Assassin’s Creed: Origins exists under the shadow of a giant. Egyptian mythology is beloved by many history buffs and fantasy fans alike, and given that the Assassin’s Creed franchise exists at an intersection between those two demographics, Ubisoft could not have chosen a more precarious setting. Every storyline element will be scrutinized, and all of the information will be fact-checked – despite a reputation built on incredible replications of historical time periods, Assassin’s Creed Origins, its educational mode, and all of its character-building will need to balance interest and accuracy.
That being said, however, whatever challenges Ubisoft has presented itself with in the development and production of Assassin’s Creed: Origins is being mirrored in the way the game challenges its players. Assassin’s Creed: Origins has already made some waves since the development team announced it would be integrating more traditional roleplaying game elements into its progression, but precious little has been said about how this decision has also seeped into design choices elsewhere in the game.
After a four hour hands-on session, a number of embarrassing deaths, and a somewhat foreign feeling of immense satisfaction upon completing an assassination, we’ve figured it out – Assassin’s Creed: Origins wants players to experience the shakiness of aching muscles and self-doubt, not just the cold, steady blade of a trained killer. Check out a brief glimpse into our gameplay here:
From the start, this hands-on experience set us up in a situation where we were underleveled for the content we would be exploring. Initially, it didn’t seem like that would matter much, but as time progressed, enemies became gradually more difficult to kill. Assassination prompts became damage ones instead, and it would take a difficult, lengthy battle session to bring down a single well-equipped enemy. The days of being able to slay forty guards in succession on the rooftops of Italy with nothing but a hidden blade and a dream are well and truly gone.
Replacing them, however, is something much greater. Each side quest and individual kill feels more like an accomplishment – either players have to work harder for each one, or they have worked hard enough that they are now a skilled assassin, trained in whichever style they favor, reaping the fruits of that labor with an easier go of certain missions. While the Assassin’s Creed series has never lacked for satisfying moments, Assassin’s Creed Origins seems to be a game almost entirely comprised of them – just enough RPG grinding to satisfy those of us with an addiction to progression and the chase of loot, but not enough to make open world exploration tiresome.
The chase after loot is another challenge absent from previous iterations of Assassin’s Creed, and it too is something of a challenge. While players can use their eagle companion to locate nearby objectives, the world of Assassin’s Creed: Origins is massive, and its people love to talk. There will be rumors floating around about legendary weapons, wielded by significant figures from Egyptian history, and there will be blacksmiths mourning the loss of their greatest creations. Each of these starting points will give players a rough idea of where to locate some truly powerful gear, but the chase is difficult, and will require players to really think about and interact with their surroundings rather than just following quest markers.
The biggest change, and challenge, to come out of Assassin’s Creed: Origins couldn’t be shown in our video however, due to its spoiler-sensitive content. In an assassination mission related to The Scarab, one of the game’s main antagonists, we were tasked with infiltrating a compound that was both heavily guarded and featured a spiralling, complex architecture. Guards were everywhere, and were cognizant of when Bayek emerged into sight, meaning there were no easy routes. While we completed the mission, it can’t be described as graceful – we cheesed it, totally. Sometimes, you have to fight dirty.
That’s the beauty of Assassin’s Creed: Origins, however. When playing these games before, employing “cheap” or “dirty” tactics felt, well, cheap and dirty – there wasn’t a real sense of accomplishment stemming from employing them. Now, however, it feels like victory is victory, at any cost. Assassin’s Creed: Origins isn’t afraid to force players to look deep down inside of themselves and ask them what they’re made of, and even if that answer involves sprinting between cover like a madman for fifteen minutes while gradually confusing enemies into giving Bayek a direct path to his assassination target, we’re willing to bet it will be an immensely satisfying one.
Assassin’s Creed Origins releases on October 27, 2017 for PC, PlayStation 4, and Xbox One.