Assassin's Creed: Origins (PlayStation 4) Review

By Drew Hurley 01.11.2017

Review for Assassin

27th October was a busy day. Gamers somehow had to decide between playing Wolfenstein II, Super Mario Odyssey and this. Not only that, but Netflix has dropped the second season of the phenomenal Stranger Things. For those choosing to step into the animus, awaiting them is a story spent parkouring the Sphinx, swimming the Nile, killing Crocs and cutting throats. There has been a gap in the regularly scheduled programming here, with the usual annual instalments skipping a year after the last entry of Syndicate. Now Ubisoft brings its magnum opus back once more and is promising a game that will be worth the wait. Can it deliver? Cubed3 finds out…

As each subsequent Assassin's Creed title has been revealed, the big interest each time has been on what era it will be set in, with fans desperately holding onto the hope Feudal Japan will finally be announced. Once again they are left disappointed here, although this instalment delivers a locale with plenty of intrigue. It's Egypt and set in 49 BC, so far back that there is no battle between Assassins and Templars to join, instead the hero, a Medjay named Bayek, is on a quest for revenge against the corrupt society that took the most important thing in his life from him. Set across a backdrop of the Egyptian civil war between Cleopatra and Ptolemy, with Caesar's Rome lurking on the horizon, Bayek searches out a secret cabal for vengeance. That is when he's not slaughtering hippos, robbing houses, scaling buildings, and helping out the populous.

The story is great, but has some issues. The overall narrative is fantastic and is filled with exciting moments along with some genuinely surprising developments. The problem is that it fails to develop its secondary cast, especially the villains. At the start, a series of shadowy characters are set out as a kill list, the leaders of this evil league, each hidden away behind ritual masks and each given a moniker fitting with their elaborate headwear, such as The Lizard and The Hyena. There are side-quests to track down each of these targets and each is punctuated with some of the best boss encounters to hit the series. However, a simple little FMV is all that is used to introduce them. This could have been a great attempt to deliver chapters dedicated to tracking down just who they are - something with some drama, with something to unravel. Not just "stab the bloke in the blue scarf that has a bit of a cough." That's not to say the story is bad, it's just a missed opportunity that could have improved the tale even more.

Screenshot for Assassin's Creed: Origins on PlayStation 4

It's a big change jumping from Syndicate's London to Ancient Egypt; London had backstreets to run through and countless buildings to climb while Egypt has colossal deserts with often no building to be seen for miles around. It's a bold choice for a game based around parkour and stealth, but it works. In fact, outside of the amazing Assassin's Creed IV this is by far the best setting yet - Feudal Japan would still be better… just saying. There may be plenty of desert tundra, but there are just as may thriving towns along the Nile, and this makes for some diverse areas and includes all the centrepieces that would be in this setting - scaling the pyramids of Giza, tunnelling beneath the Sphinx, raiding the tombs of Pharaohs or heading into the lakes and rivers on skiffs, always with a careful eye for crocodiles and those hungry, hungry hippos.

Open world games have become a saturated market now and so the big triple-A games are trying to stand out by making theirs bigger and better. Well, at least always bigger. This is no exception; the map is absolutely humongous and it is stuffed with side-quests of varying quality. There are animal lairs to take on hyenas, hippos, lions, and crocodiles; there are bandit camps to clear out; treasures to find; and, of course, countless NPCs to assist with their day to day chores. That term 'chores' is rather apt for many of them. Performing simple tasks for various members of the public for a little bit of experience. While there are many interesting stories and quest lines to experience, there are sadly lots of busy work quests that feel rather nebulous. It's becoming a common problem of the massive open world games, balancing fitting enough in so that the world doesn't feel empty but still keeping the quality of the activities high enough so that players don't find the missions boring. The good news is that Origins hits a decent balance. While there are some pretty by the numbers fetch quests and the like, the rich setting and the new game elements more than make up for it.

Screenshot for Assassin's Creed: Origins on PlayStation 4

While the game promised big changes, it has kept many of the series' mainstay elements that fans have grown to love. The parkour is there, the stealth and instant kill assassinations, the collectibles, and the viewpoints. Well, the viewpoints return, but they are a little different - no longer opening up the new areas of the world, no longer removing the fog from the world. The only way to do that now is to go out there and explore, head off into the dunes and aim for the horizon. Now the viewpoints focus on revealing potential points of interest on the map, marking question marks to go and explore, and they also help to improve the perception of Senu. Senu is Bayek's eagle and the series' "Eagle Vision" is taken much more literally here as Bayek is able to control Senu and see through his eyes. It's an interesting feature that isn't very useful at first but as the game and Senu's perception develop it becomes essential, tagging enemies and seeing huntable creatures for miles around.

Another major change is the combat; the series has had a significant overhaul here, taking it away from the familiar setup of parrying and one-shotting any enemy foolish enough to throw a punch or swipe a sword. Now there's a system based around enemy hit-boxes. It's a bold move and one that is much better than what came before, but it's not without its issues. Bayek has a simple dodge roll to evade enemy attacks or can parry with a shield, which are both fine when it's one-on-one, but when there's a group it all goes wrong. Bayek lacks the style of Geralt and so when surrounded it suddenly feels clunky. This is somewhat addressed by adding a host of different weapons to equip, twin daggers or a classic curved Egyptian sword, spears and heavy hammers. Knowing when to utilise each makes the combat more enjoyable. As does the bows on offer and the variety of assassination tools Bayek can utilise. The tools are familiar old hat by now: sleep darts, poison darts, berserk darts and smoke bombs. There are a handful of new additions but nothing to shout about. Shout about the bows, though. It is fantastic using a light bow to fire off numerous quick arrows and pepper an enemy with shafts or invest in the predator bow skills and unlock the ability to launch a remote control arrow to seek out a target.

Screenshot for Assassin's Creed: Origins on PlayStation 4

Taking a cue from other games, these weapons come in a variety of coloured rarities - blue for rare, purple for… yup "epic" and yellow for legendary - and this is where the dreaded topic of micro-transactions rears its ugly head. It is practically a requirement to have these now and they are often horrendously intrusive and regularly downright obnoxious. Thankfully, Origins' offerings are rather tame; there are some outfits and mounts to purchase along with a whole host of special weapons but none feel really necessary. Weapons are distributed regularly enough for them to not be a requirement. The game feels balanced enough for there not to be a requirement to dip into wallets, although it's quite egregious to see a section entitled "Time Savers" - a term often fallen back on to justify the micro-transaction system.

Micro-transactions are a very hot topic for complaints as of late, and rightly so in many cases. The Assassin's Creed series, though, is used to receiving complaints on a different issue: bugs. Many of the recent Assassin's Creed titles have suffered from some pretty horrendous glitches. While 2014's Unity retains the high score for most broken, buggy, and flat out ridiculous entry in the series, even up to Syndicate glitches and strange behaviours have been a regular part of the experience. Here, they are not very prominent; there are a few oddities such as characters bugging out, NPCs in town repeatedly shouting out the same lines, or enemies bursting into FMVs to kill Bayek; however, the only problematic part of the experience is the occasional horrendously long loading screen.

Screenshot for Assassin's Creed: Origins on PlayStation 4

Cubed3 Rating

8/10
Rated 8 out of 10

Great - Silver Award

Rated 8 out of 10

Absence makes the heart grow fonder, and more ready for a hidden blade right through the centre. Assassin's Creed: Origins is an absolutely stellar return to form and even those who have previously not enjoyed the series would be wise to give it a second shot here. The new combat design is a big improvement, the world is rich, the story compelling; there is a lot to like here and it also massively returns on its investment thanks to the amount of content. There are easily over 30 hours here just in taking on the regular story and way over double that to complete the whole map. Buy this game.

Developer

Ubisoft

Publisher

Ubisoft

Genre

Action Adventure

Players

1

C3 Score

Rated $score out of 10  8/10

Reader Score

Rated $score out of 10  0 (0 Votes)

European release date Out now   North America release date Out now   Japan release date Out now   Australian release date Out now   

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