Learning history in a new way.
Ubisoft dropped the announcement of a brand new mode for Assassin’s Creed Origins today, and boy was it a big one. Titled “Discovery Tour,” this new mode is completely absent of any kind of combat, as well as the main story of Origins. The trade-off, however, is an educational mode where players can explore ancient Egypt at their own pace, interacting with dozens of tours curated by actual historians and Egyptologists. Assassin’s Creed Origins’ Creative Director, Jean Guesdon, describes the mode a little more on the Ubi Blog,
“Discovery Tour is another way to enjoy the beauty of the world we’ve recreated. It’s a more educative mode, so it’s clearly focused on education and on bringing to people actual facts, more academic knowledge.”
Assassin’s Creed has had a fascination with history from the beginning, but this takes it to an entirely new level. I’ve always been a history buff, probably thanks to the way I was raised, but the main draw of Assassin’s Creed for me is about running around ancient cities, and interacting with historical figures in fun ways. It’s great to see Ubisoft doubling down on the historical aspect of their series, and it really opens up a world of possibilities, especially in the ways video games can be used outside of just entertainment.
Learning about history was never an issue for me, I was riveted by lectures, books, and more. But for many, learning history is about the most boring thing you can do in school or otherwise. A historical mode in Assassin’s Creed provides a fun, engaging way to learn about an era. You can climb to the top of the Pyramids of Giza, and at the same time learn about how they were created and the purpose they serve. By inserting players into the world they’re learning about, giving them the option to approach and learn what they want, it makes everything that much more accessible.
If implemented correctly, Discovery Mode could be a tool that teachers use as supplemental material in classes. Imagine learning about Ancient Egypt in a high school or college setting, and in addition to lectures or chapters, part of your assignment is to play through Assassin’s Creed Origins and see the process of mummification. It’s unlikely that this feature could ever take the place of more traditional learning in classes, but it could definitely be a useful tool to help get students more invested in the material, especially if it’s from a video game series they enjoy and are familiar with.
This could also help breathe new life into the Assassin’s Creed series, giving it a dual purpose with each release. At this point, it seems obvious that every Assassin’s Creed game we get from here on should have some kind of discovery or educational mode. This allows the series to cover a diverse set of topics with each release, providing incentive to hop between time periods both on a narrative focus for the series, and for educational purposes. Players who aren’t necessarily interested in the subject might just decide to try out the mode one day to see what it’s about, which could lead to a brand new fascination in the history of Ancient Egypt or the next time period the series tackles next.
Discovery Tour will have a guided path to teach you about topics like how people lived in Ancient Egypt, or the history of Cleopatra, but it’s important that the mode still retains that element of player freedom. This is at the core of what makes video games unique, the ability to control a character and insert yourself into an experience in some way. By retaining that element of player freedom, it suddenly becomes less of a lesson and something that you’re actively taking part in learning, providing a visual aid to everything.
Of course, previous Assassin’s Creed games have also been chock full of history, but it hasn’t always been in the most accessible of ways. The Animus Database was packed with paragraphs of text explaining various landmarks, people, events, and more. It’s always been clear that Ubisoft has done their historical research with each entry, painstakingly so at times. However, slogging through page after page of database entries can get tiresome, even for those interested in the topics at hand.
Discovery Mode’s success, however, comes down to implementation. If the mode is poorly implemented or inaccurate, all of these great ideas kind of fall by the wayside. The potential for the Discovery Mode, however, is massive, and truly shows the potential of video games to do something only they could do. Clearly, Ubisoft and Guesdon feel the same way, as he states,
“We spent years recreating Ancient Egypt, documenting ourselves, validating the content with historians, with consultants, and we feel that many more people than just the players can benefit from that.”
So what do you think of the Discovery Tour mode making its way to Origins? Do you think it could be a valuable tool and something interesting to jump into, or is it just going to fall by the wayside? Let us know down in the comments below.