Curse of the Pharaohs, the third major expansion for Assassin’s Creed Origins, takes Bayek to find a mysterious artefact in Thebes, where he immediately runs into much more than he bargained for. Instead of the mortal and deceitful Order of the Ancients, he finds undead pharaohs materializing in the streets and slaughtering civilians. The Pharaoh’s Curse, as the locals call it, likely has something to do with all the grave robbers treating the Valley of the Kings like a strip mine for antiquities, forcing Bayek to hunt down key artefacts linked to each pharaoh in order to put them to rest.
Curse of the Pharaohs’ map is a vast new territory filled with surprises. There’s Thebes, a massive city that boasts famous sights like the temples of Karnak and Luxor. Across the Nile, you’ll find the Valley of the Kings, pitted with the plundered tombs of Egyptian royalty. And as he works to quell the spirits of each restless pharaoh, Bayek finds his way into their individual afterlives, which exist as big, self-contained open worlds connected to portals in their tombs. The Egyptian underworld is dazzling and strange, with exotic loot, majestic barges that float across fields of reeds, and mythical creatures that stand sentry against the living. Keep a careful eye out, or you might have a run-in with the Anubis-like guards that patrol the landscape – or worse, the camel-sized scorpions that make hippos and crocodiles look like stuffed animals.
The afterlife areas are open for fast travel once you discover them, and also work as a crash course in some of the lesser-known sides of Egyptian mythology. For example, did you know that Egyptians believed souls had five separate parts, one of which was a human-faced bird called a “ba?” You will now, because ba are everywhere in the afterlife, and you can even hunt them if you’re feeling mean.
Sometimes, threats from the afterlife spill out into the living world, and the Shadows of the Pharaohs are the first and most threatening example you’ll encounter. The Shadows are physical manifestations of the undead pharaohs, and every so often, they’ll randomly appear as time-limited bosses and go on a rampage. When you get a heads-up that one is loose in the world, you’ll have a brief window of time in which to track them down and temporarily send them back where they came from. Defeat them before they decide to return on their own, and you’ll earn loot and save a few civilians, but be warned: they’re extremely resilient and can deal a lot of damage, making them a challenge even for high-level players. And when you confront them in the afterlife – the final step in putting them to rest – they’re far more powerful than they are in the living world, able to soak up tons of damage and annihilate Bayek’s health with one or two special attacks, so be ready for some of the toughest fights in the game.
To combat these new terrors, Bayek’s level cap has been raised to 55, and seven new abilities can now be unlocked. Some of these are buffs to other abilities, like Dash Boost, which rewards perfect dodges with a damage boost. There’s also Overpower Fury, which heals Bayek and removes any status ailments when he unleashes an adrenaline-charged Overpower attack. Four new archery abilities make Bayek’s bows even more versatile, as he can now infect Predator Bow kills with Flesh Decay, pierce shields with fully charged Hunter Bow shots, get more damage out of his Light Bows by scoring consecutive hits, or inflict bleed damage on any targets who survive his Warrior Bow blasts. Finally, Favor of Osiris rewards you for spending time in the afterlife by gradually refilling Bayek’s tools and arrows while he’s there. In all, the new skills require 15 Ability Points to unlock, so you’ll want to keep an eye out for any glowing question marks on the map to help you earn them more quickly.
Curse of the Pharaohs is available on March 12th for Xbox One, PS4, and PC. It’s included in the Season Pass for Assassin’s Creed Origins, or can be purchased separately for £15.99. For more on Assassin’s Creed Origins, check out our previous coverage.