There have been quite a few comparisons between Assassin’s Creed combat and the Dark Souls combat system in gaming media recently, and there’s a good reason. While Origins is still quite far removed from the Soulsborne system (there’s no stamina bar, for example), Dark Souls has set the bar for a particular style of combat — which Origins just switched to.
Up until now, Assassin’s Creed combat has been closer to the Arkham or Middle-earth schools of choreographed combat. As soon as you input a command, the outcome is determined before any animations are played. Your model and the enemy’s work together, playing pre-determined and pre-recorded scenes.
If it’s meant to be a counter attack, that’s the animation that you’ll see. If you’re meant to be interrupted because you pressed the wrong command, that’s the animation you’ll see.
The Souls style is the posterboy for the opposite school of modern gaming combat systems. Here, every available input has an exact move associated with it. If you press Light Attack, that’s the animation you’ll see. If you press Parry, that’s the animation you’ll see.
In this system, outcomes aren’t pre-determined. If you and the enemy swing at the same time, the game engine will play both animations until someone’s hurtbox meets someone’s hitbox. Another dimension is added when heavy armour or a Constitution rating allows a character to tank a hit and maintain their swing. That’s what Souls fans refer to as “Poise“.
While Assassin’s Creed combat has previously been in the choreography camp, Origins marks a big switch over to the hitbox system. There’s absolutely nothing wrong with choreographed combat. Shadow of War is doing great things with it. But hitbox systems are known for being skill-based and rewarding, while choreographed systems are moreso known for visual flair.
What’s really impressive is Origins combat scenes manage to maintain their cinematic spice. That’s a testament to the animations and camera work, and it’s probably not the kind of switch that could’ve been achieved while Assassin’s Creed games were on a yearly turnaround.
Watch the video to see some examples of how combat will be tougher, but better. You can still be a hero in Origins, but it’ll make you earn it.
Ultimately, that means longevity for the game — and instead of needing narrative or virtual rewards to make fights interesting, they’ll be interesting in and of themselves.