Assassin's Creed Origins Hands-On Left Me Cautiously Optimistic

Assassin’s Creed: Origins will be released Oct. 27 on Xbox One, PS4 and PC.
Assassin’s Creed: Origins will be released Oct. 27 on Xbox One, PS4 and PC. Ubisoft

Assassin's Creed took a year off, and I'm not sure I've missed it. Unity was a bumpy disappointment and moving the whole thing to Ancient Egypt sounded more gimmick than good idea. But a brief, but playable, demo of Assassin's Creed Origins at the Xbox E3 Showcase reveals a series that is getting back to its fundamentals. It's a new Assassin's Creed game but it will feel familiar to anyone who has touched the franchise in the last decade.

The Assassin's Creed Origins hands on consisted of two parts: a brief mission and a stint inside the Gladiator mode. It's exactly what you think it is, ancient, armed content in a big, dirt pit. No context was provided for either game mode but it's safe to say both will be part of the Assassin's Creed Origins launch on Oct. 27.

The mission demo took me through a small coastal village in Egypt, with mostly unimportant peasants roaming about. I know they're unimportant because I attacked several in an effort to start a fight with some guards but nine came. Class warfare runs deep in Origins I guess. The villagers all reacted appropriately horrified, and scrambled realistically. It's worth noting I was playing on an Xbox One X so performance and visuals may vary depending on whichever “not $500” console you'll be playing on.

All the sticky parkour action you expect is there. And the fall damage. I didn’t locate any iconic eagle eye suicide dives, but I did manage a few long falls with graceful landings too. You sprint by default in Assassin's Creed Origins and cling and climb by holding A and smashing into things. My short vertical bursts seemed fluid enough, but I didn't face any of the long, arduous climbs franchise fans expect.

The story was basic. A priest is chastising a boy for losing a pair of golden statues. He accuses the boy of theft and beats him in a public square. Our hero, Bayek, intervenes and commits to investigating the boy’s claims that the statues were lost in a shipwreck. Where to next?

Assassin's Creed Origins skips the mini radar for a compass with waypoints, a UI move familiar to anyone who's played Skyrim . It's a lot less intrusive and assumes you may have played a video game or two in your life. I set off towards the golden waypoint and wound up at the docks. A brief scouting trip from my falcon revealed one statue was submerged, but the other was on a guarded military ship. Both were in the water so it was time to get wet.

Swimming to the sunken statue first revealed a ludicrously long breath meter. I'm not sure how many upgrades my character had though so it's likely you don't start out with Kevin-Costner-In- Waterworld levels of lung capacity. But the swimming was easy and the riverbed nicely detailed. Drifting plants, colorful fish darting around and, of course, a sunken wooden ship containing some loot. I retrieved it without incident and made my way up for air.

The next statue was just as easy, albeit with some luck. I just climbed up the back of the ship, did a quick assassination on a guard who was transcribing a letter about finding the statue, and snatched it up before swan diving into the water once more. A few guards raised an alarm but I swam submerged all the way to the shoreline where the priest and boy were waiting.

You hand over the loot and the priest knocks the boy out cold for his “carelessness.” You exchange some heated words that involve you denouncing the Masks, an evil faction of priests who are corrupting egypt, and then chase the priest through the streets before stabbing him to death because it's ancient times and life is cheap.

The Gladiator mode was a nice showcase for beginner’s to get to know the combat, but didn’t feel like something that would’ve delivered a tremendous challenge once I became familiar with the game. I managed to get through the first wave of the horde mode, and came within an inch of beating the boss on my first try. Again, I don’t know anything about the difficulty setting or character level, and I hope Assassin's Creed Origins offers a robust challenge throughout. But the hands on at the Xbox E3 Showcase made it seem like the year off was worth it. We’ll find out for sure when Assassin's Creed Origins releases Oct 27 for Xbox One, PS4 and PC.

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