DLC expansions tend to fall in one of two columns. They can add vital narrative context to the base game or serve as an interesting but largely tangential side adventure. Assassin’s Creed Origins: The Hidden Ones certainly lands in the latter column, though as a standalone affair it’s by no means lacking. Rather, this first expansion of Origins helps reinforce many of the strengths and intriguing qualities that made the main story so compelling.
The Hidden Ones picks up an undisclosed number of years after the conclusion of Origins. Bayek and his emerging proto-Assassin Brotherhood (the titular “Hidden Ones”) continue to spread their influence across and beyond Egypt.
Trouble arises when Bayek must help counter and subvert the Roman occupation of the Sinai Peninsula. With this comes the usual conspiratorial machinations and dangerous clashing of forces. Bayek and company have to not only complete their mission but also question their very motives for undertaking it.
Origins spent its story ruminating on matters of corruption and lingering trauma. Meanwhile, The Hidden Ones is a tale of the costs and complexities of undertaking a revolution. The expansion’s best moments tend to dwell on how Bayek deals with his cohorts and adversaries’ conflicting ideologies. In the process, The Hidden Ones lays the groundwork for the series’ eponymous Creed. A distinct sense of remorse over killing and melancholy in the face of personal sacrifice permeate the whole tale. But in particular, the last hour drives this mood home quite effectively.
The Hidden Ones also finds time for amusing asides and charming diversions to break up the more serious threads. Side quests tend to be the largest source of such moments. For instance, a region-wide search for alleged lost treasure pays off in a rather goofy fashion. It serves as a reminder of Bayek’s splendid range as a character.
Other encounters, typically with potential recruits or allies, play more into the building-of-brotherhood aspect to the larger plot. Consistently, each of these sequences spotlights enjoyable character interactions and charming dialogue.
To be clear, moment-to-moment gameplay isn’t sacrificed in the name of narrative. The Hidden Ones delivers a solid blend of open-world busywork, challenging combat encounters, and fluid platforming through Egypt.
This DLC clearly benefits from a reduced scale in map size. Sinai, as portrayed in The Hidden Ones, isn’t nearly as expansive in scope as its main game counterpart. Rather than feeling limiting, it lends a greater satisfaction to wandering the region and experiencing all it has to offer.
There are still the requisite Stone Circles and collectable Papyrus Scrolls to find. And there are still the expected encampments and base camps full of deadly soldiers to eliminate. But they’re fewer in number and thus easier to manage for completionists.
However, that also means The Hidden Ones carries over some of the infuriating issues seen in the rest of Origins. Some moments of glitch-laden maneuvering along surfaces — especially those along the mountain ranges and desert areas — did occur during play.
The difficulty curve grows quite steep, with more damage-resistant foes cropping up as the expansion wears on. Grinding for leather and other resources to upgrade Bayek’s equipment is essential just to keep pace with the threats faced. And a number of quest-halting bugs are infuriating to deal with. For instance, disappearing commanders can prevent full clearing of a stronghold or certain puzzles might not load properly.
Fortunately, The Hidden Ones stays on the right track thanks in no small part to its still-stellar production values. Sinai might not be quite as varied in its flora and geographical makeup as the rest of Origins’ Egypt, but it’s still an astoundingly realized realm of immense rock formations and coastal settlements. Basking in the bustle of villages, crossing the vast sand dunes to the south — there’s just so much to appreciate about this locale.
Audio-wise, what matters most in The Hidden Ones are the vocal performances, from the main and supporting cast alike. Bayek’s actor Abubakar Salim truly does nail the balance of gravitas and soft-spoken sensitivity that the character warrants, managing to convey vulnerability particularly well in certain late-story scenes. Certain performers (some of whom are returning cast members) fill their roles well and, without giving the plot away, add to the emotional weight of the climax.
Those who might have taken issue with the mechanics and progression system of Origins are not exactly guaranteed to gravitate towards The Hidden Ones on those grounds, given the “more of the same” design mentality at work here.
However, players who find the narrative and thematic aspects of the series a greater draw – or who outright enjoyed Origins’ design – will find a satisfactory experience awaits them in The Hidden Ones.