Assassin’s Creed Origins is in a unique position for a modern Assassin’s Creed game. Ubisoft’s approach to one of its most successful franchises has often been to churn out as many new games as possible, with games like Black Flag, Unity, and Syndicate all releasing in successive years through 2013 to 2015. Assassin’s Creed Origins, by contrast, has enjoyed a lengthy break from the last main series release by Assassin’s Creed standards, with a full two years away from the spotlight passing before Origins releases later this year in November. According to Assassin’s Creed Origins director Ashraf Ismail during an interview with Game Rant, however, that break will not have been wasted – the changes in Assassin’s Creed Origins run deliberate and deep:
“Our kind of tagline that we were giving ourselves [during development] is…authentic Assassin’s Creed, but a completely reinvented experience. We challenged ourselves fundamentally on ‘how does a player play the game?’ So this is what brought us a new combat system, the quest structure, RPG elements, the way you explore the world and you discover the elements of the world.”
While claiming that a new game will “reinvent” a series is a reoccurring phenomenon within the industry, the kind of changes that Ismail describes genuinely sound like a total breakdown and reconstruction of a franchise that has, in recent years, threatened to stagnate a little. Ismail’s vision included adding loot systems to Origins, alongside RPG-like skill progression that will see players customize the playing style of main character Bayek – although Ismail admitted how daunting it could be to mess with some of the series’ core gameplay concepts during development:
“We had to gutcheck ourselves on certain things, like, ‘okay, you cannot just assassinate anybody you want anymore.’ There is stealth damage, and you have to upgrade your stealth damage, and you have to gain abilities. So if you want to be a stealthy assassin, it’s there, but you have to work for it, there’s a path to get there. Trust me, these are not easy calls to make, and we received a lot challenge when we pushed for that kind of stuff, but we felt that, this is our mandate, we need to refresh the series, we need to bring something new to it.”
In hands-on gameplay, the series’ progression really becomes clear – Bayek handles different depending on the weapon he’s wielding, the approach players take, and the skills they’ve chosen to unlock over the course of the narrative. Still, these kinds of changes can be earth-shattering to a series that has made its name largely on a predictable gameplay formula – it seems bizarre, for instance, that a trained assassin might not be able to instantly kill a target they’ve ambushed from behind, especially given how Assassin’s Creed has approached this scenario in prior games.
That players need to earn the ability to perform the most awe-inspiring combat tricks and assassinations in the game might be the kind of character and gameplay progression that keeps Assassin’s Creed Origins fresh long into its narrative. Ismail, to his credit, acknowledges that there is a lot of pressure on him and the rest of the Assassin’s Creed Origins team, generated by the combination of a longer hiatus than usual, the drastic changes coming in Origins, and sales pressure from Ubisoft. Ismail’s response to that pressure should give fans even more confidence in his vision for the series, though:
“I love [the pressure]. I love it. We want to be challenged…I love the fact that we were entrusted to do this, and I feel like it’s almost there, we’re at the end, we’re in that last rush. We’re in a happy space.”
Assassin’s Creed: Origins releases on October 27, 2017 for PC, PlayStation 4, and Xbox One.