Prior to its reveal, I got the chance to try two very different Assassin’s Creed Origins demos. The game has been in development for three and a half years, by the same team that developed Assassin’s Creed IV: Black Flag and it’s clear from the onset that the team has used the extra time to reinvent the franchise and push it in a much fresher direction.
The first demo I played let me wander around the open-world of the Faiyum region. I was told that I was playing on an Xbox One X unit and that the game would render in dynamic 4K when gamers chose to play on Xbox One X with a compatible 4K TV.Spawning into the world on my horse, it immediately felt like Assassin’s Creed but this is where the similarities ended (for the most part). The world of Origins is obviously huge. Whilst I could only explore a certain part of the map, it’s very much clear that the game is set in an entire country rather than just a few regions and cities. The scale here is much bigger than any other Assassin’s Creed game.
I began exploring the ancient ruins of Egypt and immediately discovered a vast variety of wildilfe. This is one of the biggest game-changing features about the world in this new installment. Like Far Cry and Horizon Zero Dawn, you’ll come across all kinds of wildlife. For the most part, they’re going about their everyday routine. This is until you choose to attack them.
A large portion of the animals you’ll encounter are fairly timid, but you’ll quickly come across more aggressive ones too. Hippos and Crocodiles, as an example, can easily make short work of Bayek, and they’ll not hesitate to attack you all at once either. Simply put – animals aren’t afraid to act in groups rather than individually when attacking you, so choose your targets carefully.The world of Assassin’s Creed Origins feels alive, and for me, that’s the biggest positive to take out of my hands-on with the game. Every living thing you can see or interact with feels like it has a purpose in this world. You’re able to choose when and how to attack as well. Using your scanning function, you’re able to follow your prey until they’re busy in a conversation, without their pack or even follow them until they’re asleep at night-time.
Naval combat makes a return, developed by a dedicated team at Ubisoft Singapore, who worked on the same systems and mechanics for Black Flag. While the boats themselves are pretty different from those in Black Flag, the naval combat in Origins feels just as good as Black Flag. It’s also great to see that the transition between land and boat feels seamless and intuitive.Origins also employs a revamped control scheme that places an emphasis on seamlessly transitioning between land, animals and boat. It was surprising to be able to complete master every mode of transport, including parkour, just by learning one set of buttons and commands. It sounds like a strange thing to talk about, but the movement and controls makes it one of the easiest Assassin’s Creed game to play. While I didn’t get to climb any pyramids, climbing mountains and buildings was easy and effortless.
While learning about Origins, I was surprised to discover that there was some pretty in-depth RPG elements baked into the core gameplay. Previous games, like Unity, have briefly flirted with the idea, but Origins represents a huge change for more veteran fans of the franchise. During combat, you’ll now deal numbered damage to your opponent. This can change greatly depending on which weapon you’re using as well as what kind of attack you’re using. This also plays into the fact that your opponents level up alongside you. So, once you’re battling opponents of much higher levels, it’s important to know just how much damage you’re doing.The combat in Assassin’s Creed Origin is put to the test in the brand-new Arena battles. These are literally arena battles in which you must make it through waves of opponents before beating a quite difficult boss. In terms of combat, this felt like the most strategy that’s needed to be used in an Assassin’s Creed game, you actually need you study the bosses attack and strike at the perfect time. There were many people in my demo session that were having a hard time with this.
Assassin’s Creed has always been about stealth at heart and Origins doesn’t disappoint. You’ve got a brand-new Eagle named Senu at your side. You can change to Senu by pressing up on the D-Pad and literally use him to go anywhere on the map to scout out objectives, find objects before you entry a location stealthily or even find treasure. I felt that it was being a little overused during this demo, but I was assured that you were still able to go in swords blazing if that was your preferred play style. It did make me feel like I’d actually consider playing stealthily and coming up with a plan of attack though.
Overall, Origins is the overhaul that Assassin’s Creed needed and feels like a success over games like Unity and Syndicate. The location is undoubtedly interesting and something we haven’t seen explored in the gaming universe for quite some time. It’s also clear that Ubisoft has made some genuine attempt to move the series forward and reinvent elements that needed to be reinvented.
Press Start is attending E3 2017 as a guest of Ubisoft. This does not prevent us from covering titles exhibited by other publishers, nor does it hinder us from providing honest impressions about Ubisoft’s show line-up.