Assassin's Creed

Just started Assassin’s Creed Origins… my thoughts and musings on the series thus far (spoilers only for games prior to AC:O please and thankyou)

I fell deeply in love with the AC series early on; the mix of puzzles, drama, humour and action in ACII lifted it firmly from the 'tech demo with a cool plot device' level of the first game into 'Ok now this is something really good right here' territory for me.

I played my way through the Ezio trilogy (superb, although Brotherhood was the standout for me). The level of detail in the worlds, the movement, the present-day plot (yeah I love that stuff – when Juno spoke to Desmond through Ezio I lost my shit) – all made for exactly what I want from my single-player gaming diet.

Once caught up with Revelations (I'm not crying, you're crying) I waited patiently for ACIII, getting excited about each new reveal and game mechanic. ACIII wasn't one that instantly won me over but I grew to love it, and now hold it as one of the series high points. The setting, story and atmosphere really did it for me, along with a welcome jump forward in game engine capability (hello, ship combat!).

Black Flag didn't grab me for a while, not feeling massively like an AC game, and more a pirate sandbox with creedy stuff sprinkled in. I resisted this one for some time, eventually coming round to it when I had a far more powerful PC capable of running it maxed out – and I'm glad I did, what a stunner! I initially mourned the loss of any real continuation of the real-world story – especially after the ACIII cliffhanger – but when I made peace with what the game isn't, fell for it for what it is; vast, beautiful, exciting. A superb entry overall.

In the time it took me to get through ACIV, other games came out; Unity, Rogue, Syndicate. Still I took my time with it – rather than clamouring to play each game at release I've been going at my own pace – avoiding spoilers and even gameplay footage of the newer titles, whilst staying broadly aware of what each forthcoming game was and how they were received, especially the early adopter complaints about glitches and performance problems. Waiting to start them until these things got ironed out and playing them 'late' has meant I've experienced each chapter once they are polished, have extra content added, and I can run them at extreme quality settings, without any sacrifices made in fidelity or performance, as the creators intended.

Basically I've been rationing and savouring each entry as if they were books in my favourite series.

I played Rogue after IV and before Unity, which felt like it made more sense both in terms of narrative and game engine evolution than to play them in release (reverse) order. I enjoyed both of them, with Unity being a standout for the strong sense of atmosphere and picturesque views.

Next up was Syndicate, which against all expectations didn't do much for me at all. Being an evolution of the beautiful new engine introduced with Unity, with various improvements and new gameplay mechanics, with a setting in my capital no less (I live in the UK) meant I thought this one was going to be a slam-dunk, but it ended up feeling like a grind. The Frye twins were perfectly good protagonists and London was incredibly detailed throughout but I just didn't feel drawn to it, instead finding myself a bit fatigued by the gameplay loops and totally underwhelmed with the modern day elements (if you can even call them that at this point). I really found it a bit of a drag, even though there were standout moments of beauty or comedy or awe, I found skipping the side quests largely to get the story over with, all the time wondering if the magic had gone from the formula. At the same time, hearing whispers that many AC fans didn't like the newer entries because they shifted towards more RPG-type mechanics had me concerned whether the series was still going to be my jam any more.

Having finished Syndicate last week and started Origins this week – wow! What a breath of fresh air! This game looks stunning (the HDR implementation really helps), it sounds sublime and I am very happy that the combat now feels so dynamic and exciting.

So many things have had a well-needed overhaul; navigation, quest logs and tracking, loot management and the UI in general just feels cleaner, more streamlined and less cluttered.

The setting seems like a wonderful fit – I've found myself stopping to take numerous photos simply because of the absolute beauty of it all.

I also think I've seen more tombs or tomb-like places in my first few hours with AC:O than in my entire playthrough of AC:S, and that feels like the major thing that was missing; Syndicate being entirely city-bound meant that the exploration aspect didn't quite have the sense of geographical grandeur that previous chapters did, and Origins has that in spades.

I'm excited to see where the rest of the game (and series) goes now.

Without any spoilers for the rest of AC:O and later, how do you all feel about the evolution and change in direction of the series?

I feel like I'm back in love!


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