Assassin’s Creed Origins Review

Time travel has always been an idea that has stoked my interest and fantasies. Tearing through the time-space continuum to get from Point A to Point B is a kind of dream that, if realized, could save society a lot of time and gas money on frequent post-midnight snack runs to Taco Bell. In Assassin’s Creed Origins, however, the method of transportation isn’t so much a means of travel as a means of escape. You play as Bayek, a guardian in Ancient Egypt, and you are surrounded by historical places and figures. You are a badass (note: in easy mode).

Within my first few hours with the game it became abundantly clear that Ubisoft’s year-long hiatus from working on the Assassin’s Creed franchise paid off big time. The combat system, though at times messy, is a cry beyond traditional hack-and-slash M.O.’s of prior Assassin’s Creed games. The combat system now requires a bit of skill and hand-eye-coordination, offering more variety than the tapping-one-button-in-as-fast-a-cadence-as-you-can-muster of days past. Furthermore, the main character can now level up, which is only one part of Ubisoft’s welcome decision to incorporate RPG elements into Assassin’s Creed: Origins. I love the skill tree, the skill points, the armor, and the weaponry, but above all I’m in awe of the setting.

The landscape is gorgeous and the developers seem to have infused its beauty with a bit of the honesty and the kind of genuine imperfection that you’d expect to find in an ancient civilization. On the Playstation 4 Pro, in 4K with HDR, the textures are detailed and colors are vibrant. More importantly, the world feels alive: sandstorms approach at any moment, roving bandits will attack if you give them a reason, and left to their own devices NPCs and animals alike interact naturally, including performing their roles as predators or prey.

As for the storyline, I always felt like Ubisoft skirted the line between adult and child’s game. The storylines were in-depth and great, but the villains were never quite brutal. The circumstances surrounding their heroes were vanilla enough to not quite warrant a full analysis of the human condition, as if they contributed more to the fantasy than the connection with the player. In Assassin’s Creed Origins, Ubisoft seemingly parts with this motif. The storyline goes down dark alleys, pathways, and synaptic gaps with a raw telling of Bayek and the world he inhabits. In the first few moments of the game this raw-ness becomes blatant when we are introduced to Bayek and his quest for vengeance, especially when we watch him take out wrongdoers and cross out their names with a knife on his upper arm’s flesh. Assassin’s Creed has always displayed this kind of poetic symbolism, it’s something we expect from the franchise, but Assasin’s Creed Origins takes this trope to a much rawer place.

I play the game on the PS4 Pro, and it generally performs at a solid 30 frames-per-seccond with little stuttering. It is optimized quite well, and the only real bugs I’ve encountered involve getting stuck in strange places on my mount. In large cities such as Alexandria and Memphis, frame rate drops are frequent, but this is to be expected and isn’t really enough to pull you out of Ancient Egypt and into the forums. What might, however, is the way this game performs on the usually superior PC. On a PC with a GTX 980 graphics card and an i5 4690k CPU, the game stutters and tears often and I found that all cores lit up to 100% while playing the, causing my system to get quite hot. On a different PC with a GTX 1070 graphics card and an i5 4690k CPU, the game deteriorates to an unplayable level. It launches fine, and plays beautifully for only a couple of minutes before it starts to stutter and crawl to a near 10-20 frames per second. Strange. Word on the street is that this is because of Ubisoft’s decision to use multiple kinds of DRM, two of which are responsible for 40% of the game’s CPU usage. If you’re like me, you’ll read these problems as a challenge, but if you’re thinking about trying to solve them, I strongly suggest that you learn from my lesson and steer clear. My six hours of troubleshooting resulted in a denied request for a refund from Steam Support, so I had to purchase a second copy for the PS4 to even get a playable one.

Aside from these few hiccups, I can honestly say that Assassin’s Creed Origins is a fantastic game that I’ve thoroughly enjoyed playing. If you’re into RPG’s, historical fiction, and parkour–even if you’re not into Assassin’s Creed games–I highly suggest giving it a shot.

Assassin’s Creed Origins is available for the XBOX ONE, PS4, and PC.