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Here's the deal with Assassin's Creed Origins in-game loot chests

What the Heka.

Loot boxes are the hot topic of games right now, and their inclusion in big-budget titles such as Destiny 2, Forza 7 and Middle-earth: Shadow of War has set tongues wagging.

So, what's the deal with loot chests in Assassin's Creed Origins? Happily, it sounds like good news.

I recently played Origins and reported back with impressions from nearly four hours of play. During my time with the game, I encountered an in-game merchant who sold "mystery item" chests containing loot - which set alarm bells ringing.

This travelling merchant pops up in several places. A young boy named Reda, his Nomad's Bazaar shop offers "Heka Chests" for 3000 Drachma, the in-game currency. ("Heka" means magic in ancient Egyptian.)

"Contains one random weapon or shield," its description reads. "Opens automatically on purchase."

Footage from this preview build of Origins showing the loot boxes has surfaced online - and fans have been expressing their concern about what these may represent: blind loot boxes paid-for with real-world money.

Image credit: Centerstrain01

But these chests are only purchasable with in-game currency, and there for those people who like to play the game naturally and pad out their wallets.

"He's a very unique shop [vendor] in the world who sells Carbon Crystals, which are the rarest item needed for crafting," Assassin's Creed Origins game director Ashraf Ismail told me. "You can find this stuff in the world, but the idea is if you have the money you can just buy stuff for him.

"Heda also sells a mystery box which can contain any weapon, piece of gear or item in the game. It's a way for people who hoard lots of money, if you min-max the economy system, to gamble the money and get really unique stuff.

"The reason we did that was because we saw, even two years ago, people playing the game in different ways," Ismail continued. "There are people who like to go into a military location, infiltrate them, steal the loot and equipment and hopefully find some unique or legendary gear.

"Then there was a smaller set of people who would focus almost entirely on the economy, buying and selling stuff to gain as much money as they can. And we felt like, okay, that's a valid way to play the game - it's a part of the RPG [aspect], so we'll let them play the economy. So, it's one way to be able to purchase or get some of the unique items in the game."

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While we're on the subject, I took the oppurtunity to have a peek at Origins' in-game e-store while at the preview event. The shop's online servers were not yet online so I could not see all the content available, but a store menu image listed the game's season pass and linked to a menu with time-saver pack options.

One of these options showcased a cool-looking Mummy costume for main character Bayek. And again, alarm bells were set ringing. I asked Ismail about that, too.

"You can get that from playing in the game," he reassured me. "Everything that's in the e-store you can get from playing the game. It's just an accelerated way of playing the game."

Assassin's Creed has had these time-saver packs for years, since at least 2013's Black Flag, where you could unlock high-level gear immediately if you really wanted to.

We're still to see Origin's final in-game store live for ourselves - and likely won't until we get a final copy later this month - but, so far, Origins feels like it may escape the paid-for blind loot box controversy which has dominated the discussion around other games.

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