E3 2017: The Origins of a Brotherhood

Ubisoft has finally revealed the Assassin’s Creed: Origins during Microsoft’s E3 press conference and it takes us further back than any previous title and deeper into RPG elements.

After issues with the launch of Unity Ubisoft felt they were losing fans of their stealth adventure franchise. They decided that after Assassin’s Creed Syndicate, that they would take an extra year before the next title graced our systems and as such the 2016 holiday season would be first in a number of years to not give us a new Assassin’s Creed.  Well if you have been dying to slip your assassin’s blade into new targets, your wait will be over this October.

Theories have abounded over the last few months about what and perhaps more importantly when the next adventure would take us. Today we got our first official confirmation at what leaks have been suggesting for months, Assassin’s Creed: Origins will take place in Ancient Egypt and is being brought to us by the same team who developed Assassin’s Creed: Black Flag.

Setting

History students will note that “Ancient Egypt” is actually a rather broad window in history but we now know that the game will take place near the end of the Ptolemaic Egypt, around the time of Cleopatra. This means we will get to explore a range of iconic Egyptian architecture along the lush Nile. There will be a variety of Egyptian enemies but you can also expect to see a few Roman troops.

The team has recreated more than just a singular city, they have created a massive territory to explore. Players will be able to employ vehicles including animals and sailboats to navigate the map. Exploration will be key as Ubisoft is pushing their franchise towards more RPG elements. Adding a day-night cycle that will have an effect on NPC locations and behavior and a more specialized skill tree.

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I, for one, am very much looking forward to surfing the side of Pyramid.

Story

You will play as Bayek, protector of Egypt, and this adventure will lay the foundation for the creation of the Assassin’s Brotherhood. So far there is no indication of how this may play into Assassin’s Creed’s alternative future narrative, there is no sign of the animus in the early footage, but it seems more steeped in mysticism and fantasy than sci-fi which may be a good thing.

Origins will be the oldest game in franchise chronology and Ubisoft is using this to explore the background of the Assassin order.  They want to answer questions like where did the Brotherhood come from and how have they developed their unique collection of skills and methodologies. Players will learn how abilities like eagle vision, which will feature an actual eagle now, came to be.

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This is still Assassin’s Creed at its core.

This period of history is about a thousand years before the Templars existed so it will also be interesting to see if they do in fact exist in some form. It is difficult to comprehend an Assassin’s game without given they have been the game’s primary antagonist for so long. Ubisoft has never been too worried about historical accuracy so it is likely we will see some group who is perhaps to be the prototype for the Assassin’s greatest foe.

Combat

Ubisoft promises dynamic combat and has introduced a number of variables to keep players on their toes. Players will have to take into consideration the length and speed of their weapons as they fight as well as their distance to enemies. No longer will the game correct for you swinging wildly in the right general direction and allow you to connect.

Being too far or too close to an enemy will affect the effectiveness of your blows. That may sound frustrating but from what we have seen it seems to work and should keep players from getting bored button mashing their way through enemies. You will have to pay attention to more details in every battle.

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On the bright side, Ubisoft is giving us more vehicle combat as you will be able to take aim at enemies from animal vehicles.

The development team is also working to ensure that the enemies each feel unique. Different enemies will use different tactics depending on their loadout forcing you to adapt your combat accordingly. Hopefully, they will be keeping the concept of awesome looking finishing moves Syndicate introduced to us.

For those worrying about the nitty gritty of weaponry, Origins features eight types of melee weapons including swords, spears, and maces. It also features four classes of bows with a range from long range to rapid fire. Of course, within each class, there are numerous different kinds that will range in attack, defense, level, and rarity.

The other big change to combat in Assassin’s Creed is the introduction of “Epic bosses”. Presumably, this means bosses like the giant serpent we got a brief look at in the trailer. This is another step in the franchise’s movement towards the RPG genre and one that takes Origins in a more fantasy direction.

Environments

You will not be confined to a single, albeit large, city. Ubisoft has once again opened the player’s world to include multiple human population centers with plenty to explore and discover in between. If you are concerned that dusty Egypt may get boring the team has recreated an Egypt long before humans began damming and rerouting the life-giving Nile. This Egypt has lush marshes and colorfully decorated architecture. Even the iconic Pyramids shine once more with their gold caps and limestone finishings.

As players traverse the map they may encounter dangerous animal enemies as well. It is probably safe to say we can expect the lands between enemy strongholds to pose threats such as lions, hippos, and crocodiles. The trailer shows a crocodile attack and, more interestingly, Bayek fighting back underwater. This means swimming is returning in the same fashion as Black Flag and the combat between land and water will be seamless.

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The development team did not shy away from color, stepping away from the almost monochromatic grays and browns of earlier titles. It will also allow the developer to show off the power of not quite next-gen next-gen consoles like the PS4 Pro and Xbox One X.

One thing you may have noticed is the removal of the minimap. The team says this is because they want players to be fully immersed in exploring this world. It is unclear why they think it leads to the RPG element of the game they are trying to promote as many RPG titles still have minimaps

Embrace an RPG Adventure

Ubisoft made multiple references to their attempt to bring in more RPG elements to the game. They have made a more specialized skill tree, a day-night mechanic that will have an effect on gameplay, and a number of quest-giving NPCs to give you tasks. This will help flesh out the story and make you feel more a part of the world. There also appears to be a leveling system beyond what we have seen in previous titles.

The skill tree will be more selective this time around as well. There will be three primary categories: Seer, Warrior, Hunter. The Hunter skill tree is made for players who prefer ranged or stealth tactics, Warrior is for those who are melee fighters, and the Seer allows players to play through manipulation tactics such as assassin tools, economic persuasiveness, animal taming, etc. Players will be able to specialize and play to their strengths but if they plan on mastering any aspect of their Assassin persona they will have to make decisions more thoughtfully.

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Both Bayek and enemies will operate under a level system, where higher level enemies will be tougher and smarter than lower level enemies. In the gameplay trailer, we did get a look at the “gear” system. The player will be able to outfit Bayek with increasingly powerful weapons and armor, all of which will contribute to overall performance. Gear will have rarity rankings as well with blue items being rarer but granting special advantages. Gear will mean more than has ever before in an Assassin’s Creed title.

Inspiration from Other Titles

Judging by the short bit of gameplay we got to see Ubisoft is taking some inspiration from their other titles. Your new eagle companion appears to be the ancient civilizations answer to the drone we have seen in several new games, allowing players to survey areas and mark targets. There also appear to be a few wild animals both in the wild and in captive that will pose a threat to you or your enemies. In the wild, they may attack you and in captivity, you can break them free to cause distractions and eliminate enemies. I am almost expecting to see a way to “hack” doorways in the next reveal.

Release Date

The good news is you will not have to wait too much longer to play Origins. Ubisoft has set an October 27th which will make it a release title for the Xbox One X, however, it will also be available for PC, PS4 (Pro), and Xbox One.

We will be covering more of Assassin’s Creed: Origins as it becomes available. Are you excited about the new direction Ubisoft is taking the franchise?

This article first appeared on DVSGaming.org

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