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Assassins Creed Origins is an Assassins Creed game

Posted by warreni, in game review 29 November 2019 · 4348 views

action-adventureancient-egypt murder assassins templar-free caesar cleopatra ubi

So. . . Assassins Creed Origins. There is some truth to the idea that if you've played one AC game, you've played all of them. This also extends to a certain degree to many other Ubisoft-published titles. They are vast open worlds with a plethora of mission content and objectives. You have a protagonist on a personal quest for revenge for some injustice done to him or her. Said protagonist is a parkour-performing serial killer with superhuman stamina and endurance. The series's most enduring mystery, whether it is "Assassin's Creed", "Assassins' Creed", or "Assassins Creed" is likely to never be answered to the satisfaction of many (okay, just me).


Origins is the somewhat-confusing tale of Bayek, a medjay (sort of an Egyptian sheriff) whose son was murdered by a cabal of conspirators who sought his assistance in opening a vault with, well, it's never terribly clear what was in it, but they figured that child-murder was a good way to get in it. Bayek didn't know how to get into the vault anyway, as is sometimes the way of these things, but he makes good his escape and begins a quest to hunt down the conspirators and forgive them. Just kidding. He wants to murder them.


My last AC game was Assassins Creed II, which I thought was really fun, but I ended up getting stuck on a story mission involving stealthily killing five or six different guys (yeah, the details are pretty fuzzy after all this time). I enjoyed most of the aspect of the gameplay, although the puzzle rooms were my least favorite. I think I'm too old for them--or maybe I never had the requisite patience to start with.


This entry in the series is purportedly intended to reveal the "origins" of the Assassins, hence the clever name. When you finish the game, you may have a vague idea about this, but there will remain things that are fairly unclear to you--unless it's just me and if you've played every AC game since ACII, you'd suddenly experience total enlightenment on this point. This is a possibility, but I feel confident that it is a remote one.


The game looks and sounds terrific. It's clear that Ubisoft Montreal put a massive amount of work into making period locations, details, and backgrounds as authentic as possible. If you don't believe me, check out the Discovery Tour mode. This mode is one of the things I was particularly excited about regarding the game. In it, you select a topic and an avatar from a range of the PCs and NPCs in the game and walk, ride, or punt your way through an area while hitting points of interest associated with behind-the-scenes information on creating the game world, real archaeological information, or real historical information about the setting, the people, and/or the place. It is a substantial amount of museum-tour-quality information at your fingertips, and Ubi sold it separately from the base game (there is no interactivity to speak of beyond the points of interest, so if you want to explore ancient Egypt without even being attacked by annoyed crocodiles, this is your ticket). It's quite good, but mostly what I've discovered is that, after putting approximately 119 hours into the base game and the DLC content, I don't really have the patience for it.


Bayek starts off with five targets to eliminate, one of which he does in the game's prologue. After finishing off the last target, he discovers that his conspiracy is more wide-ranging than he originally believed and gains a new set of targets. In addition to the main story missions, there are numerous side missions that appear in every region. They're not super-original or complex--they're fairly generic fetch, murder or rescue quests, but what they lack in quality they make up for in quantity. As in many modern open-world games, each region contains so much content that it's not difficult for you to "overlevel" the region. Ubi is aware of this and you have the option to have enemies scale to your level no matter what the default level is in the area; you also have the option to simply not do a lot of side missions that will give you so much experience that you overlevel the area. It really just depends on how you feel about the concept of enemy-scaling and content. I fall squarely in the camp of having more content rarely being a bad thing for a game (unless it's just a terrible game, which this is not).


When Bayek levels up he gains some health and damage and is able to unlock part of his prolific skill tree, with three areas of focus--melee combat, ranged combat, and "mystical abilities" (which include a lot of skills involving poisons, sleep toxins, and animal taming). These mean that you can play Bayek in a few different ways. My Bayek build was essentially a brutal combat machine who dealt serious damage with fast edged weapons. You can also rely on a lot of bow mechanics and sic animals on enemies and poison enemies with toxins that "infect" other enemies, leading to chain reactions of death. The variety of weapons available also makes for myriad tactical options (which you will need for some of the more challenging boss fights). For example, light bows fire a rapid succession of arrows, while predator bows have very low quantities of ammunition, but their charged shots can be devastating. Bayek can wield weapons ranging from daggers to several different types of straight and curved swords as well as large and small blunt weapons. Each of these can range from ordinary to rare to legendary in quality, with each step up granting more powerful bonuses (as one might expect). Weapons have levels, and it's possible to pay money to "level up" a weapon to bring it up to your current level, upgrading its stats. This way, if you have a favorite sword, you can ensure that it keeps up with you. Weapon types are, naturally, heavier and slower or lighter and faster, and these call for different strategies in handling single and multiple enemies in combat. All of this makes AC:O's combat system very rich and rewarding.


You will occasionally play as Bayek's semi-estranged wife, Aya, who is on a mission of her own to support Cleopatra's claim to the throne of Egypt against her brother Ptolemy. Her larger goal, of course, mirrors Bayek's, but she sees this as their best option moving forward--to gain powerful friends and ensure their ascendance. Aya's sections were not my favorites because he has a more limited set of abilities relative to her husband--and some of these sequences involve the game's dull and tedious naval combat. Yes, I get that some people like these sequences but I don't; I find them to be a jarring distraction from the elements of gameplay in the rest of the game. Naval combat involves awkwardly maneuvering your trireme to move around enemy vessels, launch fire arrow attacks, block enemy volleys, and avoid pitfalls like being rammed or running over Greek fire. One of these sequences is mandatory as part of the main story, another is part of an optional side mission, and another plays a role in one of the single-player DLCs.


The story DLCs, The Hidden Ones and The Curse of the Pharaohs, add new areas and objectives to the already-expansive map. Of the two, the former is better in my opinion, if somewhat less deep, than the latter, as it ties in directly to the events of the main story and advances that plot to some degree. The latter, set in Thebes, pits Bayek against risen Pharaoh spirits on a quest to restore the dead to their rest in a permanent fashion. Along the way, he must make numerous excursions to the underworld, each of which is its own unique bit of weirdness. The Curse story seems to revolve around a battle between monotheist and polytheist factions, and the details are confusing in the best of circumstances.


There are some issues with the game. While it was remarkably stable in general, I did experience some crashes. Some of the game's quests require Bayek to use an ability called "Dawn & Dusk" that must be unlocked through the "seer" portion of the skill tree; this should have been an inherent ability. There are also a number of weird issues with the framing-device story and certain occurrences in the main narrative. Some of this may be "normal" when dealing with this series, but it's not clear to me as my experience is limited in this regard. The framing story is about a brilliant engineer named Layla Hassan, denied by Abstergo the ability to work on the animus project, who designs her own animus, is tracked down by corporate goons, and eventually flees Egypt in the company of an Assassin. The biggest problem with it is that it's fundamentally unnecessary. I can't see any player being particularly invested in Layla's activities or her fate. Additionally, there are hints in certain rooms that Bayek accesses in the pyramids that suggest that either aliens, time-travellers, or gods are intervening in the history of mankind. All of this was extremely unclear from beginning to end, and I have no idea how any of it is intended to fit into the fiction of this universe.


Having said that, I had a tremendous amount of fun playing this game and Odyssey is already in my backlog.

November 2022

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