After giving up sixty hours of my finite existence upon this planet for Assassin’s Creed Origins, it’s safe to say that I like the game quite a bit. It managed to breathe new life into a franchise that had grown tired, predictable, and stale. Origins utterly delivered on its virtual recreation of Ancient Egypt and, even more impressively, it managed to successfully re-imagine the gameplay and mechanics of a decade old series.
There were issues, of course, such as a slightly lacklustre plot, an utterly unnecessary modern day component, as well as all the day one bugs that Ubisoft are so infamous for, but nonetheless, Origins was a return to form and perhaps even the best in the series to date. And now it’s time for the release of the obligatory expansion packs. How does the Hidden Ones fare in continuing the tale of Bayek of Siwa?
Set four years after the dramatic conclusion of Orgins, The Hidden Ones sees Bayek travelling across the red sea to the Sinai peninsula. The villagers here are under the yoke of their Roman oppressors, and its up to Bayek to fan the fires of revolution. How will he do this? By murdering lots of people, of course.
The plot and structure for the gameplay is essentially a miniature version of the main game. This time you have to hunt down and kill only three lieutenants before being granted the opportunity to murder the mastermind behind their evil machinations, but the similarity to what I’d just spent the last three months playing was striking.
There’s even a section where Bayek is captured by the Romans who, rather than simply killing Bayek as punishment for hacking the limbs of literally thousands of their countrymen, make the same mistake as Ptolemy did. I won’t go into the details here, because spoilers, but using the same plot devices and even an utterly predictable betrayal by a former ally, reeks of laziness on behalf of the developers.
The main quest is also slight in its length, clocking in at around three hours of play time. There are three regions to explore in Sinai, each with a specific feature location where Bayek’s target lurks. The pyramid being deconstructed limestone by limestone is a definite visual highlight, and almost equal to it in scope is the massive and oppressive quarry, filled with labourers. Then there’s the biggest fortress in the game so far, appropriately titled Walls-of-the-Ruler.
Unfortunately, despite the size of these new areas, the techniques used to identify and assassinate your target remain the same. Hiding in bushes and whistling at guards until they amble unwittingly into murder range is once again the best approach. Or, as with my character, if you’re equipped with some of the best weapons the game has to offer, then it’s simply a case of carving through the legionaries until you eventually reach your target. Even with an increased enemy level cap of 45, they offer little challenge. It would have been nice to see a re-imagining of the tactics needed to defeat Bayek’s foes, but other than an attack on a flotillia of triremes near the end of the story, the gameplay and its requirements of the player remain exactly the same as Origins.
The rest of your time with Origins will involve completing side quests, none of which stand out in anyway from the many other side quests available to the player in the main game. There’s also some treasure to find, and thankfully this time the chests provide the player with valuable jewels. This is infinitely better than ending up with hundreds of pointlessly underpowered weapons, which serve to make a mess of the player’s inventory and are only of use when cashed in for gold. Finally, you have the add-on’s versions of the the Philakitai to track down and kill. That’s about it, really.
Then there’s the issues that we must now expect from a Ubisoft release. Loading times, in places, are utterly atrocious, even leading to a game ending crash in one instance. Also, Bayek seems to spend a great deal of time merging into the red rocks that he so enjoys clambering up. Sometimes this even results in him being stuck in the middle of a mountain, as the game thinks he’s too far from the next ledge to continue his ascent. I’ll also never forgot the moment that Bayek dramatically leapt from a wooden platform to the water below to dodge an enemies attack, only to end up trapped in a swimming animation on dry land. Suffice to say, that didn’t end well for anyone involved.
So, in all ways, The Hidden Ones is more of the same. Now, this is not necessarily a bad thing. I really liked Origins and an expansion pack and, being an add-on, it is usually just going to be more of the same. Yet, I can’t help feel that there was a missed opportunity to offer a more exciting experience in this instance. The characters spend a lot time talking about the historic events involving Marc Anthony and Cleopatra occurring elsewhere, so it would seem to me that a story revolving around their adventures, rather than one spending a lot of time talking about them, would be a much more interesting expansion to play.
If you liked Assassin’s Creed Origins, then you’ll like this The Hidden Ones DLC. You just won’t like it for very long though, as you’ll have it wrapped up in an afternoon. It’s an add-on that is sadly both lazy and derivative, and when players are being charged around £30 for a season pass, I don’t think its unjustified to expect a little more bang for our buck. Let’s hope that the March release of Curse of the Pharaohs offers something that is both new and worthy of the price tag.