At E3 2017 there seems to be one game on everyone's lips: Assassin's Creed. In its latest iteration, Origins, which is set in ancient Egypt, the game returns after a hiatus from its usual annual cycle.
While Origins embodies what is is to be an Assassin's Creed game, in both style and exploration, it's also a rethinking of the classic formula. There's no mini map displayed on the screen. Combat is far more engaging. Towers are a thing of the past for opening new map areas. And the parkour and press-and-hold climbing of previous titles takes a back seat.
Add that Origins runs in 4K on the Xbox One X and, well, there's no denying it looks visually stunning too.
From the beginning of our gameplay session we set off on horseback, playing as Bayek, following the beaten desert track (which can be automated, to make firing your bow while in motion easier), free to explore the world. A top bar acts as a compass to track down points of interests, critical missions and side missions.
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The landscape isn't as tightly knit as some previous Assassin's games, which means the constant climbing up and down buildings isn't as prevalent. You can still climb, of course, with a degree of automation ensuring your assassin-like skills remain in check and that you won't go tumbling down. We climbed a ships mast and skipped along the ropes when looting a boat as part of a mission.
Getting to said boat was interesting for a number of reasons: a press down on the directional pad puts your eagle, Senu, into flight to explore the surrounding landscape and tag enemies. Once we'd flown Senu miles off the shoreline we knew which boats we wanted to loot and then it was a case of swimming there.
Water is no stranger to Assassin's Creed. There was an abundance of it in Black Flag. But in Origins it plays a critical role; diving in a swimming underwater is a serene experience which looks stunning. Well, it's serene until Bayek is attacked by a hippo or shark, adding a whole other dynamic.
Having completed one of the many available missions, involving returning gold statues looted from a boat, we levelled up. Opening the skills tree from within the settings showed the breadth of skills available and how it's possible to tune Bayek to suit your play style.
We opted to carry two melee weapons rather than one, to add different options to combat. Fight scenes in Origins feel like a much more involved experience than previous games. It feels less on rails, with the ability to dodge to help breakup those infuriating moments when mobbed by a gang of enemies. There are light and heavy attacks, separated by left and right triggers, adding further decision-making dynamism to play. It's more like The Witcher, in a sense. And it's way better.
Which is our sentiment of Origins as a whole: it's Assassin's Creed as we know it, only better. Whether the stunning setting and 4K HDR graphics lures you in or not, it feels as though Ubisoft has brought the series into the future. If it launches with no major bugs and glitches then it looks like a surefire success that will please fans and newcomers alike.
Assassin's Creed: Origins will be available for PS4, Xbox One and PC on October 27 2017.