AC Origins: A Return to Form or a Step Towards Fortune?


 

I’m about as big an Assassin’s Creed fan as they come. And this is why I am fairly critical of every title in the series. The first in the series was the game that solidified my love for open world action adventures, a love very possibly spawned from playing the heck out of GTA: Vice City on the PS2 during the holiday season of 2002. I was only 12 years old at the time and questionable moral decisions on my parents’ part aside, I absolutely adored that open, violent, beautifully aloof car-theft title.

Fast-forward to November of 2007 when the first Assassin's Creed game was set to release. I was about to turn 17 and unlike my brother, I had previously held no interest in anything having to do with gaming or E3. I think I fell out of gaming between the ages of 13 and 18 as I became more heavily into music and guitar-playing. But I remember following the hype for AC *very* closely. I was definitely on that train to wherever it decided to take me.

Assassin’s Creed could very well be the game responsible for creating and developing my current passion for gaming. Never before it did I ever follow a game so closely or care to purchase a title on or near launch day. Joining the Army might have ignited my love for the Xbox and first-person shooters, but nothing left a spark in my eye and a fire in my heart for the gaming industry like that first Assassin’s Creed title.

Anyone who knows anything about gaming will agree that that first AC game was really quite revolutionary for its genre. To my knowledge, no game up that point had *really* explored the vertical possibilities in open world games. And the AC team at Ubisoft explored those possibilities beautifully. AC2, widely known as the fan-favorite in the series, further polished those vertically deadly mechanics into a tight, responsive caricature of the Assassins brotherhood. The very embodiment of the Creed.

Fast-forward even further to the current year 2017 and I will be turning 27 in November. We have seen near countless AC titles come and go and even a theater-released, feature-length movie in recent months. Truth be told, Assassins Creed really hasn’t changed all that much since the release of AC2 and the polish of the game mechanics that it brought. While Revelations is my personal favorite in the series (likely because it was the first one I can remember playing all the way through) I have played to some degree every title in the series, to include mobile titles, with the exception of Chronicles: Russia and that’s merely because I haven’t gotten around to it.

Now, a mere month before my birthday in November, we will see the release of yet another AC title. This one’s a little different though because unlike the others, it's not hot off the heels of a previous release. I am of course referring to Assassin’s Creed: Origins. The title is, in a way, two-fold because I believe it not only represents the actual beginning of the Assassins Brotherhood as far as the AC lore goes, but also as a sort of “return to form,” for Ubisoft and its flagship series. Ubisoft took a hiatus from their previous regimen of annual releases to bring us AC: Origins and I really hope that little break is going to show off in the gameplay and story.

I do believe that anyone who’s cared to read this article even this far has likely seen the Alpha footage shown off at E3 for AC: Origins on the Xbox stage. Disclaimer: that specific footage is my reference material for this article, not any footage released since then. In short, the game looks beautiful, there’s no denying that. Fans have been asking for the series to go to Egypt for YEARS and I for one am super happy that Ubisoft have finally taken heed of at least those sections of the forums. Egypt is the perfect locale for what I hope will be the rebirth of the series as a whole.

But let’s talk about rebirth and how possible that might actually be. It was just Alpha footage, mind you, but did the game *really* look like it plays all that different from any of the others? It was developed by the team behind AC4: Black Flag which was undoubtedly one of the better titles in recent times but unfortunately the Assassin’s Creed series is one of today’s prime examples of a once-great game and concept being nothing more than a money maker as a way to pad the pockets of Ubisoft execs and their investors.

The real investors are the consumers, the gamers, but botched releases from the likes of AC: Unity have proven that recently Ubisoft has really only cared to keep pushing out releases year after year and keep the cash flow steady, regardless of how bug-ridden those releases might be. A game in development brings in no green. Well...I guess that’s no longer true with the rise of the “Game Preview,” sorts of programs, but I digress. That’s another issue for another article entirely. And as big a fan as I am, I don’t think I’d buy an AC title from Ubisoft if it were in Game Preview. I shudder at the thought.

Ubisoft has been widely ridiculed, especially in the AC series, for recycling enemy character models, movement animations, combat animations, etc. release after release and I’ve got to say, even though I realize it was just Alpha footage, I noticed some of those same things in the gameplay of AC: Origins. I am excited however that it would seem that the basic “one enemy attacks at a time and you counter them,” combat mechanic that has been a mainstay of the series since its inception has gone the way of the dodo in favor of a more lose, fluid, proactive instead of reactive approach to combat.

I won’t really know fully until I get the game in-hand but it just seems that a lot of the other mechanics are copy-and-pasted from the other titles. Too much so that I’m afraid it won’t feel like the revolutionary title it's meant to. I’m afraid it’ll be more like the iPhone in that Ubisoft, like Apple, have just tweaked very small things internally, maybe applied a fresh coat of paint to recycled chassis materials, but are essentially expecting a similar or bigger payoff for essentially the same product they’ve released time and time again. I can remember following AC3 really closely as well and believing Ubisoft when they said how drastically different it would be from the other entries in the series. How the combat system had been completely redesigned and how you could now go *inside* of buildings as well as on top of them. They lamented on the crowning achievement of how different it was. But was it, really?

AC3 brought the relatively novel marine combat systems that many fans adored. While I was not completely sold on it at the time it did spawn AC: Black Flag which is, at the time of this writing, probably one of the, if not the greatest pirate game ever produced. And the team behind that shining gem in the series is the very same behind AC: Origins, so that fact has me looking up because I love Black Flag even though some of its bugs. But this is all coming from a guy that has also thoroughly enjoyed AC: Unity post patch(es).

The RPG elements that AC: Origins is introducing are also quite novel to the series and is something that I am personally very excited about. I’m hoping these elements add layers of gameplay never before seen in an Assassin's Creed title. But the point I’m trying to make with this article is that I’ve harbored such hopes for this franchise in the past and have been burned several times by a company seemingly only in it for the money. Are they going to release a game that’s truly for the fans, for the gamers, and not just another rehash of the same old stuff, repackaged and repurposed to look pretty but serve as nothing more than just another cash cow? Will they bring the same passion brought to the first game in the series? I saw glimpses of such passion and video game magic in that brief Alpha trailer but I also witnessed tinges of the same ol’ same ol’.

I will be purchasing AC: Origins on or near launch day. I am *that* excited for the new features Ubisoft is introducing to the series. It appears that more thought than is usual went into the development of this AC title and I am anxious to see what Ubisoft means when it says that it’s gone “back to the drawing board,” with this one. They said similar things in regards to AC3 and I was left underwhelmed by one of my least favorite entries in the series.

I hope I will not be yet again burnt by Ubisoft promises and instead enthralled by an adventure worth playing ten times over. But if I am to be burnt again, I may well forever leave Ubisoft’s Assassin's Creed deep within the realms of nostalgia. But here’s to hoping not.

 

Aarick Brown

My name is Aarick Brown and I am a U.S. Army combat veteran hailing from Texas. I have been an avid Xbox gamer since around 2009. While I've been writing all my life, I only began seriously gaming during a combat tour in Iraq and it has always been a dream of mine to combine the two hobbies. I prefer story-driven action RPGs and skill-based shooters and cut my teeth on games such as COD: Ghosts and Skyrim. I seem to find time here and there for my other hobby, playing guitar and live with my wife and children in Lubbock, TX.

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Aarick Brown

 Aarick Brown

I am a U.S. Army combat veteran hailing from Texas. I have been an avid Xbox gamer since 2009. While I've been writing all my life, I only began seriously gaming during a combat tour in Iraq and it has always been a dream of mine to combine the two hobbies. I prefer story-driven action RPGs and skill-based shooters and cut my teeth on games such as COD: Ghosts and Skyrim. I seem to find time here and there for my other hobby, playing guitar and live with my wife and children in Lubbock, TX.