It might be the same Assassin’s Creed, But Origins is a love letter to Ancient Egypt
Yeah, I’m probably part of the problem. I’ve bought and played every single mainline Assassin’s Creed game. It’s a game that, until last year, I used to play every year without hesitation. Truth be told, there is something somewhat therapeutic about climbing buildings looking for an extensive amount of collectables for no reason other than to wind down after a hard day at work.
It was the backdrop of the games that kept me going though. The cities of Venice, Rome, Constantinople, 18th century Boston and Victorian London have been fascinating playgrounds to traverse and much more to my tastes than yet another generic medieval or cyberpunk setting.
Despite Ubisoft’s faults (and they are plentiful) they usually recreate historically accurate worlds that present the only way for us to explore them. Sure, Hollywood might be able to give us a couple of hours within a certain time period, but the Assassin’s Creed games let us walk, run and breathe in them as if it were modern day.
Assassin’s Creed Origins is arguably the highlight of Ubisoft’s ability to recreate the past. Ancient Egypt is a culture that many of us have had the pleasure of either studying at school or encountering some part of within modern mediums, whether it be film or books.
Actually being there and seeing how these people lived though, that’s difficult to do.
Outside of historians telling us what happened and items in museums allowing us to view figures and objects that are thousands of years old we don’t have too much to go on.
That’s where Origins comes in, it gives us a glimpse into how Ancient Egypt and its populous lived and breathed. How the people went about their daily lives, caught their food, used the Nile and loved one another, all with the pyramids as the background to their existence.
From a purely gameplay point of view, Origins has its issues. There are glitches aplenty when riding a camel through some of Alexandria’s busy streets, the combat takes a bit of getting used to and the dialogue of most of the locals in the game probably isn’t true to how it was (the abundance of the English language included of course) but the way the world has been crafted is a love letter straight out of all those textbooks you read about Tutankhamun and Cleopatra.
Stop and gaze into Origins’ murky distance and through the grit of the sand that whisps through the air and you’ll see not a land that time forgot, but one that has been faithfully recreated for us to enjoy. Video games allowed us to see this world. The medium that is so often seen as the cause of deaths and unruly children, is at the forefront of allowing everyone to visit an ancient culture that is so fascinating.
Origins can’t be completely faithful to the source material though. It’s still a game after all, but apart from accidentally pressing R2 and X to run up walls (old habits die hard) and access to a personal eagle every time you press a button, it’s a game world that offers more than just high graphical fidelity and quests galore.
“… the way the world has been crafted is a love letter straight out of all those textbooks you read about Tutankhamun and Cleopatra.”
The city of Alexandria, which you encounter early on in the game, is filled to the brim with people going about their daily routines. More imposing though is its architecture. Alexandria is the first part of Ancient Egypt you visit that doesn’t look like it’s been made from mud and rugs put together overnight. It shows that there was a large cultural difference at the time between the haves and have-nots. The plush clothes of Alexandria contrast with the rags of Siwa and as you take quests from both locales, you’ll notice that their mannerisms also reflect the differences between the areas. In Alexandria, you’ll encounter the haves, who will freely pay you for a basic bodyguarding task while intoxicating themselves in all manner of beverages, while the residents of Siwa will beg you to find the dead body of their relative, grieving in the most dramatic of fashions as one-by-one the corpses you bring back aren’t the one of their relative.
There’s obviously some degree of fantasy about the world of Egypt in 49BC as unlike past time periods that the series has covered, there isn’t a great deal of information about life 2000 years ago to make the open world truly authentic. What they have achieved though is a great insight into what the world and the people might have been like.
Ubisoft is clearly aware of this and realises they have a real historical treasure on their hands and so Assassin’s Creed Origins will be receiving a free update in the future called Discovery Tour. A mode that will allow you to explore the world of Ancient Egypt in a combat-free environment, taking players on guided tours of specific parts of the ancient period, narrated by various historians and teachers. “This is something we’ve wanted to do for a long time, that we’ve been asked to do by teachers, by institutions,” says Creative Director Jean Guesdon.
“Discovery tour is another way to enjoy the beauty of the world we’ve recreated. It’s a more educative mode, so it’s clearly focused on education and on bringing to people actual facts, more academic knowledge.”
The Discovery Tour is a wonderful addition to a series that’s representation of the past is second-to-none. In some ways, it’s a shame that this hasn’t come to fruition in any of the previous games in the series.
As a game, Assassin’s Creed Origins has issues. However, if it can become something more than a way to spend our leisure time and take advantage of its unique world in more educational ways, then that can only be a good thing for everyone. One day we may see games such as Assasin’s Creed being used in history classes, allowing children to experience what life was like in the past by using an interactive medium. It would certainly beat reading endless pages of a textbook.
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