Education Through Story: An Overview of Discovery Tour: Viking Age
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The Ones Who Came Before published an article in September about the Discovery Tour by Ubisoft, discussing both the museum style game mode and the books published in France. At the time of publication, the new Discovery Tour: Viking age had been announced but had not been detailed outside that it would be a new experience. With time we were provided more information that the new Discovery Tour would be an experience that focuses on education via combat free storytelling. The excitement built as the first images of the new mode were release just a few weeks before launch and come October 19, the Assassin’s Creed Community had dove head first into the world of Assassin’s Creed Valhalla after countless hours of raiding monestaries, building settlements, and fighting the King of England. This was a new way to explore the beautiful landscapes and mythical realms of AC Valhalla.
DT: Viking Age is told in eight chapters, following three storylines that intertwine across Norway, England, Jotunheim, and Asgard. Thorsteinn Silvertongue and his wife Gunnhilda, a merchant family from Stavanger, are seeking wealth through raiding under Jarl Harald Fairhair and the promise of a new life in England. In Grantebridgescire, a monk of the Isle of Ely Monastery, Brother Ealric is adapting to his new life as a brother of their church and strengthening his Christian faith. Lastly, King Aelfred of Wincestre works towards a solution to the “Great Heathen Army” and the protection of his Kingdom in England.
When it comes to controls and mechanics, players of Assassin’s Creed Valhalla will find that the directional pad actions are usable to summon a horse, longship, use a torch, and meditate to pass time within the world. There are guided instructions for these actions via the story missions to assist those who have not played the prior release before. Additionally, Odin Sight and a personal raven are available to locate interactive nodes and examine the environment around them from a higher perspective. Keeping the same controls minus the combat has allowed a smooth transition into DT: Viking Age.
The education portion of Discovery Tour is broken up into two types of collectable informative codex entries; Learnings (historical entries) and Behind the Scenes (game design entries). Subjects cover Daily Life, Law & Justice, Trade & Economy, Art & Culture, War & Politics, Religion & Magic, and lastly Science. The BTS sections are divided into Research, Immersion, England, and Scandinavia. The order these Learnings and BTS are unlocked are organized around the story in each chapter. In example, Chapter 3: Seaworthy provides information on relationships within a clan and their shipbuilding. On average, each chapter will provide 20 Learnings and at least 2 or more BTS Codex entries.
When each chapter is completed, a short recap is provided by a research expert and the player is able to replay the chapter again or free roam the area in an open exploration, this is where the majority of Learnings and BTS can be gathered without breaking away from the story. Once the player gathers a fixed amount of either Codex type, a new character can be unlocked to be used as an avatar when traversing the world of DT: Viking Age. In total there are 24 total characters to choose from, 6 of which are available at the start of the story. 12 characters are unlocked from Learnings, 3 from BTS, and the last two are unlocked after finishing Chapters 6 & 8. One of the key benefits of having so many characters to roam around with is the Photo Mode function of the game, allowing players to take their favorite characters to any location within Norway, England, Jotunheim, or Asgard that do not require some form of combat to unlock (such as destructible coverings).
Players of Assassin’s Creed Valhalla are also rewarded at the end of the remaining chapters that did not provide character rewards. These rewards cover all selective components of the main game around the customization of the character and their settlement. A new max level gear set, raven, longship, horse, tattoo set, and settlement decoration pack are the rewards. Once the player has completed all chapters in DT: Viking age, a Mythical Short Sword is unlocked to close the “Valhalla Rewards” provided. The theme of all of these unlocks is historical and more grounded than some of the mystical designs in the gear and decorations of the parent title.
Discovery Tour: Viking Age, is an improvement on the original Museum style guided tours that were experienced in Ancient Egypt and Greece. Integrating the educational aspects of the history that influenced Assassin’s Creed Valhalla into bite sized chapters of a detailed and historically accurate story made the content interesting and captivating. Players that were dismissive of the original Discovery Tour method may find this interactive story to be more attention grasping and explore the content more.
This is also supported by the use of DT: Viking Age in educational settings. The unique software has been provided to multiple schools and was spotlighted on the BBC at the time of launch. Multiple classrooms have presented this refreshed model to their classes and have had students take notes from the learnings to use for review. Gaming in the classroom is something that has been looked at for the future of education and Discovery Tour is a great source of historical information.
With the success of the release, future entries in the Assassin’s Creed franchise will likely be followed by additional Discovery Tour experiences. With the game mode being offered separately, this series can continue via education, even when the series comes to an end or a reboot of sorts. The concept of educational story based tools can be expanded into other fields outside of history, and released in multiple languages. Expanding the library of tours for players to experience can also become a new focus for Ubisoft and their library of IPs. However, this can also lead to a higher price point for the mode. While the game is sold separately, there should be free application use for educators and students that are using the software for research. One option could be a more detailed database of Learnings and animated examples or levels to depict how something worked in the past.
I found Discovery Tour Viking age to be my favorite entry of the series thus far. The overall gameplay feeling made it more interesting to come back to each night of my playthrough and not try to complete in a single sitting. The chapter format played like episodes in a TV series and the knowledge available in each chapter was never overwhelming. One thing I didn’t care for with DT: Viking Tour was that certain learnings were off the path of the story and were either left until the end of the chapter, or would be an off-course objective that pulls the player from the story. Everything should be included for a complete tour, or displayed as points of interest after the chapter was completed. In addition, once the chapter is complete, a quiz could be given as they were in the past for reward currency to unlock concept art or BTS videos, maybe even more characters to use with the games Photo Mode.
It would be enjoyable to have an updated version of the previous two entries to this new format with stories of the era and not based on the games themselves, but more likely released around an anniversary of the games. Games that receive remasters or reboots could have the new mode added on disc or released as their own collection on disc. Assassin’s Creed Infinity could even add the new eras within its release if the game goes the route of the Helix service as seen in AC Unity. Implementing more and more education to the games will not only provide a stepping stone to those that do not play, but allow the ones that do to explore their new interest in the history of these characters via DTs or an in-game codex archive that covers all stories of the AC universe.
All aspects covered in this review show not only the current, but future benefits of the Discovery Tour series. By presenting history in an interactive story-driven way similar to shows and film, the newer generations of students can experience their studies and not just absorb fact after fact. I have been able to speak more about the Viking Age, or at least know where I can find information over so many aspects of Viking life with this tool. Unlike the previous entries, while enjoyable, I have not retained the information as much and that alone shows the importance of this new version and a reason why everyone should play it that has interest in the history influencing Assassin’s Creed.
Discovery Tour Viking Age is available now through the Assassin’s Creed Valhalla main menu on all systems and separately on the Ubisoft Store and Ubisoft+ for PC.
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.