A Great Close With Fresh Content
I want to fight weird mythical enemies, but I know not every game lends itself to this. I don't think they'd make much sense in a Call of Duty game after all. If I'm in the middle of Egypt? Throw a mummy at me, hit me with some Anubis soldiers, and serve me a giant scorpion for dessert. Thankfully I think someone at Ubisoft read my mind and decided this needed to be in Assassin's Creed Origins. The Curse of the Pharaohs is the second, and final, expansion in the season pass. Seeking to change things up by adding mythical elements to the game, does it do enough to stand apart from the rest of the available content?
The expansion takes place shortly after the last one. Bayek receives a letter from his wife informing him of a magical artifact in the city of Thebes. Bayek isn't even in Thebes for a full minute before he realizes that something has gone horribly wrong. A corpse comes to life and gets to the murdering. Wanting to protect the people and find the cause of this curse, Bayek begins an investigation.
I really liked the setup for the story, but one thing really ruined its execution. A large part of it is based on mythical elements that Bayek just sort of finds blasé like he normally just walks into the land of the dead and it's no biggy. Corpses coming to the life are hard to find interesting when the main character thinks it's nothing. It's especially strange as the main game contained very little in the way of science fiction elements, and its first expansion contained none at all. Bayek's general bored attitude does a lot to put the breaks on what should be an otherwise exciting tale.
The Curse of the Pharaohs takes place on a new map. You'll be exploring the Valley of the Kings, a meaty area with six zones and plenty of content. Look a little deeper and you'll find the map's big secret as well: portals to the afterlife. Many of the tombs in the Valley of the Kings contains portals to the pharaoh's personal afterlife, and these are all as big as a single zone from the living world, complete with their own tasks and side quests. It turns the amount of content in the DLC from "already a lot" into "absolutely absurd". If you just want to plow through the story you'll spend up to 10 hours on that, but if you dive into the side content you could get a solid 25 hours out of The Curse of the Pharaohs.
A big deal has been made about the addition of more mythical elements to the game. Most of what you'll be seeing come in the form of Anubis soldiers and mummies, most of whom are just reskins of Roman soldiers. There are a couple new types, such as a priest that can revive fallen foes, but you won't be changing your tactics that much. You'll also eventually get to deal with giant acid-spitting scorpions that, while cool, aren't that huge of a difference. The real change comes from the four Pharaohs featured in the expansion.
Spilling out of their personal afterlife and into the realm of the real world, the shadows of the Pharaohs go after large crowds of civilians. Bayek needs to live up to his protector role by stopping them before they can actually cause much harm. Each of the Pharaohs provides a challenging battle, often even putting a maxed out Bayek to the test. These weren't just enemies I could easily play with and dispatch with a couple of well-placed blows. I had to put some actual effort into using all of my skills against them. They're a fantastic addition to the game, and I would love for future Assassin's Creed titles to take notes.
One nice feature Ubisoft put in was allowing players to just jump to the required level of 45. Previously, The Hidden Ones required players to grind side quests if they hadn't reached level 40. Now, The Curse of the Pharaohs avoids this by letting you get into the content from the jump.
The level cap has been raised yet again, this time to 55. Unlike The Hidden Ones, new skills have been added to the skill tree. This makes the new levels far more interesting. You can get skills that allow you to deal extra damage if you manage to perfectly dodge an attack. There are also new modifies for all of your bow abilities. Besides that, there are additional legendary weapons, shields, and mounts to collect.
While the graphics haven't been updated in any significant way, the new environments show the absolute best Assassin's Creed Origins has to offer. The afterlives are a visual treat. From mysterious deserts to fields of wheat with boats sailing across them like they're water, there's a strong art direction that really seeks to give you something pleasant to look at.
If I had to compare to Assassin's Creed Origins: The Curse of the Pharaohs to something, it would be The Witcher 3: Blood and Wine. This expansion does a fantastic job closing up the main game, while still providing tons of fresh content. The new enemies are just fun to fight. The game has plenty of new systems that made it feel like it was going beyond just adding "more". If you enjoyed Assassin's Creed Origins, you'd be doing a lot of good diving back in for this mythical adventure.
- Interesting New Zones to Explore
- New Enemies Change up Gameplay
- New Levels Feel Meaningful
- Bayek's Reaction to Plot Elements Feels Off