The Rise of Assassin's Creed to Valhalla
Markuz, April 30th, 2020
Translated by: Markuz & Stefania

The news is out and it’s finally official! After months of rumors, Ubisoft has finally announced a new Assassin’s Creed game, called Assassin’s Creed Valhalla! Slated to be released in the Holiday 2020 window on Xbox Series X, Xbox One, PlayStation®5, PlayStation®4, Epic Games, Uplay & Stadia, the game will take place during the Viking Age and more specifically in the 9th century A.D., during the Viking invasion of England. Developed by Ubisoft Montréal along with the support of 14 other studios, as might be expected from such a setting, the game will have a darker, grittier and more brutal tone compared to the other games of the franchise, but in turn it will be more grounded in reality too.

After the teaser stream and the CGI trailer, fans were finally able to have an idea of what the game will be about and when it’s going to be set along with a first look at its protagonist. With this article we are going to try and complement the releases with a brief journey through some more in-depth information about the inner workings and features of the game, in order to get you up to speed about the new Triple A project of the Assassin’s Creed franchise.

Keep your eyes peeled, you don’t want to miss any of this!

1 – The Development Team
2 – The Setting
3 – Our Hero
4 – The Fighting System
5 – The Settlement
6 – Raids and Assault
7 – Eivor's Raven
8 – The Mercenary Vikings
9 – Social Stealth
10 – The Hidden Blade

1 – The Development Team

At the time of writing this article there hasn’t been a full disclosure of the entire team working on the game, which mainly lays its roots in the team behind Assassin’s Creed Origins, but what we can surely confirm is that at its helm is Creative Director Ashraf Ismail, former Game Director on Assassin’s Creed IV: Black Flag and Assassin’s Creed Origins.

Alongside with him, one of the fan favorite legendary Lead Writers of the Assassin’s Creed franchise will be making a comeback. In fact, after several years and as some fans have been hypothesizing or hoping for quite some time, Darby McDevitt
(Assassin's Creed: Revelations, Assassin's Creed IV: Black Flag, Assassin's Creed: Embers) will be back as part of the dev team of Assassin’s Creed Valhalla, in the position of Narrative Director. Yes, it’s true, you are not dreaming this.

Another comeback in the development team is Julien Laferrière, with the role of Producer for the game. Laferrière previously worked on Assassin's Creed II, Assassin's Creed Brotherhood, Assassin's Creed 3 and Assassin's Creed Origins.

Those who are more interested instead in the visuals and art elements of the games will be happy to know that Raphael Lacoste will make a comeback as Art Director. If you loved the visual approach of games such as the first Assassin’s Creed and the subsequent chapters Revelations, Black Flag and Origins, you’ll probably be in for a treat once more. Stick around this article and follow our social media as more developers working on Valhalla will be announced!

2 – The Setting

The game will take place during the so-called Viking Age, a period in history where the Scandinavians, often referred to as Vikings or Norsemen, expanded their settlements and influence throughout Europe. As such, and as mentioned by Wikipedia, the Viking Age applies not only to the Vikings’ homeland of Scandinavia, but to “any place significantly settled by Scandinavians during the period”, which is something that is going to be represented in the game too.

In fact, players will start their adventure in Norway before leaving and then moving to England to witness the invasion of the country (or, more specifically, of the Anglo-Saxon kingdoms that constituted England at the time) which took place in the late 9th century.

Because of this, players will find a stark contrast from the cold and snowy Scandinavian areas hit by continuous wars (keep an eye out to witness the Northern Lights / Aurora Borealis!) to the lush and rich English landscapes made up of forests, rivers and plains, all scattered with castles outside of the more obvious urban areas.

As you might know the saying though, all that glitters isn’t gold. England in the Dark Ages was made up of several broken kingdoms which were not willing to allow any invading force or any raider to settle in their lands. The four kingdoms we will see in the game will be East Anglia, Northumbria, Mercia and Wessex. This did not stop the Vikings from reaching the territory with their ships and successfully attempting to invade the region through several brutal battles. Whilst the earliest recorded planned Viking raid took place on January 6th, 793 A.D., targeting the monastery of Lindisfarne off the north-east coast of the Northumbria region (AC lore nerds will remember this as being indirectly mentioned in Assassin’s Creed Rogue), Assassin’s Creed Valhalla takes place much later than that, in a land that has already been raided by Vikings for several decades.

King Alfred the Great
It’s within this political context that the game – as it’s now a tradition for every Assassin’s Creed release - will feature many historical characters, one of which will be King Alfred The Great, the first king of England (or, more accurately, the King of Wessex from 871 to 886 A.D. and subsequently King of the Anglo-Saxons from 886 to 899 A.D.). At this point we don’t know a lot of information about him in the game, but it is historically confirmed that as a monarch, he spent several years fighting Viking invasions, obtaining a decisive victory in the Battle of Edington in 878 A.D.. After this battle, he made an agreement with the Vikings, creating what was known as the Danelaw, the historical name given to the part of England in which the laws of the Danes (another name for the Vikings) held sway over those of the Anglo-Saxons.

Map of England in 878 A.D.,
depicting the Danelaw territory
Source: Hel-hama on Wikimedia Common
Alfred The Great reigned as King of Wessex from 871 to 886 A.D. and as King of the Anglo-Saxons from 886 to 899 A.D., so that might also help us assuming and narrowing down the period where Assassin’s Creed Valhalla takes place.

Another historical character that might appear in the game (we’re moving to the realm of conjectures here) could be King Ælla of Northumbria. According to the Anglo-Saxon Chronicles and the Norse sagas as well, Ælla is mentioned to have captured the legendary Swedish-Danish Viking leader Ragnar Lodbrok (another potential appearance in the game?) and put him to death in a pit of snakes. Wikipedia states that the historical invasion of Northumbria in 866 occurred in retaliation for Ragnar's execution, according to the Ragnarssona þáttr ("The Tale of Ragnar's Sons"). Whilst Norse sources claim that Ragnar's sons tortured Ælla to death by the so-called “Blood Eagle” method, Anglo-Saxon accounts actually maintain that he died in battle at York on March 21st, 867 A.D..

Lastly, another potential occurrence in the game could be that of the so-called Great Heathen Army, a group of originally uncoordinated bands of Vikings, which was then led by Ivar the Boneless and Halfdan Ragnarsson, and ultimately joined together to form a large army and made land in East Anglia in 865 A.D.. This army was able to raid England for over ten years, even capturing major cities like York.

Once again, we are going to have to wait and see if any of these conjectures will turn out to be true!

Within these environments and this political and historical backgrounds, players will also be able to have a look at the nature of the conflict between the Assassins and the Templars at the time or, to use their proper name in-game, the Hidden Ones and the Order of the Ancients (the same organizations that were introduced with Assassin’s Creed Origins). More specifically, Eivor will meet the Hidden Ones early in the game, and that will be when they obtain their Hidden Blade... so fans will need to keep an eye out for that.

3 – Our Hero

At the heart of the story of Assassin’s Creed Valhalla lies our main protagonist, Eivor. A name that, according to our research, derives from the Old Norse name “Eyvor” and should mean either “luck in the spring, spring lucky” or “defender, vigilant”. In Old Norse mythology Eyvor was also a character linked to the deity Þórr (whom we know more commonly as Thor).

BossLogic's Art

In Assassin’s Creed Valhalla, much like in Assassin’s Creed Odyssey, players will be able to choose to play both as a male version of Eivor and a female version of the character. As for the narrative justifications for that, fans will probably have to wait a bit…

Eivor will be a Viking raider and brutal warrior that was raised on tales of honor and glory that, as mentioned earlier, will be driven away from Norway because of the wars taking place in the area and the scarcity of resources. They won’t leave the country alone though, as they will lead a clan of Norse men towards England with the objective of settling down and finding a more permanent home.

It won’t be an easy task though, as we said earlier. England will be a hostile land for Eivor (as it was for any other Viking raider) and settling down will require building alliances, raiding enemies, building up political power and even focusing on growing Eivor’s settlement itself. All of this will have a heavy gameplay component within the game, as we’ll see further along the article.

The game will also delve into the Viking’s day-to-day life and culture, more prominently with the settlement, but also through specific activities that the player might get involved into, such as hunting, fishing, and even drinking contests.

Eivor will also have a longship that he/she will be able to use as they please throughout most rivers in England and even our at sea.

An example of the more grounded approach of this game is that even if you choose to play as female Eivor, this will still make sense historically, as whilst the historical existence and generalized appearance of shield-maidens is heavily debated to this day, there are both accounts and proof that there were instances of them.

One of the questions that fans might ask the most after playing the last entry of the franchise (Odyssey) is about whether the element of choice might return in this game. So, yes, it is confirmed that choices will be back in Assassin’s Creed Valhalla – and honestly it was too much of a popular feature amongst most players for it to not make a comeback. As in Odyssey, the choices and decisions you make will have both minor and major impacts (such as making specific political alliances), and they will influence the world around the player.

An example of character customization

As expected, there will also be cosmetic and customization choices throughout the game, along with the return of skills and equipment. Lastly, the game will also provide ways to customize how the main character looks, as we’ll see later.

4 – The Fighting System

As you can guess, considering the setting and the main character of Assassin’s Creed Valhalla, the fighting system will be one of the cornerstones of the game and will also have a specific tone to it. It will be visceral and intense. Also, aligning to the RPG aspect of the game, it will allow the players to choose their own combat strategy.

The Visceral combat in Assassin’s Creed Valhalla
(Snow deformation will be back in the game!)

More specifically, you can expect axes, swords and even morning stars, maces and spears to be some of the main types of weapons, but shields will make a comeback as well, after being a prominent element in the fighting strategy in Assassin’s Creed Origins.

As a further refinement, players will now be able to dual wield any kind of one-handed weapon that the game will provide. This will surely add an element of strategy in the stats management, but more importantly it will add variety and depth to the fighting sequences themselves. Thus, will you decide to go all out berserker with two swords or two axes? Or maybe you prefer a more “considerate” approach with a shield and an axe?

That will be entirely up to the player. It will be even possible to hold two shields at a time, if you believe that’s the proper approach!

The viciousness of the fighting system will not stop at that, though. In fact, the game will also allow players to dismember and even behead enemies. Thus we will see if Valhalla will be able to rise to the mantle of being the most brutal game of the franchise in terms of combat scenes.

5 – The Settlement

As mentioned earlier, once Eivor and their clan of Norsemen reach England, they will try and settle down and this will have a strong gameplay significance.

In fact, the settlement will act as the player and Eivor’s home, a place where they can interact with characters, create and upgrade buildings and even manage their alliances.

Players will also be able to recruit Clan members during their adventures, providing Eivor and the settlement itself with new opportunities which, according to the game’s presentation, “will really personalize your Viking experience”.

The settlement will also provide unlockable upgrades, both gameplay and progression based as well as cosmetically too. Among the former ones will be the buildings and activities held in them. For example, it will be possible to build the Blacksmith, which will in turn provide upgrades to the player’s equipment and weapons. Fans of the cosmetic visuals in games will have the chance to build a Tattoo Parlor which will allow them to customize Eivor’s hair, tattoos, war paint and beard. In addition, players will also have the chance to build barracks, which we currently can only guess might have a cosmetic significance but potentially might also work as a protective defence of the settlement itself.

In general, at least for what concerns the settlement, it seems to us that Valhalla might try and give Red Dead Redemption 2 a run for its money. We’ll see how that challenge pans out.

6 – Raids and Assaults

It wouldn’t be a proper Viking experience without them, so raids and castle assaults will be part of the game in a prominent way. In this kind of activity players will get the chance to raid Saxon troops, fortresses and location targets, some of which can be approached through the rivers via their longship.
And in case you were wondering, yes, you will be able to sound your horn during the raids.

A similar version of the raids, called Assaults, will actually see the player engage in this kind of activities as part narrative based content. In this case, the raid might even lead to huge battles of a similar size to that shown in the CGI trailer.

7 – Eivor's Raven

As of now there are multiple assets that have shown a specific raven flying close to our main hero. This is pure assumption at this point, but it wouldn’t surprise us if the bird’s view or “Eagle Vision” from Assassin’s Creed Origins and Odyssey had been reorganized and repurposed for Valhalla. Controlling our bird companion has been a hugely popular mechanic in the past years so, if true, this will no doubt be a well received piece of news for many fans.

8 – The Mercenary Vikings

Sticking with the theme of customization, along with the Tattoo Parlor and the Barber Shop activities, which we already mentioned, the game will feature the so-called Mercenary Vikings.

In Assassin’s Creed Valhalla, these mercenaries will have a... pretty practical and gameplay related significance. In fact, the game will allow players to create and customize their own Viking mercenary/raider, the Mercenary Viking in question, in order to recruit them in their clan and share them online with their friends so that they can use them during their own raids (this is one of the various online components coupled to Valhalla’s single player nature).

9 - Social Stealth

That’s it. That’s all we need to say. Fans have been waiting for this feature to make a comeback since 2015, when it was last seen in the main games of the franchise with Assassin’s Creed Syndicate.

Not a lot of information has been shared about how social stealth will work within the game, but Creative Director Ashraf Ismail did confirm in an interview with Jorraptor that the feature will be back in Valhalla and that should be enough for long term fans to be hyped up about the game, especially if they are invested in the stealth side of it.

10 – The Hidden Blade

How could we not finish the article the same way that the reveal trailer for the game ended? As you all might have seen from the

trailer and from the variation of the Bosslogic keyart released by the Ubisoft Montreal social media accounts, Eivor wears a Hidden Blade and is able to use it. Thus, yes, hidden blade assassinations will be back in the game and will be part of the core experience.

This not only officially sanctions the return of the iconic Assassin weapon, but also opens up a wide array of questions to speculate on.

For example, how did Eivor get their hands on the Hidden Blade? Did they come into contact with the Assassins or Templars of the time, or did they find it through other means or interactions?

What does the return of the Hidden Blade mean for the stealth sequences of the game? Can we expect a more traditional approach or at least something similar to what was shown in Assassin’s Creed Origins? Jorraptor did report the return of the hood which can be toggled up and downas the player feels like.

Lastly, the blade is still appearing over the wrist of its user and not under it. What will this mean for our main charcater?

And that was it for our current Assassin’s Creed Valhalla preview. We hope you enjoyed the first load of information on the newest chapter of the franchise. We couldn’t wait to share it with you!

We also know that all this information will no doubt raise many more questions than even the ones we suggested, so why don’t you share with us your first reactions you have about the game?

What do you think about the setting, the new main character or the new mechanics? Are you hyped about the game or are you still cautious about it?

Let us know in the comments!

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