By Harold Goldberg
Most of the time, it’s great to welcome a new Assassin’s Creed game into my console – because of the its often compelling mix of history with fiction. Here’s what I saw when I went hands on with Assassin’s Creed: Origins.
First up was a video that set up the demo. It was hard to keep track of who Bayek, the main character, is beyond being a strong and tough 30-something. It’s even harder to understand the many characters and convey the minutia of the story line about helping rebel forces in the time of 40 B.C. But one thing was clear: Cleopatra is portrayed as an intelligent, savvy queen whose wily flirting might have a deadly sting.
When I play a new edition, it always takes a while for me to once again feel comfortable with my controller’s many options. There’s a cornucopia of things the controller can accomplish for you. A tap on a button is different from a press on a button, for instance.
There’s this majestic, useful eagle called Senu who soars high above an area. He lets you target enemies from above. The raptor won’t let you shoot at your foes from up there. But once targeted, you as a human can see what they’re all doing when you get near them.
One of the things you don’t want to do is let an enemy start a fire. This happened a few times to me, and that raging fire is a signal that alerts some evil, angry bastards who can be overwhelming.
You will die now and then. Maybe more than that. Get used to it.
At one point, I was able to release a lion from a wooden cage to attack nearby enemies. I don’t usually employ the word ‘satisfying’ when talking about killing. But seeing a proud wild animal get back at his captors was indeed satisfying.
Crocodiles move fairly quickly and you can’t kill them with one arrow. But once you do vanquish one of these reptiles, you can use what you take from him for an upgrade – in this case, for my shield.
I saw no mummies. But I’m told they’re in the game. I always like a good, evil mummy – especially at this Halloween time of year.
As always is the case in this series, getting up to a high vantage shows the sheer majesty of the world. The visual wonders of Egypt, from the pyramids to the rivers to the blowing sand, are breathtaking.
Is Origins any good? I don’t believe hands-on demos tell you all that much about what we’ll see in the final piece of popular art. I can say that everything looked good in the demo and that the game makers did their due diligence in creating an ancient Egypt that sounds and feels real. That’s a good omen. But it’s not the whole game, of course.
Harold Goldberg is an author and journalist who is the founder of the New York Videogame Critics Circle.