Day 2 With Assassin’s Creed: Origins

Try not to freak out, but this might actually be a really good Assassin's Creed game!

After taking a year off between releases, Assassin’s Creed is back in a big and very different way. While I was a fan of the previous entry, 2015’s Syndicate, I wasn’t exactly excited for yet another Assassin’s Creed game even with the added time in-between. Syndicate thrived on its setting and characters, not necessarily it’s tried and true gameplay mechanics that felt well past their prime. Origins didn’t strike me as a real gamechanger right away so I was quick to write it off. A few weeks after launch and a bit of buzz later, I decided to give the game a shot. If it was true that Origins was the much needed shot in the arm the series needed, I couldn’t exactly ignore it.

To put it bluntly, Assassin’s Creed: Origins doesn’t feel like an Assassin’s Creed game, and it is all the better for it. Gone are the multi-button controls, gone is the archaically simple combat, and gone, at least so far, are the tedious side quests and monotonous gameplay. Origins feels immediately fresh and different. If you sat a long-time fan down in front of this game with no warning, they’d never guess it was the latest AC. Everything in the entry feels thoughtful and carefully designed, in a way you’d expect a game like The Witcher to feel.

Being that the game immediately thrusts you into combat, that’s where you’re going to find some of the biggest differences. Gone are the days of waiting for opportunities to counter and slowly chipping away. Combat in Origins feels more fluid and involved. It controls more like a Dark Souls game, moving light attacks to R1 (PlayStation controls referenced) and heavy attacks to R2 while your shield is moved to L1. While it lacks the weightiness of a game like Dark Souls, it still feels great in action. It’s easy to combo together hits that will drop your enemy’s guard and take huge chunks out of their health bar.

Taking advantage of a few unlockable abilities further expands your repertoire, adding the ability to parry attacks or chain together kills. You’ll also have access to bows by simply holding down L2. There are four types of bows, each with their distinct style and preferred application. You can easily take shots at oncoming foes before delivering a final blow when they enter melee range. While I assume new, more challenging enemy types will be introduced as I play more, I feel plenty powerful. Not invincible, but after a few levels and an upgrade or two I’m taking out most enemies in a single combo at around eight hours in.

One important thing to note is despite being an Assassin’s Creed game, I still haven’t received my hidden blade. The series staple has barely been referenced other than in a few skills. The game still allows for stealth takedowns, but I can’t wait to get my hands on one to see how it can further spice up the combat. Speaking of stealth, Origins remains pretty much industry standard in this regard. Hide in tall brush, whistle enemies to their doom, and watch for the bars to fill over people’s heads. It maybe does a bit better than most in alerting you to where enemies are seeing you and giving you a chance to react, but if you’ve played other open world games this year you’ve seen this before.

Assassin’s Creed has always had plenty of upgrades for gear, but always in a progressive sense. Origins throws this concept out the window and introduces a full-on loot based system with a variety of options and rarities. You can fully customize your weapon set to fit your preferred combat styles and, if you have a favorite weapon, can even upgrade your weapons to keep them at peak performance. So far the game has been pretty fair with the quality of new gear and I’ve made a few swaps here and there. I’d would have liked to see more item specific upgrades rather than the general enhancement available, but that’s being picky. If nothing else, the current system continues to keep the game’s mechanics simple.

That’s really the key, that everything in this game feels simple to learn. I’ll be honest, I’ll catch myself trying to play the old fashioned way simply because of muscle memory, but when I get into a good groove everything feels great. This is a great starting point for anyone who wants to jump into the series. It’s also the perfect opportunity for existing fans to come back if they’ve burned out on the formerly annual sequels.

I’m going to hold off on judging any of the story elements or side quests at this time, but my early impressions are generally positive. I feel like I need to spend more time with the game before I can make a proper call. Regardless, I’m excited to see what else Origins has in store for me. Be sure to keep an eye out for more on Assassin’s Creed: Origins in the coming weeks.