When it gets dark in a video game, it’s usually not all that dark. The cave you’re in may be dim. The forest at night might be shadowy. But video games almost never go pitch black. Assassin’s Creed Origins is a welcome exception.
I’ve been replaying Origins on PC, taking a more methodical approach than I did when I reviewed the game on PS4 last fall. I’m currently in Giza, a region of the map that’s home to a variety of pyramids and their enclosed tombs. Anytime you enter one of those tombs, the game will remind you (incessantly) that you should take out a torch to light dark spaces. Unlike most games, however, it really means it.
Origins isn’t the only game to actually require a light source in dark places, of course. But in so many other games, “dark” actually means “dim.” A cave in Skyrim or The Witcher 3 is rarely if ever entirely dark. Skyrim even has mods that make nights and dungeons darker, because in the vanilla game, you never really need to use torches.
In some games, you can compensate for dim rooms by turning up the brightness. For example, in Resident Evil VII, you can turn up the brightness so that this:
In Assassin’s Creed Origins, a tomb interior looks like this with the brightness set at 50:
...and here’s what it looks like with the brightness maxed out at 100:
It is really, truly dark. Until you light a torch, the visual information simply isn’t there.
There are no doubt good reasons most games don’t go that dark, of course, and I’m not suggesting all video games should make their darkened rooms pitch black. But I do like that the tombs in Origins are actually as “dark as a tomb.”
If you’ve ever gone spelunking in real life, you know how dark caves can be. Once you’re a little ways in, it becomes so dark you can’t see anything. You can’t see your hand in front of your face. You can’t see your eyelids when you close your eyes. Your eyes don’t adjust, because there’s literally no light for them to capture. It’s much the same whenever Bayek goes into a tomb in Origins. Douse his torch, and it’s as though your TV has turned off.
I mostly keep Bayek’s torch lit, so I rarely experience that engulfing darkness. I still like knowing that it’s out there, just outside the torch’s glow.