Ubisoft first entered the world of edu-tainment with Assassin’s Creed Origins: Discovery Tour in 2018 and I have been in love with the idea of stripping out the gameplay mechanics of historical fiction to provide an engaging, self-directed learning experience ever since. The Discovery Tour model, having returned in every Assassin’s Creed entry since, has been a substantial opportunity to explore ancient civilizations and learn more about them through the characters you already know and a beautifully built 3D environment. Having now played a whole lot of hours in Ubisoft’s latest open-world game, Riders Republic, I am fully ready and in complete need of a Riders Republic: Discovery Tour.
The world of Riders Republic is modeled off of a combination of several National Parks and other natural landmarks from across the United States’s southwest. As you bike, ski, and jetwing your way across the game’s many gorgeous peaks and valleys, you’ll surely encounter Landmarks—collectible viewpoints where you’ll be treated to a grand view and a small piece of information about the real-life location you’re gazing upon. But what if Riders Republic took the incredibly portrayed natural wonders of its giant map a step farther? What if you could explore this vast world with some guided support and without the pressures of races and trick battles. A Riders Republic Discovery Tour could be the best virtual tool there is for learning about the natural wonders of the United States.
Foremost, no discussion of the natural world, National Park Service, or public lands, in general, can begin without first recognizing the people and Natives whose land and lives were stolen brutally to make our access to these lands possible today. I make a habit of always donating to local tribal governments, agencies, or organizations whenever I visit National Parks as a small form of reparation for the centuries of violence that displaced Indigenous peoples from these lands we now have the privilege to patronize. Indigenous peoples continue to live and thrive across the United States, even if not in their traditional homelands, and all of these lands should rightfully be theirs.
Nevertheless and while we strive towards rematriation, these public lands and National Parks are glorious, gorgeous wonders that deserve to be explored by as many people as possible. And frankly, not everyone can just get on a plane then take a long drive to the middle of nowhere to bike, bike, or skin their rugged and unadulterated terrains. I hope this game inspires folks to try to do so, it certain has for me, but for those who may never visit themselves, a Discovery Tour could be an excellent virtual alternative.
While perhaps VR experiences in these parks may exist and replicate certain aspects of visiting a park, the 3D open-world environment of Riders Republic is the perfect format for this type of experience. It’s easily navigable with a low barrier to experiencing its many trails and vistas. The controls are not perfectly intuitive, but a bit of practice could get you right going. The navigation tools like snowmobiles or even walking certainly contribute to the navigability of the many environs.
But a Discovery Tour a la Assassin’s Creed is about more than just blissful exploration of a gorgeous true-to-life world. It can be filled with people to meet and things to do that teach you about the world you’re inhabiting. Imagine meeting park rangers, collecting cancelation stamps, and learning about the geology and ecology of the game’s parks. Imagine encountering modern or past residents of the regions to learn their human history and anthropology from Indigenous cultures through today. Whether in partnership with the Parks Service, local tourism boards, Native agencies, or just independently, I would gobble this content up as a lover of natural and human history. Plus, it would likely be an even more interesting plot and/or exploration mechanic than what already exists in the base game. It could draw players and learners in all unto itself.
It’s rare that educational virtual experiences are actually fun and engaging these days. A Riders Republic: Discovery Tour would absolutely be both and if Ubisoft needs any ideas on how to create one, I’m fully on board.