With all the Assassin’s Creed news lately, I was compelled to redownload last year’s Origins. I bought the game shortly after it released, and I immediately fell in love with Egypt, Bayek, and all the new elements brought into the tired franchise. See, I stopped caring for the Assassin’s Creed franchise after ACIII. I grew tired of the stale formula, the clunky modern-day sections, and the non-stop sequels that added unnecessary mechanics such as tower defense sections. I was looking for something new, and Origins did a damn near perfect job giving me what I was looking for.
So after downloading Origins again, I roamed around Egypt to gather my sea legs (or rather my sand legs). I got re-accustomed to the controls, the combat, and a bearing of where I last left off all those months back. I forgot how huge Egypt was. Sprawling desert wastelands cover the majority of the map, but vast cities and lush jungles are peppered at key-points in the map, and the Nile River hides secret locations and a diverse cast of farmers and workers. My only knowledge of Egypt is from textbooks and the many history classes I’ve taken during my time in school.
That’s why I was excited to play a new feature added to Assassin’s Creed Origins, the Discovery Tour mode. Added as a free update in February, the Discovery Tour lets players explore Ancient Egypt through curated tours discussing many aspects of the culture, monuments, and people of the time. The mode strips away combat and all other missions. It allows you to roam around Egypt as you wish. You can fast travel to 75 specific tours, each that have multiple stops, which means there is a wealth of knowledge to discover. In addition, each stop has a voice over to tell you a fact, and a variety of pictures accompany the ability to scan around the detailed world using the in-game camera.
The first stop on my tour was the front of the city of Alexandria, one of the main hubs you’ll explore in the game. During my 50 hours, I ran through these streets an innumerable amount of times, and I scaled enough walls to think I was playing as Spider-Man. One thing I rarely did though was stop and smell the roses. The Discovery Tour forced me to take a few minutes and look at what the developers spent four years working on. I learned about why Alexander chose the spot he did to build the city, what difficulties there were, and the reasons for the wide streets. All while seeing paintings, markings, and structures I never paid attention to before.
This was something I never thought I’d love, added into a game I’d grown fond of just a few months ago. And you know what? I’d say more developers should take a page out of Assassin’s Creed‘s book and take the time to add this to every game.
Assassin’s Creed is in a special place since the game is rooted in history. Each location in the series is a real place, takes place during real moments in time, and has you work alongside real people. Did assassins really meddle in some of these historic events? Who knows, but that’s not the point. The point here is that developers spent years of their lives working on minute details that most of us will never pay attention to. They spend more time reading documents, analyzing history, and researching events than most of us do even in college. So why not peel back the curtain and let players explore the world in a new way, and maybe have them learn a thing or two?
Imagine if the Uncharted franchise did this. Naughty Dog became a world renown developer because of the detailed worlds, action set pieces, and charismatic characters they developed. Sure, Uncharted goes into the supernatural territory and is filled with fictional characters, but Sir Francis Drake sure was a real person. South America is a real place, Madagascar exists, and El Dorado and Shangri-La are real myths and legends. Naughty Dog has built these worlds and done the research, so why not let players explore them in a new way? And hey, Uncharted 4 has a photo mode that allows players to see the world in a different capacity already, so why not add some extra commentary about pirates, myths, legends, and people?
Uncharted isn’t the only series that could implement a similar mode. Games like Red Dead Redemption, L.A. Noire, Call of Duty or Battlefield all take place in some sort of a historical setting or time. We know that Red Dead Redemption 2 takes place during the fall of the American Wild West and is filled with fascinating stories and events all wrapped around a gorgeous landscape. L.A. Noire might not be the most beloved title ever, but adding in a tour mode would give gamers another reason to play the game.
Games with historical settings aren’t the only ones that could use a discovery mode. What’s to stop developers that make imaginary worlds to do something similar? They spend so much time as it is building the world, by placing clues and hidden items throughout, that there is clearly more to the worlds than meets the eyes. One of my favorite franchises is Ratchet and Clank, and Insomniac has added developer commentary to different entries before. These gave me an idea of what their thought process was when designing these games, but could also be a way to expand the lore of the franchise. What about The Witcher 3? CD Projekt Red spent the time fleshing out the lore, why not give fans that extra layer to explore and get an understanding about the architecture of the buildings or monsters you hunt? In a guided sense of course. Curate these, place them in specific locations and give us unique facts, both in game and with a behind the scenes point of view.
Ubisoft did something smart with the Discovery Tour by making it standalone, as well. Available on Steam for $19.99, this gives players a way to experience Egypt for a budget price. I could see educators using this to help with their lessons, kids don’t always love to learn, but by disguising the learning process, maybe they’d get a better understanding of the culture they’re looking at.
Here’s a fun fact, when I was in high school, I once graded a student’s history paper who tried to pass off the story of Assassin’s Creed as a real-life event. Yes, as I’ve said, much of these events were real, but I’m talking the Templars, Apple of Eden, etc. as a real paper. Clearly he “learned” something from a game, so why not give this person the opportunity to learn from actual historical studies?
Now, of course, I’m not a developer so I have no idea how long a mode like this could take to make. What I do know, is that they worked so hard on researching, designing, and creating interesting worlds of all kinds. So I ask, is it possible to make a Discovery Tour mode for all games so we can experience them in new ways, and maybe learn something new?