Where all roads lead

Sometimes when I’m writing, or thinking about writing, these postings, I think: People are going to start thinking that I’m a Ubisoft fanboy. Well, there were times were I would have said absolutely. That was some time ago. But the quality of the series that put them on the map (Assassin’s Creed) has been seriously slipping down the quality mountain.

But the part of the series no hater can hate on is the Ezio saga.

So, the previously undisclosed area which I have taken off to this year is Italy. Now, I’ve never been here, hell, never been off of the North American content. So coming here has been amazing. We started the trip off in Rome. The sights were mind blowing. Any words I can think of, and this is poignant considering who I am, couldn’t justify the majesty of the history left behind.

Now, I’m sure you’re making the conclusion I’m trying to draw. When I got there, I knew a ton of the history of the area in part because of the Assassin’s Creed series. Now, I’m sure that makes me sound like a bad tourist, etc – but I don’t care.

When I got to my hotel near the Porta Maggorie and I could see the remnants of the outer wall that protected the city, I remembered stalking guards and targets along the wall as Ezio. Running along the Roman aqueducts as I escaped pursuers and kept a watchful eye from above as soldiers harassed innocent citizens. I was able to vividly recall scaling the outside of the Colosseum. Slowly, and not so surely at times, scaling it up to the top and staring down at the base. A sight I (more or less) shared not two days ago.

I was right there…

Now, part of this is my “I’m loving my vacation” rant, and part not. The part that isn’t is wholly grateful and in love with the way that these games are built. The level of detail was (is in some cases) astounding. In that way, Ubisoft has truly created an unparalleled title. Even for the more mediocre offerings – Assassin’s Creed 3 or Unity – there is still a panache to the series that nothing else is able to capture. That panache or je ne said quou is found in the details of history. It’s one thing to take a picture of the Pantheon, digitize it and spiff it up (you know, because it’s supposed to look new then). It’s another thing entirely to take the actual page of history, places, events and give them meaning. Not to mention the ever interesting historical notes on the places involved. With the occasional sprinkling of contextual editorials.

While some may turn their head and scoff at what I’ve set down here today, I hope some take note. Was I already a history buff, specifically on Italy, the Roman Empire and mythology going into the games? Assolutamente! But having it all there, at my finger tips, to consume and not say “I wonder how accurate this wiki is?” is saying something for any source – let alone something meant (at its core) as a diversion. It seems likely to me that the Assassin’s Creed series has probably paved a lot of roads for people who had the bug, the gnawing interest in history, but perhaps lacked the will or drive to pursue it.

I won’t go crazy and say when I stood at the base of the Colosseum that I looked up expectantly, but it would have been pretty cool right? Maybe another time. Maybe another time.

And while nothing, not even the best Ubisoft game, can compare to bearing witness to the real thing, I will certainly give them full marks for the effort. I look forward to moving through the streets of Florence and over the canals of Venice, all with the thought of an amazing character, an amazing game, a great concept and a plethora of great memories to help me through.

– The Ego

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