Assassin’s Creed Origins has been rolling out smaller content patches, updates, and missions for a few months, but this week has brought us the first major expansion. The Hidden Ones offers a wealth of content to explore. After playing the new expansion to it conclusion, the short answer to whether you should play is a clear yes – if you enjoyed what was on offer in the base game.
The Hidden Ones doesn’t do much to change the loop or add significant new mechanics; don’t expect fancy new vehicles or a reintroduction of the Brotherhood mission systems of some previous franchise entries. The Hidden Ones is also built for people who’ve invested heavily in leveling and improving Bayek, so if you’re still in the middle of the base game, the expansion has little to offer. However, if you squeezed the sponge that was Origins, here’s what you can look forward to in The Hidden Ones.
Making the Ending Better
I felt a little let down by the conclusion of Assassin’s Creed Origins. I had hoped for a more extensive exploration of the Brotherhood’s founding and early years, and instead was left with only a taste.
The Hidden Ones helps to remedy that. Jumping four years further into the timeline, Bayek and Amunet (née Aya) have firmly established their respective bureaus, and their fledgling Brotherhood is slowly expanding. The Hidden Ones expansion sees Bayek firmly ensconced in legend among the populace, called upon to aid a distant bureau when things start to go wrong. That sense of established notoriety and awesomeness is one of the things I recall fondly from franchise entries like the later Ezio chapters of the Assassin’s Creed saga, and it’s gratifying to once again embrace the role of a master Assassin.
The expansion’s story explicitly deals with specific elements of the Assassin mythos, and where they came from, including the recruiting of new members, and the central importance of sparing innocent lives within the Creed. As the plot unfolds, we get a mix of new personalities and established ones, and the storytelling maintains the pace and focus on good characters (and voice acting) that helped Origins work well as a narrative.
While The Hidden Ones is a largely standalone story, it feels like a natural outgrowth from the events of the core game, and builds on some of the ideas, threats, and character relationships. I came to the end feeling like I had a greater appreciation for the way the base game concludes, even if I wish some of this content could have been present in the original package.
Crossing the Red Sea
For many players, the biggest enticement to this expansion will be the presence of new lands to explore. The Sinai Penninsula adds several beautiful new zones. Mountainous peaks and canyons throughout the area make for a strongly vertical play space, with lots of climbing, high lookouts, and fantastic photo mode opportunities (if that’s your thing).
We also get a peek at a pyramid that is in the process of being torn down, a cool temple with a giant tree, and a relative smorgasbord of Roman ships to be attacked and pillaged, just to name a few intriguing locales. And these spaces aren’t sparsely populated. New side quests are available to pick up. Stores provide goods to purchase. Animal lairs offer hunting opportunities. Stone circles (and some of the other discoverable locations) also return. There are even some fun opportunities to track down new gold/yellow legendary gear, including a sweet dual-blade set that comes at the end of a brief riddle hunt.
With all that said, if you had begun to feel like the zone structure of the base game outwore its welcome, this certainly isn’t going to change your mind. Even with new names and configurations, everything feels like more of what you’ve already explored. After such a lengthy core game, I would have liked to see more innovative or surprising opportunities for exploration. But even if some things look the same, Ubisoft’s realization of ancient Egypt remains a high water mark for developing a setting.
The Hidden Ones boosts up the opportunities for leveling, pitting you against enemies between levels 41 and 45. It’s fun to see the XP climbing again, but I was disappointed at the lack of meaningful new abilities to pour points into. Likewise, while weapons can also climb the new ladder to 45, there are no fundamentally new weapon types or experiences. Everything is an evolution of existing combat styles.
Even so, the new higher-level enemies help these missions carry a little bit of challenge and risk, something that was sorely lacking in the later hours of the core game, especially if you’d gone overboard with your leveling and weapon improvement.
I enjoy the predator experience of hunting through camps, and traversal/navigation remains excellent. Like in the base game, I feel like the combat lacks some of the depth it needs for such a lengthy play experience, and it’s too bad that The Hidden Ones does little to evolve that system. And just like in the base game, the final boss fight here is a real letdown, relying on cheap tricks to overcompensate for a melee system that simply doesn’t have the depth to do anything better.
A Different Tack By Staying The Same
Expansions to Assassin’s Creed have often provided a dramatic departure from the experience provided in the base game, from a journey into an alternate timeline with an evil George Washington, to an adventure with Jack the Ripper at its center. Assassin’s Creed Origins is clearly going in a different direction, offering more of the same experiences that were on offer in the original game, and relying on existing characters and systems to provide the fun. In this first instance, I think the whole thing ends up working. Especially being removed a few months from the original release, these new missions are fun, and remind me of the things I liked (and didn’t like) in the original. I worry about tedium if Ubisoft opts to continue this trend of sameness in subsequent expansion releases, but for now, I came away pleased with the ways in which The Hidden Ones carries the story and adventure forward.
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