Assassin's Creed Odyssey is going further back in time than any other game in the franchise.
All the way back to ancient Greece, one of my personal all-time favorite eras in all of antiquity.
This is blasphemy you say?
ALSO a video done in partnership with Ubisoft, so thanks for supporting the channel, guys.
Welcome to Game Theory.
The show that ventures to break down the science, math, and history, of video games, to a point where it's not all Greek to you.
And if you thought that was a rough joke, well, just forget I said it.
(Ba dum Ching)
Speaking of ancient history, let's talk Assassin's Creed Odyssey, which is coming out later this week.
As the series continues to rewind to earlier and earlier points in history.
Which will no doubt eventually end up back to a point where primordial man is just poking each other with sticks.
Because there's only so far back you can go.
Odyssey, takes a pit stop in 431 B.C. to visit the Greek Isles just as they're on the brink of warfare.
The Peloponnesian War specifically,
which pitted two of the world's powerhouses against each other:
Athens V Sparta.
History's greatest minds versus history's greatest warriors.
Now, Ubisoft has made it clear that Odyssey is different from the rest of its Assassin Brotherhood, because it's ultimately a game about choice.
Where players can customize their fighting style, romances, and even their plot, leading all the way to a series first.
Your moment to moment decisions have a fundamental impact on the story progression.
From hero customization to the fate of the people around you.
And it's there where things really start to get interesting.
Because in the game, you play as either Alexios or Kassandra,
a young Spartan child whose family line has been prophesized to bring doom to the Spartan Empire.
So your family takes the reasonable approach:
throwing you off a cliff.
Fast-forward 17 years, and suddenly you resurface.
A deadly mercenary with an axe to grind.
Well, it's really an ancient magical spearhead that was inherited by your legendary war hero grandfather, Leonidas.
REGARDLESS, you have a chip on your shoulder,
Figuratively, and probably literally from that fall off the mountain, and one major choice in front of you:
Who do you side with?
Sparta or Athens?
Your home and your blood, or the people who didn't just drop you off a cliff?
That, ladies and gentlemen, is the question.
How will your legendary hero define the history of modern civilization through their actions in ancient Greece?
Well, that's exactly what I intend to answer today.
By looking at the history of the Peloponnesian War, we'll not only have everything we need to make the right decision,
but along the way, we'll be learning that sometimes the greatest weapon in a legendary warrior's arsenal...
Cue the sappy graphic!
Aw... Knowledge really is power.
The Peloponnesian War wasn't just a game changer in ancient Greece,
but for the entire ancient world.
You see, back then, Greece did a lot more than simply supply the world with baklava and Instagramable destinations for 22 year old backpackers who are totally finding themselves.
Now, ancient Greece was literally the center of the civilized world,
and spent, pretty much, all their time either conquering other people
or smacking down people who wanted to conquer them.
Unfortunately, the problem wasn't always their enemies on the outside, like the Persians or the Egyptians.
It was actually that they couldn't get along on the inside.
If ancient Greece were a high school,
think of Athens as being the nerdy kids from the north, and Sparta being the buff jocks from the "south side!"
In the north, Athens might not have been getting dates to the prom but they were all like
"We're gonna invent stuff, like democracy, and alarm clocks, and...
And Sparta was like
"Yeah, bro. That's stupid. No one cares what time you get up if your city's being burned down."
(Which I gotta say is a fair point.)
"We're Oligarchs! It's all about the military bro!
And uh, oh, yeah, we get all the ladies with our massive pecks!"
So even though you land in Odyssey at the beginning of the Peloponnesian War,
these guys haven't been seeing eye to eye for a long time.
Leading up to the war, both sides were in the middle of a thirty-year peace treaty,
really wasn't much of a peace treaty, since both sides totally were cheating on it.
Basically ALL THE TIME.
They would help out an ally here,
they would send a few little reinforcements to the enemy over there,
after a few shady dealings,
both sides started to feel a little resentful.
And the whole situation completely melted down and exploded creating
So, then, when confronted with the choice in the game, which side do you support?
Let's break it down with Athens first.
Why would you, a Spartan warrior bro,
or warrior sis,
want to back a rival city-state of Athens in the game?
Well outside of the teeny tiny detail of them not trying to kill you when you were a child,
honestly, the biggest reason is because Athens was simply awesome!
It was the center of the world.
It was responsible for the Golden Age of Greece.
Which is basically the period of Greek history famous for tons of inventions and knowledge that we are still using today!
Two and a half millennia later!
It's the stuff that you hear about in history books, from philosophy, to theatre, to engineering,
all straight from the minds of the Athenian people
Greek warriors sailing around and huge fleets of ships.
That's mostly Athenians too,
who were renowned for their naval force at the time.
Yep. Sorry to every tenth grader out there.
But that was also an Athenian invention.
Which can I just say; how easy must it have been to invent something way back in the greek days?
You draw a few lines, you connect them. Boom!
Suddenly you're the father of geometry.
Woopadiedo. I can squiggle on my stone tablet pad too, friend.
Anyway, in the game when you're fighting on the side of Athens, or the Attic Side as it's called in history,
you're playing on behalf of the most advanced civilization in the Western world.
But what if you're more of a brawn over brains type?
Let's look at what Sparta has to offer our entrepreneurial little mercenary.
First and foremost,
there's really no debating that Spartans were the most feared warriors of the ancient world. But you don't have to take my word for it.
Consider this story for proof.
Around 345 B.C., Philip II of Macedon
Alexander the Great's father,
had conquered a good chunk of the Greek city-states, and soon set his sights on Sparta.
He even went so far as to send him a threat. Quote:
Sparta replied with one word:
Talk about the greatest thug life moment in history!
And even more impressive, it worked. Philip II and Alexander the Great never actually tried to conquer Sparta!
Now that story alone should make you want to fight on behalf of that city-state.
But if you really want context we have to start by understanding what made Sparta so feared.
For boys born in ancient Sparta, their consideration as potential soldiers began literally right after they were born.
When they were inspected by a council of elders, named the Gerousia, to determine if the boys looked physically fit enough to fight in the army someday.
they were left down the mountain to die.
Which is a pretty stiff selection process, when you consider that pretty much all babies do is just
smack themselves in the head repeatedly for the first three months of life as they try to learn basic motor control.
This baby's flailing arms will do a fine job of holding a shield one day."
Then when a Spartan boy was about six or seven years old,
he was drafted into the army and began his training via a system known as Agoge.
Which included everything from singing to hunting
to, of course, fighting and pain tolerance.
Boys often marched barefoot, and were underfed so that they wouldn't be fazed by harsh conditions when they were at war.
Underfeeding the boys also incentivized them to steal, so that they could practice fending for themselves.
Though they would face strict punishment. Not for the stealing itself,
but for being careless enough to be caught.
One story meant to exemplify these values instilled in Spartan boys goes as follows:
A young soldier, about 13 years old, steals a fox from a neighboring village.
But when he's spotted by his superior, he hides the fox under his tunic.
The fox begins scratching and biting the boy, tearing into him.
But the boy doesn't flinch. He doesn't reveal how much pain he's in to his superior and is successfully able to hide his stolen pet.
Even though it injured him so badly, that he eventually died from his wounds.
What does the Fox say?
"Let me out!"
What does the boy say?
Nothing. Because he's a Spartan through and through.
And because he eventually died.
Suffice it to say that toughness was valued among the Spartans. And not just in their demeanor,
but also in their fighting style.
Even though Spartan soldiers would carry javelins,
they generally rejected ranged weapons,
And would even outsource their archery mercenaries, most frequently from the island of Crete.
The writer, Plutarch, even tells the story of how one Spartan soldier, in the Peloponnesian War, who was mortally wounded by an arrow, said that he was not afraid to die,
he was just disappointed that he'd been killed by such a cowardly weapon.
Even when Spartans had no weapons at all, they still put up one heck of a fight.
Ancient Greeks practice the sport named Pankration,
Which was sort of like the grandfather of mixed martial arts.
Pankration was an ancient Olympic sport that involved
and pretty much anything else besides biting and gouging out eyes.
Fun fact, the straight kick to the stomach or chest that was made famous in the movie "300" was actually a pretty common Pankration move.
It's even memorialized in pottery and mentioned by the Greek writer Lucien.
And by this game.
You want a front punt a lion?
Be my guest, because it is historically accurate.
Oh, and you know how I said that there is no biting or gouging allowed in Pankration?
Well, there's one place in the Greek world where they weren't banned and you guessed it. It was Sparta.
These are the kind of tactics that would have made old Leonidas proud.
So outside of aligning yourself with history's most intimidating warriors,
why would it make sense to choose Sparta in Assassin's Creed Odyssey?
Well ultimately, most people agree that it was Athens to blame for starting the Peloponnesian War in the first place,
since they technically broke more of the rules of the peace treaty with Sparta.
Call it revenge of the nerds, but for all that bravado of the Spartans,
it was actually Athens that were arrogant and warmongering, by making secret alliances behind the scenes.
Then, there's the Battle of Sphacteria,
where Athens REALLY started to look like the bad guys in this war through their use of hostages.
Up to that point in the war, Sparta looked unbeatable.
But in the words of Donald Kagan, in his book, the Peloponnesian War, quote:
Through this dishonorable maneuver threatening to kill off the 292 captured soldiers, should Sparta decide to attack the island,
Athens was able to get the unbeatable Spartan soldiers to, not only surrender control of the area,
but also prolong the war for multiple more years!
So choosing to assume your ranks as a Spartan hero, not only has you siding with arguably the more honorable warriors,
but you'd ultimately be siding with the (spoilers) as well.
Sorry, spoiler alert
but it literally happened 2,500 years ago.
So I feel like the statute of limitations on spoilers is pretty much over at this point.
Sparta was able to overcome the Athenian naval force take out their food supplies and ultimately siege the city-state into submission.
Honorable warriors until the very end, despite Sparta's allies demanding that Athens be destroyed and all of its citizens enslaved.
Sparta announced their refusal to destroy a city that had done a good service at a time of greatest danger to Greece.
And so they preserved Athens and took it into their own system.
Normally, I would be all aboard siding with the nerds,
but in this case, your honorable.
you're a badass,
and most importantly of all,
you win, which sets history down the course it took in real life!
Which isn't necessarily a bad thing.
Already three solid reasons why Sparta deserves your mercenary skills.
But there is one final reason siding with Sparta makes sense.
And it's not tied to grandiose honor codes or sweeping historic power struggles.
It's what every war story ultimately boils down to, the human element.
Individual fighters on the battlefield, caught up in the political machinations that are far above them.
In this case, it's important to remember that your character is a mercenary first and foremost, and Sparta was a warrior sity-state,
actively looking to expand their power and that means one thing:
A warrior culture that's hungry for battle,
that's not ashamed to hire out mercenaries to fill out their ranks, is quite frankly good for business.
And the business of war is one that you're going to want to continue when you're an assassin.
If for no other reason than to keep food on the table.
So when you pick up and play Assassin's Creed Odyssey and are offered the choice,
remember; while we all might be drawn to the nerdy, in this case, siding with history is the one true path to victory.
But hey, that's just a theory!
A Game Theory!
Thanks for watching.