Assassin's Creed Origins' Curse of the Pharaohs is available now for Season Pass holders (or for standalone purchase), and it opens up entirely new worlds for Bayek to explore and fight in. First among these is the bustling city of Thebes, conveniently adjacent to the tomb-filled Valley of the Kings and miles of dangerous farmland and desert. The real attractions, however, are the portals into the Egyptian afterlife, where you'll encounter surreal vistas, mythical creatures, and powerful new loot. There's a ton of stuff to discover, and new challenges that may trip up even experienced players – so as you begin your journey to Thebes, here are a few tips to help you acclimate more quickly.
Getting there is the first step
Like the Sinai in The Hidden Ones (the first expansion), you can't simply walk to the Valley of the Kings. Once you've installed Curse of the Pharaohs (and assuming you're past the introductory quests in the main game), you'll get a new quest that adds markers to several key locations around the map. Travel to any of these and talk to the marked guide, and they'll transport you to Thebes, where you'll begin the new adventure.
Be warned, however: the new story is set after the events of Assassin's Creed Origins, and ideally is recommended for players who've played through The Hidden Ones and reached level 45. If you haven't, you're in for a steep challenge – and if you're not yet level 40, you're likely to get stomped, because your very first fight in Thebes is against a Pharaoh's Shadow, one of four bosses who will randomly spawn into the world over the course of the adventure. And speaking of your level...
Be sure you're leveled for the area you're in
Players who've hit level 45 may have grown complacent, forgetting a time when they avoided high-level areas like the White Desert for fear of instant death. Well, guess what? Thebes and the Valley of the Kings are huge areas, and each region has a recommended level range that you should note before you wander in. If you're having a rough time out in the countryside, try zooming out on the map screen, and make sure you're in an appropriate area for your level.
Venture off the critical path
The Ancient Egyptian concept of the afterlife is immense and varied, and in Curse of the Pharaohs, it appears as four separate realms – Aaru, Aten, Duat, and Heb Sed – each with a dramatically different look and feel. All of these are accessible through tombs in the Valley of the Kings, but the main questline will only take you through a couple of them. It's up to you to find your way into the others, where you'll discover some of the most breathtakingly strange environments in Curse of the Pharaohs. Be sure to take on the side quests, too, as they're a fun dive into Ancient Egypt's convoluted mythology.
Keep an eye out for Shards of a Star
Curse of the Pharaohs adds new crafting levels to Bayek's gear, and with that comes a new crafting material: Shards of a Star, pieces of metal scavenged from meteorites. It's rare, but there are several ways to find it. The surest, early on, is to defeat the Pharaoh's Shadows that pop up periodically in and around Thebes (more on those in a moment), but once you gain access to the Egyptian afterlife, you can find a lot more if you know how. Harvesting them from defeated scorpions is one way, but for a real windfall, look for a quarries and check the big sacks piled nearby.
Watch for the Pharaoh's Shadows
Periodically, one of the undead Pharaoh bosses will appear in the streets of Thebes to wreak a little havoc, challenging you to banish them back to the afterlife before time runs out. But they'll keep coming, so after a victory or two, you might be tempted to just push onward with the story and let them kill their way through a few NPCs. If you do, you'll miss out on a golden opportunity.
Not only are Pharaoh's Shadows a quick way to earn XP and Shards of a Star, but they're excellent practice for when you venture into the Egyptian afterlife and fight the Pharaohs on their home turf. As their name implies, the Shadows are underpowered echoes of the real thing, but they use similar attack patterns, and facing them a few times is a lower-risk way to hone your skills for the big bosses themselves. Which brings us to...
Get ready for a new kind of challenge
The non-Shadow versions of the Pharaohs are tough, and confronting them means traveling into their afterlife realms, performing a ritual to summon their restless spirits, and then maybe getting wrecked. The Pharaohs are aggressive, they can soak up a lot of punishment, and their charged attacks can inflict a ton of damage if you're not careful.
If you're having trouble getting past a Pharaoh, bear in mind that every strike has a specific tell to watch for, giving you a hint of where and when to dodge. Keep an eye out for brief openings when you can safely jab them with your sword, and if you need a breather, whip out your bow and kite them around the battlefield while peppering them with arrows. This won't do a lot of damage, but it's great for building up Bayek's adrenaline meter so you can unleash an Overpower attack, which briefly staggers them and sets them up for a quick combo.
Here's another trick: Watch for the moments when clouds of dust falls off their bodies. If you can land a hit while the dust is visible, you'll interrupt their attacks, stagger them, and do more damage with any subsequent hits you land. Be persistent, and victory will be yours.
Assassin's Creed Origins and the Curse of the Pharaohs expansion are available now on Xbox One, PS4, and PC. For more on the game, check out our previous Assassin's Creed Origins coverage.