While opinions on the various entries in the Assassin's Creed series vary, one thing we can all agree on is that each one delivers a rich world to explore. These virtual landscapes are the product of exhaustive research and meticulous attention to detail so, for many, Assassin's Creed is as much about learning history as it is sticking bad guys with wrist blades. For Assassin's Creed Origins, Ubisoft has taken a step further into presenting the game as a learning tool.
Discovery Tour takes Origins' beautifully realised version of ancient Egypt and strips away many of the traditional gaming systems to present an experience that is entirely focused on exploration and education. Gone are the aggravated enemies and multi-part quests, instead replaced with hundreds of characters just going about their daily lives and the opportunity to gain deeper insight into the people, places, and culture of the time.
According to Ubisoft, its goal was to "make history everyone's playground ... and make ancient Egypt accessible to a broader audience." And it has done the legwork needed to realise this vision. Discovery Tour features 75 guided audio tours, making it feel like a virtual museum that players can walk around, all while having information gathered with the aid of experts delivered to them.
Players retain control of their character, which in Discovery Tour can be anyone from Bayek, protagonist of Assassin's Creed Origins, to Cleopatra or Julius Caesar, among others, so they're free to wander aimlessly and soak in the atmosphere or dip in and out of the tours as they please.
We spent some time with Discovery Tour (watch our gameplay video above) and came away thinking it's an experience that has a huge amount of potential, both as a unique way to present game worlds to people that love video games, and as a smart way to leverage the immense efforts put into creating them to reach a broader audience that may not be into games. Ubisoft told us that it has already tested Discovery Tour in classroom environments and found that it was useful in helping students learn about ancient Egypt, and this is an exciting avenue for video games to explore.
Where Ubisoft takes it from here is unclear, but we're keen to see the company head back into settings from previous games and give them the same treatment. Furthermore, we hope that other developers and publishers take note, as the idea of being completely free to explore and learn from worlds is incredibly enticing.
As previously detailed, Discovery Tour will be available on February 20 for PS4, Xbox One, and PC. It is free for owners of the main game, but a standalone version will also be available on Steam and Ubisoft's UPlay service.
Alongside Discovery Tour, Assassin's Creed Origins will receive a New Game Plus mode in February. In this mode players will be able to begin start a new game while holding on to their weapons, outfits, and abilities. New Game Plus becomes available after completing the game once.