Taylor Mitchell, A&E Editor
Vengeance is a fickle thing, I have always seen it as the intersection of revenge and justice, yet when does that stop? When you’re wronged how far do you go? Just the people who wronged you? The people who helped them? When does your quest to get back at someone turn into a quest to protect others from what happened to you?
2017’s Assassin’s Creed: Origins seems to play with this idea, in a much more direct way than the series had previously. The plot is kicked
off when Bayek of Siwa, an Egyptian Medjay, and his wife Aya are caught up in a conspiracy that end with their son’s death. Swearing revenge, they resolve to hunt their son’s killers across Egypt with Aya leaving for Alexandria and Bayek searching through the desert. Players join Bayek about a year after this search begins, not long after he has already hunted down one of his targets. As the game goes on he becomes more and more tied up in the mystery of the organization that killed his son, Egyptian politics, and the foundation of the Assassin Brotherhood.
Probably the best thing about the game it its setting, when people think “Ancient Egypt” this likely isn’t what they think. Instead of taking place in one of the three periods discussed in most western civ classes. The old, middle, and even new kingdoms were all long ago by the events of the game. This is Egypt after its conquest by Alexander the Great, ruled by a pharaoh who is very much a greek not an egyptian. This is Egypt that Cleopatra battled her brother -husband (who was pretty much a child) Ptolemy for control over. The game recreates this point in history beautifully. Players visit temples to the gods, journey through tombs of pharaohs long past, and see wonders that are now in ruins. The Egypt the game presents is probably one of the most well realized environments I have seen in games period, let alone the series. It is full of stuff to collect and explore, and even people to help.
This leads us to the big game play change Origins represents for the series, the game is an Action RPG. This slight shift in genre has a lot of far reaching consequences for gameplay. One of the largest changes is the introduction of true side quests. The world of the game is now full of people with problems that players can help with, which adds a nice extra layer of content beyond the usual main missions and side activities. Players also now have a nice form of progression in the form of
skill trees to work through as they level up. These trees unlock a whole bunch of varied abilities that range from the mundane, like smoke bombs and hijacking mounts, to t
he fantastic, like animal taming and guiding arrows. Also new to Origins is that armor and weapons are now part of a robust loot system instead of just upgrades from shops. Players get to pick from a wide variety of weapon types and play however they wish.
This brings us to combat. Combat in Origins is much more slow and methodical than Assassin’s Creed: Syndicate, which featured a fast braw
ling feel. In Origins, however, combat is much more about having a plan. A good shield will be your best friend, but they’re also rather buddy buddy with your enemies. Doing well in an encounter will require good managing of strong attacks, which break down defenses attack combos, and plenty of dodging. Its a system that rewards player skill, but doesn’t take long to understand which makes it incredibly satisfying once it all clicks together. It feels incredibly different from any Assassin’s Creed games before it, you’re never going to fall into the endless repetition of just countering enemy attacks. In fact, it’s by far a better idea to dodge attacks over trying to counter. I think that difference is one of the great things about the game, it gives it a unique feel.
The Assassin’s Creed series has a tendency to make trilogies of games that have connected stories and similar game mechanics. This makes the series have very distinct eras that are connected but each have a different feel. Yet Origins feels like more than that, it feels like a shift that won’t go away. It’s a turning point for the series, and it feels like a great one. If you have ever been interested in Assassin’s Creed now is the time to jump in, and if you’ve been here since the beginning, keep enjoying the ride. It may just get better from here.