Gamescom 2017: Assassin's Creed Origins Demo Impressions
Markuz, September 9th, 2017
Translated by: Markuz

Even though with a great delay, we are finally able to share with all of you our impressions about the Assassin’s Creed Origins demos at Gamescom 2017!

As some of you may know, Ubisoft brought two demos for Origins at Gamescom 2017, but only one was available to the public. And it wasn’t the new one. In fact, the demo that everyone was able to try on the showfloor was the E3 demo taking place in the Faiyum area, the one that was shown at the end of the Ubisoft Conference, while the other demo, which took place in Memphis and that you may have seen displayed in some of the more recent videos on Youtube, was only available in the Business / Press area.

Luckily enough, though, I was able to try both of them and this gave me the chance not only to try several elements of the demos but also to see how the game had already changed in a few details between the demos. So, without further ado, let’s start with our report…

The Faiyum demo

There isn’t that much to say about the demo itself. Basically through all the reports that we at Access The Animus did on our social media from all the videos shared by the gaming press sites and the many youtubers that could put their hands on it, most of the demo, its narrative and especially its gameplay aspects had already been covered and was not new to me.

So, yeah, you can picture me and our webmaster Sary getting to try the demo with that snobby feeling of “I’ve already seen everything in the demo”. And yet, there were still tiny little details that we had not seen yet, like the presence of NPC allies on horse (with a blue marker on their head to identify them) that attack guards or the presence of “Assassin Bureaus” and “Elephant War” missions in the legend of the map or the most coveted of them all, the “Juno Events” and their icon which seemed like representing an explosion of sorts (although please take this with a grain of salt, we do not have a picture to show it to you at the moment).

Even just walking around in the
environment can be really satisfying
(Source: Youtuber jackfrags)
Of course I also took our time to just walk around the game world and to follow the NPCs in their daily lives and routines, as the developers mentioned so many times in the interviews. It really is interesting, from time to time, to relax from all the quests and missions and just follow a specific NPC, to take the time needed to observe all the little details of what he’s doing, the building he’s living or working in, the objects he’s using. At least for me, it’s a fun way to spend time in the game and at the same time to have a better idea of how life in Ancient Egypt could have been.

The thing that struck me the most, though, was the control scheme, which is a radical change from everything that the Assassin’s Creed franchise has offered so far. As a matter of fact, the first time I tried the Faiyum demo I actually spent half of the time available to me trying to figure out the controls while at the same time I botched stealth situations, failed to dodge blows, activated Senu multiple times when I didn’t need her and so on. Still, after a few (more than a few?) minutes spent getting used to all the new controls for the old and new mechanics, I got the hang of it and when I did, the gameplay became much more compelling, especially the combat system, which was very satisfying once I learned how to dodge, use the shield, shoot some arrows from my bow and, of course, use my melee weapon and balance its light, heavy and charged attacks.

The Memphis demo

As I mentioned before, the Memphis demo immediately showed that it was taken from a more advanced development stage than the Faiyum one and that could especially be seen in the tiny details. To give you a few examples the UI was more refined, the icons in the menu were a bit different, the investigation scenes had indicators that were much more visible, the skill tree had tiny videos that showcased each skill… And the control scheme had changed again for a few features (like Senu and its controls), which does sound great as the developers seem to be working on polishing every single detail on the game but of course confused me even more after I had spent so much time mastering the controls in the Faiyum demo.

Anyway, spoilt complaints aside, the demo contained a new location, Memphis, and a new story mission which featured Aya, Bayek’s wife and showed a bit of her relationship with him.

In the demo, which seems to take place well beyond the beginning of the game, Aya and Bayek show that they are on the tracks of the so-called “The Lizard”, a new target whose name easily echoes “The Crocodile”, the man that Bayek was looking for in the Faiyum demo. This is a tiny bit of information but, as we’ll see, it has its own significance in the portrayal of the Order of the Ancients, the organization that Bayek (and Aya too, as shown in the demo) is hunting throughout the game. Another element that shows that the demo takes place during an advanced point of the story is that Aya seems to know about Bayek’s dreams, which, in turn, is very likely to be a reference to the giant snake shown in the E3 trailer, as it was hinted at by Producer Julien Laferričre. Aya, though, seems to be worried about Bayek having these strange dreams and in general seems to be worried about him and still the narrative of the mission showed that even then, even if they are in love with one another, Bayek and Aya’s paths are for unknown reasons separated, and seem to only cross in Memphis for this specific mission. More specifically, while Bayek is the last Medjay and so he’s serving the entirety of Egypt, Aya is serving “the queen”, Cleopatra, who is going to be in Memphis soon and that Bayek doesn’t seem to trust as much as his wife does. Moreover, Bayek plainly asks Aya to “go back” and stay with him and fight the Order of the Ancients together but she seems to be bound to Cleopatra by a promise that the demo doesn’t seem to clarify.

All these pieces of information are dropped throughout the beginning of the introduction to the mission, which has Bayek go through an investigation zone which will lead him to a guard post and then at the end of the mission. All these different kind of activities allowed me to try different gameplay elements supported by the story mission and that’s not even considering all the juicy stuff that was contained in the demo as part of its open world part (more on that later).

Here is an example
of the "investigation phase" UI
(Source: youtuber Centerstrain 01)
For example, the investigation part of the mission had some elements that were similar to the Murder Mysteries locations in AC: Syndicate and some others that were actually pretty different. Bayek isn’t able to use Eagle Vision as we know it, and so players in the investigation areas have to use the Animus Pulse skill, which highlights all the elements and characters that Bayek can interact with and shows with a little “tick” the ones that Bayek has already checked. This, coupled with a meter that shows the investigation progress, allows fans and especially completionists to always know if they have missed even the tiniest detail in their search for clues.

After finishing the investigation, Bayek had to reach the guard post and to do that, the player was free to choose his favorite way through parkour (I chose this way for a bit and found out ziplines are back in Origins), by horse or camel, or of course by foot. Going by foot, especially, was nice to get a grip of the city of Memphis and how it can quickly change from the luxury of the Temple of Ptah where the investigation was held to the more ordinary houses of the common people. There was even a passage between the two banks of a river where the water wasn’t that deep and so all the NPCs traversed it to get on the other side to keep on following their daily routine.

The guard post was exactly what you’d expect it to be. It was sort of like a tiny black box mission, where the player could choose any path he/she wanted to take down the boss, save an injured man and bring him to a safe place. Except it wasn’t a specific mission with boundaries that Bayek couldn’t trespass, it was just a part of the quest and could be approached from any direction.
I chose to climb up to the top of the building with the idea of sneaking up on guards and that worked (especially using the so-called “Eagle harass” mechanic that has Senu distracting a specific guard) until I found myself in front of the leader of the post, whom I had to fight twice before being able to eliminate him.

Rescuing the kidnapped man from the guard post allowed for the ending of the quest, where Aya and Bayek found out that the Lizard is a priest of Anubis who wears a blue scarf and has a terrible cough. Later on, the two reach Cleopatra after she tries to speak to the people to gain their approval… unsuccessfully, and try to tell her about what they found about the Lizard. When they do explain it all to her and Pasherenptah, her trusted advisor and High Priest of Ptah in Memphis (who also appear to be a historical character), the latter is shocked and immediately says that one of his priests corresponds to the description provided by Bayek and his name is Hetepi.

Hetepi, the priest with the Anubi mask

With this tiny little bomb, the main story mission ends pretty much like its counterpart in the Faiyum demo, with Bayek getting closer to his target, even though he still hasn’t reached him.

With that, the story mission ended, but thankfully both Sary and I had more time to wander around Memphis and outside of it and we did our best to use our time and look around to find out more about other mechanics, locations and activities that were contained in the Memphis demo.
The first thing I did was checking out the shops, which were basically of three kinds: weavers for outfits, blacksmiths for weapons and stables for horses.

As for the stables, they are “just” a shop where the player can buy new horses who are different from one another because of their rarity. To buy them, at least in the demo, the player only had to pay through money without any other requirements for resources.

The blacksmiths, instead, allow for different interactions. Of course players will be able to buy and sell new shields, bows and melee weapons (which are organized by categories) and some of those will be level-locked. If players have a favourite weapon and don’t want to buy new and more powerful ones while still being able to face their enemies, they will also be able to upgrade them to their current level, if they pay the right amount of money to the blacksmith that is. Lastly, blacksmith will also refill Bayek’s quiver, should the player ever need it so.

The menu of the Weaver shop showing the
available outfits (Source: Youtuber JorRaptor)
Finally, the weavers. They allow players to buy outfits and, more specifically, the Memphis demo contained four of them, once again organized by rarity, which you can see in this video by youtuber JorRaptor. While finally we could see some different outfits, though, at the time we played the demo it didn’t seem to us like they had any consequences on stats and gameplay. Maybe it was just us, or maybe it will be added in the future, or maybe that’s how it is intended. For sure, though, the weavers shop only allowed to buy the entire outfits and not single part of them as some fans were hoping for.

After checking out the shops I was suggested by the Origins developers to check out the two pyramids laying outside of Memphis… but I still tried to look around the map for other new icons. Thus my search led me to the “Find the Papyrus” missions. Basically they can be found on the map with the icon of a rolled up document, obviously, and in those Bayek will have to find a papyrus in the game world. More specifically, the player will have to use Senu to locate the document in the area suggested in the map and then have Bayek reach it and read it. The text will not only add to the lore but sometimes, if I got it correctly, it may contain information that reference new and hidden locations that the player will have to find based on the hints found in the papyrus.

In my case I actually found the papyrus but after that I was almost running out of time, and so I turned my attention to the pyramids located just outside Memphis, in the Saqqara nome. When I got to the area, there were actually two main pyramids that contained side activities in it: the Bent Pyramid of Sneferu (which also appeared in Origin’s CGI trailer) and the Tomb of Sneferu (now called the Red Pyramid), which were both part of the Dahshur royal necropolis. Sadly I couldn’t visit both of them and so I chose the Tomb of Sneferu.

The Bent Pyramid of Sneferu, as it appeared in the CGI trailer

As shown in some of the IGN videos, the pyramids are some of the best mixtures of lore, mystery, and gameplay elements in the game and they convey something that I haven’t felt for a long time in the entire franchise of Assassin’s Creed franchise: the sense of discovery.

The pyramids are some gigantic landmarks that can be seen from very much afar and as you get closer to them you really feel their size and their imposing nature. This means that, at least for the pyramid I saw, their size allows for several ways to get inside of them, some leading to dead ends, some leading to internal corridors and some others that need to be reached through parkour sections akin to the ones in Assassin’s Creed II and Brotherhood where the players had to figure out the correct way to climb to the top of landmarks before reaching a viewpoint.

Once I found the actual entrance for the pyramid… that’s where the sense of discovery kicked in and it could be felt through many different sources, from the tiniest little graphics detail to the main activity / objective suggested by the game while roaming the landmark.

As soon as I reached the entrance I saw wind coming from the corridor and moving all the cobwebs hanging from the ceiling. The same cobwebs moved at Bayek’s passage and as soon as I got in, the environment got obviously dark, prompting me to use the torch while descending through the passageway. I then got to a tiny room where the only thing I saw was an even tinier corridor that required Bayek to crouch to fit in and while he was slowly going through it with his torch, other webs got burnt at his passage and I think I even saw spiders moving away from them.

The corridor then led to a small room which then led to a bigger one which contained loot, a collectible and a text file written by one of the people that had been working on building the pyramid, who told the story of the hardships of building the pyramid and of “the king” who could not wait for the pyramid to be completed. After collecting everything the room was empty and I thought that was it, but then a popup appeared on screen and it mentioned that the pyramid contained an ancient tablet inside of it. so I pushed myself to look around the few rooms with my torch.
Bayek goes through the secret passage
(Source: Gamesradar)
In those moments I really felt like a sort of an archaeologist / relic hunter looking for a new path inside of a tomb / pyramid and what fed even more into that is that while checking some of the walls of one of the rooms I actually found a “Pass through crack” prompt. And Bayek moved a rock and got into a secret passage. I honestly can’t express how surprised I felt during these few moments, and I really felt the need to go on, to find out more about what else was inside the pyramid.

Moreover, this specific pyramid had several hidden rooms laying behind the secret passage, and so this feeling of constant will to discover more followed me throughout all of them, especially because they were not empty. Little by little I found shelves with jars, tiny statues covered in sand, vases, jewels and so on and on top of that I could finally see what the Game Director Ashraf Ismail meant when he said that the tombs in the game contained both navigation challenges and puzzles inside of them. In fact, the Tomb of Sneferu contained several rooms where Bayek had to face some several puzzles involving weights, wooden platforms and pulleys that balanced such platforms and were needed to proceed deeper into the pyramid up until the final chamber.

Lastly, the final chamber was both visually appealing and it also had a few rewards as well. In fact, it was filled with jewels, urns, golden statues and a sarcophagus with hieroglyphs written on it and it also contained another text file referencing the construction of the pyramid which was more or less connected with the file that could be found at the entrance, creating an even bigger lore reward for fans that push themselves to explore the tombs. The final chamber also had gameplay rewards as there was a stele which allowed Bayek to gained one ability point that could be used in the skill tree and also several chests that contained some rare weapons and powerful weapons to be used in the future.

The altar of the final chamber

As a final touch, which, however, has already been used in several other games, the final chamber had a tiny corridor that, through a flooded passage that was laying underneath it, led directly to an exit so that the player didn’t have to go all the way back to the entrance. Curiously enough, this passage was clearly visible from the outside, so it could have been explored too before entering the pyramid, although it probably couldn’t be used to reach the final chamber directly and was just designed as an exit (but still it could hint at the fact that the pyramid contained more that it looked like).

And that’s it for my impressions of the Origins demos at Gamescom 2017! If you have any questions or thoughts about what I described or the demos in general please ask them in the comments below, I will answer the best way I can!

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