What a decade it has been for the Assassin's Creed franchise. First released in 2007, the series has taken gamers through space and time. The feud between the Assassins and Templars cleverly intertwines fiction with real events, while making references to famous places and people. With every annual release, the setting changes from one point in history to another, teleporting gamers to locales in Jerusalem, France, Spain and London.
In Origins, developer Ubisoft has shifted the timeline to before the events of the first Assassin's Creed game, in ancient Egypt. You play as Bayek, a member of an elite paramilitary force during the time of the Pharaoh, Cleopatra and Julius Caesar. Bayek and his wife Aya get embroiled in events that made them the first Assassins.
Those who have played the first game may remember the Assassins having to cut off their ring finger in order to use the Hidden Blade. This discovery is presented in a mission in Origins, even though a workaround for the grisly act is uncovered in a later Assassin's Creed title. There is also a segment addressing the significance of feathers on victims, which was an important plot point in past games. Such trivia is a nod to fans with interest in the lore.
Origins also encourages you to discover new areas on the map. Other than the usual marked checkpoints that can be spotted from vantage points, there are spots that can only be unlocked upon reaching them. Despite the huge map, it does not feel burdensome travelling to and fro as you have access to various mounts such as horses and camels, as well as chariots and fast travel. Clearing the fog off the map allows you to spot treasure boxes and loot in hidden corners. The famous Eagle Vision mechanic from past titles, which lets gamers perform a radar scan, is now a literal implementation, accessible from your pet eagle that you can call on to identify targets and items of interest.
With the game's new aggressive stance, there is now more freedom in combat whereby players can lock onto or switch targets, and have more choice of weapons. The controls are reworked to allow you to lock onto a specific threat, dodge and respond with a combination of light and hard attacks. When switching between short or long weapons, their weight forces you to time your response. Once you get the hang of it, mastering the varied arsenal and landing perfect attacks is satisfying.
Progression is locked based on character level. Completing quests and performing specific actions award experience points. As you move closer to level 40, you will have access to more quests, and are able to tackle powerful adversaries and earn better loot.
PRICE: From $69.90; PS4 (the version tested), XboxOne, PC
GENRE: Action adventure
You also have to prepare for wildlife, ranging from hyenas and mountain lions, to crocodiles and hippopotamuses. Their pelts and hides can be crafted to enhance your quivers and pouches. With over 30 outfits to collect, customising your character's look and style keeps him looking fresh. You can also enjoy quiet moments petting your eagle and various stray cats.
There is no online multiplayer mode, but you can avenge a fallen online player via a side quest. While doing so brings no reward, it gives gamers a different kind of payback: In Egyptian belief, good deeds will lighten the heart and please Anubis, the god of scales.
•Nizam Mohd is a freelance writer
•Verdict: Assassin's Creed Origins refreshes the franchise with new combat and progression mechanics, set against a large, beautiful playground.