Assassin’s Creed Origins fills Egypt with potential but is marred by narrative missteps

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      I know there’s a decent story happening in Assassin’s Creed Origins, but the beginning of the game is so obtuse that it may be difficult to find it.

      After a brief opening scene, you are flung headlong a year into the future as the protagonist, Bayek, is completing what seems to be a revenge kill. For what he is taking revenge, however, we have no idea.

      The Assassin’s Creed games have always been about killing—it’s right there in the title—but we’ve always known why the protagonists are taking those actions.

      This back story, which is critical to the player actually understanding why Bayek is so vengeful, is revealed slowly over the next few hours of the game. It may have seemed like the simplest of narrative tricks to keep players curious about what really happened, but the way it’s handled is dizzyingly confusing.

      As a result, I couldn’t connect to what was happening. Because I didn’t understand the reason for Bayek’s actions, I had difficulty engaging with Origins at all.

      Ostensibly, this game, the tenth Assassin’s Creed title, tells of how the order of assassin’s came to be. It involves political intrigue between the pharoah Ptolemy and his sister, Cleopatra. Like previous games in the franchise, historical figures are integral to the game, and historical facts are woven into the story when it suits.

      This is an open-world Egypt, in the pre “anno Domini” era. Bayek is a medjay, something of a peace officer, and he’s free to go anywhere, with the game’s systems providing clues as to how he’s likely to fare. He can upgrade weapons and craft armour improvements, and there is an intricate web of ability upgrades to play with.

      There are dozens of side missions in addition to the core narrative, and the game gives you options to approach tasks by stealth or openly, but trying to complete sneak attacks from cover were hit and miss. And although combat has been redesigned, it still lacks responsiveness and left me a bit frustrated—especially as "dodge: and "parry" are keys to success.

      Frustration was my underlying response to this game, to be honest. I may have expected too much from Assassin’s Creed Origins because it felt like going through a dated routine.

      I did experience moments of beauty. The environment, for one, is new and rendered with vibrancy, and the characterizations of Bayek and the supporting characters, including his wife, Aya, are superb.

      But the clunky beginning and some frustrating mechanics cut into the fun.