Living in the Past

Since their inception, videogames have always found a way to transport their users into realms only imagined. In many ways they serve the same purpose as the holodecks on Star Trek, representations of a dream world that gives the user the unique ability to interact with men and women either long since dead or completely fictional. What gaming has done over the years is create virtual environments based upon the real world history, finally allowing the player to, say, observe DaVinci in his studio during the Renaissance or get inside the head of a Roman general as he (or she depending on the user) leads thousands of troops as they march toward their next conquest. The following are four games or series that were developed with History fans in mind, their designers spending hours on end researching books and building games to give the user an immersive experience.

Assassin’s Creed 2 & Brotherhood (PlayStation 3 & Xbox-360): I don’t believe anyone can have an article about history and videogames and not refer to the AC Franchise. Normally I’d bundle a game or movie series into the same category rather than discuss each title separately, however the genius of Assassin’s Creed is that the games are based in different time periods. So while Assassin’s Creed was based in Jesus’ time period AC2 and its follow-up Brotherhood took place during my personal period of history: The Italian Renaissance.

It’s my personal interest in the time period that made me pick this game up to begin with. I’m not a fan of the period from a Ren Faire standpoint but from the standpoint of a lover of science and culture. While playing the game I would come across many of my favorite people from the time period such as Machiavelli (one of your allies) and Leonardo DaVinci (whose awesome science helps build and upgrade Enzio’s weapons). From the first few moments of play it’s evident how much care went into documenting every inch of the cities Enzio explores, as anyone who has ever visited or watched videos of modern or classic Italy would be quick to recognize many of the streets and landmarks.

Way of the Samurai (PlayStation 2): Set in 1878 Japan, WOTS’ story about a young warrior trapped between two rival clans was one of the most intense experiences I’ve played. Several things set this game apart from most other third person action games (of its time) such as its Choose Your Own Adventure style story line. While prevalent in modern games such as Mass Effect, WOTS was one of the first games to employ a branching storyline that means many of the decisions mad with in the game changes the ultimate outcome of the story. With its distinctive sword upgrade system and authentic set and clothing designs this game (and its sequels) is perfect for fans of Samurai or Japanese culture.

God of War (series- PlayStation 2 & 3): I’ll be upfront and say I’ve personally never laid hands of God of War game, this is included solely on the recommendations of friends who are borderline fanatical. What makes these friends so fanatical? Well the friends in particular are history majors with a minor in Mythologies of Ancient Cultures (yes, there’s degrees in that). The series mythology is based on and around stories of Greek culture. As the character Kratos the player is saddles with the daunting task of hunting down and taking out the Gods such as Hermes, Athena, and Zeus while doing battles against Minotaur’s, Sirens (human headed birds, not ladies with fish fins) and other monsters of ancient myth. The game’s representation of Zeus’ lineage is true to the old stories, rarely making changes to fit the games.

Rome Total War (PC): Real Time Strategy games are one in a million in this day and age. The user’s main goal in Rome is to conquer other cultures and civilizations by utilizing the technology of the Roman military. The game features many aspect of Roman life: gladiators, the Coliseum, Hannibal, and many of the famous battle still talked about in today’s history classes.

Civilization (PC): Much like Rome, Civilization is a real time strategy game based on history, only where Rome was based on true life conflicts Civilization brings an alternative history approach to the Strategy game. In the game the user maps an entire human civilization with the click of the mouse. The worlds the players can create can be exact replicas of the real world or something as totally wild as a Steampunk Space Age.

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