When it came out last spring, Assassin's Creed Origins was already a massive game. Its new downloadable expansion The Hidden Ones makes it bigger without adding many surprises or new ideas. That's disappointing for those of us hoping the game's first DLC might shake things up, but not so bad for anyone who simply wants more Origins.
The Hidden Ones, which is bundled in the season pass and costs $14.95 on its own, takes place several years after the conclusion of Origins. Our lead protagonist, Bayek, is overseeing the newly-established Assassins' brotherhood, who for now call themselves The Hidden Ones. One of his compatriots summons him to the nearby region of Sinai, where the Hidden Ones have uncovered a Roman invasion plot.
Sinai can be accessed by zooming out from the regular world map, and you can hop back and forth between there and the rest of Egypt of the main game. (It's odd that Bayek can apparently travel through time while keeping his gear and upgrades intact, but it's an understandable narrative compromise that lets you keep your character consistent wherever you go.) Sinai is a microcosm of the game's main map: There's a large quarry, a pyramid, a resplendent town with a central temple, a southern oasis, some mountain caves to the east, and a patch of desert. For the most part, it looks like any of the other regions in the main game.
It plays that way, too. Sinai holds a bit of everything from the main game: There are sidequests to complete, a couple of new papyrus riddles to solve, some new upgrade tiers to craft on your armour, several large encampments to infiltrate, and even a couple of new Phylakes-style ultra enemies patrolling the map.
The story also mirrors the story of the main game, albeit in miniature. At the outset you're given a primary target, then several lieutenants that you must eliminate in order to clear the way to the big bad. The story took me four or so hours to complete and did a suitable job of showcasing the big new destinations in Sinai. I crept through a massive quarry, infiltrated a half-deconstructed pyramid, and visited the far-flung corners of the map. It's interesting enough, and benefits from its smaller scale. It feels very much like one of the main assassination chapters from the main story, lifted out and placed on a separate part of the map.
As in the main game, The Hidden Ones works best if you slow down and chase down all the side stuff. And as in the main game, there is a lot of side stuff. I haven't yet finished all of the sidequests, but the ones I've done have all taken me to interesting new locations, introduced me to some neat characters (including a few callbacks to the main story), and occasionally given me some nice gear. The Hidden Ones is at its best when it's taking advantage of the time that has passed since the main game, weighing the initial impact of Bayek and Aya's fledgling organisation.
The Hidden Ones does not introduce any wild new mechanics or narrative ideas. It will likely be faintly disappointing to anyone who hoped for something exciting or different, and may seem unnecessary to anyone who still has unfinished quests in the base game's massive northwest region. (I get the feeling that's most people?) This is not the sort of experimental expansion we got in Syndicate's Jack the Ripper story or Assassin's Creed 3's evil-George-Washington timeline. We can probably expect something along those lines in March's more substantial-sounding Curse of the Pharaohs expansion. But for those who polished off everything in Origins and still want more, The Hidden Ones offers a straightforward extra helping.