E3 Third Party Previews

Assassin’s Creed Origins is a Refreshing Return to the Series – Hands-on Preview

Assassin’s Creed Origins was one of the biggest surprises at this years E3. We got to see it in action for the first time during the Microsoft press conference and it looked absolutely stunning. However, people were still skeptical, wondering if this game would repeat the same formula that players have come to expect from Assassin’s Creed games. During the week of E3, we were given the opportunity to get hands on with the game, and we can confirm that after a 2 year hiatus, Assassin’s Creed Origins feels fresh.

The demo gave us access to one mission as well as a region of Ancient Egypt that we could explore at will. We also had the option to enter a gladiator battle mode. The mission begins when you come across a priest beating a young slave. When you confront the priest about beating his slave he claims that the slave stole two of his golden statues and wrecked a ship. Bayek – the character you control – offers to investigate and see if he can reclaim the golden statues.

Being that Assassin’s Creed Origins is set a thousand years prior to any of the other games, Bayek isn’t equipped with any of the fancy abilities that our favorite assassins were able to utilize. This means that the eagle vision that you’re used to isn’t an option here. Instead, you literally fly an eagle that is able to scout the area for you and allows you to mark enemies and points of interest. Using the eagle gave us the location of the golden statues, as well as everyone guarding the area.

Assassin's Creed Origins screenshot

One of the statues was underwater so it required some swimming. On the approach to the area I was able to hop onto a small row boat and borrow it from its owner; this allowed me to taxi myself right to the location of the underwater statue. When I dived in, swimming felt much more organic than it ever has in Assassin’s Creed. Swimming is a mechanic that you likely won’t spend much time with, so it just needs to be simple and fulfill its purpose; and that’s exactly what it does.

After grabbing the underwater statue, it was now time to grab the second statue that happened to be on a fully guarded ship. I borrowed another row boat and climbed up the side of the ship, stalking the enemy sentries. One of my gripes with the previous Assassin’s Creed games was that the stealth element was weak to the point it was too easy to botch sneaking around. Origins felt organic. I watched the enemy’s routines, anticipated my chance to run and snatch and took my chance. I managed to grab the statue without any botch in movement or any A.I hiccups getting in the way.

Upon returning the statue to the priest he becomes unreasonable and wants to kill his slave. It’s up to you whether to defend him or not, but of course, I chose to defend him. This led to a brawl between Bayek, the priest and his henchmen. One thing I noticed is that when you’re surrounded, your enemies don’t just stand around waiting for you to engage them. They will equally try to assault you from all angles, meaning that you have to make good use of your dodge and parrying. These actions are now assigned to the X and A buttons (X/Square to dodge, A/X to parry). While I was occupied with the henchmen, the priest unfortunately made a run for it and escaped being slaughtered by my hands; but I was still able to successfully complete the mission, perhaps without 100% of the rewards I would have gained had I slayed the priest too.

Assassin's Creed Origins screenshot in the dark

The demo also featured a Gladiator Arena mode that allowed us to take on waves of enemies back to back, followed by a powerful boss. It’s a compliment to the game’s improved combat mechanics to say that the gladiator battles were fun to play. In the arena there are a number of spiked poles and environmental hazards that you must also be mindful of while dodging and attacking your enemies. Slaying the common enemies was quite easy, but facing up against the boss (who had multiple health bars) required more focus and calculated movements to win the bout.

All in all, after the two year gap, this new Assassin’s Creed felt like a wonderful reunion with a series we care about. It felt fresh and gave us the feeling that we had much more to look forward to that we have yet to experience in any Assassin’s Creed game. The fact that this game is set before the Assassin’s guild was even in place means that Ubisoft can push the bar with the level experimentation without hurting too much of what has become cannon.

For more details on our experience with Assassin’s Creed Origins, watch our video discussion above.