After many leaks Assassin’s Creed Origins is now officially out in the open. Following a bumpy few years that saw troubled launches, endless spin offs and waning public interest, Assassin’s Creed has decided to go back to basics with a story that explores the origin of the Brotherhood of Assassins. The stakes are high for this game though, so we thought we would ask: what does Assassin’s Creed Origins need to do?
Let’s not ignore the fact that most of the major franchises from the last console generation have struggled to stay relevant. It would have once been unthinkable to suggest that a new Halo would not be a blockbuster success. However like many other big franchises we have seen falling interest and sales. Perhaps no series other than Call of Duty better illustrates this better than the once mighty Assassin’s Creed.
The problem is the series has never really hit the hit water mark of Assassin’s Creed II. Many of the changes since have been designed to streamline the gameplay, but also seem to have sucked some of the soul of the games out. Black Flag was a good game, but felt the least like an Assassin’s Creed game of any entry.
Assassin’s Creed Origin needs to try and rekindle some of the magic of the series, whilst also pushing it forwards. These are the things we think they need to focus on.
Less filler in the world
The last few games have been absolutely bursting with things to do, but very little of it was relevant. This is actually a problem that dates back to the first game, with its’ notoriously pointless flag collecting. Ubisoft needs to realise that most people would probably rather play a shorter, more focussed and more interesting game. This is doubly true if the alternative is one artificially stuffed with collectibles and procedurally generated missions. Just look at this map from AC Unity:
While we’re on the subject of filler, the missions need to have some form of incentive behind them. It’s all very well and good showing us a set of arm that has been locked away. Frankly who cares what the character looks like, we want a reward that is going to feel like a tangible improvement. Red Dead Redemption had a lot of side quests, but they were either interesting stories or produced a valid reward. Here’s hoping that exploring these gorgeous tombs reveal similar rewards.
For a game about assassinating from the shadows, Assassin’s Creed has always had a surprisingly poor stealth mechanic. Unity started to try to address this but it was a mess. Often it has felt like being stealthy was a matter of luck. How long would it be until the guards catch sight of you, triggering either a fight or flight response? This time round let’s actually sneak in, assassinate and sneak out. It looks like Ubisoft have taken a leaf out of their own Ghost Recon: Wildlands, and Bayak’s hawk can behave like a drone. It’s a great idea that worked well in Ghost Recon.
The series has made significant improvements to its’ combat system over the years, however it remains a fairly tedious one button system. The game could learn a lot from the Dark Souls series, where combat is closer to a delicately timed dance between two people. The latest trailer does hint at this direction, as we see Bayak rolling around an enemy to avoid being hit.
Meaningful protagonist and story
Let’s face it, the main characters in Assassin’s Creed have been a mixed bad. Ezio is the clear winner, but the rest all have their drawbacks. Either they were likable but stuck in a boring story (Arno, Edward Kenway) or just downright annoying (Connor Kenway, Altair). They need to strike a balance again, by making Bayak a likeable character but giving him a human story we can get behind.
Fine, at this stage all of the wonder of climbing from the early games has gone. What used to be the series’ trademark was reduced to essentially a quick time event in Assassin’s Creed Syndicate. The series needs to rethink this key element. The first game was challenging but frustrating; Assassin’s Creed III had fantastic tree climbing but boring buildings and so on. Assassin’s Creed Unity has a great opportunity to address this by bringing trees deeper back into the mix, and also adding a far greater amount of climbing natural rock structures. Hopefully this is the shot in the arm that is needed.
Sort out the water
Whilst we’re on the topic of landscapes, Ubisoft need to figure out how they’re going to approach water. In an ironic twist, Origins is set in the driest location yet but seems to have featured the most water in trailers. Black Flag made progress here but the swimming was still a chore. We already know Bayak can dive under the waves so let’s hope they manage to sort out the surface swimming and boat mechanics as well.
Focussed missions vs Emergent Gameplay
There is no right or wrong answer here, but Assassin’s Creed sometimes wants to want to have its cake and eat it. Some of the highlights of the series have been the larger set piece missions, such as the siege of Viana in Brotherhood or Da Vinci’s flying machine in Assassin’s Creed II. At other times the game’s mechanics create their own moments of emergent gameplay, such as the naval combat in Black Flag or the assassinations in Unity. Let’s hope that we see a good balance between the two.
Graphics and Wonder
Maybe we are asking too much here, but Assassin’s Creed has always been a series that had ground breaking graphics and breath taking moments. I can still remember how impressed I was when I first climbed to the top of Jerusalem. Let’s have some of that sense of wonder recaptured. If you check out the quality of the 4K trailer, there is a genuine chance that this could be achieved. Let’s hope so.