If you’ve been checking in with the launch of TGO, then you’ll know that in my Assassin’s Creed piece I briefly broke down my feelings on each of the mainline games. However, I didn’t talk about one of the most recent additions of the series: Origins.
Origins was a spiritual reboot for the franchise. Not only because it came after a year-long-break (a first for the series in nearly 10 years), and not only because it centred on the beginnings of the Creed itself, but because it remade the formula that was and now is Assassin’s Creed.
It put all of the necessary ingredients into a cauldron, took some elements out, added some new ones in, and decided on a new type of single-player game that Ubisoft could almost call one-of-a-kind.
Not in the sense that this type of game was an open-world game, or that it was a long open-world game, but because it was a game which had enough content in it (though arguably not to as high a quality or depth as games like The Witcher 3) and was updated with sizeable DLC regularly enough that people could keep playing the game without being distracted by a new release for months on end.
In other words, a perpetual single-player game. One which would fulfil your needs and desires for not just weeks, but months of what felt like never-ending goals and objectives. But this new AC formula was not like the traditional AC formula we would come to expect, though it did, of course, have many vital essences of the previous games.
Playing Assassin’s Creed: Origins needs to be put into context for you to understand my perspective on this game. At the point of first playing Origins, I had nearly caught up with my back-catalogue. Missing out on all the great games I hadn’t played over the last ten years or so. This was one of the very last games I had to play, and I had been waiting in great anticipation for this since its release back in 2017.
As you may have guessed, I love Assassin’s Creed. So, when I heard about Origins critical and commercial success when it launched about a year and a half before I played it, I couldn’t help but think that it was a return to form for the franchise. That my wishes had come true and that we essentially had another AC: II or AC: Brotherhood.
Although there are many things to love about Origins, and many things I do really like about the game, it wasn’t the Assassin’s Creed which I wanted. It was something else. A new type of Assassin’s Creed.
One which would impress so many, and yet leave me feeling that I wish Origins was a different game. Why? Good question my friend. As the wise Emperor of the universe said: “a great many things”.
You play as Bayak. An Egyptian (because this game is set in ancient Egypt) who sets out to avenge his murdered son with the help of his wife Aya. Unravelling a conspiracy far greater than him or his wife Aya could comprehend.
I wasn’t convinced by Bayak’s quest, unfortunately, even if he does have the coolest dreadlocks in the business (sorry Aloy). Not providing this convincing over-arching plot motivation did affect my desire to finish this game. And although I did finish the game (and get all the achievements…athankyou), I was pretty fed up with it by the time my 100-hour playthrough had come to an end. DLC’s included.
The moment-to-moment gameplay is great. Providing the right assassination tools and sandbox events and locations that would make finishing any task in the game feel satisfying and rewarding because of the player choice placed before you. How will you approach these situations?
Go in with a two-handed axe and hope for the best? Distract enemies with a smoke grenade and assassinate them slowly from behind? Or perhaps pick them off one by one with your bow and arrow and put a sleep dart in any that might prove to be a challenge to kill with one hit?
This has always been one of the greatest assets of the Creed games – player choice. However, even though all of these tools are available for the player to use when and where they wish, this formula became repetitive. You are essentially doing the same things over, and over, and over again. Clear out locations. Loot enemies. Sell their belongings. Get better gear and level up to clear out more locations.
The special salt for any RPG gameplay circle of course. I’m not complaining about the technique, but I am complaining about the lack of differentiation for the player. That being said, exploring this wonderful recreation of possibly my favourite historical era is magical.
Being able to slide down the pyramids or walk through the streets of Alexander is a dream come true for me as a player, and specifically, as an Assassin’s Creed fan; always praying that one day they’ll do this period location. Ubisoft finally put their money where their mouths are.
And yet, ladies and gentlemen. And yet, there I am, fifty hours into my playthrough, with the question of why am I doing any of this? Yes, it’s fun, and yes Egypt is magical. However, I lost motivation to do anything within the game at this point.
The side quests were ambitious but didn’t have the polish and depth of the Witcher 3 side quests, which is fair enough considering just how much those quests floored every other side quest I’ve played. The story didn’t grab me, the RPG mechanics seemed a bit over-bearing at times, the missions were fairly repetitive and the map is far, far too big.
It needed to be smaller, more condensed, with more things to see and do per square mile. I would rather walk through one small village which felt as alive as the air I breathe, than walk through field after field of sparseness.
There I am, popping that last achievement for Assassin’s Creed: Origins, with only a thought of relief. Being honest with myself, I probably should’ve stopped playing before I did because I wasn’t enjoying it as much as another game I could’ve been playing, but it was moving to see how far the franchise has come and seen how the formula has evolved.
I’m happy for those of you who love Origins, and the many of you who can’t stop playing Odyssey. But for me, as someone who has played all of the mainline games at this point (apart from Odyssey), it may be time to step-off this train and admit that the series has become something which I’m not deeply interested in.
I love RPG’s. I love open-world games. I love Assassin’s Creed. And yet, when all of these things are more intertwined than ever, my love for this series has never been lower.
I miss the character-driven stories with the present-day aspect; this does come back in Origins but in a very limited manner. That feeling of exploring only a few cities but knowing that they felt different and sounded different. Our targets were no longer people who you would stalk for days, nor part of an epic set-piece like in Unity, but rather more like a boss fight.
Origins just didn’t click for me. But I wish it did. Because now, as I see it sail to the grey havens and a new age of the Creed dawns, and it becomes people’s favourite game of the year once more, I am left staring out to the sea. Wondering whatever happened to the Assassin’s Creed that I used to know.