Assassin's Creed Origins’ first piece of paid DLC, The Hidden Ones, provides a glimpse into the first four years of the Assassin Brotherhood. Bayek, the Medjay who exposed a conspiracy to enslave humanity in the name of the greater good, travels to a new region, not only to continue the fight against invading Romans. but also to gain perspective of the Assassins place in civilized society. Packed with the more of the same style and mechanics as Origins, The Hidden Ones should hold appeal to fans that have grown to love Ubisoft’s new open world adventure.
The Hidden Ones begins four years after Bayek’s vengeful strike against the Order of the Ancients (in other words, be sure to finish the main story before starting the DLC!). He is summoned to the peninsula of Sinai where, much to his horror, the Romans have enslaved and corrupted Egyptians into systematically stripping the land of its spoils and performing sacrilege by dismantling tombs and monuments to the gods. Upon his arrival, Bayek is greeted by his childhood friend Tahira, now head of the Sinai bureau, who relates that general Rufio is responsible for the subjugation. A small, loose of band rebels combat the Romans, and they want the Assassins to lead the charge, a desire that conflicts with Bayek’s planned role of the Assassin Brotherhood.
I really like The Hidden Ones for its depiction of a fledgling order struggling to find its place and thesis in a world preyed upon by the pre-Templar Order. In many ways, the DLC is more reflective of the classic Assassin’s Creed experience, as it builds a story around an attempt to draw out its central villain by attacking his closest generals and influencers. The side quests, on the other hand, give Bayek an opportunity to win hearts and minds of the people he tries to convert to his cause. The bummer is that this representation of the Brotherhood is restricted to The Hidden Ones, meaning that there’s no discernible continuity once you decide to head back to Egypt and travel back in time four years. A nitpick? Absolutely. I’m probably the only person who would even care about this. At the same time, my complaint just goes to show how much I enjoyed the presence of the Brotherhood in The Hidden Ones.
The DLC offers a much more condensed Assassin’s Creed Origins experience, which is both good and bad. It’s good because if you’re hungry for more side quests, tombs to explore, forts to ransack, and animals to hunt, then you're covered. On the other hand, the content doesn’t do enough to differentiate itself from what you’ve previously spent over thirty hours doing. Sinai itself is a significantly smaller landmass; its four playable regions make up about a third of the mainland, yet it has the same rocky canyons, forts, crypts, camps, and towns. A more welcome change is the reduction of bandits as the ultimate catch-all antagonists for side quests. In Origins, it felt like bandits were consistently responsible for whatever ills befell hapless citizens. Cows murdered? Bandits. Wife kidnapped and sold into slavery? Bandits. A fly in your soup? Yup, bandits. Not that you won’t ever come across bandits in the DLC but more weight is given to Rufio’s army as the sole reason for people’s misery.
With new lands to explore comes the MMO-like bump in the character level ceiling. Thanks to the presence of stronger, more powerful enemies, Bayek’s level cap has been moved from 40 to 45 which makes it accessible primarily to higher level players. This proved to be a fly in the ointment for me initially. My playthrough of Origins was breezy and efficient, so that I could get a review written on time. That meant skipping a lot of side content in favor of advancing the story as quickly as possible, which left me with a character level of 35 at the end. The Hidden One’s earliest missions are recommend to level 38 players at the least and that meant I had to grind for experience points. It wasn’t a particularly pleasant situation as the amount of points given never really felt like they were enough for the amount of work put into certain, multi-part quests. Sinai, however, is a different story. Because of its smaller zones, main story missions and a good handful of side quests offer double, almost triple the amount of XP than any other in the game, which is great because it makes getting to level 45 a bit of a breeze. The downside is that the high point rewards highlight that there really isn’t a whole lot to do in Sinai.
As I mentioned earlier, The Hidden Ones doesn’t provide a whole lot of material to make it feel like a true expansion. The Phylakes return but in a much smaller capacity. Instead of four hunters to fight, there are only two that are actually bounty hunters who call themselves the Shadows of the Scarab. One element that got stuck in my craw was the rebels. Because the theme of the DLC is rebelling against the Romans, your incursions into military forts will sometimes be interrupted by invading rebels, who are useful only as a distraction. Early in the story, I thought that the DLC was building towards a mechanic similar to Assassin’s Creed Brotherhood where you can summon people to attack others. Instead, these AI controlled resistance fighters stormed enemy groups, mindlessly attacking them until one of them is dead. Their appearance is a sweet relief exclusively because you know that the enemy will be too busy trying to kill them, letting you focus on critical mission targets.
With its feet firmly planted in Assassin’s Creed Origins’ new open world direction, The Hidden Ones should satiate those in need of traversing more geographically interesting locations, completing quests, looting tombs, hunting down bandits, and going after those bloody Romans. More of the same all around, so your mileage of enjoyment may vary.
Librarian by day, Darkstation review editor by night. I've been playing video games since the days of the Commodore 64 and I have no interest in stopping now that I've made it this far.