“The settlement is actually very central to the player’s story and Eivor’s story,” Paul Fu, Assassin’s Creed Valhalla Content Director, told Stevivor. “Eivor, and as you know, is fighting for the honour of the Raven Clan and she settles in Ravensthorpe, where the settlement is.
“You can think of the sentiment as not just a gameplay progression hub, but also a narrative hub, and this is a very important shift in how we tell the story of Assassin’s Creed Valhalla. [It has] an alliance map within the settlement that is often used as the starting point for Eivor to begin epic journeys into various territories.”
While that’s true – and my gameplay handler on the day had me make a beeline for that map to begin a main quest line – I instead focused on the settlement itself, a wonderous place full of things to do, people to see and — most importantly — dogs to pet. Ravensthrope reminded me of Assassin’s Creed 2’s Monteriggioni; a place you could call your own and upgrade with the fruits of your labour. I immediately went to work using the in-game resources I had to build homesteads and apply cosmetic upgrades like statues and archery targets to make it feel more like my own.
More importantly, you can wander around and eavesdrop on the day-to-day events of the settlement’s people, or engage with a select few to grow bonds between you and Ravensthorpe’s inhabitants. In a time (especially here in lockdown within Victoria) when that’s not permissible, it’s a welcome break from reality.
“I don’t think it was intentional for us to use the settlement in that way,” Fu said when asked if it was a response in any way to how we’re living in the middle of the COVID-19 pandemic. “But indeed, the sentiment is a way for Eivor to bond with many people.”
If you’re not as emotionally compromised as those of us in lockdown, upgrading your settlements has more tangible rewards than just a wave and a chat.
“You can also earn Renown,” Fu continued. “And as Renown increases, more NPCs actually come into your settlement, settle down and provide more services for the player.”
Building a homestead in the settlement also improved attributes attached to feasts, so enticements to spend some time with your people and improve their lives apparently abound.
Ravensthorpe also provides options to customise your right-hand man (or woman), the leader of the Jomsviking party that you’ll eventually command with raids and the like. If that wasn’t enough, another vendor in the settlement will let you apply customisations to Eivor themselves, adding or removing hairstyles, tattoos and male facial halr. While there aren’t a huge amount of customisation options, they’re equal between gender (with the exception of facial hair) and all feel “viking”.
Finally, the settlement provided access to another activity we’d not seen before: dice games. While I famously played through the entirety of The Witcher 3 Wild Hunt and never fully understood how Gwent worked, that thankfully isn’t the case here. I don’t know if I could explain it to anyone properly, it’s a combination of Yahtzee with dice rolls and careful selection of the pieces you keep or re-roll, and an after-roll decision to use special abilities you’re trying to accrue. It as equal parts fun and challenging, and I’m sure it’ll be a hit with most.
To finish up our latest preview of Valhalla, we headed over to a standing stone puzzle to see what all the commotion was about. Admittedly, we were a tad disappointed in that its solution – using your enhanced senses to line up markings that weren’t seen with the human eye – took less time to complete than a combat encounter that had to be completed beforehand. Hopefully puzzles of these kinds gain more complexity as you continue.
You can check out all things settlements, customisation, dice game, standing stone puzzle and yes, dog-patting, in our latest preview video. It’s below.
Assassin’s Creed Valhalla heads to Windows PC, Xbox One, Xbox Series S, Xbox Series X, PS4 and Stadia, followed by a release on PS5 from 12 November.
10 Nov 2020 (PC PS4 PS5 Xbox One Xbox Series X)