How Assassin’s Creed Origins Won Me Back
Assassin’s Creed Valhalla looks to be incredible, but I still hadn’t played an Assassin’s Creed game since it soft-rebooted with Origins. Seeing it so cheap on sale, I figured now’s the best time to dive in and see what I’ve been missing out on — and it would seem like I’ve been missing out on a lot! I’ve been glued to Origins, Odyssey is in the post, and Valhalla is on pre-order. This is how Assassin’s Creed Origins won me back.
It’s funny that it took so long for me to tackle Origins, as Origins was intended to be a soft reboot for the series, and to bring those back in who had a bit of that Assassin’s Creed fatigue — that fits me perfectly. I’ve enjoyed pretty much all of the games I’ve played in the series, and when I was younger, I used to love going to panels at conventions to learn more about upcoming games, and to be able to cover them for websites I wrote at.
At some point though, between the many mainline games, spin-offs, comics and novels, I struggled to keep up, and felt that if I wanted to continue with the series, I’d have a lot of work to do — even more so after the Desmond arc concluded. Thankfully, Origins does away with this weight, and I feel like I’ve been absorbed into the series’ fresh, new arc, and it’s currently one that I can wholly experience through Origins, Odyssey and Valhalla. As a side note, I think Ubisoft did a great job in expanding the lore of the series, but it does have the unfortunate side effect of pushing away those who only want to play the games.
Ubisoft has always been community-focused, with the Star Player program and The Mentor’s Guild, and so it makes sense that they would listen to their audience, and that they’d create an experience to build upon what long-time fans of the series love about it, and a great place for newcomers to jump in. With games set in Ancient Egypt, Ancient Greece, England, and more, these locations bring the games to a wider audience outside of current Assassin’s Creed fans, and so it was important to create that clear separation to provide a fresh start, without rebooting entirely.
Open-world games are inherently ambitious, but not always are these lofty goals met. This could be down to empty landscapes, repetitive gameplay, or maybe the pacing of the story suffers and loses momentum, but Origins has done amazingly in keeping my attention, and engrossing me in Bayek’s tale. The main story and the side quests intertwined together beautifully, and I was eager to do as much as I could! Ancient Egypt is a great playground for Assassin’s Creed, and I couldn’t get enough of the stunning sights. The first time I climbed a pyramid blew me away.
One of the biggest changes to the series, beginning with Origins, is the combat system. The combat system was in dire need of a overhaul, and Ubisoft has delivered. There’s more weight to it now, and more options to play with to take down your foes. Stealth is still a big part of the game, but if you get into a battle, it can be a fast, thrilling battle to the death, where you utilise a variety of weapons — ranging from swords to spears, and bows to axes, each with unique stats effecting speed, power and range — and techniques to take down the different types of foe you’ll face off against. Similar to God of War (2018), you use the shoulder buttons to attack, and whilst you’re quite the powerhouse, it’s easy to become overwhelmed as the AI attacks from all sides. You can only guard from the front, after all!
The RPG elements appealed strongly to me too. I love skill trees and leveling up, and Origins has these in spades. Some quests are nigh impossible if you’re not a high enough level, but tackling a stronger enemy (especially the Phylakes) was made more exciting due to seeing exactly how high leveled they could be. I knew I’d be in for a challenge, and loved hunting them down. With RPG elements being so prevalent in this entry, I do wish you could maybe resolve some quests with dialogue, and not always killing people, though. Especially as Bayek seems to appreciate life and peace, and so sometimes his actions would feel at odds with his words.
The skill tree system provides freedom to level up the stats that you want, to play the way that you want. I kept it balanced so that I could tackle any scenario without too much trouble, but there are times when I thought “gah, I wish I put more points into this instead!”. It was fun experimenting with, and I’m stoked to see it implemented in Odyssey. Synchronisation has been given more agency too, as it enables Senu — your eagle — to sense things at a greater distance with every few syncs.
These are the core improvements and additions that enticed me to jump back in, and I only wish that I had gotten back into the series sooner. I’m going to continue spending some good time in Origins and Odyssey, and prepare myself for Valhalla later this year. These are some darn good games, aren’t they?