Can Assassin's Creed Origins save the series after Ubisoft's hiatus?

After two years out, Ubisoft is looking to reinvigorate its blockbuster series.

A promotional screenshot for Assassin's Creed Origins.Ubisoft

Assassin's Creed returns this year after Ubisoft took the decision to skip a 2016 release. This was in order to reinvigorate the series following the damage Assassin's Creed Unity's disastrous launch did to its reputation in 2014.

Its existence has been one of the worst kept secrets in recent gaming memory, but at E3 2017 Ubisoft finally officially revealed Assassin's Creed Origins: an adventure set in ancient Egypt that represents an enormous overhaul for the franchise.

Origins follows Bayek, a new hero but apparently not the only playable character, and tells the story of how the assassin's order came to be during Cleopatra's rise to power, and her reign as pharaoh.

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The story is being kept under wraps for now so Ubisoft can focus on the wealth of changes that have been made to how Assassin's Creed fundamentally plays - not that it's a karting game now or anything.

It's still third-person with a focus on stealth and combat, and of course there's a lot of climbing, but in Origins, players will be able to climb the majority of surfaces in the game. This instantly brings to mind The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild and how it affords players a greater connection to the world in a similar way by allowing them to move through it with greater freedom.

Ubisoft has removed the buttons for free-running too, in an effort make movement more natural and fluid. Crouching returns (why did it ever leave?) and sprinting is now dependent on how far players push forward the left analogue stick, rather than being tied to a button.

There is also a massive change to how players will explore the world. The mini map of past games is gone, replaced instead with a navigation bar similar to that in Bethesda's Elder Scrolls series. This means players are shown the direction they need to go in, but don't know exactly where to go unless they open up the map screen themselves.

A new RPG system is based on three styles of play - Seer, Hunter and Warrior - and uses a graph to show the player their progress. Ubisoft wants to make it easier for players to unlock the abilities they want, saying it'll take no more than four previous unlocks to reach any ability and that there are multiple roots to each one.

Origins will feature an enormous world filled with dangerous wildlife.Ubisoft

Loot plays a big part in Origins, with players able to attain items of clothing and weapons with varying stats and abilities which can also be upgraded with crafting materials. This all feeds into an overhauled fighting system, with attacks now mapped to the right bumper and trigger rather than a face button.

The combat is more based on hit-boxes, giving it a more methodical feel, and AI changes mean there's more to manage during a fight as enemies will no longer attack you one after the other, waiting their turn.

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An adrenaline gauge will build up during fights, and once full hitting both attacking commands will unleash a more powerful attack. Ubisoft has also removed the ability to dispatch of more powerful foes easily with one stealthy attack, which is just another example of Ubisoft crafting a more unforgiving game.

One more example is the change to Eagle vision, the ability that allows players to see through walls and plan ahead. While that's still possible, enemies will no longer show up. Instead, items and objects the player can interact with will appear. If players do want to see where enemies are, they can control an eagle pal called Senu and view the area around them from above.

Origins might look on its surface like just another Assassin's Creed, but it wasn't the look or concept that prompted Ubisoft to halt the series' annualised development cycle. It's what was under the hood that needed changing - those simple third-person action mechanics that grew increasingly convoluted and messy with each sequel.

Unity signalled a need for change, Syndicate saw the series in its previous guise off with style, and Origins is looking increasingly like the shot in the arm Assassin's Creed needed.

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Assassin's Creed Origins will be released on 27 October for PS4, Xbox One and PC.

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