Words By: Max Taylor
Assassin’s Creed: Origins was one of 2017’s biggest highlights, and by far the most ambitious entry in the series yet with a staggeringly vast open world brimming with history, detail and worthwhile content. Origin’s first expansion, The Hidden Ones, offered a brief but satisfying epilogue along with an expansive new region and a modest amount of side content, however The Curse of the Pharaohs, Origin’s second and final expansion, delivers a much more substantial host of new content. Taking place 4 years after the main game’s events, Curse of the Pharaoh’s adapts the legend of the titular curse, made famous in contemporary culture by Howard Carter’s discovery of Tutankhamen’s tomb, into an otherworldly adventure which takes Bayek into ancient Egypt’s dark, mystic depths and through the afterlife’s beyond.
The moment Bayek steps foot in Thebes, the main city in Curse of the Pharaoh’s huge new area, which is comprised of 6 regions, spanning from level 45 to 55, a pharaoh’s desiccated revenant apparats before him, swiftly setting the tone for the story to come. Curse of the Pharaoh’s does not reveal all of its supernatural wonders straight off the bat however, and one of its greatest strengths is the pace with which the mystery of the Pharaoh’s curse unfolds. This story of deceased kings and queens wreaking their revenge on the land of the living could come across as silly or out of place, but in fact Curse of the Pharaoh’s fits organically into Origin’s world, and thanks to a well told and surprisingly moving tale, aided by beautifully realised, cohesive art design, the lands of the living and the dead tie together seamlessly.
Curse of the Pharaohs’ afterlives, each unique to the pharaoh which presides over them, provide dreamlike hub worlds, all with a distinct aesthetic befitting their ruler. From a sea of wheat fields patrolled by ships of jackal headed guards, to vast deserts strewn with towering statues of dead kings and writhing with giant scorpions, these ethereal realms are diverse and distinct. The boss battles with each afterlife’s pharaoh provide both exhilarating visual spectacle and enjoyably challenging combat, with each adopting a different fighting style; from Nefertiti’s twin dagger acrobatics to Ramesses the Great’s lumbering combination of mace sweeps and ground smashes. This limb of Bayek’s adventure also takes a greater focus on investigative gameplay, an aspect of the main game I felt was under used, which adds to the sense of unravelling mystery in its engaging, twisting plot.
Reaching the new level cap of 55 is well balanced, ensuring enemy encounters are challenging but fair and requiring you to explore a good amount of side content alongside the main quest to achieve it. While the majority of new content and the main story is well paced, some missions require completion of several other subquests to progress, which can feel a little like busy work, but even these are sufficiently short and enjoyable to prevent them from feeling too burdensome. In terms of new gear, Curse of the Pharaohs offers a great new range of themed armour, like the scorpion inspired “Serqet’s Carapace”, deadly new weapons, including my personal favourite, the dual blades “Venomous Grace”, and even a new, suitably goth undead mount named “Eternal Maw”. Additionally, the expansions accompanying trophy/achievement list is short but nicely varied, encouraging creative ways of playing as well as completion of the challenging, high level Serqet locations, adding another layer of incentive to exploring all that Thebes and the Valley of the Kings has to offer.
By fully embracing Egyptian mythology in a fantastical yet authentic way, Curse of the Pharaohs further deepens the rich lore of the main game. It also works to compliment the recently added Discovery Tour, making the now complete package of Origins feel like a perfectly rounded experience, satiating both one’s inner Egyptology obsessed child and history nerd by realising the full potential of this hugely detailed series, both as a means of time travelling escapism and a tool for genuine historical education. Curse of the Pharaoh’s continues Origins propensity for quality, with a convincingly told story which is equal parts grand and intimate and an abundance of rewarding content, astounding locals, and cinematic moments which will enthral you way beyond the substantial 10+ hour story.