Assassin’s Creed Origins was a slow burn. The ancient Egyptian adventure didn’t grab me in its earliest scenes, didn’t immediately hook me with its stoic hero Bayek. It felt fine at first. Solid. But it also felt plain. I kept playing and grew to marvel at it.
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Last week, I realised I have a problem. I'd just finished browsing the Nintendo Switch's entire eShop for a second time in search of a new game. That's a weird thing to do, especially considering that I still haven't finished Breath of the Wild. I should finish it, but I can't bring myself to do it. Hours and hours and hours later, I'm bored.
This is Aussie cosplayer Yeliz taking on the star of Assassin's Creed Origins, Bayek.
The next Assassin's Creed is going to turn heads. That won't just be because it's set in ancient Greece, nor simply because it lets you play as a man or a woman. It's also changing the series' combat yet again, offering more options for stealth, and even fleshing out the modern-day stuff that's been lacking in recent games in the series.
Curse of the Pharoahs, the second big expansion for Assassin's Creed Origins, has been one of 2018's most pleasant surprises, in big part because it includes some very weird shit. Here's a look where some of that came from.
Ubisoft's personal gaming assistant, previously only available in Canada, is now out worldwide. Its name is Sam, a nod to Sam Fisher of Splinter Cell fame, although Michael Ironside doesn't do the voice (sorry, Stephen). Embedded in the Ubisoft Club app, Sam sounds like any other AI that might reside on your phone, although instead of giving you directions to the nearest coffee shop it tells you about Ubisoft video games.
There has been one major new Assassin's Creed game every year since 2007, except for the two years they skipped and the one year when they made two. It's never been a secret that Ubisoft rotates teams, but it's never been as clear how they do it until a talk given by the head of the franchise at the Game Developers Conference in San Francisco last month.
Ubisoft games are understandably knocked for having a lot of filler content. Often, though, one of their gargantuan open-world epics will hide a wonderful line of sidequests. It's taken me some time to appreciate an extraordinary set of them in Assassin's Creed Origins, a set that helps show off areas of the game players might otherwise never visit.
Fun fact: There's an entire company dedicated to helping game developers create believable trees. SpeedTree offers developers a huge library of trees as well as tools that let them quickly make their own, and its tech has appeared in everything from The Witcher 3 to Forza to Destiny. Which video game trees are the best, though? I went to the SpeedTree booth at GDC to find out.
About one hour into my Assassin's Creed: Origins playthrough, I came upon my first treasure chest in an out-of-the-way cave near Siwa. As I walked up to it, I pressed the E key and braced myself for that everlasting example of minor gameplay annoyances: the chest-opening animation. But it never came.
Assassin's Creed tries to be a series about history, but over the last decade it hasn't been afraid to get a little loose with that. We've had a tyrannical King George (Washington), and a bizarre hunt for Jack the Ripper, but it's the series latest dalliance with fiction - Curse of the Pharoahs - that's become my favourite historical diversion.