OK, so maybe not entirely. I have to admit that I am personally VERY excited about the potentials I see in Assassin's Creed: Origins. The game looks beautiful, looks like it plays very well and it has all the hallmarks of a successful triple-A game. I am very rarely on board with big game hype, so the fact that I am feeling this at all is itself surprising.
So I need to take a little air out of it. To calm myself down, at least, and perhaps some of you as well. Obviously, even before the announcement we had rumors. I recall about a year ago I first got wind that the next AC game was going to be in "Ancient Egypt." Given that the game series has generally been progressing forward in history (AC 4's step back aside) and our most recent iterations had gotten to be fairly modern, while also alienating some of the long-term fans. A return to the past makes a lot of sense; both thematically, and as a franchise marketing move. So, to Ancient Egypt we go.
So we get to climb to the top of some pyramids,
and since a Leap of Faith is impossible at that angle, we get a Slide of Faith. I'm OK with that.
A few side notes before I get into the letting out of the air. These are all definitely very much about me, so you can skip forward a paragraph or so if you like. My eldest daughter is an Egypt-freak. She fell in love with the idea of Egypt more than anything else, and convinced that she loves Egypt, everything she sees that is Egypt-related becomes a new favorite thing for her. This happened with Yu-Gi-Oh, which my middle daughter took to instantly, but my eldest was completely uninterested in. Until Yugi went to Ancient Egypt. Then she learned all the rules pretty much overnight and the two of them play against each other regularly.
So when I was watching an E3 video showing some Origins gameplay, she was instantly hooked.
"Daddy, is that a khopesh?"
See, at this point, through extensive reading, my daughter quite literally knows more about Egypt than I do. I had no idea that style of sword, though distinctive and identifiably Egyptian, was called a khopesh. She did. And she instantly knew what it meant. I, on the other hand, know far more about the Roman world, and looking at the opponent in that image above, taken as a still from some of the gameplay we were watching, I saw the strong Roman influence.
Being the armchair historians we are, we can take this single still and discern a few things. 1) Khopeshs exist as a weapon. The earliest known khopesh are dated to about the third century BC. The Assassins always seem to have an edge on technology, so we can go a bit earlier than that, but not earlier than 500 BC, it seems. 2) The galea
seems to exist. This distinctive crested helmet only really saw use after Gaulic influence (see also the similarities in roots--though the generally accepted etymology is Greek, I find that path suspect). These helmets were both functional and decorative. The decoration of the crest is obvious, but the cheek-piece is also fairly unique and not common in Roman use until the 1st century BC, again, concurrent with Gaius Julius Caeser's Roman conquest of Gaul.
There are likely other clues that can aid a more educated armament expert, but these are sufficient to point to the game, Assassin's Creed: Origins, having a timeline of 100BC to 300 AD. And right there I got upset.
I was promised a game set in Ancient Egypt, steeped in Egyptian culture. It's ripe with opportunity. You're going back, why not actually go back? It's entirely possible you have no idea what is even upsetting to me about this, so, it's time for a quick history lesson.
Egyptian scholars have a very long history to work with. Egypt is one of the places where human civilization ever first existed, and it has gone through a tremendous amount of change over the years. As a result, they have categorized certain periods of Egyptian life into "Kingdoms." Each Kingdom was full of dynasties, which were typically family lines of Pharoahs. These Kingdoms reach back to the 31st century BC, though of course there were people living in the lands of Egypt before then, that is the start of the process. We have 30 more centuries of history we could have explored for "Ancient" Egypt.
This is Ancient Egypt. Mentuhotep from the Middle Kingdom
Ancient Egypt, in a very simple version, has the "Old Kingdom", the "Middle Kingdom" and the "New Kingdom." This, along with some wiggle room, takes us all the way to the 11th century BC. After that there are still a few more centuries that are typically classified as "Ancient" Egypt as well, but the moniker goes away completely at the end of the "Late Period," in 332BC. The next two periods of Egyptian history seem to be where Assassin's Creed Origins is going to be focusing.
Macedonean Egypt and Ptolemaic Egypt
Why did I give generic dates for much of this and yet such a specific year for the end of the "Late Period?" Obviously, the more modern the even the greater certainty we have in assigning a date to it, but in many of the previous cases there is no concrete event that designates the end of one period and the start of another. The Late Period ended, though, with a bang. In came Alexander the Great and, much like he had with everything else in the world, he took over. This starts the Macedonian Egyptian period. However, Alexander was a one-of-a-kind, and his own death, a few years later in 323BC marked the end of that. After Alexander died, Egypt came to be ruled by Ptolemy Lagides, thus starting the Ptolemaic period.
Ptolemy was called, "the Savior," though how much saving he did is questionable. He was a successful and shrewd politician, though, and he set up himself and his heirs for a dynasty of their own. What is critically important to understand here though is that this Egypt dynasty remained under Greek rule. The Ptolemy's that followed often claimed Egyptian heritage, but were Greek. And through the next nearly 300 years they often went to great lengths to keep that bloodline pure.
The Ptolemaic dynasty ended in 30 BC when Cleopatra VII reportedly committed suicide by inducing a snake to bite her--but they are unreliable sources, even if culturally accepted.
Finally, after showing off some gameplay some of the commentators confirmed that the game would be taking place starting in 49 BC. That is the year that Gaius Julius Caesar crossed the Rubicon becomes "Ceasar." Many Assassin's Creed games take place over a period of decades. AC 2 took from 1459
1476 to 1499. AC 3 took from 1754-1782. So allowing Origins to go for 19 years to explore the conflux of political forces culminating in that intense year of 30 BC is well within the realm of the possible. Given that time range we might be able to meet (and perhaps assassinate) Gaius Julius Caesar and Cleopatra, meet up with Mark Antony and many other fascinating figures, perhaps in an effort to drive out the Greek and Roman influences and restore a true Egyptian heritage. This sounds like a fantastic game concept and clearly something I can still be excited for.
But let's be honest. This is not "Ancient" Egypt. And that is tremendously disappointing.