After a hiatus that many fans (this writer included) consider very necessary in order to reboot and rethink the series for a new generation of consoles and an ever-changing fan base, we finally have definitive proof of an upcoming Assassin's Creed game. This series has captivated audiences for about a decade now, with the first installment of the game having been released back in 2007. In that year, we met Desmond Miles, a man in present-day America and Altair, his ancestor who lived during the First Crusade.
Since then, we have fought our way through Italy during the Renaissance as Ezio Auditore, North America, and the Caribbean during the 1700s as a couple of pirates and a young Native American man. Then it was back to Europe for the French Revolution as Arno Dorian, and most recently (among the main series of games, anyway) we made it to London during the Industrial Revolution, and played as fraternal twins Jacob and Evie Frye.
While each game has been interesting and offered plenty of adventure, the lack of innovation started to make many fans feel that the series was becoming stagnant. While they sold well, Unity and Syndicate alienated many enthusiasts, prompting the year off for 2016. While there have been rumors and speculation for months, we now have confirmation about the upcoming Assassin's Creed game — thanks to Ubisoft's announcement and trailer released at E3. While we're excited by what we have seen, we're also cautious, here are eight things we have learned and seven things we do not like looking ahead to Assassin's Creed: Origins.
15 Learned: The Setting
This is something that has been speculated on for some time, and while eras and countries like Feudal Japan, Ancient Greece, and Rome, and even the American Civil War have been thrown around as potential areas of operations for future games, we will be heading to Ancient Egypt for this game. A time of legend, superstition, and mystery, this does seem like an ideal setting for an Assassin's Creed game. The game will feature a look at life before the Brotherhood of Assassins was actually formed, and the exact year of the game is set in 49 BCE. While the usual buildings with plenty of corners behind which to hide, walls to scale and beams on which to jump and run, it also looks like pyramids will be featured in the game, for purposes of climbing but also raiding.
14 Hate: No Multiplayer?
Multiplayer modes have been tried in a few Assassin's Creed games. They never eclipsed the single player campaign as we have seen in certain other franchises (such as some of the Call of Duty games, which people bought only for multiplayer, with the actual campaign being an afterthought), and have taken on some different forms. In Brotherhood, Revelations, AC III and Black Flag, multiplayer included several modes, and there was a cooperative component to Unity that some fans argued was the best part of that game.
Syndicate had no multiplayer option, and Origins will follow suit. While yes, this is a series that tells a compelling story and shouldn't need anything more than an immersive single player story, a multiplayer experience adds replay value to a game. We'd be willing to try a shared world format (like GTA Online), but even if that were not an option, bringing back cooperative mode like Unity would have been a nice touch. At the same time, if the single player campaign has incredible replay value, we likely won't notice a lack of multiplayer options.
13 Learned: Protagonist And His Backstory
Our many playable Assassins throughout the story so far have either been members of the order to begin with (Altair being raised by members of the order) or have become assassins through either necessity or circumstance. Our protagonist in Origins is a man named Bayek, who lived in a time when the term "Assassin" was not used. Hence the name of the game, "Origins" refers to the fact that this is the start of the brotherhood itself.
The game takes place in a period during which Cleopatra is rising to power, and Bayek is among the last of the Medjay (he may actually be the last of this force), a group of police/guards in Egypt at the time. At the start of the game, he will be in his thirties, and much of the story will revolve around him hunting certain targets and founding the Brotherhood of the Assassins.
12 Hate: Boss Fights
We have learned that this new game will feature, for the first time in an Assassin's Creed title, a series of "boss fights" throughout the game. While past games have featured final showdowns, they have been at the very end of the game, not interspersed throughout, which seems to be what we will see in Origins. Part of what made this series so special was the acrobatic and impressive assassinations (right, like the title of the damn series?) one could carry out by using stealth to get into the perfect spot. We felt like assassins; stealthy, quiet, unseen and deadly. While it is too early to say for certain, we may have to deal with more hacking, slashing and bludgeoning in this game, with less emphasis on staying hidden and sneaking up on the guy in charge.
11 Learned: Release Date
We know, we know, all you want to hear is when can you put on your hood, and hunker down on the couch for a marathon session with this game? Well, we have good news and bad news. The good news is that the game will go on sale for PC, Playstation 4, and Xbox One on October 27th, 2017. The bad news is that that is just over four months away and you animals will have to just sit there salivating until then.
With how much is being promised by this game, there is plenty of reason to get excited, but all with a grain of salt. Obviously, no company is going to walk out at E3 and give an honest run-down of their game; they're telling us the good stuff, what works and what will wow us, rather than what functions and elements are not working as intended and what concerns they will have. All that will become clear in a few agonizingly long months. Whether or not there will be another month long wait for PC users (like what happened with Syndicate), remains to be seen.
10 Hate: The New Eagle Scout Element
Maybe this is more of a love-hate thing, but we have a slight (but significant) problem with the eagle scout system the we saw in the gameplay video. It looks somewhat interesting, and is a half-decent concept, but this is an absolute rehash of a useful tool from another recent Ubisoft release. The damn eagle is nothing more than a flesh and bones version of the drone from Ghost Recon: Wildlands, and a few other games (Far Cry Primal, anyone?). Call us/me old fashioned, but a major part of the fun of every game in this series so far has been using stealth and speed to survey an area for enemies and routes, rather than calling up some birdie to do the legwork. Will it ruin the game? No, of course not, but it will take away part of the signature challenge that has helped to define the series. Furthermore, it feels cheap to be essentially recycling this game element from one game to another.
9 Learned: More Focus On Polish
This is a throwback to something that was publicized last year, and that has returned to the news to some extent now. Part of the goal of this game —and something that will be a goal for future titles in the series— will be an emphasis on completing the games earlier before release and doing a complete job of polishing and perfecting. I personally enjoyed both Syndicate and even Unity a great deal, because I love this series and the stories that it tells. However, even as an unrepentant AC fanboy, I will gladly admit that the amount of problems Unity had was highly unwelcome and more than a bit unpleasant. Fewer minor bugs and proving that they aren't just putting out nearly-finished games could restore Ubisoft and this franchise to their former glory.
We should note that if you are one of those people who hated Unity when it came out, and refused to actually give it a playthrough because of the bugs, it may be worth your time now, as they patched much of what caused problems early on.
8 Hate: That The Series Got To The Point Of Needing a Hiatus
We can't mention this hiatus without mentioning the bitterness that goes along with it. This point is very similar to what we just discussed. While we are happy that Ubisoft will be focusing more on polish and refinement, it stands as a slap in the face that Ubisoft, a respected developer, let a successful and cherished franchise sink to the point that it did. Like I said, I enjoyed even the less-outstanding offerings from this series, but can completely empathize with the complaints of those who didn't. Ubisoft releasing a game with the kind of initial bugs that Unity had is the video game equivalent of Pepsi selling cans of soda with laced spiked with laxatives. They are a big enough name to be able to have rigorous quality control and should have ensured a blemish-free product.
7 Learned: Reconfigured Combat
One of the most common complaints about this series has been the combat. In the first game it was a mess, but a functional mess. For the Ezio trilogy, it became too easy, and every encounter could be ended with a string of counters. It was fun, but took the challenge away from actually fighting. Since AC III there have been minor tweaks, but it is essentially a slightly different set of problems every time.
Combat mechanics seem to have changed significantly, and it now appears that enemies will no longer take turns, clumsily attacking you Bayek one at a time. Furthermore, we'll be treated to a shield in this game, and will have to dodge attacks while planning our own. Different enemies will have to be dealt with using different weapons and tactics and there even seem to be some environmental hazards one can use to their advantage, including (like we said earlier) caged animals. If this is starting to sound more and more like Far Cry, we agree, but if the gaming elements work, we won't complain.
6 Hate: Navigation Changes
Maybe we are nightmarishly nit-picky here, but the map system was never really the problem with this series. It wasn't great, but it worked. If there was something irritating about the map/mini map combo, it was the fact that there would just be too damn much stuff on the map, between viewpoints, chests, and so on; a problem that could have been solved by just putting less non-essential stuff on there. Rather than a mini-map in the bottom of your screen, we get a compass, more akin to something like Skyrim or Fallout.
Viewpoints will work differently now too, and rather than updating the map with new points of interest, they will only be used for fast travel. Like we said, complaining about the changes to the map and viewpoints may be petty and almost pointless, but neither of these gameplay elements were ever particularly problematic in previous games.
5 Learned: There's A Real World In There
Ubisoft has gone out of their way to make ancient Egypt seem like a "real world" inside the game. This means that rather than doing the same thing all the time, NPCs will go about their routines as if they are real people. There is an internal clock in the game that will govern NPCs working during the daytime, sleeping at night, robbing each other, and even heading to the restroom. This will likely add to the ways in which certain missions can be played (attacking at night when guards are asleep, for instance) and will offer a new level of immersion for players. Since other characters will behave like real people, rather than brain-dead drones, aimlessly and endlessly walking from point A to B and back again, gameplay should take a huge step up.
4 Hate: Many Suspected Far Cry Similarities
Don't misunderstand, we love Far Cry. It is a fantastic series, and we are excited for number five. But we can't help but notice that some signature Far Cry gameplay elements seem to be showing up in Origins. In order to upgrade your gear, guess what you'll have to do? If you guessed "slaughter some local fauna," you're right and have probably played for Far Cry in your time.
Another aspect of this game that sounds like it was just given the ol' cut and paste treatment is the fact that there will be enemy outposts dotted throughout the map, some big, some small, and plenty with caged animals that may offer a threat to those enemies to help you out.
Like we said, Far Cry is awesome and so is Assassin's Creed. Based on some of these elements of play, Origins is sounding more and more like a gunless Far Cry knockoff set in Egypt with free running. We get it, they're made by the same company, and some of the teams have been shuffled around over the last few years, but so far these significant similarities are over the top and amount to recycling.
3 Learned: RPG-Style Leveling System
While previous titles have allowed players to choose certain weapons, upgrade armor, and of course, select certain skills with a point system, there will be far greater opportunity to customize one's character and really build an immersive and unique experience according to how any player wants to play the game. This sounds very cool and like a welcome addition to the Assassin's Creed experience. In this age of gaming, offering a customizable experience to consumers is never a bad idea and having certain skills and sets of skills that can allow missions to be played through multiple times will add significant replay value to a series that already has plenty of opportunity for multiple play-throughs.
2 Hate: Supernatural Creatures
From the looks of it, based on a couple of scenes from the release trailer, there may be some supernatural beasts that will need fighting in this game. So far we have yet to see anything like this in Assassin's Creed. We have battled against humans with supernatural abilities, as given by the Pieces of Eden, but we haven't seen giant snakes of anything of the sort until now. While we will wait to play the game to pass final judgment, this is not a good direction for the game. If these scenes end up being Far Cry 4 style hallucinations, fine, but that will still be irritating in an AC game. Again, this is getting away from the core story of the series. Human corruption, control dynamics, freedom, and abuse of power are the themes in this game, and having the main enemies as flawed and dangerous people is an amazing way in which we imagine ourselves playing this adventure that somehow exists in a world not so different from our own.
Throwing mythical creatures into the mix will not bode well for this series, and we hope it is kept to a minimum in the final product. This goes in the same vein as boss fights: part of why AC games have been so fun is that they have been somewhat believable, and have presented villains as corrupted people, rather than demons or actual supernatural beings (you know, other than the Isu).
1 Learned: More Open-World Game Style
A big deal is being made about the "open-world setting" for this new game, and we aren't quite sure what to make of it. All of the games in this series so far have featured modified versions of what can loosely be called "open-world" gaming format. For the most part, there have been cities, islands, (depending on which installment of the series you're playing) that all individually make up open worlds of their own.
From what we've seen and heard, Origins will take place in a massive, completely open-world environment that features everything from large cities and small towns to desert, oases, and, of course, the option of extensive underwater exploration.
The game looks incredible overall, and we imagine that the final product will look unbelievable on the Xbox One X. While we did come up with seven things we aren't crazy about, we still think the positives will vastly outweigh the negatives. Still, we can't wait to hear readers tell us how wrong and terrible we are for not being excited enough about the game.