Assassin's Creed Origins is a beautiful world of color, shine and detail. I spent a few hours playing the Xbox One X version. It's one of the most lovely action adventure games I've ever seen. Most especially, the landscape feels right. It offers sense of being in a time and a place alien to our own.
In the video above — a 30-minute edited version of my four-hour session — I've tried to offer a variety of the game’s locations. Missions take place on land and on water, in cities and in the country, on the ground and high up on castle walls.
This being an Assassin's Creed game, the missions follow a straightforward pattern of killing, searching, talking and fetching. In my session I infiltrated a few military outposts and killed everyone. I stole into an encampment and rescued an old man. I went on a hunting expedition. I tried to figure out who murdered a young woman. I interrogated and followed some suspicious-looking market traders.
The video offers some sense of how combat has changed in this Assassin's Creed, away from a slightly scripted feel to something more organic. It takes a greater degree of skill to pull off effective attack moves. The attacks need to be aimed in the right direction, and timed effectively, otherwise they become useless blanks, or worse. On one occasion, I killed a cat by accident, which is a no-no in olde Egypt.
As always, there are plenty of special moves to be earned through upgrade paths, as well as weapons to be acquired or crafted. The crafting system is very simple, although it takes a great deal of animal-killing, which always makes me feel a bit queasy.
Origins takes place in Egypt, around the time of Cleopatra. The main character is a Medjay (a military official / law enforcer / badlands scout) named Bayek. He personifies the seedlings of the Brotherhood vs Templars conflicts that shape Assassin's Creed games set in later time periods. Essentially, it's a conflict between liberty and control.
I like Bayek. He's a no-nonsense fellow who seems to care about the powerless. He has an unfortunate habit of stating the obvious. His catchphrase seems to be, "this place is heavily guarded." But we can forgive him his faintly dour personality.
All the characters I've met look standard video-gamey. I don't think the visual clarity of the world fully extends to its human inhabitants. They all speak with a slightly absurd historical fiction Middle Eastern diction, except Cleopatra, who has an inexplicable English accent. I've not yet encountered Julius Caesar.
The missions I played were, as often as not, side quests, and it's to Ubisoft Montreal's credit that these seem almost as narratively rich as the main story. The world is becoming slightly tired with Ubisoft's oft-repeated open world formulae, so I'm hoping for something deeper with this game.
Assassin's Creed Origins is out on PlayStation 4, Windows PC and Xbox One on Oct. 27