The first thing that struck us during our hands-on session with Assassin’s Creed Origins wasn’t the sharp steel of some savage foe, but the its stunning presentation. Running on the Xbox One X, Ubisoft’s latest in the stealth-action series—serving as a prequel to the original game—sports a seamless, stretching open-world. While the franchise has always taken us to exotic, eye-pleasing locales, Origins ups the ante with unmatched draw distances and nary a frame-rate dip.
Coupled with the horsepower beneath the new hardware’s hood, the game’s jaw-dropping art direction delivers the prettiest, most varied setting yet to slice throats in. Your mind might conjure nothing but sun-drenched sand dunes when thinking of Egypt, but Origins’ lush foliage, blue waters, and vibrant villages prove there’s much more to see in this ancient land.
Of course, the real magic happens when the crisp visuals and smooth performance collide with Origins’ dynamic gameplay. While steering a small boat during our demo, we spotted a clay pot peaking just above the river’s surface. Upon shattering the container with a well-placed arrow, a pool of oil blackened the blue water. We then drew a second arrow, lit it on a torch hanging from our craft’s mast, and ignited the liquid into a spreading blaze that rapidly engulfed our boat. This neat little trick taught us a hard lesson, but we look forward to leveraging it more strategically in the final game.
While we didn’t intentionally turn our ancient water taxi into a fiery, sinking wreck, we did seek out our next objective with a specific purpose. Tasked with retrieving some intel from a well-guarded structure, we positioned new protagonist Bayek at a safe distance before sending his eagle companion to survey the situation. With our feathered friend having gotten a literal birds-eye view and targeted enemies, we were able to stealthily infiltrate the building and begin strategically severing jugulars.
Silently eliminating threats was as satisfying as ever, but unleashing a flurry of arrows was equally rewarding. Origins takes the series in a fresh, action-RPG direction, an element that’s reflected in its focus on looting downed foes for better gear. We used a sword and standard bow for long-ranged attacks, but it was Bayek’s multi-arrow-flinging weapon that renewed our interest in archery. A bit like an ancient shotgun, the powerful bow is perfect for taking out clusters of enemies up-close.
The new action-RPG direction also sees a larger focus on genre elements like leveling-up, crafting items, shaping Bayek’s style along skill trees, and boss fights. We got a taste of the latter during a brutal bout in a gladiator arena. Armed with an over-sized battle ax and surrounded by spinning, spiky traps, we dispatched three waves of lesser foes before meeting our match—a hulking beast wielding a long, crescent-bladed spear. With a health meter as lengthy as his weapon, the boss quickly turned us to ground beef. Still, the unfriendly chap allowed us to get a satisfying feel forOrigins‘ crunchy new combat, which favors a rewarding blend of light and heavy attacks mixed with well-timed blocks and dodges.
Our unceremonious death by chest-piercing spikes closed our demo, but we look forward to facing this foe again. We also can’t wait to explore every nook and cranny of Origins’ breathtaking environments, learn more of the Brotherhood’s inception, dive deep into the overhauled gameplay, and, of course, slide down the side of a pyramid. Assassin’s Creed Origins arrives, like a cloaked killer in the night, October 27.