1. #1

    Why the story in Assassinís Creed: Origins doesnít work

    I just want to preface this by saying Origins is a good game, not my favourite but good enough. It does things I’ve wanted the franchise to do for a while e.g. a protagonist not trying to be Ezio, a setting other than Europe, near perfect combat, excellent world building, unique side missions rather than a bunch of checklists solely connected to the main campaign etc. It also takes a step backwards in some areas e.g. cynically referring to sequences as “quests” for no good reason other than pure marketability (because RPGs are in right now) and then insulting players by literally spelling out “side quest” on the map. There’s needless padding in the form of loot and military bases and the stealth is incredibly bad - shifting between dumb AI and X-Ray vision AI with sloppy assassination mechanics to boot. Additionally, the over-reliance on Senu and viewpoints completely undermines any natural exploration this game could have.

    Still, it’s a step in the right direction, gameplay wise. However, what continues to be a major problem in this franchise is the story. It’s very apparent that the writers who once gave us excellent narratives like AC1 and ACII are no longer with the company. The general story telling, at present, is so amateurish and juvenile I refuse to believe the same people who actually made me wonder if I was playing as the “good guy” in AC1 wrote this drivel.

    What once separated Assassin’s Creed from other action adventure games - other than the innovative parkour mechanic - was that it attempted to actually say something about history and our belief system. These days the overarching narrative is being milked solely to justify certain gameplay mechanics. Consequently, Origins contains the second worst modern day story after Unity, and I didn’t think that was possible. At least Syndicate gave us Shaun and Rebecca and attempted to move the story a little bit further. Origins does neither of those things. The whole Juno plot is non existent, she doesn't even show up to do what she usually does i.e. serving as a pointless expositional mouthpiece for the sake of newcomers. I've always said that an Assassin's Creed game where Juno does not needlessly recount the events of the previous games doesn't sit right (sarcasm).

    As for the modern day, ahem, “character”. Layla reminds me of Evie in that she’s not a real person but rather a figure that the lore obsessed fans can project themselves on to. It works, conceptually, because she is supposed to be a try-hard wannabe attempting to get into Abstergo’s good graces. But it’s also too self aware to the point that each word that comes out of her mouth sounds like bad fanfic. She’s also a complete douuche who is interchangeable with any of the young dude-bro hipsters in other Ubisoft titles. Paper thin, PAPER THIN character development. We don’t know her beliefs, her morals, what she stands for, her backstory, nothing.

    She says that Bayek is like herself in that they’re both very stubborn but what does she take away from his life? Nothing. She’s not connected to Bayek emotionally despite everything she goes through when syncing with his memories. Her junk mail which, again, reads like something a 14 year old girl wrote on tumblr, implies that she has a rocky relationship with her father but that’s the sort of thing that needs to be fleshed out with actual cut scenes to have any sort of emotional impact, not hidden away in messages “for fans that want it”. These emails should enhance the cut scenes, not act as a substitute for them. I’m also not going to read all that other crap on her computer about lore stuff we already know. They could have got Juno for that. (Ok, I'll stop)

    Oh, and I LOL’d when her “bestie” died off screen. It was poorly acted and it meant nothing because we barely knew her. It was a cheap, superficial way of giving Layla some angst, much in the same way Elise was fridged in order to make us feel for Arno. But the way Layla reacts to it … she has about the same level of rage as she would if someone spilled water over her laptop. It’s just BAD.

    Ubisoft, this is what you need to understand about modern day: people didn’t dislike the present day portions initially because it “pulled them out of the experience” or because it was “immersion breaking” (it’s supposed to be immersion breaking, duh). They disliked it because it was poorly written. Like Layla, Desmond didn’t seem to learn anything from his ancestors and he didn’t have anything approaching internal conflict until ACIII which by then it was all too late. You kill off Lucy in Brotherhood in a shocking twist and barely acknowledge it until ACIII, again, when it’s too late. You make the gameplay a lesser version with rigid linearity and low detailed textures on buildings and yet it’s the most extensive time we’ve spent outside the animus… and it’s just too late to care.

    When you do modern day half heartedly you alienate the lore fans and annoy the casuals by pulling them out for something that isn’t as good as what is going on in the animus. It’s not fan service if it’s poor service. Remember that. You want fans to care about stuff outside the animus? Perhaps not have your new third person playable character constantly pressure the player to go back into it.

    That’s Origins’ modern day. And it’s terrible.

    But you know what’s almost as bad? The in-animus story. The last few Assassin’s Creed games have pacing issues i.e. the story feels rushed for the sake of getting to the gameplay as soon as possible. It’s been said that Origins makes a bad first impression and that is almost certainly due to the rushed, choppy pacing of that opening act which has got to be one of the worst openings I’ve ever seen in an open world video game. What a horrible decision to use flashbacks to convey a narrative like this. You can tell this story was not crafted with the flashback technique in mind, and that it’s a last minute replacement of a previously linear opening for fear that watching Bayek actually do some hunting with his son was “too boring”. You know how I know that? Because Khemu’s best friend actually spoils his death very early on by expressing his guilt to Bayek BEFORE WE GET TO SEE IT.

    Newsflash, Ubisoft: the best open world games always start off slow. That’s the entire point. The world opens up to you as you explore it. Even BOTW, for all the praise about its “truly open world”, is initially limited by the player’s own level. Likewise, Assassin’s Creed II doesn’t truly start until the player reaches Venice. Remember how long it took for Ezio to even put on his now iconic Assassin outfit? The reason why we cared about Ezio’s revenge quest is because we actually spent time with his family first. Collecting 100 feathers, in theory, would be an extremely tedious task but players did them because it reminded us of Ezio’s little brother, and the reward of simply having his mother speak again was really touching.

    Ezio racing with his older brother through the streets of Florence was a parkour/racing tutorial that also helped us believe he could do all those gymnastics before receiving any official training. But it didn’t feel that way because we actually got to see his relationship with his brother in general. With Ezio, we witnessed a fun-loving, middle class young man with a charmed life have his entire future ripped away from him by a cruel, vindictive act. And we cared. That only works if the story is well-paced, organically woven into the gameplay and in a linear fashion.

    In contrast, each time Bayek pulled the rock or necklace or whatever it was to his chest in the stone circle I cringed. It was trying way too hard to hit us with the feels and it just fell flat because that entire opening act didn’t make me care about his relationship with his son. None of the emotion is earned. In contrast, Shadiya’s death really shook me, mainly because of the way the perpetrator degraded her body, and because we actually spent time with her before she was murdered.

    Origins doesn’t even introduce AYA properly – a playable character! We don’t even learn she is Bayek’s wife until long after the main events unfold. We never got to see her reaction to finding out her son’s death or to see what she was like with Bayek whilst Khemu was alive (that hand kissing scene during the open roll call does not count). It would have been nice to have the entire family just spending time doing various activities with one another and hanging out with the other villagers in Siwa before “oh nos! My dead son! Aaaaaah!” A scene with Bayek having to actually break the tragic news to Aya would not have been amiss either. Consequently, their breakup was sad only because I enjoyed their chemistry, not because I believe the break up was earned. It came out of nowhere and had zero build up. The whole conversation where Aya basically gets Bayek to spout out his new “creed” was GARBAGE. So bad. So forced. Wow. Awful. AWFUL.

    And this has to be said: the decision to do the origin of the brotherhood is yet another excuse for us to not actually be an Assassin (because the devs are embarrassed by the lore). Even when Bayek becomes an Assassin at the end, he can’t call himself an “assassin” because the word wasn’t invented yet, he can’t say “nothing is true, everything is permitted” because again, that philosophy was not invented yet. Altair revolutionised the brotherhood so much that it’s barely recognisable in its ancient form so I couldn’t get excited. Ashraf even admitted that the entire point of doing the origin of the brotherhood was so newcomers wouldn’t be confused by the lore. Thus, once again, a decision was arrived at purely for marketability purposes rather than because it felt right for the story.

    All that being said, the world building in this game is excellent and hasn’t been this good since the Ezio trilogy. Whether it’s the NPC conversations and their cultural traditions, or all the gods they worship, or the various notes, letters and books you read, or the fact that guards stationed at random houses now have a reason to be there if you’ve read any of the notice boards… this world is fully realised. The entire Faiyum arc is like the Novigrad of Witcher, the Venice in ACII, the Meridian of Horizon Zero Dawn. The world building, the characters, the story, pacing is at its best here because it feels real. That catchy tag line: “Security for all. Prosperity for all. Culture for all.” sums up the arc perfectly. And you know what the best part of the Faiyum arc is? It’s not about Bayek. At all. He’s just a wanderer passing through. It’s about a town learning to get the courage to fight back their oppressors. It even has a bittersweet ending with a once brilliant man regaining his fighting spirit and growing closer to his wife after the death of their daughter. But that’s where the praise ends.

    There are others things that weakens the narrative in Assassin’s Creed Origins, like the fact that LAYLA CAN DIE, the main campaign is too short and gets lost in the shuffle, lack of cinematic cut scenes, the fact that I didn’t even know who Flavius was until the Persian hunk got killed, the fact that Aya and Bayek are able to highlight treasure within the vicinity as if they have first civ lineage but can’t see guards through walls… but I’d be here forever. Origins’ past and present day narratives suck because one doesn't earn its big moments due to rushing and underdevelopment, the other just doesn't want to be here. The end.

    Oh, and Ubisoft, please stop with the constant Ezio references like having the characters say "requiescat in pace" in every game. Players don't need reminding of your “greatest hits”. It's embarrassing.
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  2. #2
    ModernWaffle's Avatar Member
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    Aug 2014
    United Kingdom
    Interesting post - agreeing with much of what is being said. I think Origins has confirmed what direction they're now headed in that they won't be trying to go back to what made the older AC games great. It's a shame because that indicates we will never get the same amazing story and characters as in AC2/3/4 or the feeling of being in an Assassin brotherhood again but on the flip side their focus on technical world-building has come a long way which is very promising for the future in terms of gameplay alone.

    I honestly believe this fanbase should expect to see more of the AC spirit diminish in the next games we get and just take them as good open-world games without any narrative soul. It's unfortunate since personally I think a critically acclaimed game needs an in-depth story as that really contributes to the experience of gaming and gives you a chance to smile when thinking about your favourite game. It's essentially what happened with everything post AC4, each subsequent entry was fun to play but they became quite forgettable.

    Lack of story kinda ruined a big part of Breath of the Wild for me and I expect it will do the same for Origins. But still, at least they nailed Bayek's character minus some of his more erratic outbursts.
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  3. #3
    I swear when I started playing the intro scene and Aya and Bayek were in embrace and then you could see the camera pan to the kids playing, I instantly knew:

    1. That is their kid
    2. He's gonna be instantly killed in the interest of plot development.

    My other assumption was that they kill off Aya as well to fully develop Bayek's bitterness and glad this did not happen YET.

    But damn, AC Origins is killing or trying to maim kids in the most horrific ways all the time, Khemu, Shadiya, the boy at the end with his hand almost cut off etc. I swear the writers saw too much GOT because Shadiya was a full Shireen Baratheon copy-pasta emotionally-wise. TBH I still did not get over Petruccio, but that's okay
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  4. #4
    dxsxhxcx's Avatar Senior Member
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    Dec 2010
    I believe the old multiple small/medium cities approach we had in AC1/2 kinda helped with the story pace, even the Witcher 3 has different cities that aren't in the same map and IMO if the story took place in single giant world with all the cities in it our (mine at least) perception of story progression would've been a lot different, I wish they returned to that style at least once to see how their current approach towards story would fit, personally these huge maps don't impress me at all, AC was perfectly fine the way it was build before..
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  5. #5
    Personally, i was hoping Aya did get killed off! she's a pointless character that offered little or no value to the story or anything else, other than a mad guy on a boat shouting innuendo at her. then for her to turn up in random parts of the story claiming her victory over the whole escapade.
    Bayek does all the heavy lifting, killing and discovery. yet Aya gets the glory and sets up the assassins as
    is too dumb to do it, I bet aya is a strong independent woman
    If she blamed him for the death of the boy then they should have conveyed that better, as after all
    did kill him whichever way u paint it.
    Still, the overall game was better, I would have like to see a better defensive style along with attack though.
    , the story is weak, in fact, its very weak, extremely flimsy in many parts,
    develops no real bonds with anyone except maybe a lying little punk who happens to have the best armory this side of Asi
    As a writer myself, I know when a story is good, and esp how a narrative should be presented, and even though it's not exact history and they use real history as a mechanism Ubi should get it correct. for eg; Agrippa would have been far too young at this point in history to be a general, as he was a military school with Octavian and not under Julias Ceaser unless of course they were referring to Herod Agrippa and not Marcus Julius Agrippa who was born in 63 bc dying in 12bc he became Gaius Julius Caesar Octavianus (nephew of Caesar, named as his son in will after his death) close friend and in law, and most famously taking down Mark Anthony and Cleopatra
    Whereas I have no problem with them bending history, though if Ubi uses factual events to promote thier narrative; then at least make sure that those facts are correct. and not wishy-washy interpretations
    ll games it seems of late have weak stories, maybe they just want us in endgame quicker to hit us with Micro trannys
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  6. #6
    SixKeys's Avatar Senior Member
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    Jul 2010
    I don't agree with absolutely everything, but lots of good points in the OP. Only thing I want to comment on right now is that this is the only game besides the Ezio games where the "Requiescat in pace" line actually makes sense, because it is said ironically to a dying Roman. You know, Pax Romana, Latin and all that. That line was one of the least forced throwbacks.
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  7. #7
    It's a shame that a beautiful game was not supported by an equally stunning story. In Hollywood, they would say that the production lacked an emotional hook. For us to feel sorry about the boy takes a lot more than a few scenes and flashbacks of father and son sitting under the stars. A character has to live and breathe like Mary Read in Assassin's Creed Black Flag. The protagonist (Edward Kenway) has to demonstrate great endearment before and after the tragic event. A writer cannot use a cookbook approach.

    Mary Read : You parrot the words, but you do not understand them.
    When a story truly reaches out to its audience, you the player, undergo the same emotion and anger. AC-O is just not in the same league as AC-IV. I do not even feel the same amount of sadness in AC-O that I felt in AC-Unity.
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  8. #8

    Annnd Now the gaping plot hole that No one seems to have seen!

    In AC2 Ezio finds the sarcophagus of several past assassin's. One of these is "Amunet". ( I looked it up and this was NOT a common female name even during the time in which Bayek's story took place.) So how did she get back in Bayek's tomb in modern day?? 'nuff said
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  9. #9
    Fizhy just put out a video about "5 bad things in AC Origins". It was pretty spot-on, though I didn't care much for his point about treasures.

    Anyways, I think that rather than stopping at where it failed, we as fans need to make it clear(er) what they need to fix. AC has a butt-ton of lore to pull from already. It's a matter of pulling it all together. The problem is, they (that is, the team at Ubisoft that is responsible for the comics and games) seem to be unable to pull together what they have and put it in the actual game. That's really all they need to do. Take the lore created from Uprising, Templars, and the Olivier Bowden stories and synthesize it into the games. Granted, that might take at least two games to do. Great. Bayek is geared for a sequel unless the upcoming Hidden Ones DLC renders that improbable. If that happens, then give the reins to Aya (sorry, Amunet...not going to get used to that one, not gonna lie) and let her go to Greece to expand the Brotherhood. I know that Ubisoft doesn't want to "explore time periods they've already done", but it would counterintuitively work in their favor to do this in order to tell a better story. The team has made a great video game, and while it's not perfect it certainly is fun to play. But AC is known for having a unique story as well. There's plenty of characters to use, and even though some may never show up in the games there needs to be some effort to make their presence solidified in the cannon.

    To the Writers, don't cut any more pieces. Finish the puzzle that's on the table.
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  10. #10
    One thing that really messed up the experience for me in the story was the way it handled some of the targets. Some of them were handled pretty well imo. For instance, the Scarab's story actually invloves you helping them without actually knowing that they were the Scarab (you could easily guess though with enough clues), but then he surprizes Bayek, takes all his gear, and leaves you to die in a desert. I like this part of the story because it doesn't make it seem like Bayek is some kind of god who completely destroys anyone who gets in his way. Although the kill was pretty anticlimactic(you could just skip most of the enemies and air-assasinate him without breaking a sweat), there was a brief moment where you could actually admire him for trying to uncover Letopolis.

    Then, there are some targets who are handled very badly. I was really disappointed whenever I would finish a main quest and Aya appears only to cross off another 2 names from the list. I got no cutscene, no info (outside of a paragraph description), and no satisfaction. Then, in the Battle of the Nile quest, it just cuts randomly to a fight with 2 of the masked ones. When Ubi just drops you into a fight against some of the most important enemies of the game, without learning about them or hunting them or anything, it's almost impossible to feel like you accomplished anything more than just killing a basic enemy. Oh, I should also mention that the dude on the elephant was super easy and the fight was not worthy of a major enemy (I was playing on hard mode too).

    So on top of the story's really poor attempt to create an emotional attatchment with Bayek, they fail to make a lot of the major enemies anything more than random boss fights. It really destroys the immersion when Bayek/Aya celebrates the death of some guy I just learned about 30 minutes ago and really couldn't care less about.
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