Assassin’s Creed: Origins review (Xbox One)

Assassin’s Creed Origins takes the franchise back to ancient Egypt. It’s the best Creed game so far, without radically changing the formula – we’re reviewing the Xbox One version.

When we say Xbox One, we should really say Xbox One X as well. Our new console game in early and Origins was our first game on the console – which made it look great. Going back to a regular Xbox One afterwards felt like a noticeable step back – and that’s without the optimizations and HDR support that are coming in a November 6 update for the game. Either way, it’s great to see the Playstation, PC and Xbox versions edge closer to one another with the release of the Xbox One X – games that look as amazing as this one really benefit from developments like this.

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Having said that, Assassin’s Creed has also benefited from a short hiatus (it’s been two years since Syndicate was released). The old release schedule was getting to be a bit much for me, and now the experience feels fresh again. I generally don’t play games until all the story content DLC has been released, so in the case of Assassin’s Creed that meant that I was a game or two behind in the series. I’d finally get around to playing one, play all that there was to play, and feel burned out because the experience would take up tons of time with (side) missions that start to blend together after a while. A short break from the series was more than welcome, and Origins feels almost like a reboot because the setting is so different from what came before.

The events in Assassin’s Creed Origins unfold in year 49BC, when the Egyptian empire is at a turning point. Past their prime, divisions within the empire provide fertile ground for conspiracies, plotting and murder – ideal conditions for what will become the order of Assassins. You play the role of Bayek, and through a long series of story and side missions an intriguing tale unfolds. Bayek is portrayed as a more human character than most of the previous protagonists in the series as well, engaging in “normal life” far more than the “enforcers” of the past. As was always the case with games in the series, the main story missions are the most interesting and well-developed ones – but the side missions have received a slight upgrade. Though still not nearly as tantalizing as the bigger missions, they feel more diverse and less generic this time – which makes the second half of the game especially feel less like a grindfest.

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It also helps that the game world is one of the most diverse (and biggest) ones yet. Ancient Egypt of course features the majestic pyramids, but you’ll also traverse the desert, navigate the river and sea, visit coastal Alexandria with its Mediterranean atmosphere, and engage in chariot races that echo the influence of the Roman empire. In addition to these sprawling outdoor areas, there are also tombs you can enter and navigate as you defy their traps and come out with valuables.

Assassin’s Creed Origins instills a great sense of wonder with gamers – something I haven’t experienced with the series since I was able to walk around ancient Rome many years ago. Syndicate, Unity and Black Flag were all fine games, but didn’t capture the magic that the first few games did. I remember Ubisoft asking gamers at one point what they’d like to see as a setting for their future Assassin’s Creed and Far Cry games – they’ve chosen well with Origins. The fact that all of this has been realized in glorious high resolution visuals doesn’t hurt either, and it’s safe to say that this is one of the best-looking open world titles we’ve seen thus far.

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Most of the gameplay is very familiar, from the mission structure right down to the upgrade system and the way that targets are highlighted – urging you in a certain direction even though you’re free to explore in any way you like. However you play, the game provides excellent value for money. As was the case in pretty much every Assassin’s Creed game to date, even a single playthrough during which you ignore most of the side missions will last you about fifteen hours – way more if you take the time to explore.

Although familiar at first sight, the combat system is considerably deeper in Origins than it was before. I used to just get by with a little bit of button mashing, but weapon reach really matters now in terms of how close to your enemy you need to get to be effective. You can even jump out of melee combat and quickly switch to range, or vice versa. It takes a bit of practice, but the results can look spectacular. This combat ties into the character progression system that Origins employs too, making the combat more satisfying in the long run as well.

Assassin’s Creed Origins improves on the classic formula in slight ways, but the biggest draw is the new setting. Ancient Egypt is a sight to behold, both in terms of initial awe and the diversity in gameplay that it offers. Let’s hope this is a brand new start for the franchise and not the start of a new series of games that blend together after a while. Highly recommended for action adventure fans, and a must for Assassin’s Creed veterans.

Score: 8.8/10

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