Ubisoft's Assassin's Creed has become the company's biggest selling franchise since the game was first released a decade ago. The action-adventure series weaves elements of historical fiction with real-world events and figures as players take control of an assassin from a secret society fighting for world peace and free will against those who want to control humanity through nefarious means. The series focused on parkour movement and stealth missions as players go about assassinating key figures in the fictional historical story. The game has continued to evolve over the years, being set in various time periods and adding new combat elements, customisable options, naval battles, and multi-player modes.
After a couple years break the franchise has returned with the long-awaited Assassin's Creed Origins. The tenth major installment in the series takes place in Ancient Egypt and explores the origins of the centuries-old conflict between the Brotherhood of Assassins and The Order of the Ancients (later known as the Templar Order). Visually stunning and with a vastly improved open-world to explore, Assassin's Creed Origins falls short of being a critical success due to some unfortunate issues. The major story is a convoluted mess, the new combat system a drag, and having to repeatedly upgrade your weapons, armour and skills is a nightmare. Then there's the amount of glitches and bugs in the game that's been a reoccurring problem for recent Assassin's Creed releases. For anyone unsure whether or not Assassin's Creed Origins is with a punt, we've listed the 20 worst things about the game to help you decide if it's worth your cold hard earned cash.
It's never a good sign for a game when the main character you are in control of is as boring as watching paint dry. Bayek, the protagonist of Origins should be a welcome shot in the arm for the franchise, but I failed to generate any emotional connection with him despite a great backstory. Bayek is on a quest to find the masked men who murdered his son, resulting in him getting mixed up with all manner of secret societies and government higher-ups, but you rarely feel anything for him. He also isn't an assassin, which seems slightly strange considering the game's title.
Bayek is fairly one dimensional and comes across as way too serious. He is eclipsed by his wife Aya who would have made an even better lead. Not only is she also out for revenge but is involved with mysterious alliances and behind the scenes plots, giving her much more of a personality and involvement in the game world than her poor husband.
Assassin's Creed games have been firmly planted in the action-adventure world. Each game has been driven by stealth combat, parkour movement, and adventurous campaigns, but Origins has taken the series in another direction. A huge focus of the game is leveling up your skills and upgrading your weapons, armor and health. Combine this with the large open on offer and Origins has more in common with an RPG than an action-adventure game.
This is a strange choice by Ubisoft and one that doesn't make a great deal of sense considering the success of the series. While they have no doubt put some thought into the changes and are trying to give Assassin's Creed a fresh feel, turning the game into an RPG just doesn't work. Hopefully, this will be rectified in the next installment of the game with more focus on stealth and cunning.
Another sign Origins is more of an RPG than an action-adventure game is the process of leveling up your skills as the game progresses. You have to be continually leveling up not only your skills, but also your weapons, health, and armour, so you can effectively take on the enemy. Similar games often let you complete missions above your skill level, but not Origins. You will be decimated by opponents with higher skills and it makes stealth mission all that more harder to complete. Even animals with a higher level will make mincemeat out of you. Because of this, you spend an insane amount of time completing boring tasks to level up, taking away from the whole game experience.
If there's one thing Ubisoft love it's micro-transactions. Now a staple of the Assassin's Creed series the games real-money currency is starting to become something of an annoyance. Sure, it allows you to purchase a wide range of weapons, armour, potions, outfits, and skill points, but these are all things you can acquire in the game over time. If you're someone who needs to have everything from the get-go, great, but for most players who want to progress through the game and earn rewards micro-transactions are a total waste of time. While not as intrusive or controversial as those used in Middle-Earth: Shadow of War and the upcoming Star Wars: Battlefront II, micro-transactions are best left for online multiplayer games and not stand alone single player epics such as the Assassin's Creed series.
One of the biggest changes with Origins is what Ubisoft have done with the combat system. More focused on one-on-one fights, they've ditched the old melee combat that relied heavily on repeated button bashing combinations for a hit-box system, providing you with a sword and a shield and an emphasis on dodge and parry fighting. It's a much more skillful combat system similar to those used in Dark Souls and Bloodbourne but without the fun.
Bayek moves sluggishly and while this doesn't detract from fighting standard enemies, when attacked by a boss it often makes it harder to block their attacks. This requires you to keep your distance and attack at the right intervals, a rather tedious method of combat. It's commendable Ubisoft are trying something different but they have a long way to go before ironing out a swift and smooth combat system.
As this list has already addressed, the Assassin's Creed series follows the historic endeavors of a centuries old society known as the Brotherhood of Assassins. In each game, the assassin you play fulfill a number of missions and assassinations during different time periods to help keep the peace amongst humans worldwide. The only thing is the protagonist in Origins, Bayek, isn't an assassin. He's a medjay, something like a cross between a social worker and a problem solver who strives to help people in his village. His involvement in the feud between the two fractions comes about as he searches for the murderers of his son. Of course, he is highly trained in combat and something of a killing machine, but he's not really an assassin. If anything this game should be called Medjay's Creed, but I guess that wouldn't go down well with the hardcore fan base.
The Egyptian setting for Origins is the ideal location for the latest entry in the series. The lush locations are pleasing on the eye and the ancient buildings suit the parkour movement of the original games. Unfortunately, this is brought down by a convoluted plot that quickly becomes tedious and secondary to the beautiful scenery. On the surface you are trying to find the people responsible for Bayek's son's death, but as you progress you become intertwined with conspiracies stretching across Egypt, Rome, and Greece involving secret societies and real-life historical figures. It gets to a point whereby you lose track of who is doing what and why and become more enamored with exploring the gorgeous world before you. There's also very little reference to the present day, so if you're a big believer in the evil modern-day corporation theory that's proposed throughout the series you'll be doubly disappointed.
Ubisoft have ditched the "eagle vision" mode that's become a staple of the series and replaced it with an actual eagle. Bayek has a companion named Senu who just so happens to be an eagle. Acting very much like a drone, players can take control of Senu and scout an area ahead and discover what enemies or missions lay ahead.
No doubt many of you think this is a great idea, and in theory, it is, but one of the most enjoyable things about previous games was discovering new locations and enemies for yourself. Senu takes away from this experience as you can literally see the entire layout of what lies ahead instead of scouting yourself and finding the right pathway or number of guards on patrol. Using Senu certainly saves time and makes you less stressed but is something I could do without.
The main plot of Origins follows Bayek as he tries to track down and kill the men responsible for his son's death. As this is marketed as an Assassin's Creed game most of the main storyline mission involve you murdering a list of people. As each main mission requires you to be at a certain skill level you must complete a heap of side quests to attain the correct skill level. The thing about these missions is that the majority are just variations on "go to this place and fetch that thing," or "go to this place and kill this guy," over and over again. There's a real lack of creativity with most of these side quests and it feels like you're covering the same ground over and over trying to level up. It's both exhausting and rather boring and any joy you might have had completing these missions quickly evaporates.
The ability to sneak up on players and slit their throats without them ever knowing has been an integral part of the Assassin's Creed franchise. The original game was built on stealth kills and this has been implemented and improved to varying degrees over the entires series. Origins is probably the one game stealth kills are not up to scratch. As enemies are now given different levels of skills, if your stealth skill is lower than your opponent then they can escape your attack and force you into a one-on-one fight. This renders stealth kills as fairly pointless, as in other games in the series you can sneak up behind almost anyone and kill them no matter their skill level. It does fit in with the leveling up process Origins has introduced but I for one prefer the good old days of stabbing people in the back and disappearing into the shadows before the alarm can be raised.
The first Assassin's Creed release might not have been reinventing the wheel when it came to action-adventure games (the game was heavily influenced by Prince of Persia and the stealth aspect of Splinter Cell), but it did contain enough original elements to make it stand out as a must play game. As the series has continued each game has built on the success of the previous release while maintaining its own identity, until Assassin's Creed Origins.
Four years in development and Origins is basically a refined version of the Assassin's Creed model borrowing the best parts from other similar type games, particularly Ubisoft's own Far Cry and Prince Of Persia series. That's not to say Origins is a horrible game, but considering the time spent creating the game mechanics you would hope for some exhilarating new features and gameplay, but you are unfortunately left wanting more.
I know what you're thinking, harder enemies makes for a more fulfilling game experience, but this is not the case with Origins. As already discussed, enemies are now given a skill level determined by their attributes, meaning if they are at a higher level than you it's almost impossible to carry out a classic one-hit attack. You'll need to engage in a time-consuming fight to defeat the evildoer or spend even longer leveling up so you can defeat them much easier. Both options are not desirable outcomes were combat is a fundamental part of the game. That's not to say it isn't fun defeating harder enemies as you feel like you've earnt every victory, but it does get repetitive after a while.
The secret organization of assassins you play as throughout the Assassin's Creed series are said to be a centuries-old society whose mission is to fight for peace and uphold people's free will. Their enemy (the evil Knights Templar), believe peace can only come about by using power and influence to control humanity. It seems pretty clear cut but Origins makes it hard to decipher just who is in the right. This problem of who really are the good guys and the bad guys have always been blurred and doesn't look like changing anytime soon.
Origins is meant to clear up once and for all why these two societies have been at war for hundreds of years but only adds to the intrigue about which side is really fighting the good fight. As Kirk Hamilton suggested in his review of the game for Kotaku, maybe the real villain of Assassin's Creed is history itself and good and evil are just its pawns?
If there's one thing Assassin's Creed is known for aside from kick-ass gameplay and interesting storylines it's the use of the synchronization system. It's been a trademark of the series and helped Assassin's Creed standout from the crowd, but that's no longer the case with this latest release. Synchronisation points no longer unlock new areas on the map (that's why you can control Senu), and are now used as fast travel locations. This also means the mini-map is no longer available, now replaced by a compass. While some might rejoice the screen is less cluttered, I've always found mini-maps a handy guide to make sure I was traveling in the right direction and could find out what was ahead. Rest In Peace synchronization and mini-maps, your legacy will not be forgotten.
If there's one criticism Assassin's Creed has received over the years it's the clumsy animations that often occur throughout the game. Strange shaped characters, weird facial details and less-then smooth player movements - particularly during battles - have been staples of the game and rear their ugly head again in Origins.
This isn't a major concern, as almost all video games feature small animation problems, but considering Ubisoft have been working on Origins for four years you'd like to think they would have been able to get some of these issues sorted. Sure, they've improved the climbing part of the game and enabled fast travel locations for quicker movement, but dedicating just a little more time to the animation of characters and the fluidity of their movements would have been a welcome addition.
The Assassin's Creed franchise has always mixed historical events and figures with fictional stories in a grounded and believable fashion. This is all thrown out the window with Origins. The Egyptian setting and introduction of famous leaders like Cleopatra and Julius Caesar adds realism, but when Egyptian Gods and mystical figures are involved the realism of the game fades away.
Kudos to Ubisoft for spicing up the plot with these elements (there is an explanation for the supernatural going ons that does work, kinda), but these types of ideas are better left for expansion packs.
The melding of real-life history with fiction continues in Origins. The plot involves key figures from the Egyptian time period the game is set in, but it's the portrayal of Cleopatra that has upset many fans and historians.
In the game, she is an intelligent, ruthless, tactical-minded leader who also happens to wear skimpy outfits and is pigeonholed as a femme fatale type character. This view of Cleopatra is highlighted during a cutscene when she offers to sleep with any man as long as he agrees to be executed after. Throughout the game, her allure continues to be shown as part of her charm, but this is far from the truth. Historians believe Cleopatra most likely only had two relationships that bore her four children that she engaged in for political reasons to solidify her rule.
Sometimes it's the smallest detail that can be frustratingly painful when playing games and Origins is no different. Multiple players have flooded internet message boards asking why their horse won't appear when you whistle for him. It turns out there are two different whistles for different scenarios. Pressing down on the D-pad whistles in a way so you can attract guards and assassinate them quietly. But holding the D-pad down whistles for your horse, but if you hold it too long or don't press hard enough you will perform the first type of whistle. This is another minor flaw and not something that's going to have a huge impact on the way you view the game, but it's something that caused me increasing levels of anxiety as I struggled to call my horse, causing me to almost throw my controller out the window on numerous occasions.
The introduction of Legendary weapons in Origins is one thing fans thought would make the game extra special. These Legendary weapons include the Golden Wolf Sword, Sarissa Spear, and Smoke And Mirrors Bow, with each weapon inflicting critical damage on enemies. They also have their own special properties, with the Golden Wold Sword restoring part of your health with every kill.
Finding a Legendary weapon feels like a victory in itself until you realize how easy they are to come by. You are often rewarded with a Legendary weapon when plundering a tomb or after searching a unique location. The ease at which you can find these weapons takes away from the Legendary status they are labeled with, making them feel pretty ordinary after a while.
Glitches are accepted when new games are released and unfortunately, Origins continues Assassin's Creeds longstanding history of bug-filled debuts. There are small glitches like the poor animation of NPC and slow movement of Bayek during combat as detailed in this list already, but worse bugs are causing the game to freeze and even crash. I've also noticed slow frame rates and characters, mainly Bayek, getting stuck at various parts of the game. The game has crashed twice playing on my PlayStation and there is nothing more frustrating, especially when in the middle of the storyline campaign. I understand there will be glitches and updates needed, but I don't expect a brand new game to be crashing just hours after its release. Maybe instead of spending so much time trying to change the combat and level up system Ubisoft could have got the basics right, to begin with.