It has been fifteen years since Assassin’s Creed first released way back in 2007. The franchise has since become one of the most recognizable brands in gaming history spawning several sequels and prequels across various platforms. But it has not been without its ups and downs. The very first game in the franchise, while being a commercial success, failed to deliver on various promises it made prior to release and it took the next game, Assassin’s Creed II, to make good on those promises and, in the process, take the franchise to new heights. Over the course of its 15-year legacy, the series has been through the best and the worst discourse, even warranting a change in direction back in 2015. Assassin’s Creed: Origins was the title that rose up to that challenge releasing after a year’s break since the last entry in the franchise, AC: Syndicate by stepping into an RPG inspired open world genre. But, in its quest to re-vitalize the series, the game fell victim to the dichotomy of serving existing hardcore fans, and re-inventing itself to usher in new audiences. Thus, the conversation of how good the game was upon release, was muddled by the conversation of whether or not the franchise was heading in the right direction. So, what better time to revisit one of the most underrated and, undoubtedly, a pivotal title in the franchise’s line up of games, than on the series’ 15-year anniversary. Here is a deeper look at Assassin’s Creed: Origins and what made it such a great game.
Big Shoes to Fill
Targeting a holiday window for its release in 2017, Assassin’s Creed: Origins had a lot to live up to. Apart from being an entertaining action game, that an Assassin’s Creed title is expected to be, the game also carried the responsibility of re-inventing the franchise and breathe some fresh air, drifting away from the then somewhat stale action-stealth genre. It was a tall order, and the cynicism from fans and critics alike were understandable thanks to the bad taste left by AC: Unity not too long ago. Early leaks suggesting that the new game will take inspiration from The Witcher 3 also left more doubts in the minds of fans than warranted. But then, the game was shown in all of its glory at E3. The change in direction was very noticeable, but it wasn’t necessarily a bad thing. The game still had stealth mechanics, and its core combat looked quite fun. Then there was the setting. The ancient Egypt featured in the demo had little variety in the visuals, but what was on display did impress, particularly on the then new-to-market Xbox Series X. But this was all still an E3 demo. And there were still questions like whether or not a story set in ancient Egypt will be on par with the other historical settings from past games, and if playing as a character who wasn’t an Assassin, will be as much fun as playing as the series’ other protagonists. These were questions that could only be answered upon release.
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A Stellar Launch
The game released a few months later, to stellar reviews. Origins garnered universal acclaim for its approach towards mission structures, open world design choices, the setting and story as a whole. It was clear that Ubisoft was focused on crafting a game that resonated with AC fans, while providing completely different gameplay experience. The open world was much larger than past games in the series while also being a visual spectacle. In the process Ubisoft had crafted one of their best-looking worlds yet, with a story that is enthralling with big moments, while also being grounded and more personal for the protagonist Ba-Yek. But these were just the general takes from various media outlets. To understand what all of this meant, one had to pick up the controller and experience the game for themselves.
But Why Was Origins So Good, Really?
I have never been as glad to have given a chance to a videogame as I did for AC: Origins. As a big fan of old school AC games, my skepticism towards an RPG Assassin’s Creed was fueled with relative ease. But the E3 demo did enough to sway me towards trying Origins. After an hour into the game, it was clear that Assassin’s Creed: Origins was in every way an Assassin’s Creed game, only evolved to serve a gameplay style that fit well with the genre it adopted. The combat which had a fair amount of depth, the stealth mechanics which now relied on its environments in a much more organic way, and the mission structures which gave the player a certain level of freedom was all accommodated thanks to the new gameplay style. And they all worked rather well complimenting each other in the moment-to-moment gameplay. But these are just things that one can see on first glance. Stick with the game however, and the many nuances of the game add up to an experience that can only be described as spectacular. From the many species of wildlife that tie into the crafting system, the NPCs that have dedicated day and night life routines, AI that dynamically reacts to the player’s actions in the environment, the stellar lighting, the unreal water physics, the mirages that appear during prolonged travel times in the desert, all lead to various unscripted moments of awe.
And all of it compliment the main story of Ba-Yek. A Medjay to his people, a husband who loves his wife deeply, and a loving father, are some of the facets we see of this fascinating character who serves as the driving force of the story. Without getting into spoilers, I can say that the story in AC: Origins does a fantastic job of justifying the motivations of a humble man which drive his evolution into an Assassin who eventually initiates the brotherhood of Assassins. Then there are the side-quests that are much more meaningful than what was seen at least in its time, weaving into multiple plot threads and occasionally into the main story. The game often, rather effortlessly, displays the astounding amount of work that has gone into creating this world and characters. And that is what makes Origins much more than the sum of its parts. While other entries in the series sometimes feel like a by-the-numbers open world game, you don’t get that with Origins, which is what makes the game as good as it is.
All of this is not to say that the game was without its issues. Origins was still prone to the bugs that often plague open world games, especially ones that are as large as this one. But none of those issues were game breaking. They were even amusing to a certain degree, at least at launch. That said, I have to also address that these bugs still prevail. The game recently launched on GamePass with updated visuals and 60 fps support. Even with this patch, and nearly five years after release, the game still had bugs, and were more frequent than I recall. Hopefully these are fixed sooner than later.
If we consider all of the games in the series in retrospect, Origins might make my top five list, but certainly not my first pick. That honor goes to Black Flag, probably due to nostalgia, mostly. The second pick would be AC: Odyssey, only because it features one of the most charismatic protagonists ever since Ezio, and of course that Spartan Kick. Origins is special for different reasons. It had a big mission to accomplish, and it did that with confidence while looking spectacular. It is games like these that instill trust among players towards the creators and their publishers. Assassin’s Creed games are mostly a once-a-year affair and an entry like Origins makes the wait for the next one that much harder. There is not better compliment to a game than that.
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So, that was our take on Assassin’s Creed: Origins. What was your favorite AC game? Do sound off in the comments.