Assassin's Creed Origins: Historical Realism Review

hello everybody this video isn't quite the usual historical fare but it's about a great example of how we interact with history in our popular culture and a unique instance of it being done really really well this video will be all about the historical realism in the new video game Assassin's Creed origins and how much the teams that Ubisoft did their homework for this one now getting my personal biases out of the way I've been a fan of Assassin's Creed for a very long time it's pretty much the reason I ever got into history that said this video will have next to nothing to do with AC origins quality as an actual game I'm not here to talk about story or mechanics or gameplay or any of that despite my best efforts this video is not sponsored I just want to show you how interesting this game is as a tool to learn about ancient Egypt as this game came out over two months ago I'm making this video now – well a I've played it but B – sort of coincide with the release of the new discovery tour mode which takes the entire game world and turns it into a digital museum where you can go on guided tours and stuff which I think his way cool anyway in no particular order here are a bunch of things that I think are either especially neat or otherwise noteworthy about the portrayal of ancient Egypt its history and its characters in this game first off is weaponry and I honestly don't have a lot to say about this one so I'll kind of get it out of the way now overall the weapons in general look pretty legit the shields are a little small especially the one called the failing shield which is basically a hoplon shield but it should be like three times the size and the handgrips aren't in the right place but honestly that's done for gameplay so whatever also on the topic of weird sizing the handles on the Roman swords are card – initially massive and if you take a look at it it's actually pretty hilarious but overall the variety of weapons on display seems to be pretty solid and generally accurate to the kind of things that people would actually fight with back in the day even if some of the details are tweaked for the sake of gameplay next up is bows and while I can't comment on the historical veracity of shooting five arrows from a bow at once or having bows with sights on them I can point out that the light bows in the game are fantastic the way the arrows are held in the draw hand and subsequently fired so rapidly represents an actual archery technique that we have bucketloads of historical documentation for yeah for some reason our popular conception of how archery works we kind of forgot about it but in any case it's great to see this technique being given its due credit speaking of objects made out of wood we also have to talk about ships so we'll need to distinguish between ships in the open world and ships in the cordoned off naval combat portion of the game but both do a good job all things considered in the open world this game shows you how insanely prevalent the trireme was in the eastern Mediterranean the trainer's themselves are fairly accurate looking except they don't have any oars on them which is kind of a problem because the whole point of a trireme is that you Rohit's also try rooms probably didn't have closed off decks because how on earth do you get all of that crew down there if the deck is closed off but anyway in the actual combat sections of the game the emphasis on ramming combat is spot-on but the abundance of archers above the decks is a little iffy triremes fought best when they sat higher in the water with a shallower draft so they could sail quicker and RAM harder and you'd put some people on the tops of ships yeah but covering an entire deck with humans just makes the thing top-heavy and with an increasingly top-heavy ship that's just a safety hazard at that point I get that it's done to make the combat a little more interesting than just ramming but it is a bit of a misrepresentation so it's worth mentioning moving outside of the realm of warfare let's take a look at language and this is a really interesting topic in this game because in such a diverse world as ancient Egypt you're gonna hear Greek Egyptian and Latin all coexisting pretty much all of the Romans sound like generic BBC British movie Romans which yeah but at least the Greeks actually sound Greek so they're differentiated from each other which is nice I haven't been quite able to listen to the spoken language clearly enough to tell what exactly they're saying but the Latin spoken seems to trends towards italic Church Latin pronunciation which is a creative decision that I'm ultimately fine with because I like Church Latin and we have pretty much no idea what ancient Egyptians sounded like but my best guess is that the development team worked from what we have of daemonic which is a later Egyptian language we have in script finally it's always a relief from the hieroglyphs presented in a piece of mass media are even remotely correct but AC origins manages to be near-perfect on their use of hieroglyphs not only are they shown primarily with the context of temples and tombs but red has actually studied hieroglyphs and she gives them her seal of approval so it's double accurate nice so speaking of language let's take a look at the people and this is a fairly small detail but it's a really important one Egypt was for both centuries prior and millennia to come a global crossroads so what attracted people from absolutely everywhere Egyptians Greeks Romans Nubians Persians Phoenicians Semites Arabs Indians you name it as such this game shows you a full spectrum of ethnicities with populations that change by region which is really nice Ptolemaic Egypt may have been ruled by Greeks but it probably had one of the most diverse looking populations in the entire ancient world all right now let's get to the really good stuff so geography the development teams essentially recreated an entire country in this game and that's a feed onto itself size-wise but there's a lot to appreciate in the magnitude of what they included this game has Alexandria and Lake Mariota the Nile Delta the Libyan coast of Charon ayka Giza Memphis the Qatar depression the black and white deserts volume and sea wha those are all real places and they're in approximately the right locations too although I should say in order to make the game world interesting and not ninety percent empty desert and mountains they had to squeeze some distances to make things work for instance the Roman city of Cyrene was all the way over on the coast of Libya but in game it's shown to be parallel with sea wha which was half way over to Alexandria so you can see some of the distances being collapsed here you know obviously not anything immersion breaking in definitely there to make the game run more smoothly I'm glad they did it the way they did but bottom line is they have most of the important things in the right places even if those positions are a little smushed together for the players convenience still it is an amazing feat to have recreated the sheer scope of what they did in this game so mega props turning to the actual game world itself the architecture and the recreation of this actual world and its monuments are fantastically spot-on in Alexandria for instance they do a great job of showing what an actual Greek theater and the library would have looked like when I was first playing this game I was just riding along into the city with my horse and I thought oh my god that's that's the library right there the Library of Alexandria is right in front of me oh that's amazing additionally their work on recreating temples like the Sarah pan on the city's Acropolis is top-notch a huge contributor to their accuracy is their adherence to the work of archaeologist architect and painter jean-claude Galvan I'll put a link to his website down in the description but he has made a ton of great reference material in general and the dev team's works directly with him to get the game world right and boy did they deliver if you look at some of the paintings here you can see how closely they stuck to the material and as a result how historically accurate it is some parts of the game world looked like they are straight off the page I think this game shines brightest insofar as it's in many ways the historical community's best guess at what these structures would have actually looked like back in the day for instance the Great Pyramids of Giza would have still worn their white limestone coating in gold pyramidion in Cleopatra's day as opposed to now where there are all tanned blocky and broken that's a huge detail to get right and they did and speaking of religious buildings one detail at this show here which is rarely ever depicted anywhere else is that ancient greco-roman temples would have all been painted usually shades of red and blue when I came across this temple in the fiim Oasis my jaw actually dropped because of how beautifully accurate it was there's red paint on the lower thirds of the columns probably a lot of silk flowing here in their offerings left incense burning all looks both accurate and beautiful also the fries and the pediment shown on the temples is true to the classical style it's a spot-on reconstruction of the contest between Athena and Poseidon for the naming of the city of Athens replicas of the original one from the Parthenon who gets that right no one gets that right now of course why does every single temple in Egypt have that exact same Athenian centric pediment on it it's a reality of game design but still major major points for their work on the temples also on some of the collapsed ruins in the game you can actually see that they include the little square cutout pegs used to align the drums in a column and that was damn impressive to me however on the topic of stuff made out of stone a detail that they left out possibly deliberately is that almost all ancient greco-roman statues would have been painted but if you have ever seen a painted greco-roman statue you kein eyes instantly that it is horrifying so I have to seriously thank you be soft for just doing us all a favor and keeping the statues nice and marble colored instead of making them gross Technicolor you know how we all just kind of agree that no one ever made a live-action avatar the last airbender movie yeah so that's kind of the same level of willful ignorance that every classicist I've ever met practices when it comes to painted statues so again thank you Ubisoft but in parentheses the actual posing for the statues and their composition looks very accurately classical so this is a little too specific to go into fully but partway through the game the protagonist has to fight the soul eating snake Apophis in a sequence that draws heavy visual inspiration from the journey of raw we tweeted about it a while back it's a pretty cool set piece in general and it's honestly astounding how the developers were able to make such a cool event so specifically accurate to the mythology major props the last three things here touch on what I'll refer to as historical spoilers so if you know even a little bit about this broad part of history then you already know exactly what goes down but if you don't want to know what events are or aren't included in the game avert your eyes and ears one big problem I noticed with the history is that at several places in the game world you can destroy statues of King Ptolemy this is all well and good except for the fact that in these statues Ptolemy is holding the beheaded head of pompey the problem here is that pomp ease beheading is an event that happens partway through the game so when I saw at the very beginning of the game that there are statues have told me with pomp ease had beheaded I thought for sure that the game took place later than it actually did I get the imagery they were trying to show but it's anachronistic at best and actively confusing at worst given how much of the game takes place before that event next up two figures who play a large part in the more historical portion of the game's narrative are Cleopatra and Julius Caesar perhaps unsurprisingly I've talked about Caesar in the past and I have plans to discuss Cleopatra's history more fully in the future but the bottom line is that these are complex multifaceted characters now the game fully rejects the popular conception of Cleopatra being some wily sex fiend which I'm very thankful for because from the moment she became queen up to that god-awful Elizabeth Taylor movie Cleopatra has been seen first as a woman who banged two Roman guys and then as an accomplished queen second but the truth is that she was given the best education available in the city of knowledge Alexandria she was exceedingly smart and the game sort of shows that kind of you don't get the sense that she's all about getting it on with Caesar but you also don't get the sense that she could speak over seven different languages most of her characterization comes down to her being power-hungry which while not necessarily incorrect is a little too reductionist of a perspective for a game that gets so much else so accurate similarly Caesar in real life was a brilliant general and cunning strategist but in the game he comes across as boisterous and swaggering which if you know your Roman comedy it's kind of neat that they're playing up the meal as gloriosus archetype but for someone like Caesar he doesn't appear to be quite I don't know dignified enough I definitely didn't get the cold and calculating vibe I was expecting from him oh and all the characterizations for these two aren't strictly wrong but given how captivating the two of them have been in our historical conscience it's a little disappointing for them to be so flat and that's to say nothing of how their characters are utilized in the narrative itself which has been widely panned as lazy writings so I'm not gonna bother getting into it all right let's talk events now this is a little more overtly spoilery so I won't go into too much detail here but while I really like that we get some famous events from the time surrounding Cleopatra's ascension to the throne of Egypt the way they figure into the narrative feels more than a little rushed as the game gets into its final act the narrative trends towards the historical plot so we get more of the Caesar and Cleopatra stuff and I have no problems with that for one I quite like the way they handled the introduction between Cleopatra and Caesar and I rather appreciate the way that they show Cleopatra initially wanted an alliance with Pompey before she considered Caesar but for instance the siege of Alexandria feels in-game like it barely lasted a few days but it actually lasted months it feels like it gets brushed aside like it was almost nothing but it was a huge deal for both of them for a long time now again minimal spoilers here but at the very end of the game in the last half-hour so there's a time skip that happens somewhere can't tell where because the late-game plot moves so damn quickly but somewhere in that mix is a three-year time skip just casually in there if you ask me the way this game handles its historical ending falls apart with even the slightest scrutiny I see exactly what they were trying to do but it just doesn't work for me in execution and again nothing is explicitly wrong here but it's also weirdly misrepresented most of the facts are there but it's the implications and the motivations that are so muddled it very well could be an uncanny valley effect for me because I want everything to be perfect but I've also heard a lot of people who probably aren't classics people walk away with the same issues all things considered a game's narrative often has an entirely different set of development constraints apart from the world building teams so I understand that we can't have everything right but I'm allowed to still be a little disappointed in this one regard still my misgivings about the actual narrative history aside the setting the worlds the deeply familiar sense of place that this game has is so amazingly spot-on that I could be here for hours and still find interesting details to point out to you that's nothing short of genuinely jaw-dropping for me I got to meet Vitruvius and climb on a Roman aqueduct and there's no way that that isn't awesome I genuinely feel for the first time since the old Ezio days of ac2 in Brotherhood that I've properly been to this place nitpick as I will about the narrative and all that stuff I was in this world from start to finish this game is undoubtedly a beautiful game but knowing that this game's world is the best digital recreation of ancient Egypt ever made pretty much ever and based on the historical community's best guesses at what this amazing place was really like and how that is something really special

41 Replies to “Assassin's Creed Origins: Historical Realism Review”

  1. Ubisoft nailed it for the most part. Ptolomaic Egypt was definitely very interesting during this period as the Ptolomies were steadily declining for at at least a century. Rome was already buying much Egyptian grain and had gained much influence over the country even before 30 BC. Cleopatra VII was the last Pharoh.

  2. To me Origins feels way more authentic than Odyssey. Odyssey feels like a theme park ride for some reason. It just doesn't feel real, something is missing from it.

  3. Why so many comments saying the same thing about Lars Anderson?! I understand one or two coments about it, but the whole comment section?! WE GET IT.

  4. 0:23 same lol. Origins got me liking history and now I love all history (except US history for some reason, I’m from the US)

  5. Wait a minute!
    At 13:24 in the background…. Is that a "Triskele" on those two roman banners? Or is that another symbol?

  6. they painted the statues in Odyssey, which happens earlier than this game historically, I wonder if that was thought about

  7. I haven’t watched the video yet, but ur an ignorant fuck if u say it teaches good history. The history is pretty much rewritten in the game, the world is the only accurate thing (as it’s built).

  8. 1:22– Aren't the shields supposed to be that size? I believe they are using the pelta shield that was used by the armies of Philip II and Alexander the Mostly Great. They are significantly smaller than the hoplon and the positioning of the grip allowed the hoplite to properly hold the extra-long sarissa with both hands, increasing the stability of the spear wall.

  9. The mountains being so close to the Great Pyramids to the point where they're just tightly placed in a small valley bothered the hell out me. Every time you see them in photos the area is super open. I've done my best to match up the game to photos but there's no angle that actually makes it look "right". Hell I've even looked on Google Maps/Earth to compare the geography and that shit is plain wrong, even if you factor in erosion.
    I went in expecting these cool ass pyramids, but they're just shoved together in some random place surrounded by cliffs. Disappointing to say the least.

  10. its easy to learn history from ac , just dont learn all the stuff that feel invented , like all the isu lore

  11. My only problem with the game is they restored the temple of Abu Simbel horrible it looks nothing like it did back in its glory days.

  12. I hated this game for one reason. Missions are hella stupid! If they went through this massive historical undertaking; why not incorporate on the actual game. Instead of fetch missions, why not missions that teach history.

  13. “Ancient Egypt” is a misleading term, this game is set in the Ptolemaic era. The pyramids were already thousands of years old by the time the game takes place.

    The Greeks sound Greek, except Cleopatra, she’s right out of BBC central casting. Lol

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