Assassins Creed Origins: Can It Surprise?

There’s not been a downfall of disappointment in video game history quite as big as the Assassins Creed series.

What started out as an immensely entertaining historical thriller, slowly descended into repetition, bugs and boredom that has seen the last three entries swept aside by competitors. And yet, when it was announced, Assassins Creed: Origins generated huge amounts of interest. Now travelling back to ancient Egypt, the question to ask is this: can Origins surprise people and bring the series back to popularity again?

In this entry, we’re going right back to the beginning – the creation of the Assassins and the Templars. And yet, the plot has never really been the pulling point of the series, perhaps due to the rather unnecessary pace killer of the past that was Abstergo and Desmond. Instead, what has always drawn players to Assassins Creed are two things: setting and gameplay.

Origins tackles ancient Egypt, a thoroughly exciting prospect given the completely different cultural aspects we’ll get to see. From riding camels and taming crocodiles to fighting in arenas and sailing for treasures, there will be no shortage of action and adventure. The main character, Bayek, is a Medjay, and whilst this term is almost exclusively known to me thanks to Brendan Fraser’s ‘The Mummy’ movies (not the best source, I admit), I do know that the Medjay were deeply involved in preventing the most dangerous threats to the Egyptian rulers, so there will be no shortage of fighting and dangerous stunts to partake in.

Speaking of fighting, combat has been completely overhauled for this entry, in what could turn out to be a very wise gamble. Gone are the days of one-to-one focused fighting, where striking and countering at the right time were key; now things are a little more open, with more freedom to strike who you want, when you want. Hit boxes have now been introduced to a high capacity, which suggests that accuracy and skill will play a major part in how much damage you can do. Rather than endless amounts of finishing moves, players will now be able to injure different limbs of enemies, or take big swipes to harm groups rather than singular foes. There’s no doubt this is a gamble, but with many complaining that the combat in recent entries has grown stale and boring, it might just be one that pays off.

Back in my favourite entry of the series, Assassins Creed: Brotherhood, a lot of focus was played upon exploring Rome to find the tombs of past Assassins, a task that would eventually yield the armour of Altair if you completed each search. These were extremely entertaining treasure hunts that not only allowed the player to explore the secrets of some of Rome’s most amazing landmarks, but also presented aspects of puzzle solving mixed with combat. The developers for Origins have stressed that treasure hunting and exploration will play a huge role in the new entry, and whilst I don’t expect it to hit the heights of Brotherhood, I am hoping they lean along a similar line. This could work hand in hand with the new stealth system the game is introducing; much like Dishonoured, much has been made of the fact that Origins will allow stealthy or aggressive approaches to many missions, so with player choice becoming more important, it will be interesting to see just how flexible the game is in regards to exploration of tombs and shipwrecks that may be in control of enemies.

Finally, sailing makes a return, which will hopefully be polished and fine tuned to support a system of exploration as well as combat. Eagle senses have been replaced by… well… a literal eagle, so rather than climbing high locations to see the map, Bayek will be able to send out his friend to scout areas first, in what sounds like an all-natural version of Far Cry’s camera tagging. The final big change announced so far is the arena, a wave-by-wave system that will culminate in a boss fight for each round of fights. I guess this is new for the series, but arenas aren’t often the most popular side missions for players, so it remains to be seen if this will be appreciated or not. I wouldn’t be surprised if it doesn’t return beyond Origins though.

Assassins Creed: Origins is set to release on October 27th, and whilst we know small details, there’s still much to see and learn. Whilst Assassins Creed has been left behind lately, there’s still a large part of me that wants to see this game flourish, and I’m sure many others will also have their fingers crossed that the first reviews are very positive rather than more of the same.

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