Discovery Tour by Ubisoft: The Educational Software and Books for Exploring History
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Assassin’s Creed was first introduced to the gaming world in 2007 with the release of its titled release “Assassin’s Creed”. The game told a fictional story of two warring factions seeking an artifact of unknown power during the real historical setting of the Third Crusade in the Holy Land (modern day Jerusalem). Throughout the game, players were provided information via game dialogue and recaps from the perspective of the protagonist to provide historical insight of the world around them. This idea of historical education embedded in an action stealth video game would progress further as the series continued, adding codex libraries of reference data for historical locations, people, and various additional subjects.
Ubisoft, the publisher of the Assassin’s Creed games, decided in 2017 alongside the launch of Assassin’s Creed Origins, to release a new game mode titled Discovery Tour: Ancient Egypt where players and those interested in history would be able to control a character within the digital representation of Egypt and participate in walking tours that educated them on the history that influenced the flagship series. This was successful enough that a second entry of the new mode was released the following year with Discovery Tour: Ancient Greece.
In 2020, Larousse (a French publishing house) released a physical print of the Discovery Tours via the Discovery Book by Assassin’s Creed Series, titled Ancient Egypt and Ancient Greece. Within these reference books, 1001 facts about the eras were collected with their pages. At the time of this review, these books have only been released in French, but are advertised on the Great Britain and French Assassin’s Creed Stories publishing sites.
For this article, the Ancient Greece version of the Discovery Tour and Book will be examined after completing the full game mode, and reading the book with Google Translate.
In both the book and the game, the history of Ancient Greece is broken down into “Themes” and within those themes are the “Tours” that educate on one of 30 different subjects. Within the game mode, the player can select a character from a list of fictional and historical persons, such as the main protagonist Kassandra/ Alexios or a simple farmer from that era, some of the characters must be unlocked by completing a set number of tours or themes, as well as a horse to travel from location to location without having to worry about combat and stroll through the vibrant environment designed by the Assassin’s Creed team while listening to a narration of the history of Greece.
The player is greeted at the start of the tour by one of a small handful of tour guides, such as Herodotus and Aspasia. The player can ask the guide questions about themselves to learn of these historical figures/characters from the game. From here, the game's narrator will highlight numerous stops that players will traverse the environment by following a lighted pathway to get to a stop and interact with it to play the audio information about the subject of that stop. Once completing the tour, players will return to the tour guide at the end of the guided pathway and take a short multiple choice quiz to see if the player remembers what they just learned. There is no failure to the tour quiz as the guide will correct you and reeducate about the correct answer if necessary.
Players can discover new tours by Fast Traveling to the starting location or exploring the map at their own pace and tracking their progress via in-game menus and checkpoints on the Map. Each tour informs of the number of checkpoints, known as Stations, and the estimated time it should take to complete that tour. Tours can take anywhere from 5 minutes to half an hour, but are filled with visuals, camerawork, real pictures and sketches of the subject to compare to the ingame models. Players of the Assassin’s Creed Odyssey title will notice that locations in the Discovery Tour are different than they were in game as the developers adjusted the locations to be more historically accurate and less focused on integration with game mechanics.
Players that would like to experience the history of Ancient Greece also have the option of taking the tours in order of the timeline available in the menu. This option is partially how the Discovery Book is organized.
The book is sectioned into 9 sections of interest and within those are 42 subjects over 95 pages. The information provided in the book is the same information provided in the game mode, arranged alongside images of items from the real world or screenshots of the game. As you can see in the images below, the information provided is similar, appearing differently due to translation and where said information is provided on the page.
The book, while providing the same information as the game mode, provides a better sense of educational value as it reads like a traditional encyclopedia, with the downside of being currently available in French only. However the gamification of unlocking additional characters and mounts as well as traversing the beautiful landscapes of Greece make the adventure of finding and going through the tours more entertaining. With children these days generally more intrigued by computer screens than books, this software provides a great way of educating children and classrooms in a new way. The potential of coming into class and playing a Discovery Tour game versus watching a film would be beneficial to students absorbing information and talking more about what they learned and found while exploring the Greek World. This could also be a great format for museums to expand exhibits and offer new experiences from home via live service updates similar to that of the main Assassin’s Creed games.
Both the Ancient Greece and Egypt Tours and Books are a great way to learn about the history that inspired the Assassin’s Creed series and a great addition to any collection. For those that are not interested in purchasing the full games that include the Discovery Tour, the tours are offered as a stand alone product for PC users and videos of the tours are available on the Discovery Tour by Ubisoft website.
Previous fans of the game mode will be happy to know that the next entry Discovery Tour: Viking Age for Assassin’s Creed Valhalla will be releasing in the fall of 2021 (October 19th) . In this new era, locations from around the Valhalla game will be explorable, such as Englad, Ireland, France, and even the home of the Norse Gods, Asgard. Players will be able to play as favorite characters and NPCs from the game and explore the real world influences in depth. Information provided by the Ubisoft team working on this mode confirms that it will be more immersive than the previous iterations. This could mean new mechanics such as puzzles to learn secrets of the past, or possibly the introduction of a more interactive tour that is more than a stop and admire version that players are used to with museums and games like this.
About the Author
Mike Smith is a collector of all things Assassin's Creed and a major supporter for the transmedia platform for the series. With nearly a full library of Assassin's Creed media, he is exploring the universe in order of Genetic Memory and waiting eagerly for the next story to be released.