Assassin’s Creed: Origins is an ambitious game. It takes what we know about the series after years and years of annual sequels, then seeks to make it even bigger by adding a RPG-inspired loot system to fuel progression. It’s also got a new battle system transparently inspired by the likes of Dark Souls, complete with shoulder-button, committal-heavy attacks. It’s going to feel like a whole new beast, although the series’ trademark parkour will still be familiar. But that’s not all. Ubisoft announced an entirely new mode for the game, coming post-launch in 2018 for free. It changes the whole core of the game, shifting it from, well, assassination to education?
This mode is called Discovery Tour. It removes completely from Assassin’s Creed: Origins the action elements we’ve all come to expect from a game with “Assassin” in the title. The violence on the part of the player is totally stripped out, as well as other elements such as missions. The player, in this mode, will be able to explore the entirety of the game’s massive map of Egypt at their leisure.
As players explore this virtual rendition of Ancient Egypt, they’ll be able to visit real-world locations such as Alexandria, Memphis, and the Giza Plateau. It will be an entirely peaceful experience; NPCs encountered will be participating in daily life, working, so on and so forth. But that’s not all. There are NPCs in place that players will be able to interact with, and they’re designed to actually teach the player about Ancient Egypt. Talk to historians or Egyptologists and the player will be able to go on straight-up educational tours, learning about actual, historical practices and other things. Think of the fictional historical bits in games like Tomb Raider, but in-depth and, well, comprising real history.
In announcing this new feature, Ubisoft said the mode will contain dozens of these tours, each focused on a different subject. Some examples provided are obvious ones about Cleopatra, the Great Pyramids, and of course the mummification process. Ubisoft hopes to use this as a literal educational tool, something the company claims has been requested of it by teachers and institutions. In making this game, Ubisoft staff actually traveled to Egypt and did extensive research, including consulting real-life historians. The Assassin’s Creed: Origins team was clearly chomping at the bit to do something beneficial with the mountains of historical information it is now sitting on.
The question I’m asking myself after reading this is, what does this mean for education? Could a bonus mode for Assassin’s Creed: Origins be something that finds itself in schools, teaching kids of a certain age about Ancient Egypt? I do wonder. It’s an expensive undertaking, requiring the respective institution to invest in one or more PlayStation 4 or Xbox One consoles. I also wonder just how extensive the content is. It would have to be thorough and substantial for it to be more appealing than a text book, and the target demographic really matters here. I worry it could end up more of a curiosity for a college-age student, perhaps fuel for a research paper (not likely acceptable as a citable source), but not something easily used for a grade school. Or perhaps this could end up somewhere more specialized, such as museums!
Either way, this is really cool. Ubisoft’s Assassin’s Creed teams do tons of historical research when working on these games, learning about locations and eras all over the place. Seeing the Origins team take literal years of effort and put it to something so unconventional in the games space is oddly inspiring for a series that often has a bad reputation for being a yearly churn-out. I hope people respond to Discovery Tour and engage with it, so Ubisoft and other developers can continue to take intriguing and potentially beneficial risks with tentpole, AAA releases.