Like no other game in the series so far, Assassin’s Creed Origins will push you to use every tool and tactic at your disposal as you hunt for the secret society known as the Order of the Ancients. In our case, this was something we realized during a quest in the latest preview demo, set in the Giza Plateau and in the Nile Delta — both of which looked beautiful running on Xbox One X, with huge sweeping vistas and intricately detailed architecture that was mesmerizing in 4K. Our task was to free an old man named Ghupa, who’d been kidnapped by a handful of guards and caged at the center of a hilltop camp. Not too complicated, right?
The twist was that our Bayek wasn’t quite up to the task in his current state, as all the guards were at a significantly higher level and could kill him easily. Nevertheless, we plowed into the camp and started attacking, only to suffer a quick death. On the second try, we perched nearby and used the unlockable Enhanced Predator Bow ability to fire remote-controlled arrows into the guards’ heads, which weren’t quite strong enough to do the job. We crept in and smashed open the cages of several lions the guards were keeping, only to have them turn on us instead. We’d even tried to stealth-kill the guards, although given that we hadn’t gathered enough resources to upgrade Bayek’s Hidden Blade – the iconic, wrist-mounted retracting dagger that he’ll carry throughout the adventure – the weapon was only strong enough to injure one guard before the rest descended on us.
All our attempts had been in broad daylight, so we tried a new tactic: we made Bayek pass time until nightfall. With half of the guards asleep and visibility limited by darkness, we crept in, threw a couple of sleep darts at the watchers, and fled with the old man before they could wake up. At no point had the game pushed or even suggested a stealth approach, but pulling it off flawlessly felt amazing. And as it turns out, Assassin’s Creed Origins is full of these little moments, which give you a tool set and a set of objectives, and let you decide on your preferred path to victory.
If you’re strong enough, you can draw a weapon and hold your own against any number of bandits, soldiers, or angry hippos, and Assassin’s Creed Origins offers plenty of options for going toe-to-toe with enemies, each suited to different tactics. Swinging a spear in a wide arc can fend off multiple enemies and create some distance between you and your opponents, for example, while the quick strikes of a blunt scepter are perfect for dealing damage before your enemies can react.
Even if you’re underpowered for the task in front of you, though, it doesn’t necessarily mean it’s time to put the mission on hold and go pursue some side quests. Unless the objective is to eliminate every enemy, there’s usually another way. Sneaking around at night, or sniping enemies with arrows from a safe spot can get what you need and earn a pile of XP in the process.
That openness also extends to the game’s design and the structure of its missions, many of which can be found just by wandering around the open world. Anything out of the ordinary – a woman banging on a locked door, a farmer sitting by a broken cart – is usually a sign that someone needs help, and these tasks can be surprisingly involved. For example, our wandering took us past a weeping couple by the side of the road, who begged us to enter a hippo-infested field and retrieve the bodies of several workers the rampaging animals had slain after being upset by some local bandits. When we failed to find the body of their protector, Meketre, among the dead, we paid the bandits a visit in their canyon hideout and found the missing man in chains. After clearing the camp and dramatically shoving their captain off a cliff to his death (using Attack & Push, an unlockable ability that lets Bayek chain a light attack into a push attack combo), we learned that some of the bandits had ridden out to raid Meketre’s village. We then followed him home on horseback and waded into a pitched battle between the bandits and the villagers, after which we smashed a statue of the pharoah Ptolemy just to make our views on the subject clear.
The high point of the session, however, came when the story directed us to ride into the desert and investigate Letopolis, a lost city being exhumed from the sands as part of a grand public works project. At the head of these efforts was Taharqa, a powerful local leader (and son-in-law of Ghupa) who seemed to hold the key to finding the Scarab, a prominent Order of the Ancients member infamous not only for taxing the locals into poverty, but for burying people up to their necks in the desert and leaving them to die.
Our meeting with Taharqa was cut short when raiders attacked the city, forcing us to run outdoors and fight alongside our new friend and his men while a fierce sandstorm raged through the streets. This dramatic climax was followed up immediately by a counter-raid on the raiders’ watery cave hideout, which ended shortly after we snuck around to a rooftop opening and dropped down to kill the raiders’ captain with a quick stab of Bayek’s Hidden Blade. Even with an expansive bag of tricks, sometimes the familiar methods are the most satisfying. And you’ll be able to start exploring and experimenting for yourself starting October 27, when Assassin’s Creed Origins launches on Xbox One and will be Xbox One X Enhanced when the Xbox One X launches on November 7.