Assassin’s Creed Origins – A WELCOME CHANGE?
Rumored to have been titled ‘Empires’, the much awaited next iteration of the Assassin’s Creed franchise finally hit the biggest of stages at E3, titled Assassin’s Creed: Origins. Helmed by Ashraf Ismail (who also directed Assassin’s Creed: Black Flag), the franchise’s new location sees the protagonist and the players journey to Egypt, in an era that predates even the very first Assassin’s Creed game. The trailers show off dusty, rocky deserts, lush cities and yet another slew of walls to climb, enemies to stab and artefacts to discover.
The Assassin’s Creed games are an excellent, albeit exaggerated form of historical tourism. In playing these games, we’ve walked through the crowded and volatile streets of Paris, the fog-heavy rainy nights of London, the sand-caked streets of Havana and so much more. Yet, while the atmosphere and tone have been given enough and more care, many have argued that the gameplay has remained the same, with innovations in the core mechanics few and far between.
This is exactly why Assassin’s Creed: Origins has turned heads at E3 among both fans and critics alike. The changes are apparent right away, from the very first gameplay still: The Mini-Map has been removed, replaced instead with a compass à la Skyrim. This, of course, means that the player only has a general indication of where to go, and not have waypoints and paths chalked out for them. The developers claim that it would encourage looking at the screen and the actual environment more, and sidestep the common Open-World-Game trend of staring at the mini-map for the most part.
While this seems like a great move on the off, how successful this change will be depends on the level-design. The system encouraged exploration in the open world in a game like Skyrim, but it certainly made dungeons a little more frustrating. (Don’t tell me you’ve never backtracked unknowingly in a Skyrim dungeon!) The HUD also immediately looks a lot cleaner, which is saying something, because it was almost an AC staple to have a cluttered screen.
Cosmetic changes aside, what will stand out most to AC fans is the new combat system. While general response so far has been divided between ‘I want to be able to feel powerful, taking down waves with ease’ and ‘this new system feels much slower and challenging’, it brings us to the central point of this article: The change. Was it necessary?
Assassin’s Creed has seen eight major titles. While each new game garners new fans, roping in new audiences, chances are that the majority of the players purchasing the latest game are the returning fans. And these fans have played with almost the same underlying combat mechanics and mission design. (Outliers, of course, are Unity and Syndicate’s slightly different takes on combat)
Origins’ combat system seems to have diverged from being a variant of the Batman games’ counter-reliant combat, and moved into a slower, more rhythmic style reminiscent of the Witcher and Souls games. The gameplay shows off the use of what seems like a dodge mechanic, a move that is entirely new to AC. It is yet to be seen whether this higher emphasis on timing and slower pace will bolster the game, as it can quickly become tedious too.
Yet, this change was necessary. Yes, a portion of the fan-base might not take kindly to this. But on the other hand, as gamers, innovation is what we want to see. Especially when a franchise is eight games old! It wouldn’t be harsh to say the AC games have been parched of this kind of innovation.
It’s a bold move to shake up a core-mechanic such as the combat in a popular series, but when it’s an increase in depth, or the addition of new facets to the same, the move has to be appreciated. Now that doesn’t mean it has to be loved. Suffice to say it could be a total disaster. But it stands that a big change was attempted at the very least, and that, on its own merits praise.
Bayek is seen armed in combat with a Khopesh Sword
Other changes include new additions to the character upgrade system, infusing a more RPG-like flavor into the gameplay. Whether or not it will result in largely different playstyles and a number of ways to play the game is yet to be seen. These changes, along with the changes to combat, the HUD and a new ‘Eagle’ Vision (No, you literally have a pet eagle, that serves as the mechanism to view the surroundings at a higher height and detail!) indicate that Ubisoft are pushing this new direction, and this new take on one of their most popular franchises. Will it be successful? Will it break new ground with its changes? Only time will tell, but at the very least, Assassin’s Creed: Origins will be remembered as the AC game that tried.