Assassin’s Creed Origins preview

After taking the franchise back to the drawing board, Ubisoft’s upcoming Assassin’s Creed Origins promises to reinvent the series with improved combat, more engaging missions and an incredible open world environment: Ancient Egypt.

But has Ubisoft done enough to tempt gamers back and cement Origins’ place as one of the best games of 2017? We’ve spent four hours playing Assassin’s Creed Origins at a preview event, and here’s what we think so far.

Assassin’s Creed Origins: UK release date and pricing

Assassins’s Creed Origins is set to be released on 27 October 2016 in the UK and will be available to buy not only on PS4 and Xbox One (with support for PS4 Pro and Microsoft’s new Xbox One X) but also PC.

Those interested in pre-ordering the game can do so from Amazon; the standard game will set Xbox One and PS4 users back £54.99/$59.99, while a Gold version of the game with extra features is available for £79.99/$109.99.

PC users can also pre-order a digital copy of the game via Amazon for £44.99/$59.99 for the standard game and £74.99/$99.99 for the Gold edition. Naturally, all these prices will likely shift around between now and launch.

If you want to get into the serious special editions, the place to head is the official Ubisoft store. There'll you'll be able to pre-order the game's StandardDeluxe, and Gold editions, along with the limited God'sDawn of the Creed, and Dawn of the Creed Legendary editions - the latter of which costs a frankly ridiculous £699/$799.

Assassin’s Creed Origins preview

Assassin’s Creed Origins takes gamers back to the year 49BCE to follow the events surrounding a Medjay named Bayek and an epic part of the Assassin’s Creed story; the birth of the Brotherhood. The story focuses on the troubles of Bayek and his wife, and the events that take place forge the future of the Brotherhood.

The game also sheds some light on the beginnings of the Templar Order, or the ‘Order of the Ancients’ as they’re known as in Origins. While Bayek and the Brotherhood fight for peace by promoting freedom and liberty, the cabal known as the Order of the Ancients desire peace through the forceful imposition of order.

It’s the perfect environment for an Assassin’s Creed title, offering a wide and varied open world to explore and many mysteries to uncover. But what makes Origins so different from the host of titles that came before it?

Ubisoft claims that Origins re-invents the Assassin’s Creed franchise with reworked mechanics that breaths fresh air into the aging series – and for the most part, we agree.

First up, you’ve got the overhauled combat system, arguably the biggest criticism in earlier Assassin’s Creed titles. Historically, groups of NPCs (non-player characters) that want to attack you would ‘wait until their turn’ because the system only really supported one-on-one combat. It wasn’t realistic, and broke the immersion of the game.

That is a thing of the past in Origins. Although it took a little getting used to (especially parrying), the new combat system allows for much more freedom and creativity, and allows you to skilfully take on multiple enemies at once. You can block and parry using your weapon (of which you have several types to choose from) and shield, before landing a series of light- and heavy blows that’ll take care of even the biggest of enemies.

It relies on a hit-box system rather than a paired animation system used in previous games. This essentially means that gamers can strike at whatever is in range at any given time and cause damage to individual body part, allowing the NPC to retaliate in a more natural way. It’s more fluid and natural, and is possibly the biggest improvement of the entire game.

It doesn’t make combat easy though – there’s still an element of skill and timing required to successfully take down a group of enemies, forcing players to consider stealthier routes. But, now at least, you can fight your way out of a large group when the situation does arise.  

There’s also a wide-branching skill tree that you upgrade throughout the game, giving you access to advanced combat and exploration skills and providing a way to enhance your personal style of combat.

Free running has also had an upgrade in Origins, as it’s not as easy as it has been in other games but it does feel more natural than ever. When free-running, you have to be a bit smarter about how you approach a wall/obstacle as you won’t always automatically grab the ledge – sometimes you’ll take the leap of faith and miss.

You’ve also got to be more observant of surfaces and ledges that you can climb on, as climbable surfaces aren’t as easy to spot in Origins. This forces you to look out for things like small crevices on the side of pyramids or jagged areas of rock on the side of a cliff that may be the only way to reach your objective.

Eagle Vision is no longer present in Assassin’s Creed Origins. Instead, you’ll have an eagle companion that you can use at any time. It replaces many of the features of the old Eagle Vision mode, allowing you to scout not only enemies but objectives and other objects of interest (treasure, skins, etc) and plan a potential attack.

The eagle can also be used when exploring the open world on horseback, allowing you to get a wider view of the area and anticipate any incoming danger you come across while on your travels.

Speaking of the open world, it’s much more detailed and alive than previous AC titles. There are no loading screens at all when exploring, as far as we can tell, and the attention to detail is incredible.

Take the NPCs for example; they’re more intelligent than ever. Ubisoft has programmed every NPC in Origins with a ‘purpose’ – a will to do things and make the world feel more alive. Some NPCs may want to shop at the local bazar, while crocodiles will attack hippos (and sometimes people!) if they wander too near.

The nature of the NPC design means that unscripted events can naturally occur when you’re in the area. A nearby crocodile may attack a guard standing outside a camp you’re infiltrating, or it could be that local allies need back-up against both humans and animals. The world is alive around you, and makes you feel like anything can happen while exploring.

Side quests can be found throughout Ancient Egypt, and thankfully, they’re much more in-depth and engaging than in previous games. Wandering through the desert, we took on a side quest that took us across the open world (or at least the area we had access to during our preview) and was comprised of multiple elements – stealth, combat and planning.

The story itself was interesting enough to spur us on, and the fact that it was so varied encouraged us to take on others that we found. It’s a great way to see some of the amazing areas in Origins, if nothing else.

Assassin’s Creed Origins looks to be the most in-depth and satisfying title in the Assassin’s Creed series, and we cannot wait to delve in and see what the open world game offers.

OUR VERDICT

Assassin’s Creed Origins looks to be the most in-depth and satisfying title in the Assassin’s Creed series, and we cannot wait to delve in and see what the open world game offers. But, until we've spent some more time playing, we'll reserve our final verdict.