It’s a good thing then that the side activities in Origins are surprisingly varied. Ubisoft open-world games always feature large maps with plenty of points of interest littered throughout and in this regard, Origins feels like one of the biggest games the company has ever built. The sheer size of Origins’ recreation of Ancient Egypt is staggering, but it’s not just filled with copy-and-paste desert landscapes. This is one of the most impressively-varied open-worlds I’ve yet encountered, with multiple unique cities to explore and sights to see. Smartly, Ubisoft seems to have borrowed quite heavily from CD Projekt Red’s open-world masterpiece The Witcher 3 in filling its world with side quests and points of interest that actually feel worth your time. The side quests, in particular, are often just as compelling as main story quests, complete with their own interesting characters and objectives. Origins also copies The Witcher 3’s question mark system to indicate points of interest, which range from strongholds to take over, to hidden treasure vaults begging to be explored. And because the game is now loot-based, there’s almost always a reason to do these activities, as you never know which one will reward you with a particularly useful new weapon.
The combat system has also received a dramatic overhaul and while it improves on the simplistic, counter-heavy combat of previous Assassin’s Creed games, it still has its fair share of problems. Admittedly, it’s nice to see Ubisoft Montreal didn’t just try and copy the Arkham Asylum-brand of freeflow combat like so many other franchises but at the same time, that combat system is popular for a reason. With Origins, Ubisoft has landed on a system that actually feels quite unique, focusing heavily on blocking, dodges and melee attacks; think a more brutal version of The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild (or a tamer version of Dark Souls). The problem is that while the combat feels perfectly tuned for one-on-one battles (there’s even a lock-on button), you’ll rarely be able to engage with enemies in this way. In my experience, enemies would routinely swarm Bayek and attack him from all angles and since Bayek can’t actually take very many hits from enemies close to his level, I’d end up dying far more often than I would in previous Assassin’s Creed games. Even after dozens of hours of learning the combat system, it never quite felt intuitive and I ended up trying to avoid combat as much as possible by taking enemies out with stealth so as to avoid another game over screen. Overall, I think Ubisoft Montreal is on the right track with this new combat system, but it could use some tweaks to better handle crowd control.