We’ve seen Assassins traipse through Italy, battle their way across the seas and purge corruption from their ranks, but never before have we experienced the foundations of the Brotherhood. Set in the iconic setting of Ptolemaic Egypt, at the end of almost 3000 years of wonderful history and culture, the Assassins Brotherhood emerged from a sea of revenge, pain and bloodshed, where protecting the people from those in power was the only clear thing.
Step into the shoes of Bayek, one of the last true Medjay, protectors of Egypt and its people with problems both big and small. Nothing is off limits, from escorting rich girls to hunting down powerful bandits and recovering lost artefacts. All of this will surround you while you embark on the main quest, striking down members of the corrupt Order of Ancients: powerful tyrants, engaging in cruelty and creating despair.
Bayek’s story is one of heartbreak, betrayal and revenge which leads him down a dark path, one that sees him lose many that are close to him and which flips the ancient world upside down. It strikes a very emotional note in regards to Bayek’s journey which is similar to many of the Assassins Creed games, with the murder of Ezio’s family, Arno’s father and countless others throughout the series. It left me at many points muttering, “holy fuck” with wide eyes, so all I can really say is prepare yourself for that.
This extends to every aspect of the main story, with a strong emotional catalyst propelling you throughout the game. There are side quests, each of which demonstrates the struggles and pain of surrounding npcs none of which create such a powerful note as the campaign. Nor should it, with each of the side quests shining masterfully on the character of Bayek and the cast of historical figures that have been cleverly integrated into Assassins Creed Origins.
But the one thing I really love about the story, side quests and character development is how human Bayek and his warrior wife, Aya appear to be. Previous instalments of Assassins Creed have had their share of emotional and human moments, but a lot of the time, they simply appear to be ruthless and efficient killing machines. Bayek is that also but the story shows him as someone who dislikes it and will only do so to protect himself or the people of Egypt.
We have been gifted a decidedly human protagonist who undertakes a gradual change in his quest for revenge, and in so doing, becomes more than a Medjay, more than a protector and more than Bayek. One of the best things about his character, in my opinion, was seeing his interactions with other npcs throughout the game, from muttering under his breath when someone is being less than smart or cooperative to his ringing laughter when playing with the children. One of my favourite questlines involved a large group of children following Bayek around so they could watch him perform leaps of faith from taller and taller buildings. It adds a lot of levity and fun to Assassins Creed Origins and goes quite a way to showcase Bayek’s personality.
Despite all the fun side quests involving hide and seek and leaps of faith, there is quite an emotionally intense main storyline which sees Bayek traipse all over Egypt spilling blood pretty much the entire way. The good news is, the combat system has been completely revamped which makes each encounter different and enables some pretty cool combos and sword fights. For you see, the old counter system of previous Assassins Creed games has been effectively replaced with a hitbox system meaning if you swing a weapon in a given direction, it will deal damage to everything it hits. For example, a heavy axe is a great way to clear out groups of enemies due to a larger swing radius and area of effect.
The hitbox system makes combat feel more alive, you have to dodge, parry, and time your strikes to emerge victorious. It has the added bonus of making open conflict feel different to stealth assassination which did not have the same effect in previous games. As a matter of fact, I used to run into heavily fortified areas in Brotherhood and completely clear out groups of 20 or so enemies simply by tapping ‘X’ at the right time. This is definitely a step up.
This is made even better by the sheer variety of weapon types, damage types and levels. Basically, the combat feels varied due to the rpg-type elements that are in place in-game. Bayek’s level matters, the attack power of the gear you hold matters and in turn, it adjusts your playstyle. If you are a master of stealth and want to spend the whole game silently assassinating your foes, then you can level up your hidden blade, but you can also focus on making your bow arm even stronger and seek out the best of the four bow types that suit your playstyle. My particular playstyle is setting everything on fire with my fire sword. Yeah, you heard me.
Furthering the rpg-like effects is the addition of a skill tree, with three major specialisations that you can begin to build towards. These augments are mainly effective for combat scenarios that will give you a definite edge in battle and it is especially fun using chain assassination to take out the biggest and toughest guys first before the rest of them know what is going on. It is a new take on the admittedly stale formula of Assassins Creed, and it has breathed life into the game in a big way.
Your combat options are even extended to other modes of transport, from horseback to different sizes of ship. It made me feel cool (and quite badass) taking on a couple Octaremes on the open ocean and emerging as the victor, in the truest Egyptian/Roman/Greek tradition. Just remember ramming and firebombing are one sure fire way to victory.
But that is enough about combat, for the true behemoth of Origins is Egypt itself, beautifully rendered and explorable. Ubisoft did not pull any punches when it came to recreating Ancient Egypt with an absolutely vast arena to explore, from crumbling temples, thriving cities and even the depths of the pyramids. It is simply breathtaking. There was a reason that the end of Ptolemaic reign was chosen as the setting for this game, there are already over 3000 years of culture, history and architecture already in place and the fact that we are able to roam over the sands, combined with the quality of the game, makes you feel as if you are a time traveller. But you know, without having to move that much.
It gets even better with the sheer amount of ancient knowledge that is crammed into the game. I have been in love with Ancient Egypt since I was a young child and have read countless books on the ancients but even I was learning stuff just by exploring and stabbing things. There are letters to read, npcs to listen to in passing, papyri to discover and tombs to explore. You simply have to venture out and start looking, which I absolutely love. It grants an additional layer of depth and excitement to the game, an interactive history lesson and a love letter to Egypt.
Don’t even get me started on the wealth of amazing historical figures you get to interact with. I fell in love with Cleopatra the first moment I saw her, with her regal standing and authoritative air, both as a lover of history, and a person with eyes.
But exploration was not simply done by Bayek, with Senu his ever-faithful eagle companion being an integral part of the game. Senu is the real hero because without her, Bayek would never find an objective. Used to scout for objectives, targets or to tag objects of interest in the immediate area, Senu becomes the physical manifestation of Eagle Vision which suits a story culminating in the origins of the brotherhood.
Revealing the formations of the Assassins brotherhood is not surprising but the graceful and almost seamless way the basics of the Assassins creed is introduced is a true testament to story building and character development. I’ve already mentioned how Senu was an early attribution of Eagle Vision and fans of the Assassins Creed series will understand what I mean. From the removal of the ring finger in regards to the hidden blade, the way they operate in the shadows and especially the name Amunet, the Assassins brotherhood is built without being explicit about it.
But seriously, search Amunet in relation to Assassins Creed 2, it shows a wonderful attention to detail and dedication to the history of Assassins Creed.
When the main story is done and dusted Assassins Creed Origins has a truly exciting slate of endgame activities that can award some impressive loot as well as much prestige. Rather than simply mopping up any remaining quests and being left in a barren desert of not knowing what to do, there are challenging activities wherever you look. Gladiator battles await for you to triumph in, War Elephants trumpet their challenge and the Phylakes hunt you at every turn. You may need to level yourself up to succeed but it gives players an endgame goal, while we wait for updates and dlc. I mean Trials of the Gods will be arriving soon!
Assassins Creed Origins combines a loveable protagonist, emotional struggle and a new combat system all in one of the most culturally significant settings in history. The game re-invents the franchise by showing off how the Assassins started: protectors of the innocent. It is simply a wonderful game that captures excitement and wonder around every sand filled corner. This is a game you definitely must play.