The idea of historical accuracy has become a major sticking point this year. For example, Battlefield V found itself in what looks like a pretty significant consumer and fan revolt after their former Chief Creative Officer basically told fans not to purchase the game if they didn’t like the aesthetic liberties they were featuring in what had been marketed as a World War II game. Now, it seems that Ubisoft might be following EA/DICE’s lead in their treatment of historical accuracy in their latest installment of the Assassin’s Creed franchise, Assassin’s Creed: Odyssey.
It’s no major secret that the Assassin’s Creed franchise has taken some great liberty with historical events in the past. Though on the other side of the coin, they worked painstakingly to honor the historical aesthetics that fans have come to love. They virtually rebuilt Rome in Assassin’s Creed II to resemble the 15th and 16th centuries, the height of the Renaissance in Italy.
They’ve gone onto feature colonial America, ancient Egypt, Industrial England, and other historical time periods. The games even featured a number of historical figures like Leonardo da Vinci, George Washington, Karl Marx, Edward Teach, Julius Caesar, and Cleopatra.
This key part of the franchise could arguably be one of the main reasons that fans continue to flock to Ubisoft as each game is released. Players want to be able to immerse themselves in this time period and Ubisoft has excelled at that with a number of their games including Assassin’s Creed, Assassin’s Creed II, and Assassin’s Creed IV: Black Flag. One of the biggest draws to me was being able to play a fictional character in that time period and interact with the historical figures. In Assassin’s Creed IV: Black Flag it was really cool to actually experience the blockade of Charles Town. They took an historical event added a ripple to it. That’s what has drawn me to a number of the Assassin’s Creed games. The immersion is that good. But it looks like with Assassin’s Creed: Odyssey, the studio is taking a different route.
In an interview with VG 24/7 senior producer Marc-Alexis Côté talks about the big changes they are making with Assassin’s Creed: Odyssey including the implementation of mythological creatures.
“One of the cool things about Assassin’s Creed that I think our fans love is [that] we can explain history a different way. The Apple of Eden sums up this kind of reasoning very, very well – that’s why we are embracing the mythological creatures. Because they’re so much a part of this setting.”
He also notes:
“If [mythological creatures] weren’t there it’d be very very sad, so rest assured that they are. They’re really an intricate part of this world that we have created and have perfect explanations that will carry on in the history of the franchise as well.”
Côté explains that Ubisoft began relying on historical accuracy as a crutch.
“We’ve always used the excuse, ‘History is written that way, so that’s the way it should happen.’ While we have found many other explanations for many other things through the power of the Animus, a game is not a movie – the minute you push up on a thumbstick you’ve made a decision to move left or right. We shouldn’t hide behind the excuse that that’s the way history happened – you’re making decisions every second you’re playing a game.”
He elaborates on how previous Assassin’s Creed games actually lacked player agency.
“When we starting building Odyssey – I’ve been working on the franchise for what feels like most of my career now – one of the things that I’ve always felt that we’ve lacked – not to pass judgement on our past games which I’ve been a part of – we’ve lacked agency in these games.”
In Odyssey they plan on specifically addressing this issue and will give players dialogue choices similar to what has been featured in games like Mass Effect. Côté explains:
“Depending on what you answer, it may lead to an entire quest line down the road. We’ve taken the approach where we don’t tell you you’re about to make an important choice. We tell you at the beginning to be careful about the choices you make because they may have – we don’t promise anything – an impact. We try to keep this very blurry so players are always looking for the consequences of the actions they’ve taken.”
If you were thinking this new Assassin’s Creed sounds much more like an RPG than an Action-adventure stealth game, you’d be correct. Côté declares:
“Odyssey is this final transformation of Assassin’s Creed into an RPG. It feels like the true 2.0 version of Assassin’s Creed. We always planned this to be a two-step transformation and this one takes the final step. I feel like it can now truly be called an RPG.”
“We try to make things have meaning. For better or worse, you will not have horse races for example. We’ve tried to make everything make sense in the life of a mercenary. It’s there for you, it’s built around this character and it’s there to add value.”
It definitely looks like Ubisoft will be moving away from actually adapting historical moments instead opting for a player-driven RPG with different choices affecting the outcome of events as seen in games like The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt. That doesn’t really sound like an Assassin’s Creed game, but that’s what they are opting for.
Ubisoft claimed they censored the art and statues to take “into account cultural sensitivities that can be different from one country to another.” That’s right they included historical art and statues but decided to fundamentally alter them in order not to offend people.
Because of this past behavior, this opens the door for historical alterations to fit a particular worldview. Because if history doesn’t fit your worldview what better way than to rewrite it to make sure it does! Who knows, we might enter the Animus to find the past where Rome was chock full of Cherokees.
The less historically accurate Assassin’s Creed: Odyssey goes on sale on October 5 for PlayStation 4, Xbox One, and PC.