The Golden Age of Ancient Greece Gets Faithfully Recreated in the New Video Game Assassin’s Creed: Odyssey

If you haven’t played video games in a long time, you might feel a cer­tain trep­i­da­tion at the idea of pick­ing them up again. So rapid­ly have they evolved in the 21st cen­tu­ry that they now resem­ble less the elec­tron­ic enter­tain­ments we once knew than full-fledged alter­nate real­i­ties. The sud­den rise of the word immer­sive to describe the very kind of expe­ri­ences they con­sti­tute says it all. If you enter one of the elab­o­rate worlds built by mod­ern video game devel­op­ers, how do you extract your­self again — espe­cial­ly if the world is one as fas­ci­nat­ing as ancient Greece, recre­at­ed elab­o­rate­ly and to great acclaim in this year’s Assas­s­in’s Creed: Odyssey?

Even non-gamers will have heard of the Assas­s­in’s Creed series, which began in 2007 and has had a major release (in addi­tion to as many minor ones, as well as ven­tures into oth­er media) each and every year since. It has pre­vi­ous­ly tak­en as its set­tings such chap­ters of human his­to­ry as Vic­to­ri­an Eng­land, the Ital­ian Renais­sance, and Ptole­ma­ic Egypt, but its lat­est install­ment goes far­ther back in time than any oth­er. Play­ers will find them­selves dropped “into 431 BCE in Ancient Greece, at the start of the Pelo­pon­nesian War pre­dom­i­nant­ly fought between Athens and Spar­ta,” writes Hyper­al­ler­gic’s Zachary Small. “For a video game that includes bloody mer­ce­nar­ies, extrater­res­tri­al beings, and time trav­el, Assassin’s Creed: Odyssey is shock­ing­ly faith­ful to our con­tem­po­rary his­tor­i­cal under­stand­ing of what Ancient Greece looked like dur­ing its gold­en age.”

The very idea might star­tle those of us who remem­ber the set­tings of video games as per­func­to­ry at best, mere back­grounds to run past while we blast­ed ene­mies, jumped from plat­form to plat­form, and col­lect­ed pow­er-ups. Assas­s­in’s Creed takes its his­tor­i­cal world-build­ing so seri­ous­ly that the pre­vi­ous game in the series, Assas­s­in’s Creed: Ori­gins, even came with an “edu­ca­tion­al mode” that allowed play­ers to freely explore ancient Egypt — a far cry indeed from the dull, pur­pose-built edu­ca­tion­al games of yore. But Assas­s­in’s Creed: Odyssey takes it to anoth­er lev­el, incor­po­rat­ing seem­ing­ly every­thing known about ancient Greece at the time of its devel­op­ment. “The Ubisoft devel­op­ment team behind the game even hired a his­tor­i­cal advi­sor to help them recre­ate a metic­u­lous ver­sion of the Ancient World,” writes Small, “one that includes hun­dreds of poly­chro­mat­ic stat­ues, tem­ples, and tombs.”

Yes, that means the game’s vision of ancient Greece includes plen­ty of sculp­ture made, as we’ve pre­vi­ous­ly fea­tured here on Open Cul­ture, with not just with raw mar­ble but bright­ly col­ored paint as well. The sheer amount of his­to­ry and lore incor­po­rat­ed into the Assas­s­in’s Creed: Odyssey expe­ri­ence has even inspired a dis­cus­sion among experts on Twit­ter using the hash­tag #ACa­d­e­mi­cOdyssey.

Though nobody claims that the game recre­ates ancient Greece per­fect­ly in every detail — even apart from the gaps in human knowl­edge of the peri­od, the devel­op­ers seem to have had to cut a cor­ner here and there to meet the series’ famous­ly demand­ing release sched­ule — it suc­ceeds in ways that no one Hel­leni­cal­ly inclined, pro­fes­sion­al­ly or oth­er­wise, had dared hope before. “I have played about 5 min­utes of the game and I’m ready to cry from joy,” tweet­ed clas­si­cist Chris­tine Plas­tow, a sen­ti­ment one can hard­ly imag­ine any aca­d­e­m­ic express­ing about, say, Gold­en Axe.

via Ars Tech­ni­ca/Hyper­al­ler­gic

Relat­ed Con­tent:

How Ancient Greek Stat­ues Real­ly Looked: Research Reveals their Bold, Bright Col­ors and Pat­terns

Watch Art on Ancient Greek Vas­es Come to Life with 21st Cen­tu­ry Ani­ma­tion

The Met Dig­i­tal­ly Restores the Col­ors of an Ancient Egypt­ian Tem­ple, Using Pro­jec­tion Map­ping Tech­nol­o­gy

Ancient Greek Pun­ish­ments: The Retro Video Game

Con­cepts of the Hero in Greek Civ­i­liza­tion (A Free Har­vard Course)

Based in Seoul, Col­in Mar­shall writes and broad­casts on cities, lan­guage, and cul­ture. His projects include the book The State­less City: a Walk through 21st-Cen­tu­ry Los Ange­les and the video series The City in Cin­e­ma. Fol­low him on Twit­ter at @colinmarshall or on Face­book.

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