Ubisoft's blockbuster "Assassin's Creed" video game is heading for Egypt, taking the serial's storyline back to an ancient world and overhauling play to reignite its top franchise.
The French video game star took last year off after hitting the market with annual releases and boasting overall sales of more than 110 million copies of the game since it first launched in 2007.
A cooling in fan interest appeared to prompt a step back, and an investment by Ubisoft to revitalize it was unveiled at a press event Monday ahead of the opening of the Electronic Entertainment Expo (E3) in Los Angeles.
Work on "Assassin's Creed: Origins" began nearly four years ago, and included overhauling the combat system and building artificial intelligence into all of the non-player characters, according to game producer Julien Laferriere.
Every character has a "life" of its own, tending to work, worship, family, meals and other daily routines that players can take into account while on missions, an early glimpse at the game showed.
Players are also free to explore a virtual version of all of Egypt in 49 BC, during the rise of Cleopatra to the throne.
"It is a part of world history we have wanted to do for a long time," Laferriere said. "We wanted to be as authentic as we could."
Players get to climb pyramids, explore beneath the Sphinx, and learn the origins of the brotherhood of assassins, whose deadly fight with the order of Templars is at the core of the franchise that segues from one generation of master assassin to another.
"Fans will have a front row seat to the formation of the brotherhood," Laferriere promised.
Ubisoft hopes Origins will energize long-time fans and win new players at the start of the story in a game that has become fodder for books and films.
Versions of Origins tailored for play on Xbox One, PlayStation 4 and Windows-powered personal computers will be released on October 27.
- South Park and Mario -
"Assassin's Creed" was among a diverse line-up Ubisoft is showing off this week at E3.
Ubisoft offerings spanned genres, from action shooters such as "Far Cry 5," to sports, dance, piracy, a space monkey, and virtual reality.
A "Fractured But Whole" based on an irreverent South Park animated television series opens with well-known children characters obsessed with being super heroes sneaking into a strip club to solve the mystery of a missing cat.
Their weapons include flatulence and firecrackers.
"The South Park universe doesn't take itself too seriously, so you can be satirical," game director Jason Schroeder told AFP while providing a peek at the game, which also releases on October 17.
"You can take the notion of something like a strip club and turn it on its head."
Nintendo legend Shigeru Miyamoto joined Ubisoft chief executive Yves Guillemot on stage at a press event to unveil an innovative alliance with Nintendo to unite its zany "Rabbids" with beloved "Mario" in a game.
"I have been excited to see what kind of humor the Rabbids could bring to the Mario world," Miyamoto said through an interpreter.
- Getting into heads -
The game maker continued its tradition of embracing hardware innovations, showing off games crafted for Nintendo's hot-selling and tough to find Switch consoles as well as the budding virtual reality gear market.
"We have been experimenting with virtual reality for several year," said Ubisoft partnerships vice president Chris Early.
"Though it is not taking off as fast as any of us would like, it is providing some great learning about what it means for having fun."
A "Transference" game being readied by Ubisoft's studio in Montreal for release next year used Oculus Rift head gear to put players into the mind of a psychological trauma victim.
The thriller game challenges them to relive memories and solve the puzzle of what happened, a demonstration showed.
"We all have secrets that we don't want anyone to discover," said executive director Caroline Martin of Ubisoft Montreal.
"So, what would happen when a stranger comes into the digital equivalent of another mind? It is a powerful and very personal experience."