I was Ubisoft-ed.
More specifically, I was impressed for a long time… then the game dragged on with too much clutter. Like a book with a 6 chapter epilogue.
We’re far enough in that spoilers don’t really apply. The game is about the origin of assassins in ancient Egypt. You play Bayek, a father out for revenge for the death of his child. You sometimes meet up with your wife Aya (who in a nice twist is better than you at pretty much everything), and go about taking our the pre-Templar Order. You’re smack in the Ptolemy/Cleopatra timeframe, which is probably the most well-known for most people. The bad guys have some interesting motivations, and some you can empathize with. Some go to absurd lengths to “be bad”. Eh.
The game starts with 5 targets to take out. Then you realize there’s another 5. Then you get told there’s another 2. Then another 2. Enough already. There are some ties to the “advanced civilization”, but they are more easter eggs than anything else. What’s here instead is promise of something better. Like a new foundation to grow.
I will say that I was disappointed when I played as Aya. You are restricted in ability and weapon types – all the while knowing that she is by far the better assassin of the two. It feels like you’re hobbled, rather than empowered.
Ancient Egypt is a very interesting setting. This is not that time setting, but instead at the time of Ceasar. Guess it’ll do.
The actual map of Egypt is massive and impressive. There are large amazing vistas throughout. Running through a desert feels exhausting and beautiful at the same time. The pyramids, tombs, and Pharos lighthouse are well constructed. It’s impressive to think that these large items were in people’s backyards for thousands of years.
The downside to this setting is the sheer amount of open space. Where more recent games had a decent mix of horizontal and vertical exploration… AC:O is almost entirely horizontal. I like the climbing and parkour, and there’s only a bit of it here. Not much they can do about it really…
It’s level based, and unless you complete side-quests and side-areas, you’re going to be drastically underleveled. In fact, if you’re not 5+ levels above the current area, you’re in for a bad time. Phylakes will take you out in 2 hits. Any fight with more than 3 enemies is likely to do the same. It’s not fun.
When you are the correct level, and have the necessary tools to be an assassin (sniper bow, chain assassinations, boosted overpower), then the game becomes fun. Taking out a giant base of enemies from the shadows does not get boring, even after the 50th time. That part works.
The other parts of the game – like animal hunting, or treasure hunting – I could do without. There’s no challenge here. You just go into combat, or press the scan button to find the loot.
War Elephant battles are a fun mess. There’s 4 of them (not counting a boss), and they are each a decent challenge in their own way. They are stupid in their own way as well, since it is the complete opposite of a sneaky assassin. Instead you’re a single guy, taking on a 15 foot beast, mounted by archers. Small doses works.
There are tombs to hunt and extremely simple level puzzles. They have value from a historical perspective so that players learn about Egypt. Aside from that…
The Stone Circle puzzles are simple “square peg in square hole” events. They eventually unlock a giant puzzle in the Sphynx for some neat-looking armor (with no in-game effect).
At later levels you can take on the gods themselves (or rather computer generated glitches of them). All are the same model of shoot arrows into the chest, avoid the red spots, kill the waves of bad guys. Good way to get gold-level gear I suppose.
I’d guess there are a couple hundred of the map icons with things to do. Some areas are dense, others sparse. For a long time it’s fun to just complete a bunch of activities while you’re moving forward. After a bit, you start having to backtrack or go out of your way. By the time you wrap back to Siwa…you’ve had enough. I’m sure there are another 10 hours of activities here but I’ve killed enough Hyenas, explored enough tombs, cleared enough guardposts to keep me satiated for a good 2 years.
Overall, the mechanics work ok, but it seems more like the devs were testing ideas than really knowing what to do with them. It feels like a buffet of options, with hot pockets in one corner, and filet mignon in the other.
Each AC has one particular item that defines it. It could be a gimmick, but it’s something that you can stick your memories to. In AC:O, that item is the level-based structure. It’s experimental and flawed, but certainly has potential. The highlight of the experience is the setting. Egypt is absolutely beautiful, and the devs went to great lengths to put pieces of history and context throughout. Quite impressive.
The rest of the game is ok – vanilla in a way. It kept me busy for quite a long time, always wondering what was over the next hill. I’m happy with the purchase, and overall curious as to what Ubisoft will do with this interesting experiment.