Assassin's Creed Odyssey's Sea Shanties Are Actual Greek Poems

Hi, Luke Plunkett here, your resident sea shanty enthusiast. And I’d like you to know that Assassin’s Creed Odyssey, a game featuring mythical creatures, immortal leaps and the most perfect human being ever created (not you, Alexios), takes its sea shanties of all things very seriously.

To recap: like a few games in the series before it, most notably Black Flag, Odyssey peppers its sailing sequences with the singing of your crew, and like Black Flag, these ditties are catchy as hell.

Because none of them are recognisable to the average ear, and because I’d guess very few of you speak Greek, people have just gone about their business assuming these are made-up, a shining example of Ubisoft’s massive investment of time and manpower into the Assassin’s Creed series.

But they’re not made-up! At least not entirely. In the lead-up to the game’s release last year, audio director Lydia Andrew said of Odyssey’s shanties in an interview with Gamereactor:

What we’re doing is working with experts, working with historians, doing a lot of research ourselves, and we’ve created songs. So for example we said what kind of songs do we think sailors would sing on a boat? Okay, well, they’d probably sing songs about missing their family, or songs about the battles they’ve been in, or the Gods of the sea, or a girl they’re in love with or a boy they’re in love with or something like that. We did a lot of research and found ancient Greek texts that would cover those subjects, from plays, from poetry, and some songs as well, and then we worked with a composer in Athens and he created these really great melodies and harmonies that the choir sang.

While a lot of work has gone into trimming them and adding music, these songs haven’t been created from scratch, nor are they simply based on plays and poems. Odyssey’s sea shanties in many ways are the “ancient Greek texts” that Andrew was talking about.

Peter Gainsford, a classicist living in New Zealand, is a specialist in ancient Greek poetry, and in particular how it can relate to modern culture. Inspired by a line from the historian and general Thucydides that’s found in BioShock (“All things good on this Earth flow into the City”), Gainsford has for a while now been digging around looking for other references to ancient quotes in video games. And in Odyssey, he hit the jackpot.

As a fan of Black Flag’s own songs and an expert in ancient Greek, Gainsford decided to sit down with each of Odyssey’s shanties and translate them. He’s also able to pinpoint the source of each.

For example, here’s Through the Storm, which was a poem written by Alcaeus. Gainsford says Alcaeus was “one of the great duo of early poets of Lesbos, along with Sappho. Both poets wrote in the Lesbian dialect, which is a bit difficult for people trained in classical Attic Greek. Alcaeus’ fame was so great that the verse form used in this poem is named after him, the ‘Alcaic stanza’.”

Here’s how the game sings it:

ἀσυννέτημμι τὼν ἀνέμων στάσιν,
νᾶϊ φορήμμεθα, νᾶϊ φορήμμεθα σὺν μελαίνᾳ,
νᾶϊ φορήμμεθα, νᾶϊ φορήμμεθα.

κῦμα κυλίνδεται, ἄμμες δ’ ὂν τὸ μέσσον
νᾶϊ φορήμμεθα, νᾶϊ φορήμμεθα σὺν μελαίνᾳ,
νᾶϊ φορήμμεθα, νᾶϊ φορήμμεθα.

χείμωνι μόχθεντες μεγάλῳ μάλα·
νᾶϊ φορήμμεθα, νᾶϊ φορήμμεθα σὺν μελαίνᾳ,
νᾶϊ φορήμμεθα, νᾶϊ φορήμμεθα.

This is the original poem:

ἀσυννέτημμι τὼν ἀνέμων στάσιν,
τὸ μὲν γὰρ ἔνθεν κῦμα κυλίνδεται,
τὸ δ’ ἔνθεν, ἄμμες δ’ ὂν τὸ μέσσον
νᾶϊ φορήμμεθα σὺν μελαίνᾳ

χείμωνι μόχθεντες μεγάλῳ μάλα·
πὲρ μὲν γὰρ ἄντλος ἰστοπέδαν ἔχει,
λαῖφος δὲ πὰν ζάδηλον ἤδη,
καὶ λάκιδες μέγαλαι κὰτ αὖτο,

χάλαισι δ’ ἄγκυρραι, τὰ δ’ ὀή[ϊα …]

Finally, and most useful to most of you, the English translation:

I fail to understand the direction of the winds:
one wave rolls in from this side,
another from that,
and we in the middle
are carried along in company with our black ship,

much distressed in the great storm.
The bilge-water covers the masthold;
all the sail lets the light through now,
and there are great rents in it;

the anchors are slackening; the rudders [ … ]

Alcaeus died in 560BC, while Odyssey takes place during the Peloponnesian War, which raged from 431–404BC. That’s not…too far off, and as such an eminent poet it’s entirely possible to believe folks would still be familiar enough with his work to be reciting it 130 years later.

Not all the shanties in the game are as authentic to the time period, however. Much like Black Flag, which actually borrowed many later songs (some from as late as the early 20th century), most of Odyssey’s source material is all over the place. Indeed, only one of the game’s shanties actually dates from the Peloponnesian War.

“The shanties range from around 650 BCE to 500 CE”, Gainsford tells Kotaku. “The earliest is ‘The lost shield’, by Archilochus — players will recognise it by the refrain ‘erreto, erreto, erreto’, ‘to hell with it, to hell with it!’ — and the latest is a hymn to Ares. There’s one that’s contemporary with the game’s setting, called ‘Muse of the forest’ (‘tio, tio, tio tiotinx’), taken from a play-cum-musical that was written during the Peloponnesian War. Other than the Ares song, generally speaking the later ones are the love songs and the drinking songs.”

While Alcaeus was a poet, and most of the other shanties are also based on poems, Gainsford says that doesn’t mean the words couldn’t also have been sung.

“Some definitely were sung. We can’t be certain for all of them. A lot depended on genre, register, all sorts of things. Just like in the modern world, some lyrics are for singing, some are for speaking, some for reading. Ancient Greek music isn’t very well documented: we only have a handful of fragments of musical scores from the time of the game.”

One of those, though, involves Alcaeus’ Through the Storm. “There are two shanties where we can be dead certain that they were sung by choruses, just like in the game: ‘Through the storm’ (‘nai phorimmetha, nai phorimmetha’, ‘we sail with our ship’) and ‘Muse of the forest’. For most of the others we can’t be sure. But the ancient Greeks liked to think of all poetry as ‘singing’, even if only in a metaphorical sense, so it’s totally reasonable to treat all of them as songs.”

Before we wrap things up, I ask Gainsford if he has any favourites from Odyssey’s shanty tracklist. “The composer Giannis Georgantelis did a terrific job with their sound and feel, so they’re all good candidates. Archilochus is one of my favourite poets, and ‘The lost shield’ is so cheeky that it’s hard to resist. But I think actually my favourite has to be ‘Song to Bacchus’ (‘phere kipellon, o pai, phere kipellon pai’, ‘bring the cup, boy!’).”

If you’d like to read more of Gainsford’s translations, you can check them out on his personal site.

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Smartphone Mario Kart Delayed To This Summer In Japan

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When Mario Kart Tour was first announced last year, it was slated for release on Android and iOS sometime before March 2019. Now, in Japan, the smartphone game has been pushed back to summer.

Nintendo of America has yet to announce whether or not the U.S. release has also been delayed. This article will be updated if that announcement is made.

The reasons Nintendo game for the delay was to “improve quality” and “expand the post-release service content.”

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Resident Evil 2 Remake On PC Has A Fantastic Graphics Menu

Resident Evil 2 is getting positive reviews from both critics and fans. I’ve been playing the game and I have to agree with most folks thoughts on the game. The RE2 remake feels like a wonderful mix of classic Resident Evil gameplay and modern Resident Evil mechanics. But I don’t see as many people praising the graphics menu in the PC port of Resident Evil 2. It’s a perfect example of how these types of menus should work and more games should have settings like RE2.

I recently bought a new computer after years of not having a rig that could run modern games. Now I can finally play new releases without my computer buckling and catching on fire. But while I enjoy PC gaming, I’m not as knowledgeable with some of the more technical aspects and terms. I know what Vsync means and how resolutions work. But when a PC game has a setting for something like “Mesh Quality” or “Chromatic Aberration” I usually have to go and check Google for what that means and how it affects the game I’m playing.

Resident Evil 2‘s graphics menu solves this problem and makes it easy for any player to quickly figure out what all these things mean and how they will affect gameplay.

In the settings menu, RE2 shows players screenshots showing how the setting you are changing will alter the game. It is a simple and effective way to show the player what they’re tinkering with. I wasn’t really sure what lens distortion would affect and so I flipped it on and off and I could visually figure it out in a few seconds.

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Another great feature of this menu is all the different bars representing how demanding each setting is. I have a solid video card, but my processor isn’t amazing. So these bars let me balance the game’s settings.

Unfortunately I’m running into a bug that shows I have zero graphics memory, but still seeing the numbers change in real time as I mess with settings helped tremendously.

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Best of all, you can change all of these settings and not have to restart your game. GTA V has a similar graphics menu, but almost every change requires a full restart of the game. Which is annoying. RE2 lets me change stuff on the fly and instantly get back into the action.

Resident Evil 2 isn’t the first game to have a robust and easy to use graphics menu, but far too many PC games seem to ship with limited settings or menus that don’t visually explain what you’re changing.

Hopefully in the future we will see more and more games with robust and useful graphics menus.

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Loot Boxes Are Changing In Fortnite Save The World

Image: Epic Games

The Loot Llamas in Fortnite Save The World are changing and becoming less random. Currently, Loot Llamas work like most other loot boxes: Players buy them and then open the llamas to find out what random items they’ve received. Epic Games has announced that an upcoming update will soon change this process.

In the update, V-Buck Llamas are becoming X-Ray Llamas. Before buying these new X-Ray llamas, players will be able to see exactly what they are going to receive. If players don’t like anything in the llama, they can wait until the next day when the contents inside their llama will change.

This change will also show players if a llama is going to upgrade, which happens randomly and improves the loot inside.

Epic is also taking steps to make sure the contents of these X-Ray Llamas are not filled with duplicate items. For example, if the loot llama was planning on giving you a rare shotgun, the game will try to give you a rare shotgun you don’t already have in your collection book or schematics inventory.

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Other llamas in Save The World, like Mini Llamas and Event Llamas will not be changed into X-Ray Llamas. These loot box changes are only happening in Save The World. Llamas in Fortnite Battle Royale will continue to work the same way they currently do, with no changes.

Loot boxes have become a controversial element in the gaming industry, with many fans and even law makers pushing back against the practice.

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GameStop Is Cancelling Kingdom Hearts 3 PlayStation 4 Pro Orders

Players are saying that their pre-orders for a limited edition, Kingdom Hearts 3-themed PlayStation 4 Pro console are being cancelled by GameStop, and they’re not happy.

In honor of the long-awaited Kingdom Hearts 3, Sony is released a limited edition version of the PlayStation 4 Pro, emblazoned with characters from the series; the special PS4 Pro also comes with a copy of the game. Diehard fans were able to pre-order this console in early December from GameStop, the only retailer where you could buy it in the US and Canada. Now, with only a few more days until release, many fans are saying that their pre-orders are being canceled.

Dozens of players on Reddit and Twitter have said they’ve received an email from GameStop saying their pre-orders were cancelled, and were offered a $25 gift certificate in exchange. GameStop’s customer service Twitter account has been telling players that the item is out of stock and “we will not be receiving any more from Sony.” The account later clarified that GameStop “oversold on pre-orders for the LE Kingdom Hearts 3 PlayStation 4 Pro and, unfortunately, some orders had to be canceled. Guests who had an order canceled will receive a $25 Gift Coupon.”

Kotaku has reached out to GameStop regarding the cancelled pre-orders but did not receive a response in time for publication.

A Kingdom Hearts fan who contacted Kotaku said that they had pre-ordered the Kingdom Hearts 3 PlayStation 4 Pro as a replacement for their current console. “I had an original PS4 and wanted a PS4 Pro. The price of the limited edition was a great price too,” they explained via email. “And I dropped mayo on my PS4 last year so I also needed a replacement.”

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This fan was excited for their copy of Kingdom Hearts 3, as well; they’d been playing Kingdom Hearts since 2002, initially just buying it for the Final Fantasy characters. After playing, they “fell in love” with the game. Having their pre-order cancelled has left them feeling frustrated.

This player had already called customer service and direct messaged the GameStop customer service Twitter. “I do not want store credit nor the refund,” they said. “I’m aiming for my order to be corrected, but all I can do is put pressure in GameStop.”

Update – 5:32pm: GameStop’s statement to Kotaku echoes the message on the customer service Twitter account. “Unfortunately, we did have to cancel a few customer pre-orders of the Limited Kingdom Hearts 3 PlayStation 4 Pro console system due to overselling the number of units we had in our inventory,” a representative for GameStop told Kotaku. “Earlier today we notified those customers impacted, refunded them their money and gave them a $25 GameStop credit for them to use online for their next purchase.”

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