It might be cool to hate on Assassin's Creed these days, but there's no getting away from the fact that the series is more successful than ever before, raking in absurd amounts of dosh for Ubisoft. What was once a stealth-focused sandbox franchise is now a proper open world RPG property, with Assassin's Creed Odyssey and Assassin's Creed Valhalla going all-in on incredibly long adventures that boast things like loot, levelling, and player choice.
It's a direction that has divided even the most loyal of Assassin's Creed fans — but there is a game that arguably gets the best out of both directions, and that's Assassin's Creed Origins. Yes, the 2017 title may have established the series' open world RPG blueprint, but it doesn't outright ignore the stealth-focused foundations of its predecessors. In its story structure and its approach to objective-based gameplay, Origins feels a lot closer to traditional Assassin's Creed than the two games that succeeded it.
Because of this, Origins is still widely considered to be one of the series' best instalments — and having recently played it again, we'd honestly have to agree. Just last week, the game got an anticipated PS5 update, allowing it to run at 60 frames-per-second on Sony's current-gen console. Playing through Origins at double the original frame rate obviously makes for a much smoother and more responsive experience, and if you have fond memories of Bayek's Egyptian excursion, it's well worth going back on PS5.
There's a certain magic to Origins that Odyssey and Valhalla simply don't possess. Perhaps it's the brilliantly realised (and rather unique) Egyptian setting, or the more focused storytelling — or both — but having last played Origins several years ago, it's actually quite fascinating to revisit it here in 2022, two Assassin's Creed games later.
What sticks out to us the most is how detailed Origins' open world is. It doesn't have the scale of Odyssey's gigantic map, but it feels far tighter in how it's been pieced together — handcrafted, rather than copy and pasted. Every military base and bandit camp is unique, each city feels distinct. There's a hustle and bustle to Origins' streets that hasn't been replicated since; exiting the desolate desert sands to find such abundant life in a major city like Alexandria is a defining moment. That kind of contrast is almost completely missing from the likes of Valhalla.
Now look, different games go for different tones and atmospheres — direct comparisons don't always work. But there's just no denying that Origins' world feels more dynamic and enticing. NPCs have routines that they follow, and you can watch them go about their work, complete with custom animations. Wildlife interactions are everywhere — whether it's a hippo taking chunks out of a boat or packs of hyenas hunting an unfortunate gazelle. Rebels attack soldiers out on the roads, and crocodiles wander into villages to create total chaos.
Origins' world has so many moving parts, to the point where we're starting to think that it was actually ahead of its time (although we did call it one of the best open worlds we've ever seen back in 2017). Given how stripped back the open worlds of Odyssey and Valhalla are by comparison, it's almost strange to think of them as sequels. Origins feels more ambitious, more cohesive. Maybe it comes down to better project management, or perhaps it just had more time in the oven than its successors — it's hard to say. But the proof is right there, clearer than ever on PS5.
The impressive attention to detail is just one part of the package, though. Bayek, Origins' protagonist, is noticeably quicker than the historical heroes who followed in his footsteps. Actions like climbing and jumping feel more precise, and the environmental design — especially in civilised areas — features a lot of verticality. That traditional Assassin's Creed blood hasn't been drained from Origins, and it shows. Parkouring your way across rooftops feels great, just as it did with Ezio in Italy.
And then there's the combat. Generally speaking, it's quite methodical. Bayek doesn't have action RPG abilities like Alexios / Kassandra or Eivor. There's a greater emphasis on timing your attacks, positioning, and parrying when you can. Bayek's shield gets loads of use thanks to how accurate enemy archers are, but you can't just dodge your way to victory like you can in Odyssey. Getting surrounded can be a death sentence in Origins — Bayek isn't some kind of superhuman warrior (at least, not until you're equipped with the game's most powerful weapons later on). We're tempted to say that Origins' combat is more 'hardcore', and that's why stealth can still seem like a truly viable option.
A special shout out to the kill animations, by the way. Odyssey reused a few of these, and it's easy to see why. Some of them are satisfyingly brutal — the sickle sword! — and are yet more examples of how much effort went into crafting Origins as a whole. Out of the open world trilogy, Origins still holds the highest standard when it comes to overall polish.
So, is Origins the best open world Assassin's Creed game? We've put hundreds of hours into this trilogy, and we're very close to saying...yes. And most of you would agree, judging by our Best Assassin's Creed Games list.
Going back to Origins after Odyssey and Valhalla has made us realise just how well it holds up as both an Assassin's Creed title, and as an open world game. It's five years old and it manages to put its successors to shame in multiple areas, which is something that can't be said for most franchises in modern gaming.
Have you made a return trip to Egypt since Assassin's Creed Origins got its PS5 update? Establish the Hidden Ones in the comments section below.