Assassin's Creed, the game series that launched a thousand parkour-related broken bones, just released their newest title, Assassin's Creed Origins. Ubisoft has been developing this prequel chapter for no small amount of time, and the early buzz for it after E3 was marginally better than the previous title, Syndicate.
'Origins' takes place in ancient Egypt, somewhere we've not really been able to explore in the past/present/future narratives thus far. The playable world seems to encompass much of the Upper Egyptian Kingdom, featuring areas such as Alexandria (yes, there are missions inside the Lighthouse and unburned Library), Giza, Memphis, and Saqqara.
The plot of the game (the most basic way of describing it in anycase) is the origin of the Brotherhood of Assassins. This has been touched on a few times before in the series, various mentions of "the first", parts of the legends of where certain aspects of the characters came from, and the first appearance of those nifty fun toys.
You play as Bayek the Meiji in the Ptolemaic Kingdom. Pharaoh Ptolemy XIII struggles to keep order in his kingdom after banishing his sister, the recently deposed Cleopatra. She of course is marshalling loyalist forces to launch a counter-coup against Ptolemy; and frequent incursions into the Kingdom by the Roman Republic under the command of Julius Caesar lead to fears of an imminent invasion. Bayek's role as a Meiji brings him into contact with the secretive forces manipulating these events and sees him become the first Assassin.
If you are at all familiar with the basics of the Assassin's gameplay, you know about Eagle Vision, the special ability that allows you to see points/items of interest you may miss. In 'Origins', the new vision is both augmented and not as helpful. Instead of JUST your special vision ability (which in this world allows you to see lootable items, treasure, stands of arrows to refill your quivers, and collectables) you have an eagle named Senu.
Senu will circle around above you and point out various items such as animals to hunt for their leather (useful in crafting new armor and such), caravans transporting other items, and focal points of certain quests and missions. Senu has a hot/cold method of pointing out main persons of interest, and can dive-bomb those persons if you level up Senu's abilities located in the hunter's menu of your individual skills.
The downside of this is the new style of vision does NOT show you nearby soldiers like previous games have done. So, you really have to be on your guard all the time. Also, this piece from Polygon is a terribly fun read about the new eagle vision thing.
There is also a new time turner ability where you can speed up the passage of time. Lets say you have a mission where you have to meet so-and-so at night somewhere, but it's currently morning. This new ability allows you to push time ahead as needed. (I personally haven't explored this an ability yet, so I'm mentioning it in preparation for leveling the skill up.)
For the most part, the mechanics are within a skill or two of the previous titles. Leaps of faith are available, although the prompts only show up on synchronization points. The character's fighting abilities are a bit different, the famed assassin's wristblade is not an option for standard combat which is disappointing. You can use it in sneaky scenarios, but triggering the ability seems to happen only when the prompt tells you it's available.
There are a massive amount of boats available to cruise around the Nile Delta, but watch out for crocs and hippos because they will try to eat your reed boat.
The most interesting thing thus far is the ability to race chariots inside The Hippodrome. It takes some learning, but once you get the mechanics down it's pretty enjoyable.
How It Measures Up In Universe:
Ubisoft will be hard-pressed to top my favorite title, Black Flag. There was something really special about the character, his narrative, and the scope of the world. Syndicate tried, it really did, but ultimately it wasn't worth the time I put into it. Mostly, I'll admit, because I was angry I couldn't play through the entire game as the female character Evie. But, I could totally go back and play through Black Flag once a year and still be satisfied and entertained. Also, Assassin's Creed II is still a classic for a reason. The graphics, the history, and the storytelling have continued to make it an icon for immersive gameplay.
I've gotten to level 13, and am making my way through both the main quest line and a few side quests to level up my skills weapons. I really want to like this storyline, I'm very interested to see how it progresses, but ultimately it isn't as engaging as I was hoping it'd be. Petting the numerous cats that hang around temples is fun and all though.