Assassin's Creed "Discovery Tour" Offers Cool but Bumbling History Lesson

There are, broadly and unscientifically, two ways that museums display their material. There are the museum’s “exhibitions,” which bring artistic works and historical artifacts out into the world and use them to tell stories. These are temporary spaces, crafted via curation to send shivers up your spine as you feel a sudden, acute connection to and understanding of people, places, and ideas that were formerly entirely separate and alien to you.

This is a companion discussion topic for the original entry at

Rob’s thoughts about how certain experiences can suddenly make history real for us made me want to share a cool moment I had once. I studied archaeology in college and got to go on a dig in Italy after my sophomore year. I spent a month slowly digging with a bunch of other student in the hot Italian sun, and essentially found piles of broken pottery, but very little that was useful, or “diagnostic”. The best thing I did find however was a broken scrap of pottery that had a perfectly preserved thumbprint pressed into it. The moment I pulled it out of the ground and saw the fingerprint, all the hair on my arms stood on end. I’d been neck deep in what was essentially a 2,000 year old trash pile for a month, but it wasn’t until that moment that I really understood that someone had actually made all that pottery. Just some normal person, probably as bored as I was. And they’d kind of messed up, leaving a fingerprint in a pot like that, then someone else broke the pot at some point, and threw it in the trash. And then 2,000 years later I dug it up and had a small existential crisis over it.


Great piece!

I am also somewhat conflicted about it right now but for slightly different reasons. I also agree that its amazing that it exists, I can just see kids getting into this stuff, an interactive museum such as this can be a very cool experience that can influence a young life.

I won’t criticise it yet because I’ve only finished a few tours, but from what I see so far I would have liked there to be more of a message about the pillage of Egypt, the destructive influence of European demand for the exotic and what is, at least as per Said, the birthplace of Orientalism.

They absolutely do get into this in a few of the tours centred on mummies.

More generally, while on one level it’s easy observe ways might have made the experience more engaging, it’s important, I think to bear in mind that something with this kind of expansive production quality/budget could only really be made by piggybacking on the murder simulator its attached to, and as (hopefully) a first step, it’s not bad.

One of things that has struck me going through discovery mode is just the huge amount of detail in the world that I never even saw when focused on murdery murder. There are intricate, beautifully rendered chambers inside temples I that I’d never even bothered to enter because there wasn’t a phat loot or enemy/victim waiting there.

edit: oh also, I thought this let’s play of a pre-release build with a dev and an archaeologist actually running excavations in Egypt was pretty neat:


Oh OK, cool, I will look into that mummy stuff thanks!

I’ll definitely write about the discovery mode later, it’s such a cool thing. And yes I also noticed the extra details that you’re talking about, the amount of care that went into constructing this world is on a whole other level.

oh btw, this is only tangentially related, but this eurogamer video also touches upon the topic (while having nothing to do with Assassin’s Creed):

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That feeling is top-notch, isn’t it? It’s like you’re suddenly hit by the vastness of time. I had the exact same feeling when at the age of, I think, 11 I stood a couple of centimeters from a 10.000 year old hand print in a cave in France. The idea that I stood in the exact spot as another person such an unimaginably long time ago, looking at something they made, made my brain blossom like some sort of universal flower. Felt absolutely amazing, and I definitely wanted to get into archaeology even more because of it.

Sadly nothing ever came of that, but at least I can still amaze over the age of some things. Even the cathedral originally dating back 800 years I bike past almost daily is not something I ever really get used to, though I’ll admit it doesn’t blow me away as much as something as intensely personal as a handprint or, like you said, even just a thumb mark on pottery. But still, when I saw the Romanesque crypt I almost cried. Just look at this, dude. To stand next to that is transcendent.

Sure it’s a murder simulator, but I also feel like the level of detail you mention there is what pulls me away from the murder. I would walk from one end of Alexandria or Memphis to the other to get to my objective, navigating alleys & colourful plazas, taking detours into temples etc, and the game sort of rewarded that by having Photo Mode as something I could indulge, I loved coming across NPCs in perfect tableaus as they went about their business. Hell, even walking through acres of farmland in Faiyum I got some of my best shots as farmers started their days at the crack of dawn. This, paired with how many of the quests focused on the stories of everyday people and the culture of the region is what really made the game feel alive to me.

I do lament that the main mode of interaction is still Murder, even in those quests mentioned above, but it kind of incentivised me to explore with photo mode?It was such a genuine joy to explore this place