Assassin’s Creed Origins has its work cut out.
After a lukewarm response to Unity and Syndicate, Ubisoft has gone back to the drawing board to develop the most ambitious entry to the series yet.
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Set in Egypt during the Ptolemaic period, you play Bayek, a young, agile assassin who becomes Caesar’s blade for hire.
Here’s why it’s the best AC game for years.
Origins is being teed up as one of the games to show off the Xbox One X’s grunt – and it’s not hard to see why.
The world is stunning to look at – and is teeming with intricate details, from underwater caverns to secret tombs hidden in pyramids.
Just like in The Witcher 3, NPCs have a sense of purpose rather than just randomly ambling around.
Townspeople wade through rivers, kids play fight in the street, wild dogs take shade near their masters – it makes Ubisoft’s Ghost Recon: Wildlands’ world look comparatively lifeless.
But it’s not just in the built-up areas where Origins impresses.
Wander away from the hustle and bustle and there’s an entire ecosystem of flora and fauna.
Vultures circle in the sky above the barren deserts, hippos and crocodiles patrol deeper waters while wild buffalo graze in the shallow pools.
Thankfully, animation is just as impressive.
The AC games have always championed seamless free-running and Origins gets it right once more.
Bayek moves convincingly, whether he’s blending in with a crowd to escape the guards or clambering up a ship’s mast.
Speaking of which…
There are so many boats
Everywhere you look there’s some sort of boat – whether it’s primitive ‘canoes’ wading through narrow streams or huge ‘destroyers’ moored up by the coastline.
All of them can be boarded, and most can be sailed.
Unsurprisingly, they handle very similarly to the vessels Black Flag – after all, if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.
As you paddle out further, dangerous animals may start attacking you – which causes damage to your ship.
Luckily, you’re able to jump off and explore at any time.
The underwater areas have been given just as much detail as you’d hope, so expect to find some hidden treasure if you look hard enough.
Combat has been overhauled
One of the biggest changes is combat – which has always been traditionally ‘passive’.
Rather than launching attacks at enemies, it placed far more emphasis on timing and countering.
The onus is now much more on aggressive, chained combos via a hit-box system. This means you’re now able to injure individual body parts and strike multiple enemies.
The trademark ‘hidden blade’ returns for stealth kills, joined with a much less subtle array of clubs, swords and knives.
Some weapons can be ignited, while grass and buildings can be set on fire, too.
For the more stealthily-minded among you, sleep darts and a bow and arrow lets you take down enemies quietly from distance.
Should you get in a jam, the brilliant ‘shotgun bow’ – which sees Bayek shoot four arrows at once – is a devastating way to bring down bigger foes.
Play areas have been designed to cater to both stealth and open-combat, meaning you won’t be punished should you prefer a particular approach.
Luckily, you won’t be trying to save the world all by yourself. Bayek has an eagle that can be used to scout certain areas.
The bird soars high and marks targets below, as well as revealing the best points of attack and insertion.
Should things get too hectic, it’ll even fly down and start harassing attacking enemies.
Later on in the game you’ll be able to tame various predators, Far Cry: Primal style, which can be used to wreck havoc.
AC is well and truly back.
Assassin’s Creed: Origins lands is out on Xbox One, PS4 and PC now.
Speaking of which…
To celebrate the launch of the game, Ubisoft unveiled a ‘one of a kind’ machine-crafted Sarcophagus, inspired by the Egyptian pharaoh of the 18th dynasty, Tutankhamun.
The 3D replica model has been crafted with cutting-edge pre-programmed modelling science.
Tom Goldberger, Senior PR Manager at Ubisoft UK said: “As a publisher at the heart of the latest technological advancements in the videogames industry, we really wanted to showcase another innovative technology, alongside one of the most powerful images associated with Ancient Egypt – our new in-game setting for Assassin’s Creed Origins. The final result is a stunning replica of a Sarcophagus, while adding a fun, gaming twist to the famous design.”