The Egyptian afterlife contains a detailed story, challenging combat, and surreal worlds.
Assassin’s Creed Origins: The Curse of the Pharaohs takes you on a compelling journey through ancient Egypt filled with desecrated tombs, restless spirits, and haunting trips to the afterlife. Coming face to face with the undead shadows of the great pharaohs is both a fun fight and an interesting depiction of Egyptian myth that’s rarely been seen. Encounters like these make this DLC difficult to put down. (If you missed it, check out our Assassin’s Creed Origins review.)
Curse of the Pharaohs has all the things that make an Assassin’s Creed game great: a story with themes relevant to the time period, combat that’s both challenging and fun, and a stunning historical setting that ties it all together. In this adventure, Bayek travels south of Siwa to the bustling city of Thebes, which is a hub for trade and beautiful monuments. It’s conveniently nestled along the Nile river across the water from the Valley of the Kings, and home to the temples of Karnak and Luxor. These temples are the city’s biggest landmarks, featuring lush gardens, lotus blossom ponds, and ornate architecture that make Thebes a place that’s full of opportunities to explore.
It’s here that Curse of the Pharaohs takes a giant leap of faith into ancient Egyptian mysticism. When the spirits of the pharaohs are angered by the theft of their artifacts and return from the afterlife to wreak havoc on Thebes’ citizens, it’s a big change of pace from the more grounded story of Assassin’s Creed Origins and The Hidden Ones DLC. But this isn’t just another story of scorned mummies rising from the dead – you get to play an important part in their journey through the afterlife, and it’s a well-done story that’s filled with symbolism. There’s plenty of attention to detail, giving every indication that care was taken when touching on these topics.
The atmosphere of each underworld is vastly different from the next.
Some of the most memorable moments of Curse of the Pharaohs come while exploring the mystical afterlife worlds of the pharaohs. The atmosphere of each underworld Bayek visits is vastly different from the next, reflecting the life of the king or queen it represents. You find Nefertiti in Aaru, known by the ancient Egyptians as a beautiful paradise where the spirits of those who lived a balanced life would rest. It’s filled with beautiful fields of reeds, flowers, and wine. Tutankhamun, by contrast, is found in Duat: a dark and dangerous place, similar to the Christian concept of purgatory, where spirits go to be judged. These worlds are nothing short of surreal, crawling with giant scorpions, jackal-headed mercenaries, human-headed birds, and other oddities from Egyptian lore that set them well apart from everything else in Assassin’s Creed Origins.
One quest that stands out as particularly memorable is The Heretic, in which Bayek pays a visit to the afterlife of Akhenaten in a giant temple surrounded by water and beautiful greenery. In the sky is a giant shining orb that resembles the sun, and it seemed strange that someone dubbed The Heretic would spend the rest of his eternal life in a place so beautiful. Without spoiling anything, it wasn’t long before I was captivated by his tale and spent hours reading up on Egyptian spirituality, Akhenaten, and his weird affinity for the sun. This homework isn’t at all necessary, since the story that eventually unfolds here makes sense on its own, but it’s an instance where Curse of the Pharaohs did more than just entertain me with pretty scenery and awesome fights.
That said, the progression of some of the main quests isn’t as smooth as it is elsewhere in Assassin’s Creed Origins. Instead of adding new objectives to the main quest, they show up as entirely different quests instead, which gets to be confusing when you’re jumping from one main quest to another and trying to complete them in the order that’s required. It’s a strange issue, seeing as this was executed much better with The Hidden Ones DLC.
There’s definitely plenty of opportunity for challenge in combat.
Jumping into Pharaoh’s Curse at level 45 was a good starting point that let me comfortably complete all of the main quests in around 10 to 12 hours, with no tedious grinding required. There’s definitely plenty of opportunity for challenge in combat, though, including a new enemy type called the Pharaoh’s Shadow. Similar in style to the Shadows of Scarab and Phylakes, the Pharaoh’s Shadows are tough adversaries who appear at random around Thebes, taking the lives of innocent bystanders before disappearing again. Chasing the Shadows down is occasionally tiresome, especially if you’ve run halfway across the map only for them to disappear as soon as you arrive. Despite that, it’s a good opportunity to hone your skills before taking on the pharaohs themselves in the afterlife.
The strong differentiation between the weapons and fighting styles of the pharaohs adds a nice layer of variety. Nefertiti’s dual swords and quick-paced fighting style doesn’t leave much room for ranged attacks, while Ramesses’ heavy blunt attack is slow and more predictable, giving way to a fight that’s more dynamic. These enemies have some pretty lethal combos, and if you’re not careful to avoid them you’re sure to find yourself staring at the desynchronization screen. Dodging and waiting for the perfect time to strike will get you far, but requires some patience.
When you defeat a pharaoh in the afterlife, you’re rewarded with their weapon. This comes in the form of four high-level legendaries that include a dual sword, sickle sword, heavy blunt, and spear – and oh boy, are these legendary weapons ever worth the trouble.
Speaking of trouble, I encountered more technical issues in Curse of the Pharaohs than average, including a full crash back to the PS4 dashboard. There’s also the occasional buggy climbing mishap where Bayek gets stuck inside objects and his only escape is reloading your last save. But they weren’t frequent enough to be more than an inconvenience on this fantastical ride through Egyptian mythology.