Despite releasing one of the franchise’s better entries in 2015, Ubisoft decided to give one of its modern flagship series Assassin’s Creed the year off after seven years of annual releases. After a mediocre movie adaptation as a supplementary entry in 2016, Assassin’s Creed’s return felt long overdue in 2017, and it was well-rewarded with the experimental and enjoyable Assassin’s Creed: Origins. Origins took major risks at a time when the franchise felt almost too comfortable with itself, and they mostly paid off by introducing more RPG elements and one of the more compelling cast of characters in recent years for the series. In addition, Origins continued to provide one of the key features that the series has become renowned for: an engrossing, well-realized version of a historical setting and time period with an incredible attention to detail. Ancient Egypt, while featuring some unavoidable stretches of barren sand, ended up being one of the best gaming worlds in 2017 to explore and Ubisoft recently gave fans a brand-new way to observe it with the free Discovery Tour DLC released last month.
For those not in the know, Discovery Tour offers Origins owners the opportunity to explore Ancient Egypt without worrying about enemies, quests, collectibles or any of the usual open world mechanics to bog players down as they explore the dunes of Africa. Additionally, this mode puts a large emphasis on the historical aspects of Assassin’s Creed, adding narrated tours that guide players through some of the more historically-significant areas of the ancient towns and cities. The attention to detail during these sequences shines through thanks to the inclusion of real-life historical documents that served as key influences behind the design of this virtual representation. The additional theories and information provided during the tours adds a substantial layer of realism and depth to the world surrounding Bayek and the citizens he interacts with, adding an increased sense of engagement when returning to the main campaign.
Discovery Tour also grants players the ability to inhabit various characters within the Origins universe, from main figures to random NPCs to a few members of the modern world from past Assassin’s Creed titles. While none of them offer any advantages beyond mere aesthetic differences, there are intriguing role-playing opportunities thanks to the variety of interactive activities within the mode. A surprisingly large amount of the NPC animations can be activated by standing in specific spots, from sweeping the streets to writing on scrolls to praying and much more. It clearly doesn’t sound like the most engrossing of gameplay experiences, but these small touches do a great job of immersing the player in that time period while also providing a fully unique way of interacting with the world beyond just stabbing and climbing.
With the large stretches of empty space that make up Ancient Egypt, Discovery Tour does a solid job of offering a variety of ways to quickly travel across the map, including fast travel via the map and scouting eagle, which returns from the main campaign. Some of the more traditional means of traversal, however, could do with some additional fine-tuning to make it feel less like a traditional Assassin’s Creed title. The default speed for the controlled character is often too quick for a mode focused on calm exploration and the mounts tend to cause an inordinate amount of chaos thanks to their mere presence alone. Despite these bumps in the road, Discovery Tour offers an educational and entertaining standalone experience that also enhances the core campaign, which is truly remarkable for a piece of free DLC months after launch.