Arguably the best version of the classical world in video games is Assassin’s Creed Odyssey (ACO), a massive open-world Role-Playing Game (RPG) set during the Peloponnesian War. As with anything done well, what shines from the game - and distinguishes it from inferior rivals - is the evident love and care for the history and mythology that has gone into both the research and creation. We often put it on and go for a stroll around ancient Lesbos, or Mycenae, or Delphi, just to enjoy the scenery.
For something similar but set in first century BCE Egypt, Assassins Creed Origins is just as wonderful.
By some of the same creators of ACO, but with a broader - and younger - audience in mind, Immortals: Fenyx Rising is a wonderful cartoon-styled recreation of the Greek mythological world. With more of an emphasis on puzzles and comedy than ACO, this took a while to grow on us, but has a similar feel to Zelda, for those who have played it. Fun and adventurous, and beautifully created.
Smaller, but no less beautifully-formed, Apotheon is a side-on scroller, in which you play Nikandreos, fighting the Olympian gods after they punish all humanity. The art style is wonderfully inspired by black-figure pots, and it’s worth occasionally pausing the action to have a closer look at some of the detail.
Dominating games set in classical Rome, Total War: Rome II is a massive grand-strategy gam, allowing the player to take control of one of many factions from the mediterranean and near-east, and construct an empire, building towns, cities, armies and navies as you go. This sequel is beautiful to look at, but whether you play the first or second game, the attention to historical detail is very good.
However, the modification (mod), Europa Barbarorum is the best for those seeking an authentic representation of the peoples outside Rome. Indeed, the update is so good, it has received specific praise from Creative Assemblies, the company who made the original game.
In a similar vein, and using the same mechanics as the hugely-popular Europa Universalis, Imperator does many of the same things as Total War: Rome, but with a glossy sheen, and with more detail.
We haven’t played Old World yet, but it looks exactly our cup of tea. Elements of the previous games are present here, but what we really like the look of is the clear lineage and inheritance aspect; each turn is one year of your life, so getting a dynasty becomes as important as running the state. It is very much next on our list.
Past and Future
This year we’re anticipating a couple of world-building games in Builders of Greece and Builders of Egypt (Builders of China is also coming). Both will allow you to create and architecturise your own cities in these two cultures. We can’t vouch for either, but they are so up our street they are probably going to have to pay council tax.
There is FREE, early-access to the unfinished Builders of Egypt here (Windows only - sorry, Mac-users).
For anyone with a memory that goes back to the early 90s, you might remember the Inspiral Carpets, those terrible ski-jackets and games by the Bitmap Brothers. The latter of which were always excellent, but Gods really tapped into something essential: Hercules, mutants and chunky graphics.
Simpler, happier, dumber, more fashionably-questionable times...