Whenever there’s a new Assassin’s Creed game on the horizon, the chatter will start among scholars and history nerds alike over whether the new release will accurately represent the time it portrays. Arguably, such debates are inevitable when a franchise markets itself as being historically accurate to the point of the games being an educational resource.
It’s true that each AC game is developed with the help of an army of academics, historians, and assorted experts, all of whom are paid handsomely to help recreate a time gone by. This has had varying levels of success; Assassin’s Creed: Unity was almost immediately decried as “nonsense” from most corners, with the New York Times even going as far as to publish a rebuttal of the game.
This all seems to have changed with the release of Odyssey, which has won praise for being a highly accurate portrayal of Ancient Greece, from the politics to the geography and to the people themselves. Let’s look at whether Odyssey really is the most historically accurate game ever made.
It’s worth noting that at least in relation to the storyline, Ubisoft already prefaced the release of Assassin’s Creed: Odyssey with a statement claiming that they will not be committing to historical accuracy this time around. While that’s understandable considering the magical creatures and mythical gods that loom large in the game, the detail of the world they inhabit is unparalleled. A professor of Greek history from Boston University quickly praised the accuracy of the city of Athens, with long-gone structures and street plans being faithfully recreated thanks to reams of surviving data. Praise has also been lavished on the amount of depth provided in descriptions of real-life historical figures, as well as the underpinnings of the Peloponnesian War.
The game can easily be played in an “educational mode” introduced in Assassin’s Creed: Origins, whereby the player eschews conflict and simply uses the game to learn about ancient history. The fantasy keeps it entertaining, but the facts are there.
An Emerging Genre?
Historically accurate games are rising in popularity, as players seek more than just pure entertainment. Ancient Greece seems to be a popular subject at the moment; one of the most popular slot games on Buzz Bingo right now is Athena versus Ares, which is based on the challenge between Athena, the god of wisdom and Ares, the god of war over the ownership of the city of Athens. Similarly, the latest Civilization releases deal heavily with the legacy of Athens, winning praise for the attention to detail paid to the nuances of this complex era of history. Regarding more recent history, the FPS Brothers in Arms: Hell’s Highway, which is available on Steam, paved the way for a series of hugely popular combat games focused on historical accuracy, with the game winning numerous awards for their commitment. What’s more, the highly anticipated upcoming shooter Enlisted has premised almost all of its marketing on a commitment to historical truths, with dozens of academics enlisted to help flesh out the world of 1940s France.
It seems that history always provides the best entertainment and that few things are more thrilling than real life. We eagerly await to see whether this trend is going to blossom into a full-fledged genre of historically accurate games.