Among the highlights of the trip were getting lost in the Souk late at night and having to pay a drugboi to take us back to our riad; being given directions by a local who led us to a foul-smelling leather tannery and then wanting to kill me because I refused to give him money; and going on a camel ride into the Sahara - eating dates out of a filthy bucket on the way, so as not to offend a local date farmer - with the promise of sleeping out beneath the stars.
Instead of the romantic experience I'd hoped for, we got caught in what our guide assured us was an "historic" thunder storm, which saw us having to be rescued by some men in a jeep. Soaked - and having not brought a change of clothes, because this was the desert rather than, y'know, the UK - we later shivered and dripped through a meal while a feller banged a drum, and some other blokes wailed and danced around.
Being on the back of a terrified camel, miles from civilisation, while lightning burst over our heads and a sandstorm fired needles into our eyes, was all very exciting - and, importantly, I've got some great video of the chaos to prove I'm not a liar - but the main thing I took away from it is that they were able to get full mobile phone signal in the middle of the Sahara Desert, whereas I struggle to get it in my living room.
Anyway. Of course, Assassin's Creed is set in Ancient Egypt, not modern Morocco, but - y'know - roughly the same part of the world. Point is, such is the depth of authenticity of Origins, for much of the time I played it, I couldn't get the smell of boiled cattle out of my nostrils.
If you've ever played an Assassin's Creed - and by this stage, you should've probably played at least one - then much of what's here will be familiar. There are refinements to the combat and the movement, but for the most part it plays much as it always has done.
As with each instalment there are new elements introduced - new skills to unlock, new weapons, the ability to make friends with the animals, sort-of-boss-battles, chariot races, and some properly exciting horseback combat.
The basic thrust for most players will be levelling up, acquiring new abilities and gear, through the billions of side-missions, so that you can tackle the tougher story missions without getting beaten up. Nicely, the variety of these missions ensures that it rarely gets repetitive.
There's everything from ship-based battles - making a welcome return after my personal high-point of the series, Black Flag - to the usual enemy encampment raids, assassination missions, hunting missions, and tomb raiding,
It's significant that rarely does the game dictate the way you should play. Unlike in earlier games, where being spotted mid-stealth mission would mean an immediate fail, here you can go in all swords-and-arrows blazing, should you wish. Which is all well and good, but combat here feels more deadly and challenging than ever before in the series, meaning you need to adjust your approach - making more liberal use of your shield, blocking, and dodging.
For me, the Assassin's Creed games - particularly the most recent ones - have been about immersing myself in history. As with Unity and Syndicate, the world recreated here is sublime. Indeed, I'd go as far to say as this is - potentially - the best-looking video game ever created. It makes a good case for video games as an educational tool, while avoiding being as constipation-inducingly-dull as that makes it sound.
The casual, incidental detail when you're just wandering around the enormous map is breathtaking. The major locations - cities so vast and diverse that one alone would've been enough for an Assassin's Creed back in the day - are linked by less heavily-populated deserts that still feel alive, full of detail, scope, and views that make your eyes do a roly-poly.
The fact that there is a contemporary, sci-fi-y, story running underneath all this is almost a shame. I've come to find that these games are at their best when they have the strength of their conviction that real history can be every bit as eye-opening and fantastic as a Middle-Earth or Space Planet X. Probably more so because, y'know, it was real and that.
Origins works far better than either Unity or Syndicate. Both were solid games, but had the misfortune of being too similar to one another, and releasing just one year apart. I was sceptical about Ancient Egypt as a setting; not enough tall buildings (barring the pyramids), not enough boats (I still hanker after a true sequel to Black Flag), and possibly a bit po-faced and dry.
None of these should've concerned me. Well, alright, the story is a bit po-faced and dry, and the accents seem to be all over the place, and the characters are all terribly dull, delivering their exposition with portent, and half of them seem to be drunk.
But you can ignore it - especially when there's so much else going on that's worthy of your time.
SCORE: 48 BCs out of 60 BCs