Non-gamers might be surprised how much effort goes into accurate historical recreations of game environments in the Assassin's Creed series. Now, the latest game takes you on an interactive, educational virtual tour of Ancient Egypt without making you stab anyone in the neck.
I can barely get my head around how much time, effort and detail goes into the environments of some of my favorite video games. The massive, vibrant, varied and living worlds created for Geralt of Rivia, Trevor Phillips or John Marston to roam about and get into trouble in are so fantastically immersive and real that you can actually feel like you've visited and learned your way around places that aren't real.
Ubisoft's Assassin's Creed franchise is based upon a weird premise in which people re-visit and live through key points in the lives of their ancestors, and the series has frequently gone to great lengths to recreate famous cities and landmarks of the past, sometimes in painstaking 1:1 recreations.
In the game, these merely form set pieces through which your characters run, jump and climb as they meet, work with, and assassinate various historical figures. But the company has updated the latest game, Assassin's Creed: Origins, with a new game mode that takes out all the action and replaces historical fiction with fact.
Discovery Mode is a non-combat mode that turns the game's gorgeous ancient Egyptian setting into an interactive virtual museum, with some 75 different historical tours you can take to flesh out your knowledge of the ancient world even as you walk around in it.
It was developed, Ubisoft claims, in response to a number of history teachers who kept contacting the team saying what an extraordinary educational resource they'd developed, and asking if they could find a way to make it more useful in the classroom.
Each tour is a linear, narrated set of points that walk you through the story of a historical figure, event or building. You can jump around between points to start different tours at will, and you can undertake the tours in the guise of any main character in the game, including Julius Caesar if that's your bag.
It's a terrific way to leverage the countless hours of research the game team has put into building these environments, as well as a great way for the team to talk about the ways they had to bend the truth into a game-friendly format. It's hard to imagine a better way of getting people, particularly young people, fascinated in history than allowing them to walk through our best educated guess at what life was really like thousands of years ago.
And on a personal note, it'll be nice to have such a richly built environment to explore with my three-year-old, without having to worry about him seeing me murder a bunch of people on screen.
It'll arrive next time you update your software if you've already got Assassin's Creed: Origins, or PC gamers can buy it as a standalone purchase for US$19.99.
Check out the new mode in the video below.
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