The WW1 game that’s eerily accurate

Also released in 2018, Red Dead Redemption 2 (RDR2) brought players into the US of 1899, the music, newspapers and even ornithology of the age all exactingly revived. Yet if both games won leagues of admirers – RDR2 has so far sold 50 million copies – you’re still left wondering how exactly the developers managed to encode the past in ones and zeros. Glance at footage of either game and their graphical fidelity, a universe away from the blocky, pixelated galleons of Pirates of the Barbary Coast, offers something of an answer. If technology is one factor here, however, Nowak is also keen to emphasise the accessibility of historical sources is another. As a student, she recalls having to painstakingly track down manuscripts in the library. While researching KCD, however, she could rely on high-quality online scans, each casting light on costumes, architecture and more.

Marrying entertainment and history

Certainly, some of the most dazzling historical games of recent times are far from conventional beauties. It may look like a glorified atlas, for example, but Crusader Kings III vividly evokes the throat-cutting drama of medieval politics from Lisbon to the Ganges. And though it mimics illuminated manuscripts, locking the player perspective in 2D, 2022’s Pentiment is a Renaissance murder mystery that includes such period details as debates on transubstantiation and the appearance of mythical king Prester John in the protagonist’s dreams.

There’s obviously a market for such nerdiness: Pentiment has become a surprise hit since its release last November. And for some, that hints at a wider reason for the current glut of historically accurate games. Comparing RDR2 with the Western TV series Deadwood, Tore Olsson, an associate history professor at the University of Tennessee, Knoxville, argues that both typify the rising popularity of thoughtful, morally ambiguous history across media. RDR2 doubtless ticks that box: the game movingly portrays an outlaw fighting to maintain his soul in a bloodthirsty gang.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *