Earlier this month Progress Bar were lucky enough to be invited to a special Xbox Showcase held by Microsoft at Luna Park in Sydney. The venue was the Crystal Palace, the building that saw the Australian launch of the Xbox One way back in 2013. Microsoft were showing off their latest Xbox iteration, the Xbox One X, as well as a handful of newly released, remastered and upcoming titles.
One of the highlights of the show was Assassin’s Creed: Origins. I got around forty minutes hands-on with the Gamescom demo shown off in August, running on a prototype Xbox One X at 4k and with HDR enabled. For those who don’t know, Ubisoft decided to give Assassin’s Creed a year off and what was once an annual franchise was given a break to recoup. This was almost entirely due to the negative reception of 2014’s Assassin’s Creed: Unity, which was plagued with bugs and performance issues, and just generally wasn’t very good. Origins is the result of this sabbatical, but it remains to be seen if Ubisoft have truly made the most of their extra time.
The game looks good and ran reasonably well during my session but I couldn’t help but notice rough textures and some good old Assassin’s Creed jankiness. Being forced to sit right up close to the TVs is always an issue at these events; I’m sure at home sitting a couple of metres away on my couch the game would look significantly crisper. Hopefully the aforementioned jank (NPCs gliding through Bayek during cutscenes, or riding a horse up a set of stairs instead of what you actually wanted to do, that sort of thing), will get ironed out in the time leading up to release.
In this demo of Assassin’s Creed: Origins, Bayek and his wife Aya are investigating the sickness of the Apis bull, a sacred beast that the people of Memphis believe is the personification of a god. After a quick row through some reedy water, past some run down shacks and huts, I came across a vast temple. In this temple I found the bull, and a quick “witcher sense/detective vision” scenario played out. I had to use my eagle vision to locate clues and interview witnesses, pretty straightforward and unfortunately not all that interesting.
I eventually discovered that two priestesses, sisters, were being blackmailed into poisoning the bull to ensure the survival of their brother, who had been taken captive by some nasty types. What followed was an infiltration mission of sorts, getting into a fortified complex, take out (or avoid) the guards, and carry the injured man back to safety.
As for Senu, all jokes aside it really is like controlling a drone in Watch Dogs 2. You can slow to a complete halt as if hovering, zoom in and mark enemies, chests etc. All of these things will then appear through walls to Bayek. It may be new for Assassin’s Creed, but it is absolutely not a new mechanic for third-person open world games and it’s quite hard to get excited about.
Overall my thoughts walking away from the Assassin’s Creed: Origins demo can be summed up with a shrug and an “it was ok” attitude. Nothing about the story, visuals or gameplay really wowed me. I have a feeling getting totally immersed in this world, exploring the desert and ancient tombs and giving Bayek’s story time to set its claws will change my mind, but that will have to wait until Assassin’s Creed: Origins releases next month on October 26th.