I have sort of a love-hate relationship with the “Assassin’s Creed” games.
When the first game launched in 2007, I, like many others, was captivated by the concept. A third-person action game set in biblical times in which you climb buildings, assassinate corrupt leaders, and make precarious leaps off rooftops into hay bales? Sign me up.
The main series took a year off before “Assassin’s Creed II” launched in 2009. Between then and 2015, a main “Assassin’s Creed” game has launched every year. In fact, two of them were released in 2015. Never mind the nearly 10 spin-off games that came out during the same period.
I’ve written before about franchise fatigue, using “Assassin’s Creed” as an example. Launching such a big game every year not only meant the series couldn’t evolve but that fans were growing tired of the games. After “Assassin’s Creed Unity’s” disastrous launch in 2014, I swore off the series, though that didn’t last long.
For whatever reason, developer Ubisoft decided to take a break in 2016 and didn’t launch a main “Assassin’s Creed” game—something the company hasn’t done since 2008. It turned out to be a boon for the series because I’m thoroughly enjoying the result of the hiatus: “Assassin’s Creed Origins.”
“Origins” is the biggest change in the series in several ways, and many of them are for the better.
For one, “Origins’” story lets fans explore the genesis of the Order of Assassins, the group to which every “Assassin’s Creed” protagonist belongs. It’s a mystery players have long wanted to solve, and this game, by taking place at the beginning, serves as a franchise reboot of sorts.
On top of that, “Origins” boasts a ridiculously huge map. Seriously, it’s almost comically big. I’ve played for about 20 hours and have explored only a fraction of the Egyptian setting. It’s one of “Assassin’s Creed’s” most interesting maps, by the way. I’m having a blast climbing pyramids, swimming through the Nile River, and exploring sand dunes from the back of my camel.
“Origins” even revamped the series’ genre in some ways. Whereas previous entries felt like action games, “Origins” feels more like a role-playing game, and I’m digging it.
Characters have levels denoting their strengths, and the player character has a skill tree full of different abilities to unlock as he levels up. There are dozens of weapons to collect—each with varying rarities and strengths and weaknesses. In true RPG fashion, missions are even referred to as quests. It still feels like an “Assassin’s Creed” game at its core, but the role-playing game elements in “Origins” have all been welcome, fitting changes.
But the best part of all is the one-year break gave fans a chance to miss the series and remember why they love it in the first place.
Overall, I’ve always liked the “Assassin’s Creed” games. Sure, some have been better than others, and a select few have been just plain bad. But the series is a bestseller for good reason, which is something I forgot by playing a new game almost every single year since high school.
I hope Ubisoft keeps the two-year development cycle going. Sure, it probably won’t make as much money as it would if it launched a game annually, but “Origins” is definitive proof that taking a break can allow artists to really examine their work and make lasting changes for the better.
Video game columnist Jake Magee has been with GazetteXtra since 2014. His opinion is not necessarily that of Gazette management. Let him know what you think by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org, leaving a comment below, or following @jakemmagee on Twitter.