Assassin's Creed Origins is out really soon, and after playing a big chunk of it I can say that I'm excited for it, but it's very different to what you'd imagine an AC game is. It's clearly taken inspiration from a bunch of other games, even in small ways (the menus are extremely like Destiny's, for example and you can make your mount, be it camel or horse, auto gallop along roads like in The Witcher 3) and come out the other side a very different beast. Here are some of the biggest and most interesting changes to a franchise that we've known for a long time now.

  1. Assassination is no longer a one hit wonder

Let's start with something that had been revealed already. In Assassin's Creed Origins the hidden blade is no longer the amazingly lethal weapon it once was. Where before Altair, Ezio would have been able to take out Godzilla if they snuck up on him while he was looking the other way, Bayek's assassinations aren't as overpowered. If your target's level is too high, for example, you'll only be able to dust off a stealth attack rather than a stealth assassination, although lower level guards can still be dusted off from the bushes like you're used to. This is supposed to make an assassination feel like more of a big deal, as well as making you consider what kind of assassin you want to be. It also puts a focus on levelling. Ah yes.

2. Leveling up is a pretty big deal

I played the game for about four hours, and there was a big difference in how strong Bayek felt at the start of those hours than he did at the end. Leveling is critical in being able to face tougher enemies, as mentioned above, but it also unlocks skill points to buy new abilities. And there are a lot of different abilities. It further ties in to discovering what kind of assassin you are, too, because some of them only work with specific types of bow, for example. There are a few that make you feel like an actual assassin — you know, the kind that does their job so well that nobody even knows they were there. You can poison a body, for example, and then just leave it and watch as dozens of people pass the contagion around to each other. As a whole, Origins feels way more like an RPG than any game in the series yet, which you'll either hate or love.

3. Yeah, the combat is harder

It's not exactly Dark Souls level hard, but you'll definitely think twice before getting into a fight now. In previous AC games you could make a pretty decent fist of a mission even if every guard and his best mate spotted you; away you ran, trailing enemies through the streets of Florence like a feisty comet, occasionally stopping to do a few insta-murder parries until you were home free. Now you have to be more careful, because getting into a fight has consequences. Parrying is way harder than it was before, and enemies are smarter. You have to develop tactics, and the different weapons all have different styles of attack. It makes the stealth aspect way more important, and I found myself trying really hard to avoid combat at all.

4. There's a lot more gear grinding, hunting and crafting

There are loads of different weapons. Bloody loads. Different axes, spears, maces, twin blades, swords, bows (three types of bow that do different things, one of which is basically a shotgun bow), and shields. You can toggle using your shield on and off, incidentally, which changes how Bayek moves in a fight. So, first of all, you figure out which weapons you like best, or which work better against, for example, a giant crocodile rather than a normal human man. 

Then you figure out, right, I like the predator bow for picking off the adds at range, stealthily, so I want to increase the quiver size on it a much as possible, and to do that I need to craft a bigger one. That, my new amateur hunting pals, means you need to go out and get yourself some crocodile skin. Or maybe some hyena fur — slippery customers, hyenas, 'cos they hunt in packs. At least they're not hippos though. Utter bastards, are hippos. What this means is that there's potentially way more busywork this time around, so adjust your expectations according to how you felt about the Hinterlands in Dragon Age Inquisition.

5. Hippos are utter bastards

I know this isn't necessarily of great interest to everyone reading this, but seriously, I already hate the hippos in Assassin's Creed Origins. Hippos are really fast, really angry, really tough, and they do a lot of damage. To be seen by a hippo is to have looked at his girlfriend in a way he deems 'a bit funny'. You can't even set them on fire properly because they're smart enough to run into the river, and then immediately 180 to charge you again. Every time you get a rampaging animal event randomly spawn in a town, it's not really random, because it's a fucking hippo.

6. Senu the eagle drone is pretty cool

I had mixed feelings about Senu the eagle drone because an on demand eagle who has an actual targeting reticle is really quite funny. But even though you have to kind of ignore what it actually is, using Senu is really good. You can appreciate the scale of the game world when you're floating around looking through his eyes, and it also lets you see how newly alive the Origins Egypt is. Animals can rest, sleep, eat, and attack. People can be going home or going to work. You can even see them taking a slash in the bushes sometimes (which is officially designated as 'relieving’). 

7. The mini map is… gone

One of the complaints AC always gets is that it's covered with way too many map markers. Origins is getting around this problem by, firstly, making the map way bigger, so everything is a bit spread out, and by making some things de-tagged unless you're looking for them. You have to go hunting for treasure chests, and even main story quests will often lead you to a general area before making you scout about yourself, or zero in using your voyeur eagle. Wiping the mini map from the screen is a relatively small part of this, but it has a surprisingly huge impact. It feels more like you're exploring, and discovering things for yourself, rather than being told where everything is. There are still towers though. Shut up, I like the towers.

See more gaming videos »

8. There are cats in it and you can pet the cats and then the cats will follow you

Yup. Also apparently you can get abilities to tame larger animals like hippos. Although I don't know why you'd want to. Screw hippos.