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Assassin's Creed Origins makes the series' past stumbles feel like ancient history

Assassin’s Creed has suffered in the past from its quickfire release schedule. Despite being one of the few annual blockbusters not about deathmatches, driving a car or kicking a ball, it was still released, every year, to fans hungry for meaningful upgrades. Sometimes, Ubisoft pulled it off despite of itself – with AC2, Brotherhood, and Black Flag, the series delivered. More often, though, Assassin’s Creed has been judged as not having done enough, or simply not being good enough. Happily, it looks like Origins is going to fall into the first camp.

Set a thousand years before the series timeline to date, Origins’ shrugs off the franchise’s narrative weight alongside many of its other preconceptions, and replaces them with an array of role-playing game abilities which fit its wider, wilder world. That’s not to say there isn’t plenty that’s familiar – there’s more than a hint of Destiny in the all-new gear rarity levels and slots for almost every clothing item, from boots to hood (which, fans will be pleased to know, can be toggled on or off). There’s a quest log, with the main story and side-mission threads laid out so you can pick and choose which narratives to progress. There’s even a skill tree you can fully fill by the end of the game.

The E3 demo presents a typical mission. Egyptian proto-Assassin and local sheriff Bayek is travelling on horseback through the desert, past oases and palm trees, and towards a large town. It’s here I’m being guided by the demo’s story marker, to a square where a priest is slapping a young slave. The boy has wrecked a boat and lost two gold statues, although the priest thinks he’s stolen them. Bayek volunteers to look for the items, and in doing so prove the youngster’s innocence.