Assassin’s Creed Origins – illustrated game review

Assassin's Creed Origins. Main character, Bayek of Siwa.

Assassin's Creed Origins. Main character, Bayek of Siwa.

The post contains spoilers.

I played plenty of Assassin’s Creed games in the past – from 2008’s original game in medieval Syria, through the 2009’s legendary Assassin’s Creed 2 in Italian Renaissance (I can still hear that “Ezio Auditore da Firenze”), disappointing 2012’s Assassin’s Creed 3 in early British colonies in North America, phenomenal 2013’s Assassin’s Creed 4: Black Flag – which was a very poor “Assassin’s Creed” game but a fantastic sea pirate simulator – and there for me the path somewhat ended.

Next game, 2014’s Assassin’s Creed: Unity, set in the days of the French revolution, had reviews so poor that I decisively passed on that meal. To that, it remained expensive and was broken to a meme point. Even when in 2019 the game was released for everyone for free, after the fire of Notre-Dame Cathedral, I could not find the spirit to play it. What about the 2015’s Assassin’s Creed Syndicate, set in industrial revolution’s London? I passed on that one too when I realised it suffers from the same climate that GTA IV did – it was a high-tech depiction of an ugly place. I suppose nice views are important to me.

I thought I would not go back to Assassin’s Creed, but Uplay had Origins at -80% discount and it was well recommended by friends. I finished the game, I was positively surprised and I sing praises about it.

Please note: all pictures used in this post are Assassin’s Creed Origins screenshots from the PC version. The game was designed by Ubisoft. https://www.ubisoft.com/en-gb/game/assassins-creed-origins/

The story

You once again dive into the Animus machine that lets your mind experience events of your ancestors. This time the ancestor chosen is Bayek of Siwa oasis, who is a Medjay, the protector of Egypt, in ptolemaic times of year 49 Before Christ. Bayek has a wife, also a Medjay, Aya of Alexandria. The have an eagle companion called Senu. The two lost their son, and on their path of vengeance for his killing, they discover a plot against Greek-colonised Egypt, which would soon be conquered by the Roman Empire.

Bayek of Siwa

Bayek’s visions here and there are a fantastic story additions.

Bayek is an Egyptian man. A tough man, especially with long hair and beard, armed to teeth with ancient era weaponry such as maces or axes, despite his gentle face, he can be a formidable fighter with a much stronger presence than many past assassins we saw in the series. He knows his goals well, although we see that he does not always plan the details. He struggles with getting all aspects of his life together, reconciling vengeance obsession of his and his wife, with their bond, with love for Egypt, with his undisputed love for the common people.

To me, he proves to be the best written, most believable, well acted, well voice-acted in English character in the series. I would tell AC2’s Ezio Auditore comes close, but after thinking, not really – Ezio’s story was pleasant and expected but predictable and cliche, and the English voice acting was absolutely terrible (you should listen to his Italian voice actor).

Aya of Alexandria

Aya is Greek. She is a long-range planner, an idealist, silently overshadowing Bayek’s zeal for protection of Egypt. She is a fighter, that type that strikes like a cobra, approaches slowly, and hits fast and decisively.

They are a fantastic couple. Unfortunately, you cannot alternate between the two, like you could with Assassin’s Creed Syndicate’s Jacob and Evie. On occasion, though, you can play Aya too.

Cleopatra

Cleopatra VII Philopator is a very well known character in popular culture and anyone that knows that the game’s story takes place in 49 BC will realise that she will be in there. Indeed, the Egyptian female pharaoh is there, and it is hard to speak of her without giving spoilers. Instead, let us again take a look at how she was presented in the game. It is the golden ornaments of her head that catch the most attention.

Julius Caesar

The famed Roman emperor also made his appearance in the game, albeit to a lesser extent than I would have wished it. It is important to accept, however, that the game is about Egypt. Even though in those types, Egypt was under strong influence of the weakening Greek culture, and just about to fully fall into Roman Empire’s claws, it is a game neither about Greece nor Rome.

Julius Caesar is there – it is what matters to me. His and Cleopatra’s portrayals are satisfactory, slightly more eye-candy than expected, trading a pinch of realism for a pinch more of enjoyment from the game, nothing too brutal.

Places

Most notably, the game features a number of grand locations, many breathtaking views, and a massive area to traverse on camels, horses, sailboats or on foot. Too many to describe in details, but a number of them caught my particular attention, and I will show you Siwa Oasis, Alexandria, Letopolis, Memphis, Karanis, Krokodilopolis, Kyrenaika and the Egyptian wilderness.

Siwa Oasis

This is where you begin. While it looks like a typical oasis, you will notice that it is actually quite a large area – not your cartoonish image of an oasis with a puddle and a palm tree. You can comfortably sail the lake in it.

Siwa Oasis in Assassin’s Creed: Origins.

Alexandria

The Greek city of Alexander the Great is beautiful and packed with wonders of the ancient world that were lost in history. You will have the opportunity to see the Alexandria Lighthouse. You will be able to visit the famous Alexandrian library and see how they poured wisdom to papyrus and then how they stored it.

Alexandria in Assassin’s Creed: Origins.

Letopolis

For some reason, I liked this town. I like deserts in video games (much less in real life), perhaps this is why. Letopolis has a strongly ancient Egyptian feel, and it is being consumed by sands of the desert. If you think about it, many flourishing ancient centres of civilisation ended this way, including the ancient Sumerian city of Eridu, the very cradle of human civilisation.

Letopolis in Assassin’s Creed: Origins.

Memphis

You probably heard of ancient Memphis even if you don’t care much about ancient Egypt. It is a large city, and my graphics card from 2017 (Radeon RX 480 8GB) struggled not to lose frames at times, but at lowest drops to 28 fps, it was fully playable. It is a rich, watery city, from which you can see the pyramids!

Memphis city in Assassin’s Creed: Origins.

Karanis

As the only small place in this journey, Karanis is an interesting place. It is located in the south of Lower Egypt, at the edge of waters and Sahara desert. It used to be fully Egyptian, and now has an influx of Greek settlers, causing interesting clash of cultures. Because Karanis is small, and the cultures have to live close to each other, the collision of ancient Egypt and ancient Greece is best visible in Karanis.

Karanis in Assassin’s Creed: Origins.

Krokodilopolis

How can you not love a city with a name “Krokodilopolis”? Well, it is a swamped city full of crocodiles (what did we even expect). While not enormous, this Fayoum Oasis-based city is a surprisingly large place for its location. Its murky, swampy atmosphere (where you feel the stench of all that water in hot air from behind the monitor) has its own charm as one city where ancient urban architecture of Egypt not just meets the wild nature, but where they blend into one.

Krokodilopolis in Assassin’s Creed: Origins.

Kyrenaika

Kyrenaika is very different from other cities. Despite its very Greek-sounding name, it is a Roman-developed place with significant Latin touch. As the largest city of this sort in the game, it is a chance to peek into the culture of ancient Rome of Julius Caesar’s days, all without entering the Italian peninsula.

Kyrenaika in Assassin’s Creed: Origins.

The Wilderness

Wilderness in Origins is vast and diverse, ranging from sand and rocky deserts, through rivers, the cedar forests of Kyrenaika, the swamps, the southern jungles and the dry mountains. It is inhabited by a range of exotic animals, including snakes, hyenas and many wild cats, including lions.

The DLCs

The first DLC, the Hidden Ones, is a short DLC adding a small land to explore in Sinai peninsula. The place is not pretty, it is just red rocks all over the place, story is not particularly fascinating, and the whole area feels unfinished, with bugs occurring quite often as compared to base game and the second DLC. In general, the Hidden Ones is nice and pleasant small treat, but it feels like it was just a little something to throw at people when more time was needed to complete the other DLC.

The other DLC, Curse of the Pharaohs, was very good. This one adds Upper Egypt with Thebes all the way down to Swenett (modern day Aswan). This area has much more sub-Saharan African feel, which is nice, considering that Swenett borders Nubia (modern day Sudan). As usual with Assassin’s Creed, this one has way more fiction than history, although fiction is packaged into very specific, hidden pockets of space and fit the lore very well, and it is very interesting. I fully recommend this one.

Steering

For the first time, I am satisfied with manoeuvring of the game’s character. Clumsy movements were a plague of all previous games, where, essentially, the character would not walk or climb where you wanted, he would jump without reason, also from buildings and ladders. This is almost eliminated in Origins.

Fighting

Fighting used to be quite cringy in past games – you could be surrounded by 50 enemies, but if you were good at fighting one-on-one, you would kill them all, because they would not dare attack you more than one enemy at a time. This is Darwin’s law illustrated, indeed, but not very realistic, I’m afraid. In Origins, you have to be more careful, and that’s a good thing.

Moreover, you have a fine selection of weapons with their own styles. Daggers need you to come up closer and be agile, but you can stab fast and sure, while spears allow you to attack from a distance, but you do it slower, so make sure you hit. Sniping with controllable arrow was obviously overpowered (and thus nerfed in AC:Odyssey), but it was so much fun that I don’t care, I used it all the time.

Side missions

Side missions are fun, although they are fun mostly once you finish the game and conclude you like it. This is due to the fact that by the endgame time, you will already have familiarised yourself with the world and lore and learn to love it, so if you completed the game and have no big enemies to kill and massive plots to twist, you really enjoy finding all those lone mothers looking for their captured sons in all corners of ancient Egypt.

Museum mode

The museum mode, here called Discovery Tour, is a fantastic extra feature added in Assassin’s Creed: Origins. Regardless of your main game with its fighting, plot twists and quests, you can start the game in Discovery Tour mode. In this mode, no one will fight or pester you, character damage doesn’t exist (including fall damage), quests don’t exist, you have access everywhere, and you can pick any character you want to walk as. You want to walk anywhere you want as Cleopatra and sightsee ancient cities without fighting anything? You can. Neat!

In the Discovery Tour, which I call “Museum Mode”, you pick what character you want to walk as, you have access everywhere, and no one will fight or pester you.

That’s not all you have access to. The game has tons of pre-configured discovery paths, where a virtual guide will walk you through individual points of interests such as burial customs, peasant lifestyle, religious beliefs, palace culture, animal wildlife, and natural areas. I wish we had that on history lessons in school!

The golden glowing points on the ground mark where you can start a discovery tour, where a virtual guide talks to you about ancient Egypt.

Moreover, you are presented with photos and other pictures from real world, to improve your connection with the 3D computer world that you are now so used to. Because they have a label indicating what era artefact/photography comes from and where is it today, you get the sense of connection of what you see in the game with the real thing.

Images from real life and museum artefacts are displayed to you in the tour mode.

Flaws

The game, naturally, has its flaws. I gathered them in a list below.

  • Too many forts, this is way too repetitive. I get it, teenagers love grinding and going for tasks such as “get 100 out of 100 forts for an achievement badge”, but I find it pointless and boring.
  • Steering in AC was always abhorrent, in AC:Origins it is finally almost decent, but I wonder why it started from rock bottom in AC1 and with every game it goes one step forward in improving it instead of just fixing it for real.
  • I feel this game was designed to be played on a pad. I get it, it’s nice, I play AC:Odyssey on PlayStation 4 myself and it’s good, but as a PC gamer, I just don’t get why some interface and character controls are what they are.
  • Why is there no Discovery Mode for Upper Egypt (DLC2)? What is the excuse for this? Discovery Mode is a phenomenal idea, and it must have been noticed, since it appears in the later game AC:Odyssey.
  • We should have the choice to play as Aya, in my opinion, rather than alternating involuntarily between Bayek we customise and a pre-prepared Aya, especially for key quests.

Overall, these were not major issues for me, personally.

Summary

Assassin’s Creed: Origins is, overall, a massive improvement from its direct predecessors in Britain, France and the Caribbean. It is a game that is both pleasant as an Ancient Egypt-based game as it is as a game of Assassin’s Creed series. It offers dynamic combat, much less repetitive quests, more interesting characters, and finally mirrors the silent professionalism and seriousness of AC1’s Altair. Of course, that last one about seriousness comes with a flaw to many people that miss the humour genius of Assassin’s Creed 2, but that’s why we got Assassin’s Creed: Odyssey, I assume.

  • Graphics: 10/10. Game is stunning, if only a bit too pretty.
  • Gameplay: 8/10. Too many forts to attack, this gets repetitive, but it’s not as common as in other games such as Odyssey.
  • Quests: 7/10. Fairly diverse and satisfying, especially post endgame sidequesting. But still suffer from repetitiveness.
  • Characters: 10/10. Finally an Assassin’s Creed game where we can enjoy the characters and what happens to them, and watch them change.
  • Locations: 10/10. All you would want from Ancient Egypt.
  • Music: 10/10. Not enough remixes on YouTube about it, the game has some top notch tracks. Perhaps not as good as with AC2, but AC2 gets a 12/10 from me.
  • DLC1: 4/10. Sinai was ugly, quest line had some interesting twists but was overall mediocre, characters were bland, and the locations were buggy.
  • DLC2: 9/10. Very well done, interesting, innovative, and dealing well with hard tasks the designers gave themselves with this one. But why discovery mode was abandoned for Upper Egypt is beyond me.
  • Endgame: 9/10. While not blowing you off the water, it was satisfying, although you need to consider a series of last quests an endgame rather than the very last one. With such approach, the end game is great.

This gives the game the average of 8.56 out of 10. This is a very high score which says one thing only: I wholeheartedly recommend this game.

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