Thanks to a great story and protagonist, Assassin’s Creed Origins is a very enjoyable game, despite how frustrating it can get.

I killed a man. Technically, I killed dozens of people since I’ve been playing Assassin’s Creed Origins for a few days now. However, this particular death stuck with me.

I accidentally ran the man over as I was trying to maneuver a wagon full of stolen food I was bringing back to the local temple. “Medjay are supposed to protect the innocent”, flashed a warning across the screen. Yeah, well… maybe if driving the damn thing wasn’t a hot frustrating mess, that man would still be alive.

Getting around the world of Assassin’s Creed Origins is a pain. Whether it’s by horse, chariot or boat, I always find myself groaning in either boredom or frustration. That’s when I’m not cursing out the many gods that call Ancient Egypt home.

Assassin's Creed Origins review

The sole exception is traveling by foot. Ubisoft has finally solved one of the series biggest problems – climbing on stuff. They solved it by both lowering the height of buildings, so climbing them doesn’t take forever, and by allowing you to climb pretty much anything. You can scale sheer cliffs with relative ease, so you never feel stuck or slowed down when exploring the world.

However, the world is so big, you don’t have a choice but to use a horse or a chariot to get around. I’ve been playing the game for 3 days, and I’ve seen a little less than a quarter of the map. Ancient Egypt is a huge place, and you’ll have to go vast distances from one area to the next on horseback (or camelback). You can even set your horse to “auto-pilot”, so it will stick to the roads and ride to the next mission marker. That means you get to put the controller down and just watch the game play itself.

I get why they included that option – riding through a semi-empty desert can get quite monotonous, and you could fast-travel anywhere, you might miss a few cool points of interest along the way. Still, it does seem like the developers realized just how boring and tedious moving through the world can be, so they decided on a sort of compromise for those who just want to get to the next story mission quickly.

Assassin's Creed Origins review Bayek and Aya

Getting to the next story mission is something you’d probably want to do, since so far it’s the most interesting part of Origins. It revolves around a quest for revenge that somehow evolves into the formation of the Assassin Brotherhood. Early on you can already see how many of the ceremonies and traditions of the Brotherhood came to be. That’s really cool, especially for long-time fans of the series.

One of my favorite parts of the story is the protagonist, Bayek. He is a compelling character, with believable motives and a deep personal story. He’s also the first AC protagonist that feels like an actual assassin since Ezio. It’s mostly felt during the “after assassination” scenes, which are now these grand dream-like sequences where Bayek essentially sends his victims to the afterlife. These are probably my favorite moments in the game.

Personally, I found the story of Bayek to be far more interesting than the whole “origin of the assassins”. To tell you the truth, the Origins part of Assassin’s Creed Origins ends up feeling a little forced. There’s little to no build-up towards the formation of the Brotherhood, and it just sort of… happens. It’s possible Ubisoft is planning to expand on it in an upcoming DLC, as Ubisoft tends to do, but for now I was left unsatisfied. Still, the story is by far the most compelling one any AC game had for years.

While the story missions mostly focus on Bayek’s personal story, it’s the side missions that help flesh out this version of Ancient Egypt. The things they have you do aren’t always thrilling or interesting, but they always teach you a little bit more about the world and the players in it. For example, in one side mission you learn why a certain city was abandoned and left for the desert to reclaim it. While it’s not really crucial to Bayek’s story, it’s a neat little world-building tidbit, and open world games thrive on those.

Assassin's Creed Origins review open world

But let’s move on to the new combat system. It is… well… it is different. Parts of it are really nice, like the new bows and how they suit both stealth-based and action gameplay. Other parts are a little more annoying, like how the camera can’t handle a fight in a small place. In general, combat is way more difficult than in any other game in the series, which is a good thing. You can no longer breeze through it by countering or throwing enemies off rooftops. You need to keep moving, choose which enemy to take down first, and adjust your style depending on the kind of enemy you’re fighting.

Both Bayek and the enemies he faces now have levels. You deal extra damage to enemies with a lower level than you, and high-level enemies can tear you to shreds in 3 blows while you chip away at their health. It’s a system taken straight out of any modern RPG you ever played, and I don’t think it has a place in an Assassin’s Creed game. Assassin’s Creed, for me, is all about freedom, and having areas on the map I can’t go to because I’ll be dead the second a guard spots me, limits that freedom.

Of course, it ties into the weapons and progression, which are both great, but I still don’t think Assassin’s Creed Origins needs it. However, the way the story unfolds naturally leads you through the world, so if you follow the story you probably wouldn’t feel like that freedom is taken away from you. And the desert setting is kind of a natural deterrent against wandering to far off course, which is both a good and a bad thing.

Assassin's Creed Origins review bow combat

But my strongest impression of Assassin’s Creed Origins so far is how similar to The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt it is. It feels like Ubisoft saw how successful The Witcher 3 was, and told the developers to just “do that”. It explains the new combat system, the way to summon and ride your mount (I find myself calling it Roach without even noticing it), and the renewed emphasis on story and missions. There are also subtler similarities, like how you can meditate to shift between night and day.

Even with all the frustration involved in exploring its world, I find myself enjoying the game. There’s a lot of missed opportunities and things the game could have done better, but Ubisoft is definitely on the right track to bringing the series back to its glory days. The new combat system improves the AC formula, and the story and world-building are nothing short than excellent. And as I said – the game is fun to play, and that’s really what matters most.

Origins is still very much Assassin’s Creed, but it leans heavily towards the Action RPG genre, rather than Action Adventure. This is a natural course of the series to take, both because of the popularity of open-world RPGs, and the new emphasis of story and better quest structure. If you’re fan, you’ll definitely like Assassin’s Creed Origins; perhaps even love it. But if you’re still suffering from Assassin’s Creed fatigue, even 3 years after Syndicate, Origins isn’t exactly the breath of fresh air you need.

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