One of the biggest queues at EGX this year was consistently the line for Assassin’s Creed Origins. After taking a year away - due to negatively received AC titles - expectations are running pretty high for Ubisoft, and a lot hinges on the success of Origins.
Firstly, I should make it clear that I played the PC version of Origins and not the Xbox One version they also had set up.
Origins - as the title would suggest - takes the series back to its roots, following the Assassins and the Knights Templar to the Ptolemaic period of Egypt. This time around, players will step into the shoes - or sandals? - of Bayek, the very first Assassin! This wild departure from the usual settings shows a shift in direction for Ubisoft, desperate to move away from the negative press of Assassin’s Creed Unity.
The EGX demo dropped players onto a horse just outside a small town beside the River Nile. A short ride into the town brought me across a young man being beaten by a priest, this of course resulted in a quest, with the young man asking me to obtain two statues for him. Both statues were located in and on the River Nile; one of the statues was located on a boat, whilst the other was hidden underwater. I could either attack the boat directly, or choose a more stealthy approach. It was essentially your typical cut and paste Assassin’s Creed mission, doing little to distance itself from the gameplay of past titles. The EGX demo is obviously only a snapshot of the full game, but it doesn’t bode well from the experience I had.
After I had returned the statues, I decided to go for a bit of a wander. I did find one of the synchronisation points and was able to jump into a conveniently placed pile of leaves. I then moved my focus to messing with the game's systems as much as possible, starting with the slaughter of random NPCs dotted around. Before long I was engaging in combat. Everything is business as usual other than the addition of Bayek being able to use a shield. Rather annoyingly, the shield is toggled by a button press rather than consistently holding it up. It's a small and easily fixed issue that could become quite annoying as the game progresses.
At first glance, Origins looks fresh, colourful and exciting, players are greeted by a sun-kissed Egyptian town filled to the brim with fauna and flora. The level of depth to Origin’s environments is nothing short of impressive, cats roam the streets, birds dominate the air and citizens go about their day-to-day lives. Unfortunately, the experience suffers as a result of that detail. The Origins EGX build ran abysmally, it struggled to go above 25fps and would often dip as low as 15fps at points. I’m generally not that bothered by frames, but even I found the Origins demo jarring as a result of its performance.
It’s a real shame that the experience was sullied by performance issues. Ubisoft have clearly put a lot of effort into creating such a detailed world and it’s likely going to be forgotten if the game releases anything like its current state. I’m hoping that the build shown at EGX is considerably old, if not, the developers have a lot of optimisation work to complete between now and the 27th October.