EEDAR Review Scan: Assassin's Creed Origins
Review Scan is a periodic feature here on EEDAR’s blog, where analysts take a recently released title and break down critical reviews of it, laying out the game’s major strengths and weaknesses. Just as EEDAR does in our custom Mock Reviews and Game Evaluations, suggestions are then provided for how the game could have reviewed better and been received more positively.
You can get feedback on your work-in-progress title just like this. To do so, contact Cooper Waddell at email@example.com.
Just over two years ago, EEDAR examined Assassin’s Creed Syndicate in this space. At the time of that post, Assassin’s Creed Origins hadn’t yet been announced (the first signs of it were some leaks about a possible Egyptian version of the game, then called Empire, in January 2017). Assassin’s Creed Origins was announced on June 11, 2017, and released last year on October 27, 2017. Now that the new game has been out for a while, we figured it would be a good time to take a look back at what we said during the last Review Scan, and how that information could have helped the team working on this game.
In retrospect, much of this analysis may seem somewhat obvious. But it’s easy to see insights after the fact, and this Review Scan column is definitely looking back on old information. However, EEDAR routinely produces reports that present insights like these, often months or years before a game is actually released to the public. In some cases, EEDAR can provide review score and summary predictions based solely on design documents, before a playable build is produced. If you or your company is interested in using our team to get accurate third-party feedback like this on your game or concept, reach out now.
The open world looks great and varied
Our first recommendation on the last post was to ensure that the game’s setting is leveraged well, and reviewers of Assassin’s Creed Origins called out the Egyptian setting as the biggest strength of the title. The world is gorgeous and expansive, and there are lots of different environments to play through, from farms to mountains to a few different cities each with their own flavor. Reviewers also appreciated that the culture’s ties to spirituality and death fit well into the story of Assassin’s, and that the story in general kept fans interested from start to finish.
Solid progression system with cool abilities, XP, and gear
Reviewers also praised the move to a more traditional leveling system – players can earn experience as they complete quests or explore the world, and that experience can unlock new abilities and randomized gear items. The gear is also well implemented, providing players with rewarding upgrades, cool models, and fun abilities (like an extra stun when blocking an attack, or the ability to do more damage after a successful counter). Reviewers appreciated that while the missions were a big draw, players could just wander the big world and progress forward in a more open way that still felt rewarding.
Lots of different things to do
We’ve seen this feedback from reviewers for a lot of critically acclaimed open world titles: The amount of things to do can often excite reviewers. In Assassin’s Creed Origins, players can finish quests, solve puzzles, find clues for ongoing mysteries, race chariots, sail and battle in boats, find temples, and even swim underwater for treasure. Providing so many different activities can help to keep players engaged in different ways, and offer up a lot of replay value for the title.
Quests are still a bit repetitive, and can even feel grindy
Quests were a big point of feedback on Assassin’s Creed Syndicate, and while reviewers say that they are improved (they’re less focused on escorts and stealth, and more open-ended than before), they can still feel repetitive. Some quests are simple fetch quests, and according to reviewers, Bayek ends up investigating the death of a quest giver’s family member too many times. This repetition can cheapen the narrative. Reviewers also found themselves having to “grind” some quests, especially when they couldn’t find an area suitable for their experience level. This kind of problem can be fixed by making paths through content clearer, but it would also be helpful to continue to experiment and expand the types of quests and actions offered.
Ranged combat can be messy and revamped combat doesn’t impress
One of our points of feedback on the previous title was that the game’s controls needed a revamp, and Ubisoft Montreal did smooth things out. Combat, for the first time in the series, was translated from a counter-focused moveset to a more flexible, Dark Souls-style experience, and while critics said it was a good move, they also found some frustrations in the system. Ranged combat also didn’t impress a lot of reviewers, who had issues with the lock-on system. Overall, reviewers agreed that these systems were improved, but they weren’t called out as real strengths or impressive features.
Some bugs, glitchy NPCs, and graphical issues
Bugs were a big problem for the previous two games (Syndicate and Unity), and in our last post, we said that they needed to be fixed in the next title. Most reviewers didn’t come across major, game-breaking bugs, but they did call out technical issues as a weak spot for the title. Players saw NPCs glitch out (sometimes to the point where a restart or reload was required to finish a quest), and there were some issues with registering Bayek’s actions correctly. Bugs have definitely improved from last year, but according to a lot of reviewers, they remain a problem.
EEDAR does not traditionally call out bugs or technical issues in our reports – we’re often working with very early builds, so it wouldn’t be very helpful to call out every problem or unfinished feature we see. We generally assume that even if we see bugs early in development, they’ll be fixed by the time release rolls around. It is important to note, however, that major bugs or problems in any release will negatively affect the review score. It’s a general expectation when buying a game that it will work on the platform without issue, and when it doesn’t, that’s obviously a problem.
We can’t be certain that Ubisoft Montreal was following our recommendations directly last time, but nevertheless, the game matched a lot of what we hoped for, and saw a jump in review score from 76 to 81 (along with increased sales and a better reception). So what’s next in this now legendary series?
EEDAR would recommend that Ubisoft once again focus in on the game’s setting to direct its story and action. Really recreating a specific time period or geographical setting not only makes the world feel immersive, but it allows the developer to leverage what’s special about that place, with extra abilities, landmarks, and activities. It might also be interesting to try a setting that’s a bit different geographically than the usual plains and hills found in the series. Players appreciated that there was variety in the setting, so perhaps placing the game across China or the steppes of Mongolia (going into the snow of southern Russia) would help the game feel like a new experience in the series.
EEDAR would also recommend continuing to refine the controls and quests, and perhaps toying with innovation a bit more. Reviewers did say that Origins was one of the best titles in the series so far, but it didn’t do anything extremely different from the previous games. Implementing a brand new type of control feature (like Syndicate’s grapple) or a new way to interact with the world (like hanging off of a wall or ceiling) might help to mix things up and add some freshness to the franchise.
Deeper management features could also expand the series – while Origins abandoned most of Syndicate’s gang-related upgrades and actions, it did introduce the ability to liberate camps and control things that way. Assassin’s Creed II had a lot of success with the player managing and upgrading a villa, so perhaps putting the player in charge of an in-game town or farm would give players a new perspective on what the Assassins can do together (and help make the upgrades feel more grounded and real – the player could buy or raise horses to use them in game, for example).
Finally, of course, we’ll also recommend that bugs and technical issues continue to get fixed. Obviously, in a game as big as this, it’s hard to nail down everything, but when multiple reviewers report the same issues, there’s probably more polish work that could have gone into the title. Fixing as many bugs as possible (and ensuring that the game is able to fix itself when there might be an NPC or a quest target missing) will only improve the reception.
Manager of Game Evaluation, EEDAR
EEDAR often performs analysis like this on work-in-progress and pre-release titles for Game Evaluations and Mock Reviews. If you have questions or needs around a reliable and insightful evaluation of a title in development, contact Cooper Waddell at firstname.lastname@example.org.