A reader argues that the modern day storyline is the worst aspect of Assassins Creed Origins and is holding back the whole series.
There are two schools of thought amongst fans of Assassins Creed, those who love the lore and like the modern day sections and those who are in it for the historical stabbing fun and see the modern day sections as a distraction. I belong in the latter of these two camps. Ive finally finished Assassins Creed Origins and Im more resolute in my belief that as a series Assassins Creed should probably just flat out drop the modern day sections and in a few words Im going to painstakingly explain why Im right and youre wrong.
Before any negativity, lets have a quick wash in some lovely positivity bubble bath and talk about some of Origins good points, of which there are many. The first of which is the graphics, oh my god the graphics. What a drop dead gorgeous game, a fantastic showcase for a 4K display, and the increased power of modern consoles. My especial highlight is when traveling from point to point, its possible to get Baek to follow the road and automatically pilot himself. You can then transition up to his hovering eagle buddy Senu to scout ahead, do barrel rolls and take in the scenery – which was varied and interesting, for me a real wow moment and one I didnt tire of.
Traversal and combat was much improved in this iteration. I found there were much fewer frustrating moments when I was stuck on a fence post trying to coax Baek off it via the medium of shouting at my TV, though I did find myself scaling round windows rather than going through them more than was completely necessary. The combat was punchy but a bit one note, however. In the harder fights it was varied and better to get embroiled in a punch up than in than in earlier games. To top it off Im still going through the discovery tours slowly and am really impressed with the level of commitment to historical detail they contain.
The open world, which is a highlight of most bigger Ubisoft games, returns and this one was mindbogglingly huge. It seems like the entire Nile delta, or at least a condensed version of it, has been crammed into the game, from the great deserts to the barren craggy mountains and the lush riverside; you got a perfect impression of how ancient Egypt might have looked, its dependence on the great river, the relationship between the people and the animals they shared the water with, and a complex layered society going through a tumultuous period of its history. But along with the open world also came its irresolvable issues.
Open worlds have major problems baked into them, prime among them a lack of focus or urgency which can drain narrative impetus out of a game. When you can delay addressing the big bad event until you feel like it then it loses its foreboding and never feels like the impending catastrophe it should be.
It should be added that no open world game, to my knowledge, has squared this circle, not even the likes of Skyrim or The Witcher 3. Both genre-defining, timeless games have had Alduin the world eater and Eredin of the Wild Hunt circling the sky in a huff waiting for our hero to level his archery skills and clear each and every Witcher notice nailed to even the smallest two-bit village noticeboard. The story is side-lined and forgotten about in Assassins Creed this is doubly true for the utterly forgettable modern day sections.
The thing I think that the likes of Skyrim and The Witcher do, that raises them above Assassins Creed and allows the main plotlines in these games to remain memorable, is that their sideline content is usually strongly related to the worldwide peril, well written, and engrossing. Some quest types are reused as an expedience but there is enough variation within each template to make them worthwhile. Assassins Creed on the other hand crams the game to the absolute gills with sideline content but so much of it is shallow, simple, and so mercilessly copy and pasted that you tire of it. The fatigue of taking down yet another identikit camp becomes routine and uninspiring towards the end of the game, actually distracting and distancing you further from the plot.
As for Assassins Creed story, I have a very vague knowledge of whats going on. That there is a precursor race who stopped a solar flare but also want to wipe out humanity? There are two groups fighting a war for control of humanity: the Assassins and Templars. Templars advocate order over free will and the Assassins advocate free will unfettered by order (both viewpoints are valid and not mutually exclusive I always thought).
This precursor race has left all sorts of powerful, evocatively-named artefacts such as the Apple of Eden behind that perform the role of McGuffin for most entries. I know who Desmond Miles is and I know that being in the Animus for a prolonged period allows the skills and abilities of your ancestor to bleed into your consciousness. I got the impression that after Assassins Creed II the plot went full Thunderbirds and started to make less sense than a drunk Donald Duck.
It was around then that I lost the thread and at the same time the modern day sections lost their appeal. If you dont know or care about the overarching conflict then you have no stakes in that story, which is where I am at the moment. And judging by how scaled back the modern sections are I think Ubisoft are in the same boat.
So, were at the point with Assassins Creed where we have to bear in mind some barely legible plot about Absertgo chasing after pieces of Eden using disposable characters who dress in hipster gear. Occasionally we hear the pithy voice of Danny Wallace as he laments the tricky situation his latest Beats headphone-wearing protagonist has gotten himself into and I switch off quicker than a clone droid whos had its mothership blown up.
Is it about time that this supercilious nonsense was dropped? I would argue that yes, it is. I would say that each game could just be a story about Assassins fighting Templars and thats it, no window dressing or elaborate plot distraction. If they wanted to go further and Ubisoft have any aspirations of making Assassins Creed more than the disposable blockbuster of the game industry they could try to make the story of the main part of the game more memorable.
However, with the drawbacks inherent to the open world format this will be a trickier fix than simply ditching tosh that makes no sense, this would require the type of reconstruction that Isambard Kingdom Brunel would be proud of.
By reader Dieflemmy (gamertag/PSN ID/NN ID)
The readers feature does not necessary represent the views of GameCentral or Metro.