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DAZ - Thoughts on AC Origins (No Big Spoilers)

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DarkAlphabetZoup's picture
DarkAlphabetZoup
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Assassin’s Creed Origins is the latest in the cyberpunk-meets-history franchise of rogues stabbing tyrants in the streets and in their hideouts, all while being the first chronologically – taking place about 1000 years before the time of Altair Ibn-La'Ahad. Assassin’s Creed had been my favorite franchise because it offered me a way to play a certain character type/class and express as them mechanically and narratively that no other game managed to. Dishonored and Thief came close, which is why they’re other franchises I adore, but none truly hits that vibe I’m looking for the way Assassin’s Creed did… Until Unity and Syndicate.

There was something about Unity and Syndicate as compared to the previous games that seemed to lack life and vibrance, making it seem like the series was spinning its wheels and attempting to reproduce the magic of its first few outings while copy-pasting more and more and changing less and less. If people didn’t feel it with Unity – and some didn’t, citing it as one of their favorites – they definitely started feeling it with Syndicate. Both of them at their best were perfectly serviceable games about climbing buildings and stealth killing people, but no more. Ubisoft also felt a hit to their sales and success, so much so that they decided not to release an Assassin’s Creed entry in 2016, opting instead to put out a movie. And this, after earlier claiming in a press release, “We would be stupid not to release one every year,” the implication being it makes them too much money to consider stopping annualization. Wonder what happened there? ;]

Whatever the case, the consequences of how smashed Unity and Syndicate were by most of the fanbase and by the average casual player of these games were significant – they led to the creation of Assassin’s Creed Origins. And this game is now tied with Assassin’s Creed 1 (2007) as my favorite entry in this series I’ve stuck with for a decade.

The story is one that I enjoyed immensely, being one of the more “human” narratives I’ve experienced in the entire series, and all of the characters this time around are interesting to play as, look at or learn about. I couldn’t really say the same for some characters in previous AC titles, so this was something I genuinely wasn’t expecting. While the story is very obviously Bayek and Aya’s tale first and foremost, and the Assassin Brotherhood’s origin story second to that, there are certain revelations and implications that HEAVILY SET UP the upcoming Expansion “The Hidden Ones,” which is all about the Assassin Brotherhood. I would’ve liked to see more about the Assassins and their Creed, but what I got is enough to tide me over until that DLC hits.

Thankfully, this is the first AAA game I’ve played in a long time that actually made me *want* to buy DLC for it, that made me actually want to *play* DLC for it instead of skipping it over or reading a synopsis somewhere. I attribute that not just to the game’s narrative, but mostly to its new approach to game design and systemic interaction.

I once called AC Origins “The Dishonored of Assassin’s Creed Games” and while it definitely doesn’t quite reach that level, fans of immersive sims (whether 1st Person like Thief/Dishonored/Deus Ex, or 3rd Person like Metal Gear Solid V) will probably end up enjoying the crazy stuff you can do in this game by combining disparate mechanics together and seeing the logical outcome of that decision. Throw a sleep dart into a fire to create a gas cloud that knocks out everyone in the area. Nice, right? Okay, cool, but you can also throw down your own Torch and do it off of that. Because Fire triggers AoE effects on most of your Tools, this means you can be horribly sadistic and Firebomb one guard, then Poison Dart Cloud OFF OF HIS BURNING BODY to afflict all of his allies who’ll start coughing, spewing bile and taking damage over time. Maybe you miss fighting with the Hidden Blade, I sure as hell do. You can’t do it in this game but you can combine some Skills to make it a semi-possibility – Sleep Dart an enemy in combat, Assassinate him standing up and Chain Assassinate off of him onto one of his allies, preferably a Heavy or an Elite. Now you get two kills for the price of one. There are quite a few possibilities available that made me wonder “can I actually do this?” and answered me with, “Yes you can.”

After getting all of the Achievements and 99%ing the game (99% seems to be the highest Completion percentage available in-game, we’re not sure why or what we could be missing, maybe some future content) I was pleased to remember that because this is a “Live” game of sorts, Ashraf Ismail’s team will be supporting the game with post-launch content, a good deal of which will be Free for all players regardless of whether you popped down more Drachmas for DLC or Season Passes. The one that I’m excited to play next and which is coming soon, is the first Trial of the Gods, in which we’ll be fighting Anubis due to a glitch in the Animus. Patching in timed events during which you can challenge optional superbosses and endgame encounters like The God of the Dead and other deities is something that I don’t remember being a part of Assassin’s Creed – which meant that once you were done with an AC game, you really were done with it. This time, I feel like I’ll have something more to do every once in a while, which is good because for the first time since Black Flag I actually *want* to play *more* of it and I’m still not burnt out.

Once you get really deep into the groove, AC Origins can seem like a repetitious experience, but the methods you have available to you and the experimentation that’s possible makes that repetition less of a chore for me, and more of another opportunity to play around with the game’s systems, push myself to clear outposts faster and more efficiently, be more brutal, be more pacifistic, go loud and slaughter everyone or become an absolute phantom and leave no trace. Certain design decisions like having your Fist Takedown scale with your Hidden Blade damage while remaining Non-Lethal AND giving you all the XP you’d get from an Assassination lend the game a kind of “play your way” structure that feels really good. Your Main Targets have to die, of course, but other guards can be left alive if you so choose.

For those of you who enjoy Present Day and the Isu elements of the game like myself, they’re there, but most are optional as a courtesy for players who don’t want to mess with that stuff too much. While I would’ve loved Present Day’s gameplay to be longer and I wished there were more of a certain section in the late-game, I feel like this is a good start for Ubi to test the waters with more active Present Day experiences instead of having us watch totally passive cutscenes or walk around an office in first person and do nothing related to the series’ core gameplay of Sneak, Climb, Fight.

And for those of you who are not fans of that stuff (you should try it!), worry not – because there’s not a lot of it, and the beefiest parts you’ll never even have to touch as they’re not part of the main story.

I would recommend Assassin’s Creed Origins to fans of this franchise, and to the casual player – especially if you’ve been burned by Assassin’s Creed before and started wondering where this series lost its way. If you’ve been playing these games for ten years like me and you were ever heartbroken at how they seemed to care less and less about their player’s experience, Origins managed to heal that for me. I can’t guarantee it will do the same for you, because there’s a lot that’s different here, and you may have to get used to some new concepts. But if you do, and you really, really try?

I think you’ll realize that even a series on its last breaths can be revived. Everything is permitted, after all.

Double McStab with Cheese's picture
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My favorite "glitch in the matrix" part of this game is the UNLIMITED TORCHES Bayek can have.... take one out, throw it, rinse, repeat... extremely effective on cobras in dark areas if you don't want to waste a fire arrow or fire bomb but want to watch them burn alive.

The unlimited torches also means that every arrow can be a fire arrow... Smile

I also discovered the fun "firebomb then throw a sleep dart" strategy. Mine was with shooting an oil barrel with a fire arrow. It gives you a much bigger target to hit with your dart tools, that's for sure.

In one mission you have to light certain torches with your torch, I was disappointed that my fire arrow from 50m away, despite lodging into the target torch, didn't light it a la 1992 Olympic torch lighting ceremony... I had to use my own torch, oh well.

One other thing that happened to me is what I will call the "Yoshi" ... my horse jumped off a cliff to its death (I didn't mean to!), and I was fine after falling off the horse... so if you're looking for a quick way down a cliff, use your trusty steed as a makeshift hay bale... Wink

"Apollodorus came, Caesar saw, Cleopatra conquered." ― Stacy Schiff, Cleopatra: A Life