There was no Assassin’s Creed last year, and that’s probably a good thing. The franchise wasn’t just on the verge of growing stale, it was hanging from the edge; a single strained pinkie finger keeping it from falling. That break has done the series a world of good. We got to go hands on with Assassin’s Creed Origins quite extensively at E3, and it was fantastic. We’ve now played the Gamescom demo build which is fortunately not the same mission, but a fresh stab at some new content.
The mission ties sole Medjay survivor Bayek – members of an ancient Egyptian military – into the political intrigue that has gripped Egypt. It starts off with our hero in a reed raft, tasked with heading off to Memphis to unite with the newly unveiled Aya. She’s Bayek’s wife, and serves queen Cleopatra – but there’s a wedge between them, driven by some unknown story beat that we’re not quite privy to. Meeting with her triggers a mission that has him investigating a beleaguered bovine.
The Apis bull, a beast that the locals worship as a god has fallen ill, and it seems to have been poisoned. The locals see it as some sort of curse, a series of which have them questioning their leadership. It’s here that we get to grips with Bayek’s investigative ability. Taking a page out of Batman’s playbook, Bayek can use his intuition to scan the area for clues, picking up hints that drive the quest forward. We soon discover that the bull has been poisoned by the pits of a deadly fruit and that it was the twin priestesses who’reguiltyt of the act. It seems they’ve been acting under duress though, their brother’s finger sent to them as impetus to do the deed.
Naturally, it becomes Bayek’s job to rescue the poor, 9-fingered boy. By tapping up on the D-pad, Bayek’s Eagle soars into the air, giving us a bird’s-eye view of the restricted, heavily guarded area. We now know where the poor boy is, what level his captors are at and what their movements are, allowing us to plan an attack.
I tackled it the way I always do. I intended to go in full stealth, picking each enemy off one by one, but inevitably I’d missed somebody, kicking off an all-out frontal assault. It let me get to terms with Origin’s combat, which is far removed from the wait-parry-stab humdrum that has beleaguered Assassin’s Creed in years past. There’s a better flow to the hand-to-hand stuff, with Bayek switching up light and heavy attacks, mixed with dodges, parries and shield deflections. Your bow is an integral and fluid part of your combat arsenal too, and I found myself switching between ranged and melee combat frequently, alternating between attacks and arrows. A few finishers just add a visceral punch to the combat that’s much more engaging than its ever been.
Killing the captors brings the mission to an end, but it gave me time to explore Origin’s seamless and ungated open world. Free to do whatever I wished, I hopped on my trusty steed and headed to a pyramid out in the desert. There, I found a few more big changes to the formula. For starters, scaling the pointy-tipped monument was actually a bit of a challenge, which is a nice deviation for a series that’s had its traversal become so contextually based (and as a result, a bit boring).
The pyramid housed a tomb that besides being covered n cobwebs, needed a bit of puzzle-solving to get through. Weights and pulleys led me – eventually – to a room stuffed with treasure and a much-desired relic. A little reminiscent of Tomb Raider, perhaps – but another example of Assassin’s Creed trying its best to stand out.
I also got to tackle one of the game’s many side missions – which actually have some fleshed out story to them this time. As I played, Bayek’s stoicism and the realised Egypt that surrounded him started reminding me more and more of certain game about silver-haired monster hunter. And that’s a good thing.
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Last Updated: August 28, 2017