Assassin’s Creed Valhalla was officially revealed yesterday ahead of a CGI trailer that’s dropped right now. Luckily, Stevivor was also able to chat with Ubisoft Montreal’s Darby McDevitt, Narrative Director on Valhalla, to learn more about the game.
We’ll get to what we know so far, but first, here’s the game’s cinematic world premiere trailer:
Eivor is Assassin’s Creed Valhalla’s protagonist
Valhalla’s progatonist, Eivor, is clan leader to a group of Norwegian Vikings and their family. Similar (but not) to Ubisoft Quebec’s Assassin’s Creed Odyssey, you’ll be able to choose the gender of your main character, though male or female, that will be Eivor.
“It was important for us to have a coherent character in terms of personality, so Eivor has a personality that’s within a spectrum,” McDevitt told us. “We really wanted to define a character that has a set of personality traits. But yes, you can play as male or female, and there’s narrative reasons for that.
“But what’s important to know, these aren’t two characters that exist at the same time in the game. It is one character, but through Assassin’s Creed lore and magic, we actually have a really interesting way of justifying the choice to make it narratively coherent, no matter what choice you make.”
Go homo: Eivor can have homosexual romances
Assassin’s Creed Odyssey marked the first time that the franchise truly offered homosexual romances to players — albeit with a small setback via DLC — and McDevitt confirmed that will continue with Valhalla.
“Yeah — there’s a lot of romances to have that can be found all over the map,” he said, “and you can choose how to approach them any way you see fit.”
Assassin’s Creed Valhalla’s setting and time period
Valhalla will start in 9th Century Norway and will see Eivor and his clan depart to build a better life in England.
“The inciting incidents all happen in Norway,” McDevitt stressed, “but the bulk of the game is set in England, I’ll say that.”
That central narrative core forms one of the big new features of Valhalla: the establishment and defense of Viking settlements once within England.
“One of the big features of the game, one of the big narrative impulses as well is to create a settlement, so we have a settlement feature where you create a settlement in a specific part of England,” McDevitt continued. “You spend the majority of the game as one, let’s say, storyline, trying to build that up into a permanent place.”
You’ll sail Viking longships inside England
While you won’t actively be sailing a Viking longship from Norway to England, you’ll certainly make use of the vessel once at your destination.
“The emphasis with the longships, as a mechanic and as a feature in our game, is very important,” McDevitt said. “It’s for getting up rivers and sailing across lakes, and using them to raid and to explore, to take your crew deeper and deeper into England.
“It’s quite different than Black Flag, which is all about the open ocean and things. These are what you call river horses. They’re really meant for travelling inland, and we try to use that to the greatest effect in this game. There’s all kinds of ways you can use the longship to get where you want to go, and bring your crew with you. But no, it’s not about open sea travel. Even though that that was the technology the Vikings used to get across the water, what the Viking longships were really best at was swift and speedy travel up river.”
Valhalla’s settlements are very important
Not only are Valhalla’s settlements important in-game, they’re important in the real-world as well.
“This is historically grounded — taken from historical fact — in that in the 870s, huge amounts of Norse Danes and Swedes all came over to England — especially from Norway — because there was a political situation,” he said. “There was a king who was taking over there. He drove a lot of people out. This is the same time that Iceland was discovered, because people were just being driven out of Norway. We are part of that exodus, our clan.
“So within a very short period of decades, the Vikings settled and created settlements,” McDevitt continued. “In fact, if you look up the number of settlements — especially in the North of England around the area of York and in East Anglia and stuff — that ends in “-thorp” or “-by”, like Grimsby or whatever, that’s a Norse town, that’s a Danish town, because “-thorp” and “-by” meant a village or a hamlet.
“There’s 200 or 300 of these in England still existing, so through the archaeological record you can already see that the Vikings left a massive imprint on the country in a very short period of time as settlers, not just invaders or pillagers.”
Invading and pillaging is important too
Settlement are great and all, but so is beating someone to death with an axe.
“When we first started this game many years ago, the goal was to make the ultimate Viking experience fantasy,” McDevitt said. “We know that a lot of games have dabbled in, let’s say, Norse mythology or Viking accoutrement, but what would it be like to actually live as a Viking, experience the daily life as a Viking, to go through the whole process of being in that culture? Definitely building a settlement is actually not what people probably think of when they think of Vikings.”
See? Ubisoft Montreal gets it.
“We have to do the things that people think of: axes,” he continued. “You get on a longship, you go somewhere, you raid, you steal stuff as quickly as possible, you get out; hit and run tactics, that kind of thing. Whereas pirates were lawless criminals just trying to survive on the open ocean, Norse were actually stealing for survival because the culture, the place where they came from, was incredibly harsh.
“[Northern] Norway is barren and cold and desolate. You can immediately get a sense of why they would send people out to go gather stuff and bring it back, harvesting riches. We want to give you that experience too. As you move to England, and as you become friends and allies with the locals, you have more and more responsibilities.
“We definitely have the classic Viking feeling of raiding, brutal combat; a culture that values honour. It’s not about virtue. With these gods and this culture, it’s not about sin and virtue; it’s about honour and reputation. Humiliation is the opposite end of that coin. It’s very much that kind of people, so we wanted to get you deep into that.”
“You get to ride your river horse up and down throughout England, stealing and exploring as you go,” he continued. “But at the end of the day, you bring that stuff back so that you can dump it into your settlement, into your gear to improve your own gear, to improve your settlement. You make your people’s lives better to make your own character stronger, or versatile.”
Raiding will replace Odyssey’s Conquest battles
While Odyssey improved upon Origins, McDevitt believes Valhalla‘s Raid battles will improve up Conquest battles introduced in Ubisoft Quebec’s latest title.
“We’ve been crafting [the raiding loop] for quite a long time,” he explained. “You trigger a raid, you jump off, you go. Everything that happens during that raid is all a unique package, and it’s really, really quite fun and exhilarating.
“The assaults are even bigger versions of battles, where there are these self-contained but gigantic battles that have a narrative flow to them. Odyssey started with this idea with these large scale battles, Conquer battles. We just push that even much, much further where once you start one of these battles, you’re going to be pushed through a series of narrative moments as well as gameplay moments where you feel like you’re taking over an area, maybe a fortress or a castle. We really upped the ante with assaults, to make sure that they feel narratively exhilarating, not just the game play is exhilarating.”
Valhalla’s historical figures include Alfred the Great
McDevitt confirmed that Saxon leader Alfred the Great would play a role in Valhalla… at the same time he delivered a concise and insightful history lesson.
“The major Saxon figure at [the time of Valhalla] is Alfred the Great,” he began. “He is a King who had a dream of unifying all the kingdoms of England. At this time, England was fractured into many kingdoms. We represent four of them in our game: Mercia, Northumbria, East Anglia and Wessex, though Wessex contained a bunch of others that had been subsumed by Wessex.”
“But he was the King of Wessex, and he was the only King from this period to really mount an effective resistance against the Vikings. From the standpoint of a Saxon, he can be thought of as an antagonist in this game, but he’s not an antagonist in the traditional sort of Assassin Templar antagonist, where there’s a clear bad guy. We’ll get more into that as we get through the reveal campaign and things.
“There’s many stories in this game, but definitely Alfred the Great is going to be a more visible antagonist,” MvDevitt continued. “He was given the name the Great after he did everything; he didn’t give that to himself. On the other standpoint there’s what was called the great heathen army. The great heathen army was a huge massing of Viking invaders who had come not only to raid and pillage, but to actually settle.
“They were instrumental in transforming England from. By 860, Vikings had mostly just pillaged the coastlines of England, but after 860, many groups started showing up to settle for good, because they were leaving Norway. They were leaving strife and hardship and political turmoil. They actually wanted to live somewhere.”
Valhalla will continue Layla Hassan’s present-day storyline
Ubisoft Montreal introduced players to Layla Hassan, a present-day Abstergo employee turned Assassin, with Assassin’s Creed Origins; Ubisoft Montreal continued that story with Assassin’s Creed Odyssey. McDevitt confirmed with Stevivor that Valhalla will still focus on Hassan and her journey.
“I’m actually quite proud with what we’ve done with the present day,” he said. “We had ome cool ideas a long time ago, just after Black Flag when Origins was started. We had some cool ideas for the present day that never got to come to fruition.
“This time we held onto that idea and we’ve actually injected them into this game, so fans of the present day will be pleasantly surprised with some cool things we’ve added.”
Assassin’s Creed Valhalla is planned for a holiday 2020 release on Windows PC, Xbox One, Xbox Series X, PS4, PS5 and Stadia where available.