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[2017-06-11] Setting Overview - HEADER

Assassin's Creed Origins: Welcome to Ancient Egypt

06/11/2017 03:30 PM

Set amid the pyramids, oases, and cultural upheaval of Ancient Egypt, Assassin's Creed Origins is the first entry in the franchise to take place earlier than its predecessors, at a time when what we now know as the Assassin Brotherhood was in its infancy.

Ashraf Ismail, game director for Assassin's Creed Origins, knows a thing or two about creating massive worlds, having previously led development of Assassin's Creed IV: Black Flag and its vast Caribbean seascape. He and his team have taken what they learned and used it to build a huge recreation of Ancient Egypt, filled with diverse landscapes and endless activities to pursue.

"We have the capacity, from a technological standpoint, to create a massive countryside," says Ismail. "It's not a city, it's a whole country with many cities, many villages, many exotic landscapes."

"We know that people, when they think Egypt, they think desert," says Jean Guesdon, the game's creative director. "But Egypt is way more than that. You have the Nile Delta, you have the Nile River, you have tons of oases. So when you mix all that, from the green, lush fauna of the Nile Delta to the oasis of Faiyum, it's the perfect playground."

The Faiyum region is just a small part of the game's world, and the E3 demo is set in an even smaller part of Faiyum – but even the small slice we had access to was vast and diverse, a place where desert cliffs give way to bustling towns and sprawling acres of carefully irrigated farmland. It's home to opulent temples and mysterious Egyptian ruins, all huddled around the massive, crocodile-infested Lake Moeris. It's a place where you can lose yourself for hours uncovering secrets, crossing swords with mercenaries, and fending off a broad assortment of deadly wildlife.

Our first glimpse of Faiyum introduced us to Bayek of Siwa, the last of a fading Egyptian military order. We begin the E3 demo (which opens at a point just shy of halfway through the game) with Bayek on horseback, riding along a desert pathway surrounded by cliffs and dune-covered hills that we're free to scramble up for an expanded view of our surroundings. Following the path ahead leads us to a sweeping view of Lake Moeris and its surrounding towns. Two pharaonic statues stand sentry over the entrance to the valley; as we'll soon learn, they're already relics of an ancient culture that's starting to fade under the Ptolemies, a Greek dynasty that has overseen centuries of occupation and rule.

"Egyptian history spans thousands of years," says Maxime Durand, the development team's resident historian. "Egypt's civilization began about 3,000 years before the game's era, and Ptolemaic Egypt is this period of about 300 years."

Faiyum's landscape feels lived-in. To the south of Moeris is Euhemeria, where a stately villa is surrounded by weathered, poor-looking dwellings that get poorer the closer we get to the docks. Following the roads out of the town center leads us past market stalls and into the farmlands of Dionysias, where acres of farms and (highly flammable) straw huts make for a strong contrast against cloth-draped Greek pavilions and a huge stone temple dedicated to the crocodile god Sobek (outside of which we watched a religious procession, complete with a ceremonial boat carried by the marchers).

"The NPCs of the world have full schedules, day and night," says Ismail. "The NPCs are living a life in this world which includes working, sleeping, socializing, eating, peeing, and so on. Farmers farm, priests run rituals and prayers, bandits ambush and steal, Ptolemaic guards patrol, defend, transport and so on. All of this is based on their day/night cycle, and as you learn more about the world and the specific characters you meet, you can play with where to meet them, assassinate, attack, steal, infiltrate, and so on."

Head out beyond Dionysias and you'll come to the desert, where goats roam among hyenas, cobras, and camel-riding bandits. There are pockets of civilization amid the dunes, as well as harder-to-find points of interest that hold a unique allure for Bayek.

It's worth noting that Viewpoints are still dotted across the map, waiting for you to climb and sync with them, although their functionality is a little different from previous games. In the demo, they aren't necessary for revealing the map, but synchronizing unlocks them as fast-travel spots, while also marking potential quests and other points of interest as question marks.

If fast travel is too fast for your liking, Bayek can get around quickly using horses, camels, and even chariots, which can be purchased from stables and summoned at any time with a whistle. Better still, these don't need your constant attention to get around; if you'd like your mount to move on autopilot, you can command it to follow the road and then nudge it when you reach a fork. Stables are just one of four types of shops, too; you'll also be able to visit blacksmiths for a continually updated selection of weapons and shields, weavers for new outfits, and bazaars for rare loot and mystery crates (which you can earn through daily quests).

The real jewel of Faiyum is Lake Moeris itself. Its shores are dotted with feluccas, tiny fishing vessels that can blaze across the lake at high speeds without consideration for wind. Fishermen will sometimes steer their feluccas out to you if you're stuck swimming in the middle of the lake, and they'll then sit quietly at the bow while you commandeer their boats. The larger vessels that patrol the lake tend to be much less friendly, crewed with mercenaries who might blithely ram your boat to pieces even before they spot you and open fire. So it's nice to be able to pay them back by sneaking aboard, dropping the lot of them with Bayek's Hidden Blade, and stealing any loot that isn't nailed down.

To find what makes Moeris special, however, you'll need to dive under its relatively calm surface. For the first time, Assassin's Creed Origins seamlessly integrates underwater exploration with the rest of its world, letting you freely dive wrecks and underwater ruins in search of loot. Some of the highlights of Moeris include the sunken Temple of Pnepheros, marked by a Sobek statue jutting out of the water, and a shipwreck containing golden treasures key to one of the demo's missions. Both are a great opportunity to use Bayek's Animus Pulse ability, a wave that highlights loot items and other points of interest with briefly flickering sparks.

Whether you're diving for treasure or just going for a swim, wildlife is a constant concern. Moeris is home to teeming populations of hippos and crocodiles, both of whom will aggressively attack fishing boats, each other, and you, if they spot you. Fortunately, Bayek is more than a match for them, thanks in part to a combat system that's more flexible than ever before.

For a deeper dive, read the full Ubiblog article here: Read More

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