The Assassin’s Creed franchise went on year-long break, at least in terms of major game releases. It was supposed to be a time to re-evaluate and let gamers rest ever so slightly before more assassinations come their way this year. Let’s find out how AC: Origins is going to measure up against the last release: AC: Syndicate. Can we talk about significant improvements to the formula? And if so, in which areas?
If taking a trip back in time can be called progress, then Origins does, in fact, progress in terms of setting. While Syndicate’s Victorian London was undeniably a great choice for a narrative, there was a problem called: where to go next, without sacrificing too much of the series’ identity. Origins has the answer: you go waaay back, to the time before all the mess even properly started. Which means Ancient Egypt. Talk about picking an unusual choice of setting. The time of Julius Caesar, the most famous of Cleopatras, and Ptolemy the Boy-King makes for a very interesting political backdrop for the narrative about the inception of the Assassin and Templar orders.
Syndicate brought us the joie de vivre of the Frye twins, two likeable scallywags feeling right home in the dark back alleys. Jacob and Evie were a great dual protagonist, and their dynamic was a joy to behold. It seems, though, that after the break Ubisoft decided to go back to the usual, giving us a single protagonist. Bayek, because that’s his name, is officially hailed as the last of the Medjay, which at that point of time was more an elite military force than an actual ethnic background it’d been originally. He comes from an village gathered around the Siwa oasis, where he is considered a local hero, but anywhere else he doesn’t get that manner of recognition.
Here’s the true meat of the upcoming Assassin’s Creed, and the biggest point of divergence from the formula we’ve gotten used to in the past decade. Now getting into fights will require much more attention and engagement from the players. The system’s been reworked from the ground up and spamming counterattacks endlessly isn’t going to cut it.
To start with, the range of options is expanded, and now involves light/heavy attacks, dynamic dodges, a shield for parrying, and meaningful differences between various types of weapon.
For instance if you use a sword against armoured opponents you’re going to have a bad time. Paying attention to your enemy gear and the stats of your own is going to be the difference between having a good time playing the game as intended and being frustrated that not everything works against everyone, the way it used to.
Another thing that’s changing is the combat training of your opponents. Somebody had an idea that attacking a super-agile and deadly assassin one-by-one doesn’t work, so now they’ll actually try to use their numbers against you, making competent crowd control much more important than it has ever been. Even the ranged weapons are changing, no more working as a lock-on, and allow for much more dynamic and interesting use. Over all the combat hasn’t been improved as much as it’s been completely overhauled, and it’s for the best.
Open-world and non-binding missions
Assassin’s Creed made us used to a specific kind of structure. We could roam the world freely, until we started a mission. Once that happened we were confined to a specific setpiece until the mission was either completed and we could move on, or it was failed and had to be restarted at some time in the future.
Assassin’s Creed: Origins does away with such limitations. Instead of operating on discrete missions, you’re going to receive a number of quests for you to go about them at your leisure. While it probably means fewer setpieces, it also makes for a more relaxed approach. If you find yourself temporarily disinterested in following a certain questline, you can ditch it at any time and take care of smaller stories given by minor NPC, or ignore them as well and just explore the region.
Assassin’s Creed: Origins seems to have taken noted from RPGs, most notably The Witcher 3, and it may have hit the bull’s eye this way.
Keeping in theme with the RPG motifs, Origins is going to have a fully developed progression, expanding upon what we’ve seen in AC: Syndicate. Bayek’s going to get experience through quests and activities, and use it to learn and improve his abilities. Some of the series’ mainstays like double takedowns are reportedly going to be one of such upgrades. Which makes sense, it is not unlikely Bayek was actually the person to develop many of the tricks later assassins simply adopted. Loot we’ve mentioned earlier is also going to factor into progression, with diverse stats and specialties, including different kind of bows for different occasions.
A year-long gap seems to have paid off, because all available information shows that Origins is going to be the evolution the series has needed for a long time. If it’s going to become something of soft reboot to the franchise: all the better.
The game is going to launch on October 27 this year, making for a likely very strong feature of early Q4. The preorders of Assassin’s Creed: Origins are still running, too, if this is the kind of thing you like.