After the double trouble that was Assassin's Creed: Unity and Assassin's Creed: Syndicate, two games with design issues and technical problems (more so in Unity), coupled with franchise fatigue, Ubisoft needed Origins to mark a triumphant return for Assassin's Creed. And that's precisely what this is. Due to structural changes, several new features, and a new direction, the series has finally realised its great potential, something that it only came close to with Assassin's Creed II.
Origins' success is not detached from the choice of Ancient Egypt as the historical setting. The story takes place in 49 BCE, and it's in this type of setting that Assassin's Creed shines brightest, in particular considering everything that Ancient Egypt has to offer in terms of culture, landscape, historical figures, and locations. Visiting Alexandria, for example, complete with its library and lighthouse, is not something you can do with this level of detail anywhere else, not like this. In terms of gameplay, it's also in this context that the game feels at home, with swords, spears, and bows.
Assassin's Creed Origins goes further back in time than any other game in the series, and as the name suggests it focuses on the origins of the assassin's brotherhood. That is the broad arc of the story, although, on a more intimate level, this is a story about the life of Bayek, a fictional character created for the game. Bayek is our second favourite protagonist in the series, second only to Ezio Auditore. He is a man with a strong personality, fueled by raw emotion, something that shows as passion for those he loves, as well as fury towards those he hates. To some extent, Origins is also a story about revenge, although it eventually grows into something bigger.
During your long journey across Egypt you will meet countless characters, even if the main narrative is focused on a fairly contained group. Bayek's soulmate, Aya, is an equally strong and driven character, but he also interacts with historical figures such as Cleopatra. There are a few historical events portrayed here, although it's mixed with the inevitable fiction associated with the Assassin's Creed universe. The Precursors and their powerful technology are once again part of the narrative, as is the present day and the Animus, but don't worry, you won't be leaving Egypt for any extended periods of time.
Assassin's Creed Origins is brilliant on many levels, but nothing is quite as impressive as its game world. This is the largest map Ubisoft has ever created for an Assassin's Creed game, even considering Black Flag and its vast ocean. A fair chunk of the map includes rivers, lakes, and deserts, but even those are worth exploring, as they hide tombs and pyramids, caves, and submerged ruins. There are also large cities such as Alexandria and Memphis, as well as several smaller villages and towns.
Besides being a technical and architectural wonder, the world of Assassin's Creed Origins is also impressive thanks to all the elements that breathe life into it. From countless citizens strolling around towns and cities doing their business, to a wide variety of animals (watch out for crocodiles and hippos!), this is an organic world that works beyond the player's interaction or presence. You will find remnants of battles that happened before you passed, from villagers attacked by crocodiles to bandits who crossed paths with guards, all in an organic fashion, something fellow Ubisoft franchise Far Cry has done brilliantly before. The world of Assassin's Creed Origins is a triumph of virtual architecture, artificial intelligence cycles, and dynamic systems, all working together.
While promoting Assassin's Creed Origins, Ubisoft made it clear that it was no longer an action-adventure game, but rather an action-RPG. The result is a game that feels like a cross between The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt and Watch Dogs 2, wrapped in the Assassin's Creed setting and context. It's a profound change to the series, on many levels. Structurally, for instance, Origins works a lot like The Witcher 3.
Each location has several quest-lines to follow, with simple or elaborate plots. Some, like helping a priest steal from guards and then escape the city, are rather straightforward, while others have multiple layers, like investigating a murder that ends up in a chase across Egypt for a cultist serial killer, or starting a mission recovering a lost wagon, only to end up in a underground tomb uncovering the connection between human sacrifices, an angry goddess, and a city buried in sand. There are a lot of missions, and although the design of the missions themselves is crucial, of course, proper context should never be underestimated. There are even investigative missions where you search for clues, in a similar fashion to what Geralt did in The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt.
Another element that transforms Assassin's Creed Origins into an RPG is the player and enemy levels. Similarly to Syndicate, the level of the player in regard to the opponent is a massive factor, and if you decide to face a character several levels above yours, be prepared to suffer a one-shot death. Completing quests is the fastest way to gain experience and level up, but all actions contribute, from eliminating camp captains to finding treasures among ruins and discovering locations.