It may be just a video game, but if you play "Assassin's Creed 3," you will most certainly walk away from the game with a unique — and at times stunningly accurate — view of Revolutionary War-era America.
Sure, this best-selling action-adventure game series features time-travelling assassins and whole lot of science fiction, but the Assassin's Creed games are also know for taking players on a journey through fascinating moments in our very real history and for putting those moments on display in stunning digital detail.
For "Assassins' Creed 3," which launches today, the developers at Ubisoft are taking players to the colonial America of the mid-to-late 1700s where they have gone to great lengths to recreate real-world locations from the Revolutionary War in highly accurate period detail.
Not only did they build digital versions of locales from Boston to New York, they take us to the wild American frontier and various colonial settlements. And while gamers will play the entirely fictional Connor Kenway — the son of a Native American mother and British father bent on revenge and freedom — they will also meet very real figures from history such as George Washington, Benjamin Franklin, Thomas Jefferson and Paul Revere.
"The goal was to make the game as historically accurate as possible," Maxime Durand, a historian hired to work on the game, told me in a recent interview. With that in mind, he spent two and a half years extensively researching the period. He says he did so much research that, during that time, he compiled 160 gigabytes of historical documents, images and data as reference.
And it wasn't just the look of the cities and landscapes of time period that he and the team at Ubisoft tried to build into "Assassin's Creed 3." They tried to make the people that players encounter in the game — both the famous and the everyday kind — as realistic as possible, down to the vocabulary they used, the clothes they wore and the jobs they performed during that era. Durand says he even researched and put to use some of the curse words popular at that time.
All in all, Durand says 10 to 15 times more research went into this game's history than went into any other Assassin's Creed game. The result: "If you just stand and look around the city of Boston for example, it will feel like you’re actually there in that time period," he said.
In fact, Durand said that, ultimately, the goal in recreating a city like Boston was to make it so accurate to the period that if you were to pluck someone from that time and drop them into the game, they would be able to find their way around the streets.
Since sightseeing via time travel isn't actually possible yet, we'll have to settle on "Assassin's Creed 3." Here's a look at five very real locations from America's revolutionary history that you can visit within this game.
These days, the Boston Common — which you'll find situated in the heart of the Massachusetts city — holds the honor of being the oldest public park in the United States. But the Boston Common of today looks very different than what you'll see in "Assassin's Creed 3," which depicts the sprawling pasture lands as they were before and during the Revolutionary War.
Durand explained that, during this period, the British used the Common as a camp, and it was from here that the soldiers set off for battles at Lexington and Concord.
But how did the "Assassin's Creed 3" team know what the area looked like during the 1700s? Durand said they referred to engravings from the era to help them build a digital version of the Common as it appeared then — complete with some of the rolling hills that would later be leveled off.
Old North Church
When it comes to the Revolutionary War, the Old North Church in Boston is perhaps best known as the place where American rebels were warned of the arrival of the British army.
Paul Revere had asked three patriots in Boston (including the church sexton) to hang lanterns high in the building to let the patriot fighters in Charleston know how the British troops were arriving. As the famous line from the poem "Paul Revere's Ride"goes: "One if by land, and two if by sea." The Bostonians hung two lanterns, warning that the British were advancing via the Charles River. It was to be the beginning of the Revolutionary War.
The Old North Church's steeple has been twice destroyed since being built in 1723. For "Assassin's Creed 3," the developers attempted to recreate it as it looked in 1775.
This Boston building isn't called "the Cradle of Liberty" for nothing. The location features prominently in "Assassin's Creed 3" as the game depicts some of the events that lead up to the Revolutionary War.
As the website for the historical building explains:
It was at Faneuil Hall in 1764 that Americans first protested against the Sugar Act and the Stamp Act, setting the doctrine that would come to be known as "no taxation without representation." Gatherings to protest the Stamp Act, the Townshend Act, and the Redcoat occupation would follow, as would one of the first in a series of meetings that would culminate in the Boston Tea Party.
Old State House
Built almost 300 years ago, this famed building was a place where the people gathered to debate the British occupation and its unfair taxation. And it was in front of this building that the Boston Massacre took place in 1770.
But Durand said that due to some changes to the building over the years, recreating the aging state house exactly as it was before and during the revolution presented a bit of a challenge for the "Assassin's Creed 3" team. "We used a lot of engravings from the period and photos from the 19th and early 20th centuries and tried to keep it as accurate as possible to the original architecture," he said.
Old South Meeting House
Built in 1729 as a place for Puritan worship, this building became that starting point for the Boston Tea Party come 1773. It was on Dec. 16 of that year that thousands of colonists gathered at this building, all fired up about the British tendency toward taxation without representation.
And if you paid attention in history class, you know what happened next. Some of these people headed to Boston Harbor, boarded three British tea ships and dumped more than 300 chests of tea into the water.
Winda Benedetti writes about video games for NBC News. You can follow her tweets about games and other things on Twitter here @WindaBenedetti and you can follow her on Google+. Meanwhile, be sure to check out the IN-GAME FACEBOOK PAGE to discuss the day's gaming news and reviews.