In the run up to its official unveiling, a lot has been said about how the new Assassin’s Creed, subtitled Origins, would shake up the franchise’s formula. But after going hands-on with Assassin’s Creed Origins it’s plain to see that Ubisoft has not strayed too far from what makes the series tick. Make no mistake, there are some important changes, but this still feels like an Assassin’s Creed game.

The demo put us in control of Bayek, the Egyptian protagonist of Assassin’s Creed Origins and an early member of the brotherhood. There were some pieces of a story mission available, but the bulk of the demo was focused on open world exploration – learning how the systems in Origins work and how they interact with each other.

Right off the bat, fans will notice that Ubisoft has replaced the minimap with a compass indicator at the top of the HUD. Depending on where the player is facing, the compass will indicate if there are points of interest ahead, like new quests or shops. It’s a lot less overwhelming than the massive amounts of icons that littered the minimap in past Assassin’s Creed, but it still gives the player some ideas as to where to go, whether it’s by horse, boat, or simply running.

Combat Borrows Heavily from The Witcher

Combat is where Assassin’s Creed Origins feels the most different from its predecessors. For this game, players will have to be more deliberate in their approach to open combat, because enemies aren’t pushovers. Dodges and parries are extremely important if players want to survive (let alone defeat) the most challenging of enemies, and rushing in blindly is ill-advised.

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A lot of people are going to compare the combat in Assassin’s Creed Origins to Dark Souls or The Witcher 3 and they aren’t necessarily wrong. The melee gameplay is focused around baiting out an enemy’s attacks and then finding the right opportunity to get a hit or two in. Gone are the days of the easy parries and the quick kills; every combat scenario has a sense of urgency to it.

On top of that, Origins has a new loot system that influences combat even further, both in the damage players do/can take and also the special buffs/debuffs that activate in given circumstances. Some weapons may activate a bleed or poison effect, while some have less direct influences on combat. There is also a bow available anytime players want to slip into ranged combat, but again the days of “one-shotting” enemies are gone.

RPG Systems in Assassin’s Creed

In addition to the loot system, Assassin’s Creed Origins boasts a full skill tree that supports three different styles of play. There’s one for combat, one for stealth, and one for general effectiveness in the game and players can spend their ability points in any of those three categories.

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Altogether, these new elements for Assassin’s Creed make Origins feel unique and refreshing and a step in the right direction for a series that had lost a lot of its appeal as of late. There are still plenty of elements that fit right within that wheelhouse, especially the climbing and the stealth, but the melee combat is very exciting.

The verdict is still out on the storytelling for Assasin’s Creed Origins – what was featured in the demo had some emotional impact but without really knowing these characters it’s hard to say the scenes were memorable. Bayek seems like a cool character to guide through Egypt, but he doesn’t seem to have the charisma of someone like Ezio or Edward Kenway.

There will be plenty more of Assassin’s Creed Origins to see in the coming months, but for right now at E3 2017 Ubisoft has helped prove that this is a step in the right direction for the franchise.

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Assassin’s Creed Origins releases October 27, 2017 for PC, PS4, and Xbox One.

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