Assassin’s Creed: Origins may be the best example of Ubisoft’s dedication to world-building yet. During several hands-on sessions earlier this year, Game Rant discovered that the world of Ancient Egypt that the developer had constructed for Assassin’s Creed: Origins had a noticeably different feel to it than previous games in the series. Characters felt as though they had places to be, and the world bent to main character Bayek’s will but never broke – the game feels like the kind of spiralling, multi-person underdog story that made fans cheer on Ezio and his crew, rather than the introspection and brooding that came with Connor in Assassin’s Creed 3.
Assassin’s Creed Origins: Desert Oath has captured the same feeling as the game it is a prequel to, making it a must-read for those who want to know more about Bayek, or those who want to get lost in a carefully constructed, ancient Egyptian world of fantasy, politics, and, of course, murder. The novel starts with a teenage Bayek learning about his duties as a future Medjay, an ancient Egyptian military force that would later serve as an inspiration for the Brotherhood of Assassins.
From there, Desert Oath weaves its way through the major moments that take place in Bayek’s life up until what we imagine to be the beginning of Assassin’s Creed: Origins. During that process, readers become familiar with Bayek’s internal struggles as he grows up under the burden of a predetermined destiny, his infatuation with Aya, and the world that produced one of the deadliest warriors in Ancient Egypt. Other characters, like Tuta and the main antagonist Bion, are incredibly well-written, at times more compelling than the protagonist himself. In particular, Bion is the kind of character who would make an excellent foil to an Assassin’s Creed protagonist in-game.
Perhaps most importantly, however, Desert Oath doesn’t just seem like filler. There’s a tangible sense of growth in Bayek’s character as the novel develops, and it feels, once again, like the same kind of process that made fans love Ezio so much – watching the protagonist grow older, make mistakes, and then learn not to repeat them and protect those he loves. Bayek doesn’t feel like a perfect warrior at any point during the novel, and at times, the growing pains are enough to make him seem almost inept. That kind of vulnerability doesn’t happen often in video games centered around combat, and it’s refreshing to see Bayek’s evolution as it plays out.
Without diving into spoilers, there are also major events that take place over the narrative of Desert Oath that feel like necessary information for Assassin’s Creed: Origins. At the very least, the game will hopefully reference them through an in-game mention or encyclopedia entry, because there are a few impactful moments from the novel that deserves some time in the spotlight of the main game too. It would be a shame for the strong, compelling writing of Oliver Bowden to not make it into Assassin’s Creed: Origins in some fashion.
That being said, perhaps the only negative to take away from the novel is in the way it portrays Bayek and Aya’s early romance. During hands-on gameplay of Assassin’s Creed: Origins, the relationship is handled deftly, equal parts endearing but independent. In Desert Oath, Bayek is borderline obsessed with Aya from the beginning, and seemingly never fails to compliment her whenever he sees her. This might have been less of a problem had the novel been written in a different perspective, but the first-person narration creates a situation where Bayek always has a chance to remark on something about Aya – and rarely fails to do so.
Bayek’s immaturity could certainly play a role in the way he perceives Aya during Desert Oath‘s earlier chapters, however, and so it isn’t really the sort of negative that impacts the experience of a well-written novel too much. Overall, Assassin’s Creed Origins: Desert Oath is an interesting prequel to a title that looks like it could be one of the best Assassin’s Creed games ever, and it’s also a relatively short jaunt through Bayek’s history that isn’t too daunting a task for busy gamers. For fans of the series, or fantasy fans who like a bit of intrigue and violence, Assassin’s Creed Origins: Desert Oath is well worth the time.