If I had to sum up the last act of Assassin’s Creed Origins in three words, those three words would be, “Wait, there’s more?”
Origins is a big game by any measure. Thanks to the smart way the designers snake the story quests down and back up the Nile river, the map feels bigger than it is, and it’s huge to begin with. But it isn’t until the game’s final act that the scale starts to feel a touch absurd.
Once Bayek has freed Faiyum of the Crocodile’s influence, he returns to Aya and Cleopatra in Herakleion, in the northeast corner of the map. The game’s story kicks into overdrive, seemingly hurtling toward its conclusion. We hop between Bayek’s and Aya’s perspectives as they struggle to get Cleopatra in position to ascend to the throne of Egypt. We visit the tomb of Alexander the Great, guide Aya across some burning ships to the top of the Lighthouse of Alexandria, and help Bayek kill some apparently important bad guy we’ve never met while he’s riding a war elephant.
Just when it seems like it’s time for the credits to roll, the story keeps going for a whole other act. Bayek returns to Siwa to hunt down a Roman dude named Flavius, who, as it turns out, is the real villain responsible for his son’s death. (I recently talked about Assassin’s Creed’s villain problem, and how the villain of this series is best thought of as history itself? Yeah.)
In a sequence that really should’ve been accompanied by a moody folk tune a la Red Dead Redemption, Bayek rides north to what for many players is probably the last un-fogged part of the map. After passing through some mountains, he finds…
Whoa, there’s a whole new populated area up there! It’s under Roman control, they’re building an aqueduct? Neat. Bayek meets a new character named Praxilla, and some new sidequests unlock. And then, if he keeps going north to the next region…
…wow. At my first glimpse of Cyrene, I quietly whistled at the sheer size of Assassin’s Creed Origins. Are you kidding me, Ubisoft? This game was already comically huge by any measure. And now there’s whole new city, complete with distinct architecture and its own freakin’ coliseum?
I’m on my second playthrough of Origins and have been approaching the game more methodically than I did my first time through. I knew Cyrene was coming, and I’m in no rush to finish the story. Yet I still find I’m having trouble getting my head around how big this game is. I’m looking at my map and counting more than a dozen (!!) new unclaimed sidequests across the three northwest regions, as well as a couple of additional bonus quests that’ve been added as downloadable content. And that’s not even counting the additional arena challenges I’ve yet to finish, as well as my unfinished papyrus riddles, elephants, God Trials, and other endgame challenges.
Many open-world games carefully choose a moment in their early goings to awe you with the size of the world you’re about to explore. Maybe you emerge from a tunnel and are greeted with a panoramic view; maybe you ride in on a train as hills and towns roll by. It’s less common for a game to save that kind of thing for the end, but here it makes a kind of sense. Most people were expecting Origins to have a big map. The surprise, this time around, is that it’s this big.