The Assassins took a well-deserved one year break from the good fight against the Templars. Was the additional time enough to revive the franchise and peak the players’ interest?

A Troubled Nation

All is not well in the state of the Ptolemaic kingdom of Egypt. The pharaoh is trying to maintain control over the country. His sister, Cleopatra, tries to depose him and take back the throne. Julius Caesar is probing Egypt’s defenses, preparing a Roman invasion. And behind the scenes of these tumultuous events is a shadow group of powerful people, manipulating the nation and the key players to their own ends. Crosses aren’t that popular yet, but you know who I am talking about.

You play as Bayek, a Medjay. Medjays were an elite paramilitary police force, tasked with protecting villages, merchants, in general – maintaining public order. More importantly, Bayek is the last Medjay. Times are changing, the old Egypt is vanishing under the sands, new forces are ruling the kingdom, and no one likes an independent warrior snooping around their conspiracies and plots. While Bayek does not want to venture into the world from the relative peacefulness of Siwa, a personal tragedy will force him to act and stand up to the shadowy organization. And create you know which creed.

A Cop with a Blade

Ubisoft has decided to deviate from its original plan of launching next installments of the main Assassin’s Creed series that are chronologically subsequent. After all, where should you go after visiting the Victorian London? The closer you are to the modern times, the farther you are getting from the core of the series and the closer you come to the boring, futuristic Abstergo stories. Assassin’s Creed: Origins gives the developers a chance to revisit the foundations of the series as well as show how the Brotherhood of Assassins was founded, and why the hell should we even care about them.

After a lackluster Unity and a little better, but still old and tired Syndicate, Origins finally feels like a game that has not been rushed. It is filled with small, smart ideas that fit greatly into the series staples. Let’s start with the fact that Bayek is a Medjay. As a sheriff from the antiquity, he has the right to take interest in everything that is happening around him. If he sees injustice, he can intervene and try to correct things. This is a welcome departure from the previous installments of the series, where the Assassins acted only because they thought they had a right to do so. No one is really surprised that Bayek goes anywhere and is interested in anything, from the story of a commonest of the common folk to the plans of priests and princes.

Something Old, Something New, Something Borrowed

The Assassin’s Creed series only had a break for one year, though, so don’t expect any miracles when it comes to the gameplay mechanics. Everything that defines an Assassin’s Creed game is still here, from the parkour elements to strangely messy assassination attempts. It’s just that it’s a lot slicker, more thought-through, this time. Don’t get your hopes up for better AI when it comes to guards, though. The stealth elements of the series would just fall apart if you introduced some more complex behavioral patterns.

The combat of the series has been overhauled and for the better. Gone is the constant parrying of a hundred incoming attacks. Now everything is about blocking and dodging, attacking and rolling. The attack speed depends on the type of weapon you are using, so everything feels much more fluid, realistic and chaotic at the same time. Especially when you are attacked by some bigger enemies.

An RPG layer is a new addition to the series and it touches nearly everything that Bayek does, collects or uses. XP is awarded for completing sidequests, gear can be upgraded, skills unlocked and so on. This gives the player a great opportunity to develop the character according to their wishes, rather than along a path developed by the writers.

The true star of Assassin’s Creed: Origins, however, is not its system neither its protagonist. As was the case in the best games of the series, it is the setting that truly shines through all the known and new gameplay mechanics. You just don’t think much about the repetitive nature of your tasks when Egypt is so diverse and beautiful that you want to constantly use the excellent Photo Mode the game is equipped with (this should be mandatory).

Add to it the fact that, as is the custom for Assassin’s Creed, you can climb any building or tower in the world, and you receive an open world that is full of wonder, charm, danger, and beauty.

An Assassin’s Journey

Assassin’s Creed: Origins is not the revolution so many players have been hoping for during the last two years. The developers added many, many elements, revamped the combat, developed the RPG layer of the game, but left the core of Assassin’s Creed largely intact. And maybe it is for the better, after all in the game we are witnessing the birth of the Brotherhood, so more modifications or additions would break the spell of continuity of the association of freedom-loving murderers. All in all, this is a fun, long, beautiful new entry to a series that seriously needed some sleep. Let’s just hope that Ubisoft won’t kill off any goodwill accumulated by Bayek next (or hopefully, not) year.