rAge 2017 is in full swing and already thousands of visitors have been having a blast. There’s a great deal to see, buy, and, of course, play. And the only game I’ve played twice is Assassin’s Creed Origins. It’s been drawing a crowd, and there’s a huge queue to play it at all times. So, how does the new iteration stack up? Did the one-year hiatus do the series good?

Origins is familiar, but refreshed. It feels like the rest of the franchise, particularly Unity and Syndicate, but it has refinements and entirely new gameplay features that set it apart from all of its be-hooded brethren. Be-hooded is now a word, I’m owning it.

Anyway, Origins takes place in ancient Egypt, during the time of big historical names like Julius Caesar and Cleopatra. Players guide Bayek, a Medjay who wants to protect the people of Egypt and take revenge on some masked villains. Living up to its name,¬†Origins¬†will act as the starting point of the series, setting the stage for events and conflicts of later games. The rAge demo focused more on some quests and free-roaming, so it didn’t touch much on the storyline.

Gameplay wise, Origins plays more like a role-playing game than previous entries. There’s a loot system, weapon stats, ability points, XP, all that good stuff. Combat has been changed entirely to rely on a light and heavy attack system, and battles honestly feel a little like a Legend of Zelda game. And the weaponry variety and fighting systems will appeal heavily to martial artists and HEMA fans. I know because it got me all giggly.

This was still an alpha demo, so there were a few rough patches. Cutscenes look slightly off, and the characters seem a little too much like animatronics. A couple of visual and gameplay glitches reared their heads, but nothing ever became too jarring or gamebreaking. Bayek handles smoothly, and parkour, horseriding, sailing, and combat all feel intuitive and almost effortless.

So to answer the question in the intro: yes, Assassin’s Creed Origins feels one whole hell of a lot better than recent iterations. Its setting is vast and varied, gameplay handles well, and its new systems and mechanics make it feel fresh. The game launches on 27 October for PC, PS4, and XBO, and if you’re at rAge 2017 you should brave the queue and take it for a spin.

Sadly, I didn’t worship any cats, but I did get into a fight with a hippo.

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