Assassin's Creed Origins will have the biggest map the series has seen to date, publisher-developer Ubisoft says in a recent blog post for the game.
A series already known for its open worlds and city design, when the team decided to tackle Egypt, game director Ashraf Ismail says, it knew it had to be an entire country – not just a large city or series of cities connected by a country side.
“Ancient Egypt meant many things for us; it meant cities, but also wilderness, and we wanted to show the diversity of this wilderness," he says on the Ubisoft blog. "And people, as they play the game and get into hours and hours of it, they’re constantly seeing new stuff from the world and the environment.”
Comparing the series to other large-scale open world games released in recent years, this decision makes sense. While there's certainly an argument to be made about how the Assassin's series revolutionized open worlds when it originally launched back in 2007, these days it occasionally feels a little behind the times. In a post-Grand Theft Auto V, post-Witcher 3: Wild Hunt world – games that featured multiple communities, environments and dynamic worlds – it seems like the Assassin's Creed series is ready to play catch-up.
To begin its large-scale for Origins, Ubisoft started with a map about the size of 2013's Assassin's Creed IV: Black Flag, but with one major caveat: it was almost entirely all land – Black Flag had an emphasis on naval combat and featured large areas of open water. The philosophy here, the developer says, was to incentivize highly-dense world building that "that creates the feeling that there’s always some area you haven’t explored, something you haven’t uncovered."
"For example, the game’s city of Memphis is a massive, almost mazelike landscape of temples, fortresses, and dwellings. Delving into any of these can lead to battles, treasure, new weapons, secret caves, and more, lending importance to every structure, every person, and every opportunity to wander off the beaten path," the developer added in the blogpost. "And all of this is a seamless part of the larger open world, surrounded by miles of farmland, rocky desert, cliffs, and gigantic pyramids that conceal mysteries of their own."
Making a world this big, Ismail adds, is an effort to keep players lost, constantly exploring the map for "hours and hours."
“In terms of the granularity of the details, the experiences that you can have, the things you can run into, the NPCs, the animals, the fauna, it’s much, much more dense,” he adds. “This is definitely, in terms of content, the biggest world we’ve ever built."
Another emphasis for the team was authenticity. It didn't want to portray Egypt in Origins as a couple pyramids in the middle of a desert. As they put it, Egypt was a metropolitan country, it had different biomes, regions and cultures. To make sure their own portrayal of the country was as close to realism as possible, Ubisoft actually brought on an Egyptian historian.
"When you compare the game’s map to the real-world map, when you look at it very quickly, you feel like this is Egypt,” resident historian Maxime Durand says. “The proportions make sense. You have the Nile to the east, you have the deserts down south and west, you have the Libyan Plateau out west of Alexandria. … But wherever you are in the world, you know where you’re located. You have landmarks to look at and orient yourself. You can see some of the mountains to help you understand where you are. You can use the pyramids to know where you’re at or the Lighthouse in Alexandria."
To get all this right, Ubisoft consulted Egyptologists and studied Egyptian materials, including "historical texts and documents," all in an effort to not make this some cliched portrayal of the country.
Time will tell if all this effort was put to good use when Assassin's Creed Origins is released for PlayStation 4, Xbox One and PC on October 27th. After a two year break – the last mainline Assassin's Creed game was 2015's Assassin's Creed Syndicate – Origins is an attempt to reinvent the series after its annual releases, and sometimes poor technical performance, led to a bit of fatigue from fans and critics.