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Assassin’s Creed: Origins Preview – To the Land of Pharaohs

Ubisoft’s Assassin’s Creed franchise has experienced some ups and downs during the last decade. Between modern-day metaplot, lack of significant changes to the gameplay and annual releases, it seemed like the series got itself into a dead end.

It is a good thing, then, that it took a gap year, because the upcoming Assassins’ Creed: Origins is looking like what our nostalgia thinks Assassin’s Creed used to be back in the days of Ezio.

Let’s take a look at what awaits us in when AC:O launches later this year.

Before the Templars and Assassins

In a surprising twist, instead of moving forward with the historical part of the plot, Origins goes all the way back to around 50BC, AKA the part of history when Julius Caesar was making big splashes everywhere. Mentioning that old knife holder isn’t without merit, either, because Origins is going to take place in ancient Egypt during a pretty tumultuous time.

The protagonist is called Bayek, and he is the last of the Medjay (look them up), and a hero of his home village, built around an oasis known as Siwa. Through his marriage to an agent of Cleopatra (the most famous one) he gets entangled in a high-level political kerfuffle between Julius Caesar, Cleopatra, and Ptolemy the Boy-King, who irked the grumpy Roman.

Another important part of the setting is that the event takes place before the Assassins and Templars were even founded properly. There may be some clear predecessors, most notably Bayek himself, who quite clearly has Assassin trappings about him. There’s also a shadowy organisation, Order of the Ancients, working behind the scenes, controlling the politicians etc. Not quite Templars, but certainly going there, just give them some time.

Revamped combat

You probably know the drill of Assassin’s Creed combat by now. Dodge. Parry, counter. Counter. Counter. Counter with thrown knives. It wouldn’t change much if it was presented as a Quick Time Event. Ubisoft clearly decided a big change is necessary, so Assassin’s Creed Origins is going to feature a much more dynamic and responsive combat.

For starters spamming one button isn’t going to cut it anymore. Now we’re going to have fast and heavy attacks, faster dodges, there’s even a shield you can use to parry and attack. Attacks as such aren’t animation-based per se, but rely more on actual hitboxes to strike at. And yes, it does mean that we’ll be able to target parts of our enemies. It might play a big role during play, too.

There’s also going to be a change to how enemies themselves attack you. We’re all familiar with the 80s/90s action movie routine of only one character going into immediate conflict with the protagonist, while others wait. Not so here. Controlling the crowds of attackers is reportedly going to be a big feature of combat. Especially since for once there are going to be bosses requiring unique approach, like they should.

Oh, and ranged weapons, like your bow, are going to use active targeting, instead of being lock-on primarily.

Loot

Curiously, unlike previous instalments, AC: Origins will feature a full loot system, allowing you to customise Bayek to your playstyle. Picking the right weapons will imperative, because for a change we’ll be encountering armoured enemies every once in a while, and swords are going to be useless against them, axes or maces’ll do much better.

Open world, open missions

You remember how in previous Assassin’s Creeds you had discrete missions to needed to activate and stick until you’ve either completed or failed them? This is gone too, now. Origins ditches level-based missions in favour of individual quests you’ll be able to solve in any order you wish. If you get stuck or bored midway through an assignment there will reportedly be nothing stopping you from taking a break and exploring what’s beyond that one dune you see on the horizon.

Assassin’s Creed: Origins’ world is going to enable seamless exploration, and plenty of small stories, both scripted and emergent, scattered around the world. With a lack of minimap and only a compass to provide immediate guidance, exploration will likely seem much less guided from one chest of gold to another white feather.

The Egypt in AC:O is said to feel more alive than any previous settings in the franchise, with people with their own routines and agenda, full day/night cycle, and factions interacting even without your participation. Bayek will frequently encounter patrols and parties of Ptolemies, loyal to the ruling king, the rebels for whom Bayek will at times work, and the bandits, who are the regular jerks in it for themselves.

Some form of closure

Judging by all the changes and improvements made to a formula that was getting fairly stale after ten years, nine core series entries and some smaller in scope spin-off launches. More crunchy combat, the introduction of loot and RPG-like progression, and setting the game in a very interesting time period rarely explored in games all contribute to making Assassin’s Creed: Origins a very interesting title certainly worth checking out.

AC:O release date is scheduled for October 27 this year, leaving some time still to pre-order it, should you feel enticed and inclined.

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