After taking a year off from its annual release cycle, Assassin’s Creed is back. A newbie to the games swan dives into Assassin’s Creed Origins to see if the changes to the formula is enough to revitalize the franchise.
Assassin’s Creed is one of modern video games’ landmark series. It’s actually been a decade since the first game was released, which started off a hugely successful multimedia franchise spanning games, comics, novels, and even a Hollywood film.
Recent years haven’t been as kind to the brand, though. The annual releases on every platform eventually wore on critics and consumers, as review scores and sales dwindled after the peaks of the second and third main games. Ubisoft, the series creator, eventually gave Assassin’s Creed a one-year break before putting out this latest installment.
I mention all this because even as a games enthusiast, I went into Assassin’s Creed Origins having zero experience with the whole franchise.
Back to the beginning
For a series newbie, the setup is perfect. Origins basically tells how the Assassin Brotherhood, the secret organization that each protagonist from every game is part of, came to be. It takes place at the tail end of Ancient Egypt. The two pharaohs Ptolemy and Cleopatra are at odds over who should be the rightful ruler. Meanwhile, the threat of Roman imperial influence on the nation, spearheaded by Julius Caesar, hangs heavy over the embattled Egyptian monarchy.
Amid this political turmoil, you play as Bayek, the medjay of the province of Siwa, and the very last of Egypt’s ordained protectors. You are on a quest for revenge against a shadowy cabal planning on taking complete control of the country.
No other big budget game comes to mind that tackles this particular setting, so my interest was piqued, despite the rather messy intro. Fortunately, that interest blossomed into a mostly enjoyable 42-hour experience!
Gorgeous and gigantic
That enjoyment had a lot to do with how much I wanted to be in Origins‘ staggering simulation of Ancient Egypt. From the way sand blows in the desert winds to how sunlight gleams on the surface of the Nile; from the architectural apex of Greek and Egyptian antiquity in Alexandria to the fading beauty of Egypt’s capital Memphis; and from the artistic Hellenistic heights of Greco-Roman Cyrene to the ever-enduring mystery and majesty of the Pyramids of Giza, Origins renders it all in stunning fashion.
Even the depiction of life and culture in that age is impressive. Markets and ports bustle with merchants peddling wares and laborers working on galleys. Guards on horseback and chariots patrol cobblestone streets and escort traders across land and sea. A whole mountain village is dedicated to extracting salt for mummification, with the statue of Anubis, the jackal god of death, perched on a shrine overlooking the settlement.
So, even though I found the quests at the beginning to be worryingly banal, I sought them out just to learn more about the world. A good deal of them flesh out the overarching narrative, too, as they illustrate the villains’ tyranny manifesting in numerous, logical ways.
Bayek’s character shines through his interactions with the populace. I found that he could laugh at himself while still being fiercely passionate in his sense of justice and respect for tradition. Him being a father and a husband reflects on how good he is with kids and understanding of parents with family problems.
His relationship with his wife Aya is also refreshing. They are both extremely competent as warrior assassins and trust each other’s ability. While they share the goal of revenge, they each have distinct motivations that set their character arcs apart. Affection is something they don’t hesitate to show one another. They display moments of emotional vulnerability, but they deal with it maturely like you’d expect from a long-married, caring couple.
The rest of the cast doesn’t come close to this level of characterization, but this core pairing is solid enough that it made me want to see their story through to the end.
Gameplay is a grower
I’m grateful for being so drawn into the world and these two leads, as I wasn’t having a great time with Origins until I played way more of it. After unlocking more abilities, gaining more tools and weapons, and generally getting a hang of the mechanics, I eventually found the gameplay rewarding in itself.
While still having an action/stealth adventure foundation, Origins builds a light RPG structure a la Horizon Zero Dawn on top of it; you level up, get stronger, and gain access to more abilities. You can improve your gear with crafting materials you collect from hunting animals, dismantling equipment, or shopping at vendors. There’s a variety of weapons and shields with stats and unique perks, and they also have levels that determine their effectiveness.
Because Bayek’s capabilities are tied into hard numbers, I was frustrated on numerous occasions during fights and sneaking up on enemies that were just two or three levels higher than me in the early goings. I was still grasping the fundamentals of combat and stealth, so it wasn’t uncommon for me to get spotted while trying to sneak into a base, surrounded by multiple guards, and killed in the ensuing melee.
More demanding mechanics
The fighting system has been revamped, too. It’s reminiscent of Dark Souls in that you’re throwing measured strikes with your weapon while dodging or blocking incoming blows, and every button press has Bayek committing to whatever action you take. If you throw out a strong attack and miss, you will likely get punished with a counter-attack. There is no stamina to worry about though, with only slight pauses in between attack and defend animations to keep you from chaining infinite combos. You do have an “Overpower meter” that gradually fills up in combat. Once it’s full, it allows you to either do a powerful one-hit super move or speed up your every attack for a set amount of time, depending on what weapon you have equipped.
It’s not as tight and responsive as the Souls games, though. I struggled at the sluggishness of striking and the skittery enemy movements.
Going into a heavily guarded fort or bandit hideout, you have one major advantage. You can take control of Senu, Bayek’s trusty eagle companion, to fly over the map and mark locations of your quest objectives, enemies, treasure, and other items you can interact with. It’s critical prep work before entering hostile territory, but even then it didn’t feel like enough for me to confidently clear out encampments without alerting everyone in them.
But once I got comfortable with the controls and earned more abilities, the gameplay started to click with me.
Slow but satisfying surprise
Around eight hours and 15 levels in, I was better at sneaking past enemies and smarter at fighting them with fire bombs and warrior bows. 20 hours and 25 levels in, I was silently headshotting guards and slaying lions and crocodiles. 40 hours and 35 levels in, I was clearing out fortresses and palaces using sleep darts and poison traps and brutally executing entire garrisons with my assortment of legendary dual blades, spears, sickle swords, and staves.
Assassin’s Creed Origins is the perfect example of a lovingly crafted virtual world with a strong sense of place that is truly captivating, so much so that it carried me to discovering joy in seemingly simple systems. It’s a slow starter, for sure, but it turned out to be the biggest surprise for me so far in this year of stellar video games, and I’m glad I took the leap on Assassin’s Creed at the right time.
[irp posts=”22808" name=”Middle-earth: Shadow of War review — System overload”]
Taiwan Excellence is holding its first esports cup in the Philippines
With a prize pool of P360,000
Esports continue to grow in the Philippines thanks to the help from both organizations and major brands. The latest to make its mark in the local competitive scene is Taiwan Excellence, which will be holding an esports cup in Manila beginning in July.
With the help of the Taiwan External Trade Development Council (TAITRA) and Taiwan’s Bureau of Foreign Trade (BOFT), there’ll be a PhP 360,000 prize pool for the expected 2,000 participants from across the country. The featured games are Counter-Strike: Global Offensive (CS:GO) and League of Legends (LOL).
Registration for the tournament begins on June 15. The first phase of the competition will start on July 6 for CS:GO and August 3 for LOL. The grand finals will happen from October 4 to 5 at SM North EDSA The Block, Quezon City. Taiwan Excellence’s esports cup was previously held in Malaysia and Thailand.
“Taiwan is known for its breakthrough electronics industry, with renowned innovations and quality products being developed for global distribution. Now with esports, we take pride in sharing that industry-leading brands are from Taiwan, with Filipino gamers,” said C.T. Wu, director of the Strategic Marketing Dept. at TAITRA.
The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild sequel is on its way
Following up the Switch’s best game
Leave it to Nintendo to make the announcements that are worthy of closing the pre-E3 keynotes.
During Nintendo’s keynote, the company announced that a sequel to The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild is in the works. A trailer was provided but didn’t show anything in terms of gameplay.
Instead, we see main characters Link and Zelda exploring a cave, seemingly continuing where they left off from the first game, and finding a ghastly corpse that awakens.
You can watch it here:
Breath of the Wild is considered by many to be the best game on the Switch (along with Super Mario Odyssey), as well as the highest-rated entry in the long-running series, so any mention of a sequel is fantastic news.
Sadly, Nintendo didn’t provide a release date or any other details. All we know for sure is that this will be another Switch-exclusive.
Final Fantasy VIII is getting the remaster it deserves
It’s not a remake though
At long last, Final Fantasy VIII is releasing on newer consoles. It had been notably absent when Square Enix launched fellow FF-series games lately. Somehow, they got their shit together for this.
Unfortunately, it isn’t a remake like what we’re getting out of Final Fantasy VII for the PS4. Rather, this is only a remaster of the classic PlayStation title with the same gameplay mechanics and slightly improved graphics.
This is the official trailer:
“Coming 2019” is all we have for a release schedule. The good news is we’ll see it on the PS4, Switch, Xbox One, and Steam — no mobile version, however. Previously, a vanilla version of FFVIII arrived on PC in late 2013.
For context, the original game came out in 1999. It’s time for younger millennials to get a taste of emo protagonists from the 90s.
Xiaomi Mi 9 SE Review: For those who like it small
A pocketable flagship-like phone
ASUS ROG Zephyrus S (GX701) review
Refinement of a modern classic
OPPO A5s Review: Is it really any different?
Bang for the buck, at a cost of key features
A Father’s Day drive up north
6 best smartphones of 2019 (so far)
Now Playing: X-Men, Yuri!!! On Ice
5 coolest Airbnb places you can rent in Tagaytay
E3 2019 updates, glimpse of Pixel 4: Weekend Rewind
Best Budget Smartphones in the Philippines below P10,000
Best Midrange Smartphones in the Philippines from P10,000 to P20,000
Best Midrange Smartphones from $200 to $400
Best Upper-Midrange Smartphones in the Philippines from P20,000 to P30,000
Best Premium Smartphones in the Philippines above P30,000
Enterprise2 weeks ago
ASUS is banned from using ‘ZenFone’ branding in India
Deals4 days ago
Pocophone F1’s cheaper price makes it an even better flagship-specced phone
Apps1 week ago
Google: Cutting off Huawei is an even bigger threat
India6 days ago
Samsung Galaxy M40 is a budget phone with triple rear cameras
News2 weeks ago
Xiaomi Mi 9T unboxed ahead of official launch, has midrange specs
News2 weeks ago
Samsung updates two-year-old Galaxy J7 Pro with Android Pie
Computers6 days ago
One man’s trash is another man’s treasure: Dell embraces a circular economy
News2 weeks ago
OPPO will kill pop-up mechanism with under-display selfie camera