Going back to the start of the order of Assassin’s has been a long time coming. To see it go so far back is both strange, wonderful and brings a new period of history to our consoles. Egypt, under the Ptolemy’s, was a melting pot of different cultures, languages and knowledge. To have it brought so vibrantly to our screens took time and seems to be time well spent.
What marks this game and where it’s built is the chapters its broken up into. Like previous entries, you are given a set of objectives, a short self-contained story to work your way through. Some are quite direct and violent, the hall mark of any game marked Assassin’s Creed. However, many of the side quests show off Egypt and its daily life. They might be small tasks, but they are the life of the Medjay, your avatar and character now.
Bayek is not alone in his quest for vengeance. Perhaps the first to have an obvious partner in Aya. Both work towards their goal, to avenge the loss of their son. From masked figures to be identified defeated, the core of this series is as strong as ever. This time with another setting and perhaps the deepest crafted of the lot. Egypt and its rituals are shown in great depth, from the living, performances to celebrate the gods, to the passage of the living to the dead.
Also this is easily the closest to a RPG of the games so far. Now with a clear levelling system, giving you points to spend to unlock new abilities. From bonuses to EXP for specific type of kills to new attacks, ones that can break shields, mastery of your bows and more. Even to unlock the ability to buy war chariots and have them as your mount. With three trees to fill out, you have plenty of freedom to decide what is important to you, in your next quest, mission. In your exploration of the world at large.
A new class of equipment now joins the other weapons you can choose. Finally shields have been introduced to the game. These aren’t the heater, kite or jousting shields of medieval times, but round shields, generally painted with ornate designs. Spears, khopesh and bows are some of the other weapons you will encounter. Some give you range, to dominate groups, control the engagement. Bows come in a number of forms, one a hard hitter. Another is rapid fire, multiple shots at once is also present. The generalist hunting bow remains a favourite for me, a good mix of all the others.
Combat has been the most shaken up since the last entry. Blocking is simple to do, parrying a challenge. Further abilities give you the ability to combo your attacks, breaking heavy shields and allowing longer chains of hits. Learning to dance between your foes, to close in with those with shields and bows and to keep distance from those with swords. Seeing the difference just between the curved, sickle swords and the straight blades, khopesh and spatha, is refreshing. Different weapons have clearly different animations.
Audio and Visuals
Egypt is a land of contradictions, full of colour, large open vistas and closed, dense cities. From the greenery that hugs the Nile to the cities, bright and vibrant, it doesn’t take long to see something new, something different, to change your environment. Open deserts, proud moments, obelisks, temples and more await. There’s so much to look at it can be hard to work out what is worthy of study. Yet, despite all of this, the prompts are obvious and in your face. To know when to dodge and when to parry, comes easily. Navigating is easy and finding your way around is easier than I found the other entries in Unity and Syndicate.
Not only is the world so detailed, the characters are too, Bayek and Aya are detailed, living people. So too are the many unnamed people who live in the towns and villages. You can tell the Greek from the Egyptian, even Roman. Enemies were obvious tunics and armour to set them apart. Shields are decorated with vibrant paintings, markings. Not only that, weapons are easy to identify, those made of iron, to those of copper and bronze.
Like the others in the series, there’s something in the music, for me. It doesn’t just set the tone, but tells you where you are. This is definitely true here. In my current wonderings I know when I’m in the desert, in the city, in the oasis and in the tombs. Not only that I want to credit the voice actors here as well. They have a certain feel, sound, of the region that makes them fit so much better, keeps me lost in the game and its characters.
For me, thankfully the online PvP multiplayer has been removed from the series. It’s a return to form that I do welcome. As well, while there are some online aspects, I’ve not found them at all to be intrusive.
There’s not much to complain about here. Simply said, this is the best of the lessons learned and put into the previous series, given free rein to be explored as you see fit. I constantly flitted between side quests and exploration, wondering what’s around the next corner. If there are complaints, is that I do have it doesn’t seem to be entirely free of bugs. I also dislike the level range for the areas. I felt that it was there to force me to level up, to direct me, without good purpose or reason. That I couldn’t be trusted to explore as I wished. Those, however, are minor nitpicks next to everything else this game gets so very right.
Egypt is a land of history that goes back to before the written word. A place of water, famine and feasts. A place of floods, where the Nile is the heart and artery of it. To see it so bright, so vibrant, full of colour and greenery is amazing. To see the temples so much closer to their prime is something I wish I could now, in this world. Even the pyramids are so much cleaner, brighter, more beautiful, landmarks for the living and the dead.
This game shows an Egypt between two worlds, the introduction of the Greek influence, under the Ptolemy’s, from the greater army of Alexander the Great. Even little details in the design, artistic style of the statues is true to history. Not only that, some of the weapons match perfectly to their historical counterparts. Khopesh, spears, bows, all of in the art I know. Chariots are common, all of the creatures seen of the Nile.
With so much being known about Egypt, during this time, prior to its inclusion in the greater Roman empire, it would be hard to do all of that history respect, honour. To include the finer details of the different gods and goddesses. Yet, here I was surprised to hear talk of duat, to have your heart measured against a feather. I also heard the many platitudes, towards Horus, Sekhmet, Sobek, Anubis. Not only that, to see part of the mummification process, of drying in salt, so open, so visible, was refreshing. Not only refreshing, but so very true to the period and people. Life existed after death, that to be prepared for it correctly was important. To be ready and to have no worldly concerns, that all was taken care of, a duty.
Again, the series should be praised for its dedication to presenting the eras it chosen so deeply. While I might not care for Victorian England, Revolution France, the Enlightenment, Renaissance, take your pick, here it so wonderfully brought to life that it is hard not to get lost exploring a village, oasis, more. To study the people, their clothes and items, even in the tombs themselves. There’s a real, living world out there for you to explore and I hope you can find the depth, honesty towards history that I do.