Assassin’s Creed games have always been history theme parks as much as they’ve been about stabbing people. Gameplay is built around fictional characters fighting a fictional shadow war of Assassins vs. Templars. However, when you’re not stabbing people, you get to rub elbows with great figures from the past. Be them Leonardo Da Vinci or the pirate Blackbeard, the real-life characters are often the most fun characters in these games.
The upcoming Assassin’s Creed Origins promises to have a strong historical cast. The game is set in 49 BC Egypt, where you play as the fictional Bayek and his wife Aya. The couple finds themselves trapped in a bloody battle of power between three major world leaders, Cleopatra, Ptolemy XIII, and Julius Caesar. Bayek and Aya’s actions will matter in this game’s story. But the battle between these three interesting figures will shape the rest of antiquity.
Who is Cleopatra?
Cleopatra is remembered in pop culture mostly for her beauty and the Roman generals she seduced. Yeah, the Cleopatra of Assassin’s Creed Origins is gorgeous, but don’t think she is just looks. She’s a crafty and ambitious young woman, who won over strong allies in her bid to keep Egypt independent. That goal will make Cleopatra a player in the Roman Civil Wars, which dominate the 1st century BC. You don’t survive in times like these without being ruthless. In the Assassin’s Creed universe, her allies will become the genesis of the Assassin order.
Cleopatra begins this story exiled from her capital, Alexandria. After the death of her father, she was made to marry her younger brother, Ptolemy. That marriage didn’t last. Ptolemy took the capital, forcing Cleopatra to find find new allies. Even though Cleopatra and her family are Greek in origin, she chose to embrace Egypt. In a trailer the queen compares herself to Isis, the Egyptian mother goddess.
For Bayek and Aya, Cleopatra might be the champion of Egypt. Aya believes in her fully, but Bayek can see her darker side. Cleopatra is a politician. She’ll could win the support of the Romans and amass great power for herself. But what will she do with that power? Is she really fighting for Egypt, or herself?
Who is Ptolemy XIII?
Ptolemy XIII is the teenager Pharaoh. On paper at least, he seems to be winning the war against his sister/ex-wife. He controls Alexandria. He has the support of the Greek-speaking elites of Egypt. And a gift will soon arrive in his hands: the defeated Roman general, Pompey the Great. Pompey fled to Egypt to escape his archenemy, Caesar. If Ptolemy can deliver Pompey to Caesar, he could win the support of the Roman Republic.
However, Ptolemy XIII is going to lose this war. There is a reason everybody knows Cleopatra’s name but only history nerds remember Ptolemy. The trailers show him to be little more than a brat wearing a Pharaoh’s headdress. Historical Ptolemy was just a puppet of his ministers. According to Ubisoft’s version, he is the puppet of an evil conspiracy called the Order of the Ancients. Ptolemy isn’t just a weak ruler in Assassin’s Creed, he’s downright evil.
Trailers show Ptolemy making very unwise threats to the Romans. Ptolemy is shaping up to be Assassin’s Creeds’ answer to King Joffrey. Unfortunately, for Egypt, a stupid Pharaoh is still a dangerous one.
Who is Julius Caesar?
Finally we have the most famous figure in Assassin’s Creed Origins. Here is a man whose name will become synonymous with imperial power itself. It will be his nephew, Augustus who finally becomes emperor, but Julius was the man who began the legend of the Caesars.
The 1st century BC was a time of crisis for Rome. The Republic over the centuries exploded from a tiny city state to the greatest empire the world had ever seen. With all their foreign enemies defeated, the Romans turned on themselves. The Republic became embroiled in rounds of civil wars for decades. Strongmen like Pompey the Great and Caesar led personal armies in battles against each other, with the prize being ultimate power.
In Origins, Julius Caesar has already proven himself to be the greatest of those strongmen. He spent his early career bribing his way forward. Whenever the chips were down, Caesar has always gambled for victory. When he found himself overwhelmed by debts he simply fled Rome, raised up some legions, and conquered all of Gaul (modern France) on his own. When Pompey the Great had a bigger army at the Battle of Pharsalus, Caesar fought him anyway and won.
Egypt has luckily avoided the Roman wars for now, but that could not last forever. Caesar enters Origins when Pompey flees to Alexandria. Caesar follows in hot pursuit. The arrival of Caesar and his legions is a major shift in the battle between Ptolemy and Cleopatra. He can be the kingmaker, or well, Pharaoh-maker, in Assassin’s Creed Origins. But where will he stand in the secret battle between proto-Assassin’s and proto-Templars?
Assassin’s Creed Origins comes out on October 27 for PlayStation 4, Xbox One, and PC.