“On the Next Level” reviews Assassin’s Creed Origins!!

For ten years, Assassin’s Creed has taken us to many interesting periods throughout, from Constantinople to the Italian Renaissance to the French Revolution to Victoria London. Each game introduced us to familiar historical figures and allowed us to explore history in a way that no class ever could. Along the way, we learned about the Assassins’ centuries long war with the Templar Order yet their storied history was never fully explained.

Until now.

Assassin’s Creed Origins is set in ancient Egypt and tells the tale of the Assassin’s rise and the origins of their war with the Templers. The latest installment centers on the Medjay named Bayek, who were an elite paramilitary police force: desert scouts and protectors of areas of Pharaonic interest. Bayek protects the people of the Ptolemaic Kingdom during a time of widespread upheaval. The Pharaoh, Ptolemy XIII, struggles to maintain his rule while harboring ambitions of expanding his kingdom. Meanwhile his sister, the recently deposed Cleopatra, begins marshalling loyalist forces to launch a counter-coup against her brother. Elsewhere, the Roman Republic under the rule of Julius Caesar prepare to invade the kingdom. Bayek’s role as a Medjay brings him into contact with forces manipulating these events, thus leading to him becoming the first Assassin.

Assassin’s Creed Origins not only recalls the Brotherhood of Assassins’ establishment but also takes the game back to the roots of the first Assassin’s Creed title. All the familiar elements are present such as helping deal with social problems, side missions and searching for hidden treasures. Earning experience points and acquiring new skills through story progression are also still present. Players can explore the open world by foot, on horseback or camelback or by boat to complete side quests and unlock new weapons. The Eagle Vision takes on a new perspective. Instead of highlighting the world in a negative zone, Bayek uses a Bonelli’s eagle named Senu to get a layout of the land and highlight enemies. Interestingly, Senu can be controlled during this new eagle vision before returning control to Bayek. As Senu, enemies, assassination targets and missions can be highlighted, in addition to getting a good layout of the area. The latter feat used to be achieved by climbing a high structure and synchronizing with the area. But since this is ancient Egypt, large structures are not an easy thing to come by.

Another thing that makes Assassin’s Creed Origins unique is the open world exploration. No longer is there a restriction because an area has yet to be unlocked by synchronization. This ancient world can be traversed with much freedom. Heck, it should be explored. The graphical details of the landscape are just as stunning and beautiful as Guerrilla Games’ action title, Horizon Zero Dawn. When I took Bayek outside his town to the desert, I could see the vastness of the Sahara and became curious as to what dangers and wonders are across the sands. Synchronization is mostly used for unlocking fast travel options between locations. Sarah Schachner returns to create the musical score for Origins, who has previously created the music for Black Flag and Unity. Like the first game in the series, Assassin’s Creed Origins lets the sounds of the bustling village set the mood. You hear every conversation, every animal grunt, all these sounds are simplistic, yet they make the village feel that much more alive. Music plays a role primarily in combat situations. Combat has also evolved in Origins. The latest entry abandons the “paired animation system” whereby the player character would engage with an enemy using predetermined animations based on player inputs and scripted AI movements in favor of a “hit-box system.” When the player wields a weapon, they can strike the enemy that is directly in front of them, injure a body part or miss their opponent entirely. The same goes for the other side of the field as well. As enemy combat is also dictated by the hit-box system, the player will be equipped with a shield and will need to balance their offensive and defensive capabilities.

Assassin’s Creed Origins brings what has made the series enjoyable back to the table with a new serving of extras that take it to the level. Setting the game in ancient Egypt is a throwback to the series’ first entry in terms of keeping things simple yet they’re effective in character development and game progression. The two-year break has helped Ubisoft deliver another winning title.

Until next time, see you “On the Next Level!”