On top of being a broadly pleasant surprise and a very strong return to form for Ubisoft’s open-world murder-sandbox series, one of the key selling points of Assassin’s Creed Oranges for me was a promised feature that wasn’t quite ready in time for launch.
Ubisoft are finally making good on their plans next week. On February 20th, the Discovery Tour mode will be arriving as a free upgrade for existing players (or as a $20 standalone product), converting the violent saga into a serious educational product featuring 75 narrated and guided tours through ancient Egypt.
As covered in extensive detail in this official Q&A, it seems that the Origins development team took the historical accuracy of their game very seriously, even if they do use it as a backdrop onto which to hang some less serious sci-fi and fantasy gubbins. Discovery Tour mode strips away conflict, leaving you free to explore and climb as you would normally, but without the threat of being stabbed by guards or mauled by local wildlife. You can even pick from 25 different avatars, some of which will elicit different reactions from NPCs. The developers suggest playing as Cleopatra or Julius Caesar for some amusing results.
The tours will appear as 75 quest-like markers scattered around the game world, free for you to fast-travel to if you don’t feel like taking the scenic route. Activating a tour marker will give you a screen informing you of the estimated length of the tour and the number of stops you’ll be making along the way, and then you’ll wander off, following a breadcrumb trail. You’ll be stopping at various points in the path to have the camera taken over, and each point of interest explained by a pair of narrators in your chosen language.
Some of your stops around these tours will be accompanied by historical documents, paintings, artifacts or other items of interest taken from museums, allowing you to compare – for example – how the famous painting Bonaparte Before The Sphinx compares to the famed monument as portrayed in the game. Most tours also contain a Behind The Scenes stop, where the developers explain why they made certain decisions when the truth of the situation is unknown, explaining their reasoning behind the placement of monuments, what sources they drew from and their creative process in general.
While adapted to be a little more snappy by the Assassin’s Creed writers, the tours themselves were written by a team of historians. While likely no substitute for proper deep-dive reference material, it seems like a good place for those with an interest in the region and period to learn a little more than how to get from A to B in order to stab C in the face.
And if you have absolutely no interest in wandering around Egypt to learn its real history, the upcoming second expansion for the game, The Curse of the Pharaohs may be just what you need. Due out in March, it promises to give the game a significantly more mythological slant, putting you up against a bestiary of monsters picked from Egyptian myth and legend, if the current god-slaying event quests aren’t quite enough to tickle your fancy.