Archery Popshots | Assassin’s Creed: Origins
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Archery Popshots | Assassin’s Creed: Origins

August 19, 2019


Nothing is true. Everything is permitted. A creed with origins in Ancient Egypt; a game
that looks at many firsts. The First Civilisation, the first Hidden Blade, the first Assassins. While Bayek is not the first protagonist in
the series to make use of a bow, he is by far the most adept bowman in the series yet,
with the greatest arsenal of deadly ranged weaponry. Whether with one arrow, or many; against man,
beast, and even gods. We look at how Assassin’s Creed Origins
brings archery into the Assassin’s Creed universe. The Egypt we see in Origins is modern compared
to the early Dynastic eras. Egypt was ruled by the Ptolemies, descendants of Ptolemy,
general of Alexander the Great of Macedon. The world we explore is a melting pot of Egyptian
and Greek culture, soon to be joined by the Romans. In the early Dynastic period of Egyptian history,
the most dominant style of bow was the wooden self-bow, a single-curvature design made from
a piece of wood 1 to 2 metres in length, narrowed at the ends. While Egypt was a thriving kingdom, it was
their warring neighbours that brought technological advancement to Egypt’s armies. The Hyksos
used composite bows, layering wood, bone and sinew to create a bow that was stronger than
the wooden self-bows used by the Egyptians. Composite bows were often imported to Egypt,
and found their way into the ranks of chariot riders, who needed the power of the composite
bow to penetrate armour. In contrast, the wooden bows were still used
by the rank and file soldiers, being much easier to manufacture, but more difficult
to use. This smorgasbord of innovation and progress
is seen in Bayek’s wide variety of options for his weaponry, not only in his swords and
pole arms, but also his bows. A hugely popular gameplay element, archery
in Origins is easy to adapt to any combat situation, and it would not be unusual for
a player to specialise only in archery. Rather unusual for a game, Origins doesn’t
limit the bow to a simple single-shot ranged weapon. Instead, it offers the player a selection
of four different kinds of bows, each with their own unique style. Bayek starts with the Hunter Bow, a mid-range
weapon that can be held for more power by drawing the string further back. The Warrior Bow loads multiple arrows, which
disperse much like a modern shotgun, being effective at bringing down enemies at close
range. The Light Bow serves as the assault weapon,
being a weak short-range rapid-fire option, fed by multiple arrows held in the string
hand with “reloads” every few shots. Eschewing stealth for aggression, the player
can easily clear out a garrison with this bow alone. Perhaps the most well-known and popular bow
is the Predator Bow. Intended as the long-range one-shot sniper
weapon, the Predator certainly functions as such. However, with a small skill investment, the
player is able to control the flight of the arrow, turning it into an anachronistic remote-control
guided missile. Effective, perhaps too much. A good position
overlooking an enemy camp allows the player to eliminate all enemies without getting their
hands dirty, and considering the number of fortified positions the player has to clear,
this is probably the easiest way of doing things. Admittedly, it doesn’t get old. Of course, the game takes many liberties in
portraying archery in this way. In real life, bows were less intricate in design and weren’t
classified into predators and warriors. A bow was a bow. One didn’t need a special
kind of bow to be accurate or fast. The observant player will notice a few anomalies
that casual players may overlook. Bayek’s skill as a speed-shooter is achieved
by removing frames from the shooting animation, achieving speeds far beyond human capability. The Warrior Bow’s arrows converge into a
single point on the string, a physical impossibility. And of course, arrows can’t be steered the
way the Predator bow does. While it is possible to bend an arrow to a small extent, Bayek
bends reality. None of this detracts from the gameplay. Smooth
transitions between melee and ranged fighting, unique play styles punctuated with enough
plausibility to not distract the player from the fun. This fluidity is also seen in mounted combat. Easy to overlook, all mounted archers, including
Bayek, overcome a physical limitation of horseback archery: being able to shoot in a 360 degree
full circle. In real life, horse archers could cover just
over 180 degrees. A right-handed archer could not cover their right side unless they changed
direction or switched hands. The soldiers in Origins actually change their
sitting position, riding side-saddle or even sitting backwards in order to go through the
full 360 arc. This would obviously require great skill,
and likely was not done in real life given the high risk, but a nice subtle way to make
the game more immersive while maintaining gameplay fluidity. Those who look into the minutiae of the game
may want to learn more about Bayek’s shooting technique. Ancient depictions of Egyptian archers offer
a very stylised illustration, with what appears to be a pinch-draw using the thumb and index
finger. In Origins, Bayek predominantly uses a two-finger
draw, which was used at some points in history in various regions in Europe. He also places the arrow on the left side
of the bow, a preference that is seen in target accuracy-focused styles, and likely included
to give players a familiar feel of where the arrow will go. The exception is the Light Bow. Bayek carries
several arrows in his drawing hand – a method that is illustrated in primary sources and
can be replicated in real life – with a lot of practice. The arrow is placed over the thumb, as it
would have to be to necessitate faster loading and shooting. This is not consistent, however, as some scripted
scenes use the other side, making it more impractical. The main fault of the game is its guilty use
of a common trope: armour is paper. Apart from shields, armour is purely cosmetic.
A tunic is the same as scale armour. A helmet is the same as a bald head. A simple gameplay choice, one that clearly
rewards the more skilful headshot. With all that said, Assassin’s Creed Origins
presents an engaging portrayal of archery. It embeds archery as a strong part of the
game, making it not just useful, but viable in the general open world. While most games make the bow a situational
weapon, in Origins, it is the norm. Most soldiers, friend and foe, can swap to a bow for ranged
combat at any time. And while some of the bow’s capabilities
are exaggerated or fabricated, it’s done to make the gameplay smoother, and to make
Bayek look like a badass. Overall, Assassin’s Creed Origins is a great
instalment to the long series. A vibrant playground with a likeable character. And for us toxophiles, a game that makes archery
look fun and fascinating. Perhaps the smoothest use of the bow in an
action game. Until next time, shoot straight and aim for
your best.

Only registered users can comment.

  1. Not squad! You're awesome Nu. Can you do a video on pvc bows made at home? And different draws (Mongolian thumb draw, etc)? Thanks mate!

  2. Awesome video, I never expected you to make a video on ac origins but I'm not surprised as the archery in the game is fantastic. Almost done 100% after 70 hours and I definitely recommend it to anyone who hasn't played it, even as a newcomer to the assassins creed series like me

  3. When I first started practicing and developing my archery technique, I actually learned to shoot with the arrows bundled in the draw hand, as referenced in this game.

    For anyone curious: It's entirely realistic (thumb draw), and as always, with enough practice – proficiency can be had. You'll need arrows with fletchings ending about 2" from the base of their nocks; depending on the size of the shaft, you can flatten 3-5 in your grip to create a 'queue' so you can loosen the grip of your lower 2 fingers to drop the next one down with a tilt of the wrist – and bump it up to nock. While we realistically can't cut any animation frames to speed up muscle movements, you can be decently fast at it. I stopped practicing it because of the downside: the strength of the lock is compromised with heavier bows (i.e. 60#), however this could possibly be overcome with enough practice.

    Thanks for doing a video on this, I was really curious about the archery aspect of it (covered everything I was looking for). I'm still on the fence about getting it for a good archery 'shooter' game to pass the time until spring.

  4. Game designers have to balance gameplay with realism, so yes certain aspects will be inaccurate for gameplay reasons however ubisoft are good at getting a good level of realism where practical.

    As such I cannot accept some of the criticisms as those choices where made for gameplay not realism reasons.

    Now if this game was archery simulator 2018 you'd have a point but it isn't.

  5. This being a casual videogame and not an archery simulation, I can accept most liberties they are taking for the sake of fun gameplay, even if they are as stupid as remote controlling an arrow in flight. However, there is one ‚technique‘ that keeps popping up in games and movies which I absolutely despise because it‘s so utterly idiotic, and that’s shooting multiple arrows at once. I don’t know how and why this became a thing, but apart from looking stupid, it is also physically impossible and useless, even with two arrows, let alone 5 or 6 like in this game! You see, the energy stored in the drawn bow gets transferred into the arrow at release, which means if there are, for example, 6 arrows being shot at the same time, that energy gets distributed evenly between those 6 arrows (roughly). Meaning even if the archer is drawing a 60 pound bow, each arrow will only have the power of a 10 pound bow, hardly enough to fly more than 20 feet in a straight line, and definitely not enough to severely injure anyone. It‘s like loading birdshot into a sniper rifle.

  6. I love these videos from an archer's perspective! suggestions: Crysis 3Tomb Raider 2013The Last of UsFar Cry PrimalRise of the Tomb Raider

  7. Hey i got my inspiration from assassin creed and i'm starting to try to learn archery while i'm still motivated

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