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"Viking Age: Discovery Tour." Image via Ubisoft

For the third time since 2018, Ubisoft is releasing a nonviolent version of its latest “Assassin’s Creed” game as part of a unique effort to turn one of the medium’s most popular series into an educational tool.

Driving the news:Viking Age: Discovery Tour” transforms last year’s “Assassin’s Creed Valhalla” from a bloody 150-hour game about Viking conquest in 9th century England into a peaceful four-hour game about merchants and monks.

  • It comes as a free downloadable expansion to “Valhalla” or as a $20 standalone game.
  • It’s the work of about 30 full-time developers at “Assassin’s Creed" publisher Ubisoft and follows versions set in ancient Egypt and Greece.

Between the lines: This year’s edition is more game-like than its predecessors, a change encouraged by educators and “Assassin’s Creed” players, the franchise’s world design director Maxime Durand told Axios.

  • While previous installments let players explore the game’s re-creation of historical settings via virtual tours akin to walking through a museum, this one puts players in control of characters meant to be living in the era.
  • Users will play through intertwining stories, one of a Viking merchant and his wife, modeled off of fateful Viking sagas, and one of an Anglo-Saxon monk, told in the idealized style of that culture’s chronicles, Durand said.
  • Chapters are designed to last no longer than an average history class and focus on shipbuilding, monastic life, treaties and so on.
  • Playing as characters puts an emphasis on “learning by doing," Durand said. “We wanted to convey the information through narrative rather than narrators.”
Screenshot: Ubisoft

“Discovery Tour” versions of “Assassin’s Creed” change the games.

  • For “Viking Age,” that meant developers hiding virtual corpses and swapping out warriors for more nuns.
  • It also means being more explicit, through in-game annotations, about where “Valhalla”’s developers took liberties with historical accuracy and why.
  • Some past changes have been criticized, namely the censoring of naked statues in the ancient Egypt release. “I think we’ve been maybe overzealous in the past,” Durand said, attributing it to the initial uncertainty of what was acceptable to include in a game meant for schools that still had to get a content rating.

The big picture: The Discovery Tour projects stand out as positive efforts from a company rife with workplace misconduct scandals and fan backlashagainst recently announced projects.

  • Durand, who has worked as a historian on “Assassin’s Creed” games since 2010, called the company’s sexual harassment problems, which first surfaced in mid-2020, “devastating.”
  • Regarding the company’s expressed reforms, he said, “I look for the change to continue.”

Go deeper

"Age of Empires IV" humanizes history

Image courtesy of Relic Entertainment, World's Edge

For Relic Entertainment and World's Edge, crafting their latest real-time strategy PC title, "Age of Empires IV," was more than just a matter of making a fun game — it also came with a responsibility to accurately and fairly capture a wide range of cultures.

Why it matters: "Age of Empires IV" is set in historical eras like the Mongol Empire or the Hundred Years' War, and its treatment of the past can influence how players view those cultures and what they take from the game.

39 mins ago - World

Australia joins U.S. in diplomatic boycott of Beijing Winter Olympics

Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison. Photo: Darrian Traynor/Getty Images

Australia is joining the U.S. in a diplomatic boycott of the 2022 Beijing Winter Olympic Games in protest of human rights abuses committed by China's government, Prime Minister Scott Morrison said Wednesday.

Driving the news: After the Biden administration's announcement that U.S. officials won't attend the Games due to the ongoing genocide of Uighurs and other Muslim minorities in the Xinjiang region of China, Morrison said at a Sydney briefing that Australia would follow suit as "it's the right thing to do."

Progressives to file resolution to strip Boebert's committee seats

Rep. Lauren Boebert walking through the Senate side of the U.S. Capitol earlier this month. Photo: Drew Angerer/Getty Images

House progressives are planning to introduce a resolution on Wednesday to strip Rep. Lauren Boebert (R-Colo.) of her committee assignments, according to a Democratic aide familiar with the matter.

Why it matters: The move, which was first reported by the Washington Post, comes as progressives — anxious to see the right-wing firebrand face retribution for her recent comments — have grown frustrated by Democratic leadership's inaction on the issue.