowledge of history and provide you some hints about what you’re doing and why… there’s no character reference data so you can check back to see why this woman is being so familiar towards you because you’re pretty sure you’ve never seen her in your goddamn life… A beautiful world a thousand miles wide and intentionally skin deep with that sordid hint as to why pulsating in the inventory screen that says “Buy Now.”…

            This is not unique to AC, obviously, it’s industry wide, games are having their best assets completely overlooked, almost as though an engaged audience is a troublesome audience, and by crikey are they running full pelt at IAP/MicroTXN in full price AAA like casinos discovering one armed bandits.

            So I’m a bit baffled that you’d be happy the silly scifi plot has almost disappeared because at this rate in a few years AAA games will be nothing more than a series of tessellated 16k textured fruits and a PBR shaded lever connected directly to your wallet/dignity. :P

    • Shinard says:

      Oh, what were your thoughts when you played it?

    • woodsey says:

      I really love the way this game is structured. Assuming you do some side-stuff along the way (a couple of quests here, a tomb there) the first half really does feel like a journey that you can trace all the way down the Nile.

      When I finally got back to Siwa as part of the main story, I went to Bayek’s old home and found one of his son’s toys in a chest. A happy accident, I think, given that I also got a shitty sword from the same chest; presumably I was meant to open it at the start of the game. Felt like a really nice touch though.

      EDIT: This wasn’t meant to be a reply to you but… it kinda works, so I’ll leave it.

    • Renato84 says:

      Ubi Montreal nailed pretty much everything on this one. It should be on every “Top 10 games of 2017” lists out there!

    • NelsonMinar says:

      I found all the AC:O articles surprising too; so much so I asked if they were being paid to write them. (Answer: No!)

      But FWIW I just finished playing the game myself and think it really is good. And I appreciate the RPS authors for pointing out parts of what make the game so good. For me it was mostly just the environments that kept me interested. Cyrene, towards the end of the game, is particularly beautiful. And the quest Flea of Cyrene is a fantastic break from all the serious murderin in most of the game.

      • Meat Circus says:

        I’m glad I’m not the only one surprised and a little skeptical of the number of uncritical puff pieces RPS seems to have mysteriously written about a game so profoundly middling.

        • Ghostwise says:

          It’s odd, because most of the RPS content I read about this game went “well, it generally works I guess. There’s this thing I actually liked, though.”

    • LennyLeonardo says:

      I think that often AssCreed games are less than the sum of their parts, and that this is the case with Oranges. However, some of this game’s parts are really quite excellent, and worth talking about. That’s my take on the numerous little articles on RPS. I don’t think there’s any conspiracy or anything.

    • gabrielonuris says:

      Not only RPS, it seems the whole internet is trying to push this game down our throats for some reason. It has nothing new, it’s just another overused Ubisoft open world that somehow gets a free pass with all it’s colectathon routine, just this time bigger and with a hidden minimap.

      Like you said it won’t happen, and mark my words: people will do the same with the next Far Cry, because Ubisoft.

    • Carra says:

      I’ve bought this last week and am playing it through my holidays. I have to say, I’m having fun with the game. It’s the first Assassins Creed where I’m playing for longer than ten hours.

      Sure, it’s not going to be my game of the year but it’s *fun*.

      • LennyLeonardo says:

        Moderate opinions FTW.

      • Renato84 says:

        I’ve been playing it for tens of hours now, and it might qualify as my GOTY over other gems like NiER and Prey.
        It’s an AC that’s as good as the mighty AC 2.

  3. ukpanik says:

    The joys of the importance of going home in Assassin’s Creed Origins.

  4. shagen454 says:

    This new AssCreed is fucking great. Sure, it’s no Witcher 3 but the actual gameplay mechanics are so well done, it’s consistently fun. Goes down in my top 3 for 2017 (which was sort of a shitty year for games)

    #1 Divinity Original Sin 2
    #2 AssCreed: OranGo Fuck Yourselves You Snobs
    #3 PUBG

    • joer says:

      Did you finish AC Origins yet? I am burnt out on it. Curious if it gets more interesting.

      • shagen454 says:

        Currently level 28. I’ve had the game for a month but have been taking it bit by bit, will probably keep savoring it, exploring every little bit of all of the splendor they crafted into the game. The story is bland, no doubt – I am having more fun doing the side quests in this game than the main story parts, or finding caves, old tombs, underwater temples to loot or coming across weird tripped out quests like “Gift from the Gods”.

      • Zenicetus says:

        I’m at level 40, just tidying up quests before finishing the main story. Level 40 is the cap. The game handles it fairly well, it just means you won’t find any enemies higher level than you, and most will be lower level (unless you use the scaling feature). You can still “level” with XP, but it just gives you points for skills. The last-tier skills that give a 1% increase per point are a decent point sink, if you’re obsessive about uncovering everything in the game.

        That said, the late game is basically the same; a bunch of side quests punctuated by a few scripted plot sequences. I’m enjoying it. But if you didn’t like the overall structure of the game in the early to mid levels, then it doesn’t get “better” in the late game.

  5. clever-octopus says:


  6. Renato84 says:

    I’m currently playing this game, and it’s absolutely brilliant. Ubi Montreal nailed writing, combat, exploration, soundtrack, art, graphics, pretty much everything. It’s as good as the amazing AC 2, and should be at the very least on every “Top 10 games of 2017” lists out there!

  7. PlinyTheWelder says:

    Man…it’s still just another AC game that can’t decide what it wants to do well.

    I found it so disappointing, so… Ubisofty that I made a video detailing its aggressive mediocrity.

    link to

  8. joshmiller83 says:

    I keep seeing it called Oranges. Where did that come from? Did I miss a Meme or something?

    • Zenicetus says:

      It’s an RPS meme. I think it may have started with Batman: Arkham Oranges.

      • I_have_no_nose_but_I_must_sneeze says:

        If memory serves, the orange meme origin goes even further back with Rayman Origins. Then came Rayman Legends, otherwise known as Rayman Legumes.

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