A new Assassin’s Creed game is just around the corner. It’s been two years and not a single major AC game has been released, which on Ubisoft’s watch, must feel like an eternity. We all remember back in 2015, after AC Syndicate‘s disappointing sales, when Ubisoft announced they would be taking a two year break in order to reinvent the next instalment of Assassin’s Creed, starting from scratch. This came as a relief to fans of the series, as Ubisoft’s business plan to churn out an AC game every year, as they had been since AC Brotherhood, was severely diminishing the quality of the series (I’m looking at you, Unity) and causing it to go very stale indeed. Hence, this year at E3, Ubisoft proudly presented us with a first look at their brand new AC game, Assassin’s Creed Origins. But at first glance, is it everything it’s cracked up to be?
Now I want to make it clear, I’m a big fan of the AC series. I’ve played every major instalment, including Syndicate and Unity, and despite the many, many flaws the games have overall, I generally enjoy the experience. I poked fun at Unity earlier, but the truth of the matter is, I actually thought it wasn’t all that bad. However, I did avoid it entirely up until recently, when it was going for cheap on the PS store and has had most of the major bugs fixed. But I digress, the point I’m trying to make, is that I’ve stuck with this series from the beginning and have experienced it throughout all its ups (nodding approvingly at AC2 and AC4) and downs (shaking my head in disdain at AC: Revelations, which I abhorred!) I was truly looking forward to a completely reinvented AC game. What I saw at E3 however, wasn’t that.
One thing that can be said about Assassin’s Creed Origins is that it looks gorgeous. It is by far the best looking AC game to have graced our screens. I’m a big fan of the Egyptian setting. The world looks exciting and intriguing and I would happily spend countless hours exploring it. It’s the gameplay however, that really disappointed me.
Our very first look at the gameplay showed the new protagonist, Bayek, on horseback, making his way through a village, as inhabitants shuffled out of the way and went about their own business. It immediately reminded me of Assassin’s Creed Brotherhood, when Ezio would be on horseback, trotting through the streets of Rome as people shuffled out of his way. The animation, although refined, looked very similar and didn’t have the fresh reinvented look I was expecting. The same could be said when Bayek stealthily makes his way through an enemy fort. There is the usual crouching in the long grass, climbing tress and jumping along the conveniently V shaped branches, climbing up buildings, creeping up behind clueless guards, etc… it all looked the same as any other AC game, only with a different, albeit interesting, setting. It didn’t really appear to be, well, reinvented.
So where is the “new” in this reinvented AC game? “The Eagle!”, I hear you shout at your computer screen. Ah yes, the eagle. They’ve finally got rid of climbing buildings and towers to use as view points. Instead, you have an eagle. The eagle can fly and spot enemies, quest locations, points of interest and more. You know, just like the owl in Far Cry: Primal, or the drone in Watch Dogs 2 and Ghost Recon: Wildlands. Looks like birds and drones are the new tall buildings and radio towers that appeared in every single Ubisoft game since the original AC. “Well, the combat has been improved,” I hear you say. Yes, it has! The combat in AC has always been more of a rhythm based thing, press the button at the right time and watch the brief cut-scene of you dramatically killing your enemies. It had become rather tiresome. The new combat system has you blocking with your shield, side stepping and attacking, slowly diminishing the enemies health bar, you know, like in For Honor. “Well, in this one you can level up and use that to gain perks.” Yes, just like The Division or even Unity and Syndicate. The point being that Assassin’s Creed Origins isn’t so much a reinventing of the series, more of an AC game with a mixed batch of other Ubisoft game elements thrown in.
Despite all this, come October, I will be playing Assassin’s Creed Origins. I’m sure that, although it’s not the breath of fresh air I expected, I’ll enjoy it regardless. I’m pretty sure the game will be a huge hit and will go on to sell many copies. Here is my concern however: will Ubisoft then rest on their laurels and start releasing AC after AC game using the Assassin’s Creed Origins formula, until once again, it goes stale. Judging by all these similar elements being reused in all their games, it won’t take long for fans to get bored. I mean, the game isn’t even out yet and I’m already bored of taking control of a bird/drone to scan my surroundings. I wish Ubisoft had taken more of a chance and truly reinvented the series, rather than just thrown in elements that worked well in their other franchises. I was hoping for innovation, not replication.