Everything we learned today
Ubisoft formally revealed the next Assassin’s Creed title today with one hell of a cinematic trailer, but there’s more information available than simply a first look at the new game. There’s a bunch of details about Valhalla that Ubisoft has dispersed in various places. You just have to do a bit of digging to find it.
Accompanying the trailer, Ubisoft released this 20-minute commentary breakdown that dissects every scene. Here’s the Cliff Notes version, along with some additional tidbits that we rounded up from other sources.
- Ashraf Ismail is the creative director. If that name sounds familiar, it’s because he was also the creative director on Assassin’s Creed IV: Black Flag and the director on Assassin’s Creed Origins — two of the most-beloved Assassin’s Creed games.
- Settlements are a theme that Ismail brought up over and over again. The main motivation of protagonist Eivor is the idea of building a thriving settlement in a new land.
- You can choose whether to play as a male or female Eivor. Elsewhere, Ubisoft says “Sagas and myths from Norse society are full of tough female characters and warriors. It was part of their idea of the world, that women and men are equally formidable in battle, and that’s something that Assassin’s Creed Valhalla will reflect.”
- The ceremony toward the beginning of the trailer is a ritual where the Vikings pay tribute to the gods, this one being in honor of Odin. The Vikings believed that offering sacrifices to the gods before battle would curry favor. Narrative director Darby McDevitt notes that Norse gods are more human-like in that they needed to be swayed.
- Back to settling, McDevitt says that Assassin’s Creed Valhalla isn’t just about raiding foreign lands, but about integrating into new places too. “What we’re going to portray in this game is that it’s not just about brutality and violence and wanton masochism. There’s a lot of thought that goes into these battles, where the Norse settle, and the alliances they make.”
- Assassin’s Creed Valhalla starts in the year 873. While, a big part of the game has to do with invading England, it’s worth noting that England didn’t exist as we know it today. Instead, it was a fractured land with many different kings that ruled over different parts.
- The settlement systems will show a lot of Viking life that isn’t just warriors. We’ll see farmers, traders, settlers, etc. It’s mentioned that we, as leaders, make decisions about how to grow our settlement, but that broad concept wasn’t elaborated upon at all.
- Here’s a fun fact that I thought was interesting: McDevitt explains that a lot of the history of the Vikings comes from the Saxons who had writings and records because of the church. Archaeologically, those are some of the best references for how the Vikings integrated themselves. If you see a current-day map of England and a town ends in the suffix -thorpe or -by, that’s probably a Norse town. Hundreds of these exist, so we know that they were prolific settlers.
- Longships were a technology that was unique to the Norse and Danes in this time period. Ismail says it’s akin to having a Ferrari on an empty highway. They’d hit and run enemy ships, raid their cargo, and get away extremely quickly. Extrapolating from this explanation, we can set expectations for what naval combat probably looks like in Valhalla.
- Ismail also made a distinction between raid and battle systems. Raiding is about hitting a town, creating chaos and making people flee, and plundering whatever you can get away with. Battles, however, are large-scale open conflicts against the Saxons — most likely an adaptation of Assassin’s Creed Odyssey‘s warring factions system. “It was a really big part of the history during this time so we needed to represent that,” Ismail says.
- Dual-wielding is prominently featured. You can dual-wield pretty much any combination of items that you want. Two axes, a sword and an axe, two shields — go nuts.
- Speaking of weaponry, the game’s pre-order page mentions “advanced RPG mechanics,” “acquiring new skills and gear,” and “[making] choices in combat and conversation.” Given those descriptions, it seems like Valhalla will be extremely similar to Assassin’s Creed Odyssey in terms of structure.
- You can build a tattoo parlor in your settlement. Is that important? Very.
- Back to combat, Ismail comments “If you’re going to make a Viking game, the combat needs to be visceral. It needs to be brutal. Yes, you meet quite impressive enemies.” He’s referring to the big sonuvabitch in the trailer who’s called a Ringleader. These enemy types rally troops, have unique capabilities, and are extremely armored with very few weak points.
- Ah, Eivor found a weak point!
- That’s our old friend the hidden blade, a telltale sign that you’re playing an Assassin’s Creed game. Ismail explains “We’re building a Viking fantasy… but this is within the Assassin’s Creed world. In our journey, Eivor meets with Assassins even though he doesn’t necessarily know what that means. There is some common ground and these are people that Eivor will work with. At some point, Eivor receives a hidden blade, and that’s something that happens quite early on.” Ismail abstained from explaining any further because he didn’t want to reveal why the connection between the Assassins and the Vikings exists.
- Assassin’s Creed Valhalla is a launch title on PlayStation 5 and Xbox Series X. It’ll also be out holiday 2020 on PC (on the Epic Games Store and Uplay), PS4, Stadia, and Xbox One. However, it isn’t confirmed whether the current-gen and next-gen release dates are simultaneous. Assuming PS5 and Xbox Series X don’t launch on the same day, we’ll likely have a situation like Assassin’s Creed IV: Black Flag in 2013 where current-gen releases early and then the next-gen counterparts come a little while later.
- That’s mostly a moot point for Xbox users because Valhalla is confirmed to make use of the Smart Delivery feature which runs an upgraded version of the game when it’s played on Series X hardware. That’s a free upgrade that automatically applies depending on which console you’re using. The Xbox cross-save ecosystem should mean that starting Valhalla on Xbox One before moving to Series X will give you the next-gen version at no additional cost and carry your progress over.
- Lastly, we’ll get to see more very soon. On May 7, Xbox is hosting a stream where it’s finally showing Xbox Series X gameplay. Assassin’s Creed Valhalla will be prominently featured as a part of that.