Set in the middle of the pyramids, oases, and cultural upheaval of Ancient Egypt, Assassin’s Creed Origins is the first one in the franchise to happen earlier than its predecessors.
Combat, exploration, and the way the missions are structured all have been overhauled and reinvented. This creates an experience that is representing a new beginning for the series. Assassin’s Creed Origins is a world of strange technologies, it also has a dose of mystery and freedom.
We now learned what is in store when Assassin’s Creed Origins will be released for the launch of Xbox One x and on Oct. 27 for Xbox One, PS4, PS4 Pro and PC.
Ashraf Ismail, the game director for Assassin’s Creed Origins, has some experience with creating massive worlds, and previously led the development of Assassin’s Creed IV: Black Flag and the Caribbean seascape. This knowledge that he and his team had used it to build a recreation of Ancient Egypt, filled with different landscapes and limitless activities to pursue.
“We have the capacity, from a technological standpoint, to create a massive countryside,” says Ismail. “It’s not a city, it’s a whole country with many cities, many villages, many exotic landscapes.”“We know that people, when they think Egypt, they think desert,” says Jean Guesdon, the game’s creative director. “But Egypt is way more than that. You have the Nile Delta, you have the Nile River, you have tons of Oases. So when you mix all that, from the green, lush fauna of the Nile Delta to the oasis of Faiyum, it’s the perfect playground.”
“We know that people, when they think Egypt, they think desert,” says Jean Guesdon, the game’s creative director. “But Egypt is way more than that. You have the Nile Delta, you have the Nile River, you have tons of Oases. So when you mix all that, from the green, lush fauna of the Nile Delta to the oasis of Faiyum, it’s the perfect playground.”
The Faiyum region is a little part of the world, and the E3 demo is set in a smaller part of Faiyum. The small part we had access to was vast and diverse. It was the place where the desert cliffs give acres of carefully irrigated farmland. In it are set the opulent temples and mysterious Egyptian ruins, all grouped around the enormous Lake Moeris. It is a place where you can get lost for hours to uncover the secrets, crossing swords with mercenaries, and deadly wildlife.
We got introduced to Bayek of Siwa, the last one of an Egyptian military order. The beginning of the E3 demo is Bayek on horseback, riding along a desert pathway surrounded by cliffs and dune-covered hills. Following the path ahead is leading the viewers to a sweeping view of Lake Moeris and the surrounding towns. There are two pharaonic statues are set over the entrance to the valley.
They are the relics of an ancient culture that is slowly fading under the Ptolemies, a Greek dynasty that has been occupied and ruled over by others.
“Egyptian history spans thousands of years,” says Maxime Durand, the development team’s resident historian. “Egypt’s civilization began about 3,000 years before the game’s era, and Ptolemaic Egypt is this period of about 300 years.”
On the south of Moeris is located Euhemeria, a stately villa surrounded by weathered, poor-looking dwellings that are poorer the closer we go to the docks. Going by the roads out of the town center, we are led past the market stalls and into the farmlands of Dionysias, where a big piece of land are the farms and straw huts that make a strong contrast against the Greek pavilions and a huge stone temple that is dedicated to the crocodile god Sobek.
“The NPCs of the world have full schedules, day and night,” says Ismail. “The NPCs are living a life in this world which includes working, sleeping, socializing, eating, peeing, and so on. Farmers farm, priests run rituals and prayers, bandits ambush and steal, Ptolemaic guards patrol, defend, transport and so on. All of this is based on their day/night cycle, and as you learn more about the world and the specific characters you meet, you can play with where to meet them, assassinate, attack, steal, infiltrate, and so on.”
Going beyond Dionysias, there is a desert, where the goats roam among the hyenas, cobras and camel-riding bandits. There are hidden civilizations, and as well hard to find points of interest that hold a unique allure for Bayek.
But the Viewpoints are dotted across the map, waiting for us to climb them. Even though their functionality is different from the previous games. They are not necessary for revealing the map.
If fast travel is too fast for you, Bayek can get quickly using horses, camels and chariots, which can be bought from stables and summoned every time you whistle. These though, do not need your constant input to get around. If you like your mount to move on autopilot, you can command it to follow the road and then nudge it when you reach a fork. The stables are one type out of the four types of shops. You will be able to visit blacksmiths for an updated selection of weapons and shields.
The real thing of Faiyum is Lake Moeris. Its shores are sprinkled with feluccas, tiny fishing vessels that blaze across the lake at high speeds. If you are stuck swimming in the middle of the lake, the fishermen can steer their feluccas out to you. The larger vessels that patrol the lake are less friendly, crewed with mercenaries who could ram your boat to pieces before they spot you and open fire.
To find what makes Moeris that special, you need to dive under the calm surface. Assassin’s Creed Origins seamlessly integrates underwater exploration with the rest of its world, , which lets you dive wrecks and underwater ruins to search. You can find a sunken Temple of Pnepheros, that is marked by a Sobek stat and a shipwreck that contains golden treasures. Both of them are great opportunity to use Bayek’s Animus Pulse ability, a wave that highlights items and other points of interest.
When you are going for a swim, or diving, wildlife is a concern. Moeris is a home to hippos and crocodiles, both of them could attack fishing boats, each other, and you. But fortunately, Bayek is more than a match for them.
Bayek is a man who possesses abilities, unlike any Assassin. Crucial among these is his approach to battle, where previous Assassin’s Creed fights revolved around the small crowds with a system of instant-kill counters. Bayer’s tactics are direct and aggressive. His approach consists of combo strikes, dodges and deflections. He can annihilate foes from distance with ranged weapons.
Enemies will coordinate in different ways, landing in or firing arrows while you get busy with slashing their comrades. Bayek has the ability to block attacks with his shields as long as you are standing still.
It can also be used to knock enemies off-balance with an unlockable parry to move.
“The philosophy around the combat is different, but so are the controls,” says Ashraf Ismail. “The default controls propose a very different experience compared to previous Assassin’s Creeds, but fit very well with the new combat system. For people who really miss the legacy controls, we will have options to change the default. Otherwise, in terms of gameplay, it is really about learning each weapon and how they behave – because there is a lot of depth there – and also paying attention to the weapons wielded by enemies, as this will dictate their behavior.”Bayek can also unleash flurries of light attack that are powerful enough to the down most weaker enemies, and the slower, heavier strikes can knock shields and stagger foes.
Bayek can also unleash flurries of light attack that are powerful enough to the down most weaker enemies, and the slower, heavier strikes can knock shields and stagger foes.
Bayek also has an adrenaline gauge at the bottom of the screen that is building up during combat. Depending on the weapon, filling it can let you unleash a defense-smashing overpower attack that is enough to kill most enemies, or a frenzy that makes Bayek stronger and more resistant to damage.
“The fun aspect of this is that you can use one weapon to build your adrenaline quickly, switch to another weapon, and unleash the Overpower action,” says Ismail. “This allows for some fun pairing of melee weapons.”
Bayek had a bronze khopesh, a sickle-like Egyptian sword, as well as an iron spear that offers destructive power for reach. The new weapons of many rarities are tossed around the open world, and can also be seen in mercenary camps. The full list of weapon categories consists of regular swords, sickle swords, dual blades, heavy clubs, heavy blades, scepters, and spears.
“Some weapons are more effective against certain enemies,” says Ismail. “For example, with shielded enemies, it is better to use heavy weapons, as they break a shield defense more efficiently. But for enemies that dodge quickly, landing a hit with a heavy weapon is very difficult. Having a weapon with range is more efficient for those enemies.”
If you do not want to go toe-to-toe with your enemies, there are new bow types that are in abundant supply all around the world. The standard hunter’s bow is more or less what you might expect, an accurate weapon that will let you draw back and fire arrows into distant, unsuspecting foes. Bayek can also build a huge collection of bows with different functions and uses.
If you are in the middle of a close engagement with many goes, you might want a warrior bow, which will fire five arrows at once in a shotgun-like spread pattern. Or a light bow, which will shoot five arrows in quick succession with no need to draw back the string. There is also the predator bow. It is an ideal weapon for snipers, which will come with a super-accurate first-person viewfinder, firing instantly with no pullbacks, and carries an ability that will let Bayek control the arrows in flight.
“We’ve worked very hard to make sure that players can quickly switch between bows and melee efficiently, without big camera movements,” says Ismail. “Players will learn that bows have a strong value in melee. For example, a fully charged hunter bow shot will break a shield defense and knock an enemy to the ground. Being quick with the light bow will allow players to do some damage to an enemy who has a shield up and charging you. And a full shot from the warrior bow will knock anybody to the ground!”
If you are more of an indirect approach person, a well-aimed shot can break open the cages of the captive lions or hyenas to create deadly distractions. The arrows can be lit on fire if you are near the blaze, which is good for igniting the red pots of oil.
It is essential to master Bayek’s weapons and abilities if you want to tackle another of Origins’ new addition: boss fights against formidable warriors and strange creatures. In one of these, set in an arena in a city called Krokodilopolis, Bayek is faced with a man which is known as the Slaver. His weapon of choice was a man catcher, a spiked, forked polearm that he used to grab Bayek and hurl him around the arena.
Bayek is an Assassin. He has an assortment of tools and abilities that set him apart on the battlefield. One of these is his Hidden Blade, and it is one of the persistent items. It includes a health-enhancing breastplate, a damage-boosting bracer.
“Bayek starts the game with most of his basic gear except for the Hidden Blade,” says Ashraf Ismail. “All his gear starts at level 1 and levels up through crafting, which increases the stats of the gear and its appearance. The Hidden Blade is found by going through the story, and it is necessary to keep upgrading if you want to maintain the ability to perform assassinations. Otherwise, you do stealth damage and enter combat.”
It is a little easier to sneak around the fortified encampments at night when visibility is low. If you do not want to wait, you can fast-forward through the day by making Bayek meditate.
“More often, you have guards who sleep at night,” says Ismail. “But the counter to this is that you also have more bandits active at night, so you can be ambushed or attacked if you are not wary of such things.”
Bayek carries sleep darts, which have the ability to knock enemies out for some seconds, which give you window for a fatal stab or quick escape. You will eventually be able to use them as a step in taming animals which will follow Bayek into battle and obey his commands. Bayek’s tools can be expanded over time to include the firebombs, traps and many more.
These abilities can be unlocked through a skill tree that is divided into three categories: Hunter, Warrior and Seer.
“We want players to have fun finding their own way through the ability graph,” says Ismail. “The Hunter path is made to lean towards ranged fighters and stealth players. Warrior is obviously made for melee fighters, and the Seer path is for playing with manipulation – Assassin tools, economic persuasiveness, animal taming, etc.”
Bayek also has a great supply of torches, which will light his way through the dark places. They also have another use, he can throw them to light certain materials on fire, torching straw huts and setting oil slicks on fire. You can also add a dash of daredevil panache to your Leaps of Faith by tossing a lit torch.
“Aside from watching things burn and doing damage, fire is also a distraction,” says Ismail. “Guards will investigate fires and try to put them out. Major fires will make people flee! It’s a tool that is useful in stealth.”
To discover what really Assassin’s Creed Origins offers is Senu, Bayek’s eagle and the origin of the phrase “Eagle Vision”. Bayek can send Senu to get a bird’s eye view of a landscape.
The eagle can also pinpoint nearby objectives, which is important because Assassin’s Creed Origins does away with the traditional onscreen minimap entirely, instead relying on the floating onscreen markers that will point you in the general direction of tasks you need to complete.
“We didn’t want to hold players’ hands,” Jean Guesdon says. “This is why we decided to remove the minimap. We want you to enjoy and to actually experience the beautiful world we’re bringing to you. You will have to play the game to put icons on the map.”
The first task in the demo was to find Hotephres, which is a Greek informant who sailed across Moeris on a ship that is carrying statues. Rather than sailing across the massive lake in search of a single large boat, we let free Senu. When she will get close, a yellow awareness indicator will appear, at which point we will park her in midair and scan the surroundings until a yellow circle clicks on Hotephres’ ship.
“WE DIDN’T WANT TO HOLD PLAYERS’ HANDS. THIS IS WHY WE DECIDED TO REMOVE THE MINIMAP. WE WANT YOU TO ENJOY AND TO ACTUALLY EXPERIENCE THE BEAUTIFUL WORLD WE’RE BRINGING TO YOU.” – JEAN GUESDON, CREATIVE DIRECTOR
Rather than being locked in the clear chain of A-to-B story beats, you will take an approach to discover your objectives, and you can pursue them. After visiting Hotephres, we were given a task to visit his wife, Khenut, who had a ledger pointing to the identity of an evil figure which is known as the Crocodile. Talking to one of Hotephres’ deckhands also unveiled rumors about the farmers in Dionysias, who were dying as their fields were burned down.
You will not get a mission failure if you go the wrong way. This flexibility means that there is a certain degree of freedom in how you go with the quests.
Assassin’s Creed Origins is not all about taking a step back in time to see how old Assassins took down their targets. Bayek is the last one of the Medjay, a Nubian order of warriors who were serving as agents of the pharaohs for many years, protecting the cities and temples from the threats. In his birth town, Siwa, Bayek is a hero. But in the rest of Egypt, where the influence of the Greek Ptolemies is strong, Bayek is seen as an inconvenient relic.
“At the time of Bayek, the Medjay didn’t have a reason to exist anymore, because the rulers were not pharaohs,” says Maxime Durand. “There were new people that replaced the Medjay.”
Bayek believes that the gods of Egypt give him support, but even he sees the need to adapt to some surroundings. These adaptations form the basis for many of Assassin’s Creed’s symbols.
“Was it just that someone decided ‘I’m going to put on a hood?’” asks Ashraf Ismail. “No, no. There are stories behind all of this, and these are the experiences you explore in the game.”
Assassin’s Creed Origins will be released at the launch of Xbox One X and on October 27 for Xbox One, PS4, PS4 Pro, and PC.