Back in 2016 fans of Assassin’s Creed were left up a certain creek without a paddle, as the infamous annual release skipped a beat. Not even the silver screen adaptation managed to woo fans and break the video game film curse and, unfortunately, Ubisoft had clearly had an off year. 2017 was different. Here was a new game, a fun game, which had enough nods to die hard fans to nerd at (dare I mention the eagle skull on the sand as personal high note), but was fresh and different enough to attract new players. That’s exactly what Origins was and it went down like a storm, fans loved it and it brought many people back to a series they felt had fatigued over the years. But it is with the latest DLC, Curse of the Pharaoh, where things get really exciting.
What I want to talk about, however, isn’t the amazing Origins base game, but more what came after and how that changed the way we look and think of Assassin’s Creed. Firstly, let me state that one of the most enjoyable aspects of the AC games, for me at least, were the database entries. I used to spend hours reading pages and pages as I walked round real and authentically crafted buildings and locations from the series. The element of realism grounded an otherwise outlandish story line and the inclusion of real figures from history only added to this effect. The end result was like nothing we had really seen in gaming before.
As with everything, fatigue hit, but the new Assassins Creed continues to bring new elements to enjoy, and that is really exciting. When I first saw the trailer for Curse of the Pharaohs, the second and largest DLC instalment for Origins, I was a bit weary. I had already completed all the Animus trials and felt they were a little out of touch with the tone the game set, but I did appreciate the ability to continuously grind to level up my gear. When it actually came to playing CotP, however, I was incredibly surprised. Now before I get into this let me give you a heads up, as there may be minor spoilers ahead… you have been warned.
*SPOILERS FROM HERE*
The first DLC for AC Origins, The Hidden Ones, was enjoyable, but ultimately offered only around 5-7 hours of gameplay and not much story content. Bayek sets sail for Thebes but his first steps are rudely interrupted by the ghoulish figure of the ancient pharaoh Nefertiti. After what can be a challenging battle for base level characters we find out from a local priestess that the land has been cursed by the ghosts of 4 ancient Pharaohs – Nefertiti, Ramesses II, Akhenaten and the infamous Tutankhamun himself. With typical AC fantasy we learn that the reason for the curse is that a Piece of Eden being used to steer the undead. Bayek reforms the Medjay and the assassin sets off to find the piece of Eden and lift the curse. What comes next is pure fantasy.
As Bayek travels to the Valley of Kings and the tombs of the Pharaohs, the shift between reality and fantasy really kicks in. Each Pharaoh has a separate part of the underworld they inhabit, to which Bayek must travel and release the curse by fighting the cursed Pharaoh. What stands out for CotP is how amazingly beautiful and majestic these realms are, each having a distinct feel. Be it the golden fields of reeds in Aaru, where boats seemly sail across what appears to fully navigable areas, or the sun kissed temple in Aten, these worlds are places you instantly want to explore. With each offering around 2-3 hours gameplay within them, and there being a total of 4 on top of the real world map, it shows that Ubisoft weren’t lying when they said this was a substantial expansion.
Anyone who played the main Assassin’s Creed 3 expansion, The Tyranny of King Washington, might not be a stranger to the more surreal world AC games can explore. With the lore they have at their disposal it seems odd they have never utilised it before, but I am not complaining when it has taken this long but looks so damn good. The thing that made this great was the time period, and the setting really enhanced the game. Not only did we get a real representation of what Ptolemaic Egypt would have actually looked like, we also got a physical embodiment of their beliefs. We had, for the first time I think in any game, a space that was made of a pure manifestation of ancient Egyptian beliefs. Assassinating the guards of Amun that walked the underworld, provided a feeling I would imagine is akin to playing an adaptation of The Mummy movie (It’s a guilty pleasure ok? I love Brendan Fraser). The question now is this, with AC Origins setting a precedent of this kind of gameplay, can we see it crossing over into the highly anticipated Assassin’s Creed Odyssey? Can we see it take a much more prominent stance in the base game or will we see the creation of DLC aimed at just this kind of work? Sort of like a zombies mode for AC, which I personally think is a great idea. Having this historically accurate and rich base game and then using the DLC to show off some crazy fun set pieces. We could see it emulating Far Cry 5 and the individually set DLC packages they offer, ranging from zombies to the Vietnam war to Mars!?!
Ubisoft has the power to create a host of mythical lore to call from, and if you thought Egyptian mythology was something that was outstanding, I can’t wait to see what they come up with using Greek mythology. Look out for Battling the Minotaur? Creeping into the cave of Medusa? Pegasus!?! I simply cannot wait.
Assassin’s Creed Curse of the Pharaohs is available now on PS4, Xbox one and PC