One of the most fascinating things I ever read about Shakespeare revolves, rather perversely, around how little we actually know of him. Putting the plays and the sonnets to one side, everything we know about Shakespeare the man is "contained within a few scanty facts," according to Bill Bryson. In his book, Shakespeare: The World as a Stage, Bryson marvels that Shakespeare exists within the historical record in a mere hundred or so documents. Despite almost a million words of text in his drama and poetry, "we have just 14 words in his own hand - his name signed six times and the words 'by me' on his will."
Spoiler warning: This article discusses the ending of Assassin's Creed Origins.
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This piece contains spoilers for Assassin's Creed Origins.
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.
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.
Assassin's Creed is a series all about history - well, that and stabbing people in the neck. So, for the release of Origins, we thought we'd celebrate by delving into the history of the series. It's a lot less messy than doing the stabbing in the neck thing ourselves.
There will likely never be a better entry point to Assassin's Creed than Origins, released today. A prequel set a thousand years before the events of Assassin's Creed 1, Origins can be enjoyed as your first experience of the series.
If there are moments of serenity in the original Assassin's Creed, which turns 10 years old next month, they are surely to be found in the act of scaling towers - a way of pacing consumption of the landscape that has shaped almost every subsequent open world escapade, from Rocksteady's Batman Arkham games to the mighty Breath of the Wild. The city is a fading murmur beneath you, the cries of beggars and traders and the jingle of guard awareness icons whisked away by the wind. The occasional frustrations of shouldering through mobs or scrambling across uneven rooftops are forgotten. There is nothing but the scuffle of toes on masonry and the rattle of Altair's sword in its sheath.
Here's something to make you feel old: the original Assassin's Creed launched a whole decade ago. It's been 10 years since Assassin's Creed featured grumpy old Altair, imprisoned poor Desmond, and introduced now-ingrained concepts such as the Animus, Abstergo, and snazzy clothes with hoods.
You may not have heard of Ashraf Ismail. Assassin's Creed fans know him as the creative director of Black Flag - AKA the best game in the series not featuring Ezio. But, for four years since then, Ashraf has been buried away within the bowels of Ubisoft Montreal, unable to talk about the game he's been helming since.
Assassin's Creed has suffered in the past from its quickfire release schedule. Despite being one of the few annual blockbusters not about deathmatches, driving a car or kicking a ball, it was still released, every year, to fans hungry for meaningful upgrades. Sometimes, Ubisoft pulled it off despite of itself - with AC2, Brotherhood, and Black Flag, the series delivered. More often, though, Assassin's Creed has been judged as not having done enough, or simply not being good enough. Happily, it looks like Origins is going to fall into the first camp.
Xbox One X has much to prove in the run-up to its November 7th launch. Forza Motorsport 7 demonstrates how beautifully 1080p first-party engines scale up to ultra HD resolutions, but what about taxing third party titles, typically rendering at 900p on base Microsoft hardware? Assassin's Creed Origins - showcased at Microsoft's E3 media briefing - presents compelling evidence that a beautiful 4K presentation isn't off the cards. We've got access to a pristine 4K source file of the gameplay segment, and even under close scrutiny, Origins holds up admirably.