In true Ubisoft fashion, Assassin’s Creed’s 2020 instalment was leaked extensively and consistently over the past year, but recently, the company finally formally unveiled the game themselves. Assassin’s Creed Valhalla launches this Holiday for current-gen and next-gen consoles, in addition to PC and Stadia, and even though we won’t be getting our first look at its gameplay until the Xbox Series X event on May 7, there’s plenty that we already know about it. In this feature, we’ll be going over the fifteen biggest things we’ve learned about the game in these past few days.
Let’s kick things off with the thing that matters most in any Assassin’s Creed game-
The worst kept secret in the industry over the past year was that the next Assassin’s Creed game would be Viking-themed, and that’s now been confirmed for a fact. Assassin’s Creed Odyssey is set in the ninth century during the Viking invasion of Britain. Players will be battling against various Anglo-Saxon kingdoms, with the king of Wessex, Alfred the Great, serving as the primary antagonist.
At the forefront of the Vikings’ assault on Britain will be Eivor, the Viking raider who will serve as Assassin’s Creed Valhalla’s protagonist. Unlike Odyssey, Valhalla will only let you play as a single protagonist, though you will be able to choose Eivor’s gender, while several customization options for hair, tattoos, and more will also be featured. Eagle Vision will also be making a return, but this time, Eivor’s companion will be a raven, appropriately enough for a Viking warrior, rather than an eagle.
PRESENT DAY STORYLINE
The present day storyline will also continue in Assassin’s Creed Valhalla, to no one’s surprise, while Origins and Odyssey’s Layla Hassan will once more return as the protagonist in that part of the storyline. Layla has been perhaps the worst part of Assassin’s Creed as long as she’s been around, so here’s hoping her character sees some much-needed improvements. Meanwhile, the larger present day storyline itself saw some pretty major and interesting developments in Odyssey and its expansions, so it should be interesting to see how that continues.
The biggest and most interesting new mechanic that Valhalla is introducing is settlement building- upon landing in England, Eivor and his or her followers will set up a settlement that will serve as your central homestead throughout the game. This settlement will act as a central hub of sorts, with quests, storylines, and more centring around it. What’s really interesting is that the settlement will also have some pretty major customization and expansion mechanics attached. For instance, you’ll be able to add new buildings and recruit more people to your Viking village, and as per the developer, each new building will serve a purpose, and so, too, will each new recruit.
CHOICE AND CONSEQUENCE MECHANICS
Choice and consequence mechanics and dialogue options were the biggest changes Ubisoft introduced to the Assassin’s Creed formula in 2018 with Odyssey, and Valhalla will be carrying that forward. What’s interesting is that a lot of the big decisions you make will tie in with your aforementioned settlement. For instance, the alliances you forge or the relationships that build between clans as a result of your actions will be reflected in the settlement. Speaking in an interview with Eurogamer, lead producer Julien Laferrière had this to say: “It’s at the centre of our quests and the centre of the decisions you make. We want players to see the consequences of their actions.”
Assassin’s Creed games never shy away from delivering gargantuan open world environments to players, and we can probably expect that to be the case with Valhalla as well. While the specifics haven’t yet been discussed, and though Ubisoft haven’t yet revealed every single location in the game, they have revealed some interesting details. Speaking in an interview with Game Informer, creative director Ashraf Ismail (who also directed Origins and Black Flag) said that the map is “quite large”, and will cover large swathes of Norway and England. Though the game will begin in Norway, the meat of it is set in England (though players will be able to return to Norway whenever they want, of course). The England map will cover four kingdoms: Wessex, Northumbria, East Anglia, and Mercia. Within these, there will be at least three major cities to visit, confirmed to be London, Winchester, and Jórvík. In addition to that, there will also be various smaller towns.
It also looks like Assassin’s Creed Valhalla will have a different take on progression mechanics than the pure numbers game that dominated proceedings in Odyssey. Speaking with Game Informer in the aforementioned interview, Ismail said that progression in Valhalla is less about levels and more about your power, which, in turn, is defined by the skills that you’ve unlocked.
“As part of our fresh take on the RPG elements and progression, I would say it’s less about levels and it’s more about the sense of power,” he said. “Based on the skills you have, you gain power. That’s how we look at that mechanism in the world; it’s really about your capacities and what you can do. Yes, there is a rating that is given, which encompasses at some point your gear as well. But it’s really about the skills you’ve learned, what you can do, and that value is rated. So it’s a sense of power rather than levels.”
The excessive grind of Odyssey that more or less forced players to undertake side activities and side quests was one of the most commonly criticized elements of the game when it launched in 2018, but it seems Valhalla will be making amends in that area. In an interview with Press Start, Ismail said that with Valhalla, Ubisoft’s goal is “to just let players play the content they want.”
“We want players to play the content as they wish to play it,” he said. “That’s the way the game is being balanced. So, people want to focus on narrative, there’s no issue there, people want to focus on their settlement, again, no issue there. It’s really up to players to decide how they want to consume the content. That’s always been our angle and again, this, we’re showcasing Eivos’ personal journey, we’re really focused on that. So again, if people want to focus on that personal journey and the relationships that come out of that they can do that.”
For the last few years, Assassin’s Creed has been making improvements to combat with each new instalment, and that trend looks set to continue with Valhalla. Based on everything the developers have said, it looks like they understand that good combat is going to be crucial in any game that claims to be about Vikings. Ubisoft are promising brutal, visceral, and more impactful combat that will continue to build on the improvements made by its recent predecessors. One way they claim to have done so is with better enemy variety, and enemies that will make use of the environment and work with each other to bring you down.
One particular change that Valhalla will be making to combat that has been revealed is dual wielding. Yes, you will be able to dual wield weapons in Assassin’s Creed Valhalla, and according to Ubisoft, you’ll be able to do that with just about every single weapon in the game. Axes, swords, maces- hell, you’ll even be able to dual wield shields (and yes, shields are back).
Oh, and speaking of things that are back…
When you think Assassin’s Creed, you immediately think of the iconic Hidden Blade. After having been missing in Assassin’s Creed Odyssey, the beloved weapon will be coming back in Valhalla, as was confirmed in the game’s reveal trailer. How this will play into the story remains to be seen, but it’s certainly something to look forward to for all fans of the series. The trailer also revealed that Eivor wears the Hidden Blade on the top side of his wrist, which is the opposite of how Hidden Blades have also been worn, and whether or not that in particular has a narrative explanation will also be interesting to see.
Barring some exceptions here and there, naval gameplay has been a pretty big part of Assassin’s Creed games ever since it was first introduced in AC3– and it will be making a return in Valhalla as well. Just don’t expect it to be as much of a focus as it was in Odyssey or Black Flag. Eivor will have a longship that will have its own crew (which you’ll be able to recruit people to), but while the ship will be used for plenty of exploration, naval combat won’t be much of a focus this time around.
RAIDS AND ASSAULTS
Players will come across various military locations across the entire England map in Assassin’s Creed Valhalla, and being the Viking that Eivor is, you will be able to raid every single one of them. Through these raids, you will be able to bring back more resources to upgrade your settlement, better weapons to help against more powerful foes, and more. Players will also be able to attack giant fortifications, and according to the developers, these “incredible battles” will be “big set-piece moments that are wrapped up in the narrative.”
XBOX SERIES X INFO
Third party publishers often tend to release their games as cross-gen titles during console generation transitions, and given that Ubisoft have already said that that’s what they’ll be doing with all of their upcoming major releases for the foreseeable future, it’s no surprise that Assassin’s Creed Valhalla will also be available on PS5 and Xbox Series X. As far as the latter is confirmed, some details have already emerged. On the Xbox Series X, the game will run at a 4K resolution, while it will also support Microsoft’s Smart Delivery cross-buy program- which means that if you buy the game for Xbox One, you automatically get the Xbox Series X version as well (and vice versa).
Starting with The Division 2 in 2019, Ubisoft pledged their support for the Epic Games Store, and every game they’ve released since then has been available on PC only through it and their own Uplay. Assassin’s Creed Valhalla will also be skipping Steam, and will only be available to buy for PC on the Epic Games Store and Uplay.