We already knew back before Assassin's Creed Origins even released that the game would be getting what was called a Discovery Tour, a mode that let you explore the world of the game to learn about historic principles, people, and locations. With that being the case, we recently got invited to see some of this Discovery Tour for ourselves in London and get an insight into how exactly it all works in practice.
In essence, the world map of Assassin's Creed Origins is entirely open to you to explore as you wish, whether that be with fast-travel, by foot, or by vehicles (such as they were), and dotted across the map are Tours (which can be accessed via the menu if you want to head directly to a specific one). The difference that separates Discovery Tour from the game itself is the fact that there's no violence or threat of death; this is a totally safe and harmless world that's all about exploration and it has nothing at all to do with the stabbing and assassinations that come with the base game.
Once you activate a tour, you'll be briefed on what the contents are and how many 'stops' there are on the way, these being markers in a long glowing line that activate sections of information, much like points on an audio tour around a museum. While these paths allow you to experience the tour in the most logical order, you don't have to stick to it, and if you get bored around stop 6/25 you can just run off and climb up a building if you really want to. However, those who want to get the most out of these experiences will get a narrated tour, pictures, and more to see at each stop.
Most of these stops are solely dedicated to the history of Ancient Egypt, but occasionally you'll get one that gives a behind-the-scenes developer insight, informing you as to why Ubisoft made a certain decision with one feature or how they approached a landmark in the game and why. In this sense it's not only of interest to those who like history, but also to those who want a bit of insight into how the game was made, as after all there's always a lot of historical research that goes into producing these games and their worlds, so this is as much a part of Assassin's Creed as the fiction.
As such the Discovery Tour is pretty much an extension of what the series has always done, except instead of putting the historical information in encyclopedias in the menus, here it's all manifested in-game so you can walk alongside these historical landmarks while also learning how they work. It seems a much more engaging way of delivering the content rather than simple text boxes, and it's clear that this has had a lot of effort put into it, especially considering that all of these tours have required historical consultants and study groups to see how best to deliver the information.
We were also told, as you can see in our interview with Ubisoft, that the Discovery Mode has been trialled in schools as well, the aim being to determine how effective it is at teaching the history of the era, and the tests showed that, while the kids didn't learn as much as when a teacher gave them a lesson, it did teach them a bit about Ancient Egypt. As we were told though, Discovery Mode isn't meant to be a replacement for teaching, but simply a tool to get people to engage with the historical background of the game, young or old, and encouraging people to take an active interest in history can't be a bad thing.
On the gameplay side there's very little to say, as it's Assassin's Creed Origins except without any combat whatsoever. Climbing, walking, and running is all as standard, and you can even interact with bits of the environment in certain places as well, so you can stop and read a book or examine a scroll if you're feeling particularly scholarly. It's good we're not just restricted to walking and that we've been given a lot of freedom to go where we please and do what we want. This freedom extends to the characters too, as you can play as anyone from Bayek to Julius Caesar and even walk in the footsteps of little children, all of which is unlocked from the start, just like the rest of the non-violent content (after all, if you don't have a copy of the base game there's a standalone version available with a lowered age-rating of 12 and over, making it suitable for a wider audience).
We found the tours themselves to be nicely presented, as they're not too text-heavy. Each stop on the tour hits you with a small snippet of information, most of which are accompanied by visual cues you can zoom in on, and this keeps things from feeling like too much of a chore, especially on the longer experiences. Sure, you do all these by choice, but it's much nicer getting punchy, memorable chunks of information rather than being bombarded with text and facts. The narrators are also varied too, so you don't have the same person reading the information throughout, keeping things fresh.
All-in-all what we saw of Discovery Tour was promising, as it pushed the historical information that has always been there, from the very first Assassin's Creed game through to Origins, positioning that knowledge to the forefront of the experience, giving the facts to the player in a far more accessible and engaging way. It won't be to everyone's interest, but for those who love the series for its presentation of historical locations and eras, this is a great way to find out more about these places, the era, the people, and how they all of these things were meticulously recreated in the virtual world by Ubisoft.