Assassin’s Creed: Origins preview – In the city of Memphis
Assassin’s Creed is a franchise which expanded at an astonishing rate, including novels, comic books, apparel and that movie nobody saw.
Although every now and then we got minor upgrades, like a new gadget or a tweak to traversal, it took a decade for the series to introduce some really big changes. Everything we’ve seen so far indicates that Assassin’s Creed: Origins will be a step in the right direction.
The timeline of historical part of AC has taken us steadily forward, starting out with the crusade-era in the first game and ending up in Victorian London in Assassin’s Creed: Syndicate. With few AC-appropriate and properly historical ages left, Ubisoft has decided to go way back, to the time when the Templar and Assassin orders were first founded, Ancient Egypt of 49BC.
During Assassin’s Creed: Origins gameplay we will meet famous historical figures such as Julius Caesar and Cleopatra, and the cultural and political mess happening in Egypt at that time is a very interesting basis for the kind of plot we’re usually facing in AC.
Who is going to be our avatar in this game? He’s called Bayek, and he is the last of the Medjay, an ethnicity-turned-military-order, which used to guard the pharaohs and serve as a police of sorts. He is loyal to Cleopatra, however not as much as his wife, Aya, who shares his training, but not the badge of office. We can certainly hope for interesting conflicts to arise from their differing devotion to the famous Greek queen of Egypt.
For ten years Assassin’s Creed combat has been barely more than a neatly disguised Quick Time Event. Sure, you could attack and dodge and all that, but it has never been quite as effective as waiting for a proper moment to counter your enemy’s attack and unleash a devastating blow, often instantly killing your enemy in the process. It wasn’t particularly engaging or difficult, but thanks to animation synchronisation looked properly nice and cinematic.
Well, let’s bring challenge and complexity to the mix now, shall we?
AC: Origins will feature a hitbox-based combat system instead of the aforementioned animation-based one. What it means is that this time around you’re in more direct control of the moves Bayek (or occasionally Aya) will perform, and the game won’t hit the enemy for you, you actually need to handle the range and speed of your weapon in a way that lets you strike the way you want to.
Consequently, the system expands the actions you can perform. Now there will be swift and heavy attacks, dodges, active aiming, there’s even parrying, predominantly with Bayek’s shield. Yes, shields are coming to Assassin’s Creed, and they’re going to be more than just fancy accessory. The range weapon auto lock-on is gone to give players more agency in how they use one of several types of bow Bayek can use.
Snakes and statistics
In addition to a more engaging combat, there will also be more engaging systems governing how effective your weapons are. In a nod to the RPG genre, Bayek’s weapons will have a full set of stats and abilities, the latter increasing in number depending on how rare a certain weapon is considered to be.
There won’t be a situation in which a sword is just as effective against armour as an axe or mace, etc., because weapons are going to differ in what types of enemies they work best against.
Keeping with the theme of RPG-like mechanics, and expanding on what we’ve had in AC: Syndicate, Origins will feature three independent skill trees Bayek can advance in. If you want to focus on Archery, the Hunter tree will be of most interest to you. The Warrior tree will be most useful to players with a penchant for dicing and slicing in close range. Finally the Seer tree is much more about tricks and tools, making Bayek embody a rogue archetype.
Open world and quests
Another point of divergence from previous Assassin’s Creed games, Origins ditches the “open world except when the mission is on” approach. Instead we have the freedom of exploration at any given time, and the missions themselves work more as quests than discrete levels. You will be able to abandon a quest midway through to do something that catches your attention and return to complete the task at your leisure.
The quests themselves have been reported to have a high level of polish and quality, whether they are parts of the main storyline, or just side tasks people ask of Bayek. This sounds like a The Witcher 3 approach, which given the direction of Assassin’s Creed: Origins isn’t a bad inspiration at all.
The new beginning
The upcoming game, by all accounts and appearances isn’t just going to be a spectacular production taking us on a detailed tour of a setting woefully underutilised in video games. It also has the potential to revitalise the franchise at long last, what with the new approach to gear and ability progression.
Assassin’s Creed: Origins launches on October 27th this year for PC, PlayStation 4, and Xbox One, leaving just under a week’s time to get a preorder if you’re into this kind of thing.