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This piece contains spoilers for Assassin's Creed Origins.
Assassin's Creed has always had fun with nested narratives. The modern-day sequences get a lot of stick, and fairly: they often feel like awkward and unnecessary interruptions to the historical adventuring which draws many of us to the series. But they do make explicit the series' ongoing fascination with themes of historical memory - how we think about and remember our collective past. It's baked into the idea of the Animus: where other series might have gone for time-travel or done without the contemporary frame-stories altogether, Assassin's Creed bases its nonsense McGuffin on the idea that historical experiences are encoded in our DNA. For much of the series, the historical portions were explicitly labelled not as areas or time-periods, but as memories.
These themes have always been part of the series but the most recent entry, Origins, takes them and runs. There's the modern-day frame-story and the mainly historical adventure, as usual, but within the ancient Egyptian setting the game is particularly interested in the still more distant past. Ancient Egypt isn't equal in its ancientness. Its greatest icons and the central image of the box art - the pyramids - were more ancient in the game's Ptolemaic setting than that period is to us. The game's fascinated by this. Ruins are everywhere, ancient tombs punctuate the landscape and the game itself, casting hero Bayek as a Croft- or Drake-style tomb raider. Your reward for clearing a tomb: a stele inscribed with hieroglyphs. 'Ancient writing,' says Bayek, a note of awe as well as satisfaction in his voice, 'from the Old Kingdom.' The idea of ancientness-beyond-ancientness is there for everyone to hear.
Assassin's Creed Oranges owners will notice a 3GB update being piped to their consoles and/or PC today. It contains a selection of handy updates and changes.
First up, for folk who've noticed the game has struggled loading textures at a distance (we're looking at you, 2D trees), there are various fixes on the way to hopefully make things prettier.
Among the detailed patch notes are points including "Improved texture streaming selection to allow for more high-resolution texture", "Fixed loading grid setups for tall palm tree fields to improve their view distance" and various improvements specific to certain in-game locations (Siwa, Alexandria, and more).
This month will bring a slew of updates for Assassin's Creed: Origins, including a new difficulty mode, Horde mode and a big fan-requested feature: enemy scaling.
But perhaps most exciting, a "new surprise quest" will also pop up - which looks like Ubisoft and Square Enix's Final Fantasy and Assassin's Creed partnership coming full circle...
Yes, it looks like Assassin's Creed Origins is getting a chocobo horse. For context, Final Fantasy 15 got free Assassin's Creed-themed DLC back in August.
Assassin's Creed Origins arrives on Xbox One X, giving us a fascinating insight into how a key developer aims to scale their multi-platform projects most effectively across the current generation of consoles - both base models and 4K mid-gen refreshes. On the face of it, there are few surprises here: the more teraflops your console has, the better the resolution, automatically meaning that, yes, the game looks best on Xbox One X. But the techniques Ubisoft has deployed to scale its game across consoles produces some interesting results: Microsoft's new console hands in by far the best raw metrics in terms of pixel counts, but PS4 Pro still holds up rather well.
It's all about temporal anti-aliasing, the process of refining quality in the frame currently rendering by drawing upon information from previously generated images. The truth is that there's a huge amount of common information from one frame to the next, so why not draw upon that existing data and allow the game to look even better? TAA has produced excellent results in existing games, with titles like Call of Duty Infinite Warfare, Battlefield 1, Uncharted 4, Doom and Wolfenstein 2 all but banishing the dreaded 'jaggies' - harsh, ugly geometric edges. It's typically this artefact that is the most obviously noticeable difference between the same game running at varying resolutions
Assassin's Creed Origins follows suit with its own TAA solution, providing a huge upgrade over the basic post-process solutions found in Unity and Syndicate. It's also a good fit for the new game as Ubisoft has jettisoned its previous approach to the fundamentals of image quality: the fixed 900p framebuffer on both PS4 and Xbox One is gone, replaced with a dynamic scaling technology that aims for optimal GPU utilisation at all times, increasing resolution in simpler scenes and lowering it on more complex scenes while maintaining a relatively consistent frame-rate. It's not a new technique, but the use of temporal AA helps to mitigate the visual side-effects as resolution decreases - you're losing the raw pixel count, but you're still super-sampling in more data from prior frames, so despite some big variations in pixel counts between platforms, it helps to bring PS4 Pro, Xbox One X and PC versions closer together from a visual standpoint
Clocking in at just under a minute, this Assassin's Creed Origins video is but a morsel of a trailer. Still, amongst all the bombastic gameplay and review score braggery we usually see in promotional trails, it's well worth highlighting.
Created by Hong Kong-based Paperbox Creations, it shows Origins main character Bayek leaping into battle, after having his fate weighed up by the god Anubis.
History lesson: Egyptians believed your heart was weighed upon death, and in order to enter the afterlife you needed a heart as light as a feather. Good deeds in life made your heart lighter. Bad deeds would make your heart heavy, and leave you unable to enter the afterlife at all. (You would, instead, be fed to crocodile-head god Ammut.)
Launch sales of Assassin's Creed Origins were double that of previous game Syndicate, Ubisoft has revealed.
The detail, announced in a financial call to investors last night, sheds new light on the data released after Origins' first week on sale here in the UK - that the game's physical sales were roughly on par with Syndicate.
What changed? As we noted at the time, UK numbers company Chart-Track does not count digital downloads - and for Assassin's, these were very strong.
Assassin's Creed Origins' first Trials of the Gods challenge, pitting you against a gargantuan version of Anubis, the Egyptian god of death, starts today.
"This ancient deity has sprung from a glitch in the Animus," says Ubisoft of Anubis, "and is eager to guide Bayek's soul to the afterlife, unless you defeat him."
To challenge Anubis, just look for the battle marker on your map and head toward the beam of light once you're in the area.
UPDATE 16/11/17: Assassin's Creed Origins' next patch, numbered 1.05, has been detailed - and yes, it includes the beard and hair toggle fans have been waiting for.
The update will launch today on PS4, 20th November for Xbox One and "soon" for PC.
Among the other changes, patch 1.05 will also make certain enemies tougher on Hard mode: "Enemies of a lower level than the playable character are now more challenging in Hard Mode", Ubisoft explained in the update's lengthy patch notes.
Assassin's Creed Origins has confirmed, once and for all, it takes place in the same shared universe as fellow Ubisoft series Watch Dogs.
The theory both series are connected is not new. Ubisoft has played with the idea before, and slipped references to each into the others' games.
Assassin's Creed Easter eggs feature in both Watch Dogs 1 and 2, while Assassin's Creed 4: Black Flag includes mention of Watch Dogs' fictional evil corporation Blume.
Editor's note: Once a month we invite the wonderful Gareth Damian Martin, editor of Heterotopias, to show us what proper writing about games looks like before we shoo him away for making the rest of us look bad. If you want to read more in-depth critical writing, you can find the third issue of Heterotopias here.
When we talk about history we are, more often than not, talking about architecture. From the cities in which we live and work, to those we travel to as a form of escape, we constantly encounter history through its architectural presence. The ruins or restored structures of cathedrals, castles, temples, tombs-they are preserved as interfaces with history, ways of accessing the inaccessible and long distant past. Even meagre structures, such as the steel teeth and concrete bunkers of the Normandy beaches, take on an incredible architectural power and worth through their proximity to culturally significant events. As individuals we constantly seek these places out, and stare from crowded streets at their unrelenting stones in hope of some form of contact. We might even touch them, idly running our hands, as thousands upon thousands have, along their walls. For many of us, these encounters will be the most powerful architectural memories we form in our lives.
When discussing Assassin's Creed Origins and its architecture, you'll have to forgive me for going back to the series' own origins. From the very beginning, architecture has been a central part of Assassin's Creed. When the first game launched, a decade ago this month, it integrated architecture into its gameplay in a way that had few precedents. There had been no Mirror's Edge, no Infamous, with Ubisoft's own Prince of Persia: Sands of Time being the most obvious precedent for freedom of movement. Assassin's Creed looked and moved like nothing before it, its open cities crafted around one central idea - the game's impressive climbing system.