Even though I have spent 50+ hours traipsing through the brutal Egyptian landscape already, it was great to have an excuse to return to the sand. 6 months have passed since Bayek and Aya’s epic conclusion soared Origins to new heights, solidifying it has one of, if not THE best Assassins Creed games to date, and just as the dust begins to settle Ubisoft unleash an unforgiving sandstorm of additional content that will truly push fans to the limit. Assassins Creed Origins evidently was towards the top of many publications’ GOTY lists, so forgive me for being anxious as I eagle dive into the first offering, The Hidden Ones, the missing evolutionary link bridging Rebel to Creed.
Whilst working alongside The Hidden Ones (the local brotherhood), you’ll be tasked with knocking off several Roman Generals who are paving the way for slavery and local butchery, and though this doesn’t sound too dissimilar to what you’ve done previously, you’ve never had to kill in these working conditions; for Pete’s sake I had to assassinate someone surrounded by a fleet of bloody war ships!! Gone are Egypt’s vast desert and glistening Oasis, as now you must assassinate in the Sinai Peninsula’s heavily populated Quarries and Roman settlements, and this change in location brings with it a perilous difficulty spike that will really put your skills as an assassin to the test; no longer are your targets carelessly taking a stroll around their grounds, nor are they merely guarded by a handful of poorly skilled henchmen.
With the average soldier weighing in at level 43 and the typical General being monitored by a dozen of them, this will not be a walk in the sand for you, and for the first time your gear and abilities truly need to be considered before exposing your position. The real tough gameplay is matched perfectly with Egypt’s new landscape as you can no longer rely on tall grass and cliff sides, as eyes and bows are everywhere. You can be forgiven for the initial sigh upon starting The Hidden Ones as aesthetically it doesn’t differ too much from what’s come before, but once you start playing you’ll very quickly realise that this is a different beast, and one that won’t go down without a fight.
Narrative wise The Hidden Ones does play an important role in the over arcing story, even if it feels like only a minor level of progression has been made. Four years have passed since Bayek and Aya/Amunet have parted ways, and within that time several divisions of The Brotherhood have been established, like the notorious Hidden Ones for example. After a couple of Hidden Ones have been found dead after a botched operation it’s become apparent that a mole dwells within the organisation, and it’s up to Bayek to find them out, whilst simultaneously killing every Roman responsible for the enslaving of his people. Though Bayek may be the lead, Amunet is the real star and it’s awesome to see how much she has developed as a character off screen, making it a genuine thrill to play alongside her when she rocks up to scorn Bayek, oh and to free him from a crucifixion. The Hidden Ones may be lacking pace, exciting set pieces and gargantuan twists and turns, however it perfectly concludes Assassins Creed Origins’ tale in one graceful, hard hitting epilogue.
Aside from a change in location and narrative focus, everything else in The Hidden Ones remains the same, which in no way is something to scoff at. Origins was the most fun I’ve had in an Assassins Creed game for quite some time, so to pretty much continue where I left off was in all honesty quite exciting. Considering that Bayek has travelled to a more populated, war torn part of the country, the map is flooded with camps, forts and settlements to execute within, so expect to be solely conquering these when you drift away from your main objectives. Impregnated with the new punishing difficulty I found these far more exciting and rewarding than they were in the main game, solely down to the new tactics I had to implement to defeat the much more challenging enemies and environment. If you come into this expansion expecting to find new game modes or tasks you’ll be a tad disappointed, however if the idea of pushing yourself to overthrow a different kind of beast in the guise of what you’ve beaten before then you’ll simply cry with joy. In all honesty though, if you want to get the most out this expansion pack you’ll want to uncover and conquer everything you stumble across, because the main story arc here is a little short. It of course doesn’t come without it’s tough difficulty spike, however if you’re a bit pushed for time you could actually bash this out in a couple of hours, yet in doing so you will miss the core of what this content is trying to teach and show you.
The Hidden Ones may not be the high octane, blood thirsty epilogue you perhaps wanted, however it does tastefully and satisfyingly wrap up the latest act in the Assassins Creed franchise. The new challenging populated and exposed killing grounds will completely contradict everything you’ve learned and mastered from the base game, and with the further bolstering of the game’s cast, this is an essential purchase for the avid fan!