Welcome to the World of Assassin’s Creed: Valhalla

Valhalla FTR

Assassin’s Creed: Valhalla was a secret to absolutely no one. The years of fan hype surrounding the concept of exploring the Viking Age became too much for Ubisoft to ignore, particularly with their latest releases Origins and Odyssey taking on the more voguish set pieces. This announcement, however, marks a new benchmark for the series with it being the first Assassin’s Creed title officially announced for the next-gen consoles Xbox Series X and Playstation 5. It seems forever ago but Ubisoft made a similar move by launching Assassins Creed IV: Black Flag as a flagship (intentional) title for the PS4 and Xbox One in 2013. The game would, later on, be recognized as a pivotal title for Ubisoft’s transition into the 8th console generation, paving the way for the later, more ambitious titles such as the ill-fated AC: Unity.

By using Black Flag as a reference point we can make the educated assumption that AC: Valhalla plans to make similar waves, only now, the series focal point has shifted into a games-as-a-service model. This means fans can anticipate a plethora of DLC, exclusive content, and the beloved Helix credits all over again. This isn’t all doom and gloom however, as high-quality content came from the DLC of both Origins and Odyssey alike.

Assassin’s Creed: Valhalla – World Premier Trailer

After releasing a gorgeous trailer, packed with gory confrontations and cool Easter eggs, Ubisoft announced that Assassin’s Creed: Valhalla will be launching on PC (Uplay, Epic, Ubisoft Store, and Stadia), Xbox Series X, Playstation 5, Xbox One, and Playstation 4. The anticipated release date is Holiday 2020, perhaps aligning with the eventual announcement of the PS5 and XBSX release dates. In the trailer, we take a dive into the life of a Viking named Eivor, a ninth-century raider with a mean streak and the coolest “Jedi Braid” I’ve ever seen. We see him leading an army of ax-wielding Vikings arriving on English land on Longships (Viking warships… Basically). Prior to arriving, their ship endures hails of enemy arrows, hoping to impede their advance (spoiler: they fail). Upon shore arrival, we see Vikings charge forth upon their English combatants hurling spears and lopping heads with heaving 2-handed battle axes. We see death, we see glory, and it is all fabulous of course.

What caught my attention from this battle was the raven flying above, with Eivor proclaiming Odin’s presence on the battlefield. This is no surprise, as Viking culture is directly associated with North Mythology, with Scandinavian’s being regarded as Nordic people. Yet, anyone familiar with Assassin’s Creed knows that the eagle is heavily involved with the franchise, either in-game or in AC marketing. I anticipate that the Raven shown will serve as the “eagle” in this game, perhaps even allowing players to control it directly as we’ve seen in Origins and Odyssey. The seamless integration of lore and gameplay mechanics into a cinematic trailer deserves praise if I’m indeed correct. Towards the end of the trailer, we see Eivor challenged by a giant combatant, with a coat of mail and a claymore sword in tow. Eivor’s arsenal proves no match to the more advanced Anglo-Saxon weaponry and armor, thus, he is nearly killed by the hulking man. Thankfully he isn’t, and with a surprise reveal of the iconic hidden blade, Eivor kills his enemy with barely a moment to spare.

Assassin’s Creed: Valhalla won’t be Ubisoft’s first stab at creating Vikings in video games. The most recent example is their 2017 fighter/arena-based brawler title For Honor, a game that pits Vikings against Samurai and Knights in a perpetual struggle for land. The lore in For Honor is admittedly silly, so I don’t expect it to bare many similarities. Yet, the title demonstrates Ubisoft Montreal’s familiarity with the Norse ties to Viking culture, and more importantly, prove they can capture the fun fantasy in BEING a Viking.

Valhalla’s Features

Assassin’s Creed titles have never been short of things to do, Valhalla will seek to turn this up a notch. Ubisoft confirmed the game will be brimming with content, with familiar features returning mixed with mechanics new to the series. Character customization is going to be a highlight here, with the ability to choose Eivor’s gender (Kassandra mains rejoice!), tattoos, and even hairstyle. In addition to customizing their own character, Ubisoft boasts a twist on the mercenary mechanic introduced in Assassin’s Creed: Origins that is fused with character customization. Valhalla will allow players to not only create their own mercenary but share them into other player’s worlds to be recruited. As a fan of meta-game mechanics, I’m thrilled by this news. Ubisoft Montreal is masterful at implementing such features, as we’ve seen with their recent AC titles. Here’s to hoping this content can be shared across platforms and console generations!

The new AC titles have relished in their emphasis on RPG mechanics and Valhalla will be no different. Character customization is slowly becoming a series staple, and it appears Valhalla will take the series to new heights with its base building as well. AC Valhalla looks to reintroduce settlement building, an activity prominently featured in Assassin’s Creed: III. While Eivor isn’t pillaging and raiding he (or she) can use his time investing resources in town structures, improving key locations such as the blacksmith, barracks, or even adding a tattoo parlor. The upgrades not only serve to bolster attributes and statistical figures but also as cosmetic/visual enhancements. Players will see noticeable improvements to their settlement as they continue to invest resources into their land and structures.

The Lore

The central campaign in Origins and Odyssey had relatively grounded approaches to the mythology surrounding their story elements. It’s in the additional side quests and DLC where players were able to go full-on wacky and fight bosses like Anubis or mythical creatures such as Minotaurs. The prospect of taking on figures such as Fenrir or Thor intrigues me and can be a selling point in itself. While I generally consider myself a fan of the more historical approach Assassin Creed attempts to make, I don’t mind going off the rails every now and again.

The story, as described by Ubisoft, takes on a dark age in an open world environment. Eivor and his Viking companions will be at war with King Alfred of Wessex, a character based on the historic figure of the same name. Exploration is described to be completely open, allowing players to travel from Norway or England whenever they choose. Regarding player outcomes, they can make choices that splinter them in several directions, with their actions being consequential to the world around them. Returning from Assassin’s Creed: Odyssey are dialog choices that have an impact on the player and the world’s inhabitants. In addition to improved dialog segments, Valhalla will allow players to make strategic alliances that aim to include diplomatic elements to balance the combat. Ubisoft has not gone into detail on diplomacy but if it is anything similar to tactics included in games such as the Total War series then I’m completely sold on the idea.

Assassin’s Creed: Valhalla will be the first title of a new era for Ubisoft, as well as open-world RPGs. We’ll get our first taste of how much of an improvement the new consoles will bring to gaming, with Ubisoft referencing reduced load times as a focal point. Assassin’s Creed: Valhalla is expected to launch Holiday 2020 but players will be able to get their hands on the Season Pass and Pre-ordered copies today. This gives me plenty of time to get the platinum trophy in the lengthy Assassin’s Creed: Odyssey before then.

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