There’s only a matter of weeks until we’re let loose in the enormous Ancient Egypt of Assassin’s Creed Origins with brand new hooded hero, Bayek. October 27 can’t come soon enough for everyone who has twiddled their thumb sticks for a bonus extra year waiting for a new Creed game. But the question is, was it worth it? So far, the answer is very much yes with Origins offering an incredible RPG unlike anything Assassin’s Creed has ever done before. We got hands on with just a small portion of the map and managed to cause complete chaos in a matter of minutes. Here are 11 cool things we discovered in 8 hours of Assassin’s Creed Origins.
1. You can control time
Ok, easy, Prince of Persia, not that kind of time control. While Assassin’s Creed has always had a day night cycle as you spend endless hours adventuring across rooftops, Origins lets you speed time along at the press of a button once you’ve unlocked the Dusk and Dawn skill. We are in the Animus after all and Ancient Egypt has a full 24 hour cycle, meaning the world is constantly changing. Night time means guards sleep (making it a perfect time to sneak up on them with a certain mechanical blade), nocturnal animals come out to, errr, ‘play,’ and merchants and traders wander from the marketplaces they’ve been frequenting all day. Whether a quest requires you to follow someone home after a long shift, or you just want the perfect light for yet another pyramid screenshot, this new function adds another layer to an already dangerously compelling world.
2. Everything wants to kill you
And we mean everything. Lions, hyenas, crocodiles, hippos... Origins’ Egypt is beautifully deadly. The natural predators of land and sea aren’t just eager to eat each other for breakfast, but are more than happy to take a bite or six out of you. While quests are scattered across the world, insta missions pop up when animals get too close to the inhabitants of Egypt so you might find yourself rescuing a poor farmer from a hippo that’s got a little too close for comfort or a fisherman plagued by crocs. Alternatively, you could always ride in the other direction with their screams echoing guiltily in your ears. It’s worth noting that lions in particular are utterly relentless when it comes to the chase, and it’s best to clamber onto your steed for a quick getaway or at least as a good position for firing arrows into Simba’s roaring, tooth-filled mouth. Speaking of, if you want to fire arrows five at a time…
3. Loot is Destiny levels of addictive
Unlike previous Creed games where you bought weaponry, armed yourself with the most deadly version and stuck to it for the next forty hours, Origins has an incredible selection of deadly tools for the job. This might be the earliest Creed to date in 49BCE but there are more weapons here than you can shake a very pointy stick at. Spears, maces, knives, and dual wielded short swords await. There’s even a selection of bows that would turn Lara Croft green-eyed.
Found in chests or bought from a vendor, each weapon has its own unique attributes. While these perks aren’t changeable, you might find a spear to increase bleed time or a poison tipped blade. Throw in the fact that some loot is Legendary, clearly identified in glowing purple on the gear screen, and every chest opening is another prayer to RNG-sus. There’s also the nice bonus of blacksmith upgrades if you find a weapon you like early on in the game, where you can pay Drachmas to bring your favourite toy up to level. Just like Destiny 2 though, you’re going to spend a serious amount of time in the gear screen comparing stats. Even if you don’t normally like numbers, Origins gives everything a damage per second stat that’s going to make you want to open every chest in the game.
4. There are Far Cry-style camps
Think puzzles but the moving parts are people that fire arrows at you and you know exactly what Origins’ enemy encampments have in store. One of the highlights of the Far Cry games have always been the outposts that you have to take over with stealth or brute force, and Origins has made the most of the Ubisoft family connection and added it’s own forts and buildings that you can infiltrate to score treasure. Almost all of them will have a way to sneak in or sabotage the occupying enemy, even if you might not find it until you’ve gone in all blades blazing and set the place on fire. It’s like crashing a wedding, but with way more death.
5. Egypt is full of brilliant chaos
Origins loves chaos. It bathes in it. Factions roam across the sands, hippos and lions battle it out, rebels invade camps, regular Egyptians try to exist without being mauled by hyenas, and that’s all before Bayek comes in. This feels like a world that exists quite happily without the Medjay but throw in our first Assassin and things get even more chaotic. You can of course join in the fight, or unleash wild animals from cages to add some teeth to the equation, or you could just set things on fire. Every arrow Bayek fires can be sent as a flaming version. Just stand next to a fire source as you draw your bow and things will get distinctly more exciting. There’s even a neat trick where you can bring out your pyramid-raiding torch and drop it on the ground. Hello, portable fire source. Bring in the shotgun bow and five flaming arrows will do serious damage.
6. Sailing is amazing
Luckily for us, the massive Nile (the river is 4,258 miles long, fact fans) gives the development team a chance to repeat the sailing success of Black Flag, minus the sea shanties. Sailing small, intricately detailed boats across the sun-speckled Nile feels so smooth it’s enough to make you give up the Assassin life and become a water taxi. (That DLC idea is a freebie, Ubisoft). The river has its own ecosystem of snapping crocodiles, lurking hippos and traffic, and you’ll meet impressive convoys of soldiers and innocent merchants as you travel around. Our preview confined us to a specific area, but a few side missions hinted at the chance to hunt targets down on the water, and your bow makes it easy to use a commandeered boat as a floating assassin’s perch.
7. There’s one hell of a skill tree
Assassin’s Creed has never really given you much of a choice of how to play, handing over gradual upgrades as you progress. Syndicate was the beginning of giving you an actual skill tree, but Origins serves up a veritable breakfast buffet of ways to murder your way across Ancient Egypt. Animal taming and booby trapping bodies with poison are just the beginning of what you can spend ability points on. Choose to level up your Hunter or Warrior skills and you can regenerate health while you fight, or even start combat with a half full adrenaline bar for a faster way to reach your overpower skill. If you want to swim more, you can spend points on holding your breath longer, or if you’re savvy with a bow, you can upgrade to get a slow motion bonus when you pull back an arrow. The skill tree screen is an astonishing array of new ways to play that means even though you’ll hit the level cap of 40, there will be plenty of reasons to keep unlocking those precious points.
8. Praise Ra, it’s pretty
Assassin’s Creed has always been proud of its vistas. Those synch points have been spinning 360 degrees for ten years for very good reason. Whether it’s cities or the Caribbean, the Creed has always been screenshot material. Step in the Xbox One X on processing duties and Ancient Egypt is beautiful on whole new levels.
Remember that feeling you got when Edward took to the sea in Assassin’s Creed Black Flag? As you zoomed out at top speed as your pirates sang sea shanties and the tail of a whale crashed through the waves? Now imagine that feeling with the lush riverbanks of the Nile with the pyramids waiting tantalisingly on the horizon.
Whether you’re on a boat or a camel, every swivel of the camera is screenshot material which is why it’s a good thing you can just take a grab with a press of both sticks. Better clear some space on that hard drive.
9. Combat is fast and furious
Let’s face it, Assassin’s Creed combat has never really changed. There’s been more satisfying counters - especially with Syndicate’s sword cane, mmmm, head golf - but everyone has always patiently waited around you in a circle until it’s their turn to die. Well, no more queuing. Like a self service machine of death, Origins’ combat is fast, frenetic and dangerous. Archers hang back and aim with murderous accuracy, brutes with shields require a charged attack to destroy their barricade, and, all the while, other foes charge in with swords.
What was once an exercise in QTEs has become a juggling act as you raise your shield with your left bumper, and flick between locked enemies with a press of the right stick. And you’ll constantly change your style too. Depending on your chosen weapons, you’ll have to keep your distance or get up close and personal. Throw in the aforementioned fire arrows and Origins combat is a delightful dance of death. Be warned though, too many enemies of a higher level and you’ll be canopic jar material in no time so keep an eye on the kind of foes you’re up against before charging in.
10. Arts and crafts (and hyenas)
A few hours in Origins will turn even the biggest PETA supporter into a one person abattoir, hunting down wildlife to craft upgrades for your gear. It starts out small, you just shoot a couple vultures for the feathers, do a hunting side quest for a sad looking tanner, and then boom - you’re like that dentist that went viral for killing lions. It’s Black Flag’s guilt whaling all over again, only now your eagle can act as a kind of animal kingdom double agent, letting you mark your next target on the map to make the killing all the more efficient. It’s almost a relief when you take on something, a charging hippo for instance, that grinds you into the dirt like the scumlord poacher that you are. At least you can justify that you need it all though. Everything requires leather and skins to upgrade. Want a new hidden blade? You know what you have to do. Maybe singing ‘The Circle of Life’ at the same time might help?
11. Hood news, Assassins
And just as a bonus, and settling the hood up, hood down debate for good, you can choose to have your iconic headwear on or off. A simple setting in the gear menu lets you toggle between looking like a traditional Assassin or a little less conspicuous. While covering your head would be better to avoid sunstroke in the deadly Egyptian heat, Ubi is letting you select whether you want to feel like being stealthy or not. This is clearly a response to the long debates - and even change.org petitions - where fans asked to be able to have Jacob and Evie’s hoods up while they were just wandering the streets and not specifically in stealth mode. Well this time, it turns out that everything is permitted after all.