Everything You Wanted To Know of Assassin’s Creed Origins, Including Ubisoft Studying NASA Documents
We got the very first look at Assassin's Creed Origins gameplay yesterday during Microsoft's E3 2017 briefing, but now Ubisoft published a huge Q&A with their developers on their press site.
You can read it in its entirety below and it should clear up most of your doubts regarding the game, due for release on October 27th for PC, PlayStation 4 and Xbox One. The game is already up for pre-order on Steam, by the way.
What is Assassin’s Creed Origins?
For the last four years, the team behind Assassin’s Creed IV Black Flag has been crafting a new
beginning for the Assassin’s Creed franchise. The action takes place in Ancient Egypt, inviting players to explore the most mysterious place in history, during a crucial period that will shape the world and give rise to the Assassin’s Brotherhood. Plunged into a living, systemic and majestic open world, players will discover vibrant ecosystems, made of diverse and exotic landscapes that will provide them with infinite opportunities of pure exploration, adventures and challenges.
Powered by an all new combat system, Assassin’s Creed Origins embraces a brand new RPG direction where players level up, loot, and choose their abilities to shape and customize their very own skilled Assassin as they grow in power and expertise while exploring Ancient Egypt. During their journey they will play as Bayek, the last Medjay, a member of the Ancient Egyptian police, and discover the untold origin story of the Assassins Brotherhood.
What’s different in Assassin’s Creed Origins?
Assassin’s Creed Origins is a brand new game where players will discover the never-before-told origin story of the Assassins Brotherhood. They will explore the entire country of Ancient Egypt where they will experience unique adventures such as uncovering lost tombs or exploring the great pyramids.
Assassin’s Creed Origins gives players a sprawling, dynamic and majestic world to lose themselves in.
From a gameplay perspective, Assassin’s Creed Origins is a re-invention of the foundations of the
Assassin’s Creed franchise, a brand new vision that further pushes exploration, narration, combat and progression.
- Total freedom supported by a revamped narrative experience. Players can now make their
choice amongst a large variety of meaningful main and side quests that they can approach
when and how they want. This new open narrative approach gives players many possibilities
to interact with the world, and different ways to experience their journey in Ancient Egypt.
- We enhanced the gameplay by incorporating Action-RPG elements that support finding
weapons with different rarities, levels, stats and visuals and ensure each unique weapon
impacted gameplay appropriately. So how the character’s overall level compares to the ones
of enemies is a key factor in the experience. As a player, you now have to carefully consider
and choose what are the abilities, gear and crafting decisions that define your Assassin.
- Based on this new Action RPG direction, we completely redesigned the combat system. We
changed the paradigm of combat, building from the ground up a new versatile, highly-reactive
and fast-paced combat system that gives control, depth and freedom to players, bringing more challenges and thrill to combat.
- Players can now transition seamlessly between unique ranged and melee weapons as they
attack and defend against multiple enemies at once. Furthermore, players’ positioning as well
as the size and the speed of their weapons decide if and how they hit their enemies, opening
many doors to the depth of our combat system and bringing new sensations to the fight.
What was the inspiration behind this Assassin’s Creed?
We’ve explored the stories of many Assassins and some Templars, however players have never
experienced how the Brotherhood came to be. That’s the story we want to tell to our players now:
Who were the first mentors of the Assassins and how did their rules and values influence the whole
Creed? The story of the Brotherhood spans millennia but we’ve never explored the reasons and events behind its creation. Such an important story in the franchise needed an ambitious setting, a place and a time shaped by gods and men, marked by tradition but also stepping into modernity.
Why did you pick this setting and time period?
It’s been our dream to explore Ancient Egypt for a while now. This is the birthplace of modern
civilization and it was home to a society and culture that still triggers fantasies and mysticism today.
We also knew that Ancient Egypt was one of the most desired settings requested by players and
franchise fans and we are so happy we’re able to bring that to life through Assassin’s Creed Origins.
We chose this particular time period because it offers the most amount of mystery and discovery that we can get from Ancient Egypt. In this land of Gods, pyramids and mummies, Ancient Egypt triggers fantasies and mystery that we aim to deliver on in the most epic way possible. What is underneath the great Pyramids? Who are these men with animal heads? Who were the Gods and what did they do?
How does this all lead to the birth of the Brotherhood? This is what our players will discover.
In terms of the exact date, the action starts in 49BCE, at a pivotal time in Egypt’s history. After centuries of grandeur and accomplishments, Ancient Egypt is now at the beginning of its demise. Soon the line of Pharaohs will end, the Gods will die and the way of life will forever change. A new world order is coming. And it all starts with these bigger than life people like Cleopatra fighting to ascend her throne.
What were some of the challenges the team faced during development?
In order to properly render this incredible setting and do it justice, we needed to develop new tools
and technologies and create an exotic and lively playground that players will spend hours exploring.
Ancient Egypt is not only massive, it’s more diverse than any other setting we created in the past.
Wildlife plays a major role in that diversity as do the inhabitants of the world and we wanted those
elements to be systemic and believable. To make that possible we created a brand new Artificial
Intelligence framework from the ground up. Thanks to that new approach, most NPCS now have their own agenda and full day cycles that players can leverage to decide when and how they should act.
One of the other big differences from previous Assassin’s Creed games is that we go much further back in the time than in previous installments. So we had to work very closely with historians and Egyptian experts to help us fill in the gaps of Egyptian life not easily found in history books. For some elements, this lack of reference also challenged us to create and illustrate parts of Ancient Egypt rather than recreate known history as we did with past games. For this, we heavily relied on the amazing work done by our Art team to really capture the look and overall feel of what Ancient Egypt would have been like at the time.
Where does the game fit in the Assassin’s Creed storyline?
Assassin’s Creed Origins tells the story of the origin of the Assassin’s Creed Brotherhood, in which
players will learn about the creation of fundamental values and rites of the Creed. So all of the other Assassin’s Creed properties, the film, games, novels, etc. have their roots in Assassin’s Creed Origins’ storyline.
Who is the team behind this Assassin’s Creed?
Ubisoft Montreal is the lead studio behind Assassin’s Creed Origins. At its core, the team is composed of the same developers as the ones who worked on the acclaimed Assassin’s Creed IV Black Flag. Ubisoft Sofia, Ubisoft Singapore, Ubisoft Shanghai, Ubisoft Chengdu, Ubisoft Bucharest, Ubisoft Kiev and the Sperasoft studio are also collaborating on the development.
When will the game launch and on which platforms?
The game will be released worldwide on October 27, 2017, for the Xbox One family of devices including Xbox One, Xbox One S and Xbox One X when it launches on November 7, PlayStation 4 Pro computer entertainment system, PlayStation 4 and Windows PC.
DEEP DIVING INTO NEW GAMEPLAY MECHANICS
What are the main changes in Assassin’s Creed Origins’ open world? How does it differentiate from
other games in the series?
Very early on we knew that to fill a world of this size and scope with meaningful life, narratively and in terms of gameplay, we had to approach the challenge from a new perspective. We endeavoured to develop a new AI framework that allows human and animal AI to live their lives in the world. Most NPCs have full day cycles where they work, socialize, eat, go to the bathroom, sleep and so on based on their role in the world. Bandits ambush and steal, Ptolemaic soldiers collect taxes and protect their military locations, priests manage their temples, farmersfarm, lions hunt, gazelles roam and sleep etc.
Most NPCs are ever persistent and will live their life even if the player is kilometers away. Through the Eagle Senu, players are able to see these events from very far away to determine where the action is and where they want to go next. These changes create a world that is constantly moving, living and dynamic.
We wanted the freedom to tell many stories through memorable characters and to allow players the ability to engage in the intricacies of this world at their own pace. To do this we decided to move Assassin’s Creed to a quest based structure. This means that players will pick up multiple quests, have them all be available simultaneously and decide their order and priority. This gives autonomy to players while giving us an opportunity to tell hundreds of Egypt’s stories. Players that delve deep into the quest system will experience intersecting stories, letting them explore deeper relationships and ties with in-game characters.
Can you tell us more about the new combat paradigm?
We’ve really rebuilt combat from the ground up and are now using a hitbox system. With this new
system, the players’ positioning, as well as the size and the speed of their weapon, decide if and how they hit their enemies. They can hit several enemies at once as long as they’re in range while the speed and weight of their weapon has a major impact on the frequency and recovery times of their strikes.
For instance, a heavy blunt mace will deal more damage per strike than a khopesh sword, but each
strike will be slower and will affect the balance of the hero more, potentially opening more counterattack opportunities for the enemies. This hitbox approach allowed us to create a versatile, highly reactive and fast-paced combat where players can transition seamlessly between unique ranged and melee weapons as they attack and defend against multiple enemies at once.
This new paradigm also translates in the RPG dimension of the experience. Not only do weapons differ in size and speed, they also come with their own specific statistics, attributes and rarity levels, from Common to Legendary. A Legendary Hunter Bow will be much deadlier than a common one and might have some special abilities such as a better chance of critical hit. All those changes contribute to the same goal: give players control, depth and freedom in the way they fight for a thrilling and challenging combat experience.
What other pillars of the franchise have been reworked for Assassin’s Creed Origins?
First, the introduction of Bayek’s eagle Senu offers a unique view to explore and discover the world of Assassin’s Creed Origins. It drastically changes the way that players can discover the world and interact with it. Most of the time they need to find by themselves the next step in their quest as we provide as little guidance as possible.
We also deeply changed the way that progression works. Players’ level and how it compares to the
enemies’ one is fundamental in the experience as it will be very difficult for players to kill opponents that are several levels above them. Leveling up not only makes your Assassin stronger, it also grants Ability points that can be spent to obtain a specific capacity, such as more precise aiming with their bow or being able to poison dead bodies. There are 3 main branches in the Ability tree, the Master Warrior branch that focuses on melee combat, the Master Hunter branch dedicated to range weapons and stealth, and the Master Seer that is more about tools and manipulating the environment and animals.
On top of the Abilities, we also introduce a full crafting system for players to create better versions of their equipment, such as the hidden blade. So if players want to improve their stealth abilities, they will need to focus their Ability points on stealth skills, such as air assassination, but also to upgrade their hidden blade through crafting so they deal more stealth damage. If your targeted enemy is of a higher level than you and you did not improve your hidden blade enough, then you won’t be able to perform an assassination that would kill him in one shot.
Our fans have very different playstyles and we wanted to give them the opportunity to define how
they prefer to approach challenges in-game. As a player, you now have to consider and choose what are the abilities, gear and crafting decisions that define your Assassin.
These options let players decide who they want to be:
- The brutal melee warrior going in recklessly
- The archer staying back and going for headshots
- The manipulator using tools, poisons, animals to do their dirty work
- Or the stealthy Assassin taking their enemies out unaware
We also took a look at the navigation pillar, specifically parkour. Our shift to a code driven approach in Assassin’s Creed Origins has afforded us the opportunity to really improve the responsiveness of the parkour moves in game. Additionally, Bayek can now climb on any building or rock in the world.
BAYEK, A NEW HERO
Who is Bayek?
Bayek is the main protagonist of Assassin’s Creed Origins, a native of Siwa, a remote oasis near the
Egyptian-Libyan border. He’s descended from a long line of warriors. Being a Medjay means he is very well trained to fight and proficient with various weapons and also someone who helps the people of Egypt. His journey is what will lead to the formation of the Assassin’s Brotherhood.
Personality-wise Bayek is highly reactive. When life is good, it is amazing. When life is bad, he will bring the sky down! He is compassionate and sympathises with the people of Egypt but he is very wary of newcomers. He holds to the traditions and beliefs of Egypt but also to the ghosts of the past. Bayek is essentially the embodiment of Ancient Egypt. And in a changing world, what does he need to do, or need to become to be a part of this new world? This is what players will discover in Assassin’s Creed Origins.
Could you please tell us more about Bayek’s personal story?
We catch up with Bayek as he is unravelling a mystery. Some time ago an event happened in his
village of Siwa (we don’t want to say what this event is for spoiler reasons). This event pushed Bayek to leave his home and the ensuing mystery will lead him to uncover the truth of Siwa and even the truth of Egypt’s power. The world is changing around him and he has to figure out who he is in this changing world.
What kind of weapons will we be equipped with?
Players will have access to a variety of weapons like swords, heavy maces, spears, diverse bows and
different bombs. Overall, players will be able to use over 150+ weapons, ranging in rarity from
Common to Legendary. The choice of weapon matters greatly due to the revamped combat system.
With the new hitbox approach, weapon reach, speed and damage stats play a big factor into your
success in combat scenarios. For instance a heavy blunt mace will deal more damage per strike than a khopesh sword, but each strike will be slower and will affect the balance of the hero more, potentially opening more counter-attack opportunities for the enemies. Some weapons also have specific attributes, such as a bigger chance to deal critical damage or bleed properties. This also applies to the shield that Bayek always carries with him and that he can use for blocking enemy attacks as well as to bash opponents.
Can you tell us more about the Eagle?
Bayek’s eagle is named Senu, she’s a Bonelli’s Eagle, a species that is mostly found in hilly and
mountainous habitats across Africa, Southern Europe and Middle East. In game Bayek can summon
and command Senu to scout ahead of him. Surveilling the landscape this way allows players to tag
enemies, locate crafting resources and navigate through the mysterious world of Ancient Egypt in a
different and unique perspective. Senu represents the origin of the Eagle Vision.
Will it be possible to customize Bayek?
Players will be able to choose from a huge list of outfits, shields, melee weapons and bows. They will also be able to customize what mount/vehicle they have, such as horses, camels and chariots. Speaking of outfits, having the game set in Ancient Egypt has allowed us to push the boundaries of traditional Assassin’s outfits, some of which will fully embrace the mysticism of Ancient Egypt.
RECREATING ANCIENT EGYPT
How did you manage to recreate the entire country of Ancient Egypt?
This is the first time in Assassin’s Creed that we’re recreating an entire country in all its diversity. That means not only cities or villages, but also wilderness. Many imagine Egypt as mostly desert but in fact, the country features a lot of different landscapes and ecosystems and it was even more the case at that period of time. It is a varied, grandiose and magnificent setting and we wanted to do it justice and showcase it in all its beauty. For that we identified and re-created different biomes that give a unique flavor to each region. The Nile Delta for instance is lush and full of birds and water animals like hippos and crocodiles, while the region of Giza is really dry, with the omnipresence of orange sand and more chances to cross the path of snakes or hyenas. It’s true also for urban areas: Siwa’s marketplace boasts a totally different atmosphere from the ones of Memphis or Alexandria with their tall buildings.
Can you describe some of the technical ways the team recreated Egypt?
We have a brand new color-grading feature that brings much more finesse in how we display colors, so we can create very specific and unique color ambiances for example, a sunset on the White Desert does not look the same as one on the Lake Moëris. We also used satellite images of Egypt to fine-tune the colors for the ground and the vegetation and make them as realistic as possible.
Lighting also plays a big role in the game and we pushed boundaries of what we did on previous
Assassin’s Creed games. For instance, we studied technical documentation from NASA to better
understand how airborne particles impact lighting. We used the same kind of approach for water, a
key element in the game. Our water is built upon physical based rendering, for a more realistic and
varied look as particles and time of day hugely affect the look of waters across Egypt. In Assassin’s
Creed Origins players can dive in anywhere that’s deep enough, so lakes, rivers and the sea are fair
game. Players can explore not only what floats at the surface but also what lies under the water. We wanted everything underwater to be as realistic as possible so we used new techniques, such as studying how different sediments refract light differently. So, depending on where you dive the water can be very muddy or crystal clear, which also provides players with useful information: if you dive in muddy or swampy waters, chances are that you will cross the path of hippos or crocodiles!
All those new techniques and tools allow us to create the unique atmospheres and emotions that
immerse players inside the world and support the narrative.
Did you have consultants from the region helping on Assassin’s Creed Origins?
Yes, there were historians and Egyptian experts embedded with the team throughout the game’s
development. Their contribution was absolutely crucial as they helped us fill in the gaps of Ancient
Egyptian life not easily found in history books. For some elements, this lack of reference also
challenged us to create and illustrate parts of Ancient Egypt rather than re-create known history. For instance, all Egyptian monuments and statues were covered with colorful paint that has since faded or totally disappeared, so we had to re-imagine those colors rather than to reproduce them. For this, we heavily relied on the amazing work done by our Art team to really capture the look and overall feel of what Ancient Egypt would have been like at the time.
Who are some of the historical characters we will run into?
As with all Assassin’s Creed games, historical characters are a big part of what brings the world to life.
The action takes place during Cleopatra’s reign. We are excited to say that there are many prominent historical characters to interact with and we’ll have well-known names to announce in the near future.
What is the region where the hands-on demo takes place?
This region is called the Faiyum, it is located in the South of Assassin’s Creed re-creation of Ancient
Egypt. It’s a great example of Ancient Egypt’s diversity, with the Lake Moëris at its heart surrounded
by the White Desert but also the lush Faiyum oasis and lively villages and cities such as Euhemeria and Dionysias.
What kind of open-world activities are available in the Faiyum?
Assassin’s Creed Origins' open-world offers plenty of side-activities to discover and our new AI
framework creates many opportunities for systemic encounters that will pull players out of their
planned path. Attacking bandits in the Pannouki hideout, uncovering a hidden underwater Sobek
temple, facing the hippos that guard the treasures of the Golden Horn island, confronting Ptolemaic soldiers on a big Octareme ship or activating stone circles linked to star constellations are just a few examples of the many activities that players can tackle in the Faiyum.
On which platform the demo is running?
The demo is running on a Xbox One X dev kit.