Assassin's Creed Valhalla
Assassin's Creed Valhalla is an upcoming action role-playing video game developed by Ubisoft Montreal and published by Ubisoft. It is the twelfth major installment and the twenty-second release in the Assassin's Creed series, and a successor to the 2018 game Assassin's Creed Odyssey. Set in 873 CE, the game recounts an alternative history to the Viking invasion of Britain. The player controls Eivor, a Viking raider who becomes embroiled in the conflict between the Brotherhood of Assassins and the Templar Order.
The game is set to be released on November 17, 2020, for Microsoft Windows, PlayStation 4, Xbox One and Stadia. It will also be Ubisoft's launch title for the next generation of gaming consoles, the PlayStation 5 and Xbox Series X.
GameplayAssassin's Creed Valhalla is an open world action-adventure game, structured around several main story quests and numerous optional side missions. The player takes on the role of Eivor, a Viking raider, as they lead their fellow Vikings against the Anglo-Saxon kingdoms. The player will have the choice of playing Eivor as either male or female and is able to customise Eivor's hair, warpaint, clothing, armor, and tattoos. The variety of weapons available to the player has been expanded to include weapons such as flails and greatswords. Combat has been changed to allow dual wielding of almost any weapon, including shields, and every piece of gear that the player collects is unique. The Eagle Vision mechanic of previous titles will return in the form of "Odin Sight". The player's companion animal will be a raven named Synin and can be used to scout the nearby areas, much like previous avian companions had done in Origins and Odyssey, identifying foes and aspects of the game world from afar before Eivor engages in combat. There will be more focus on the stealth aspects for both traversing the game world and in combat. The "social stealth" concept from earlier Assassin's Creed games will return: Eivor can hide from enemies not only in stationary environmental objects, but can pull down their hood and slip into certain crowds to use them as cover. Eivor can feign death, use their raven to distract guards, and can access a hidden blade for near instantaneous assassinations. The game's key boss characters all will have a route through approach, tactics, and weapon selection to be assassinated through a single attack, but still can be defeated through numerous other routes.
Valhalla will have a similar structure of main story missions and a number of optional side missions. While the main storyline in past Assassin's Creed games typically moved linearly through the main sections of the game world, Valhalla has the player often returning back to the main settlement and back to areas previously visited as information about the new areas of England are learned by the Vikings through reconnaissance or from contacts. Not all missions require violent ends, with some that can be resolved through diplomatic means. Player choices through conversation or gameplay options will affect the characters and their political alliances with other non-player characters. The game will rely less on a traditional leveling system and instead focus more on the selection of skills through skill trees selected by the player as Eivor advances through the game. The difficulty posed by enemies will be rated based on the player's collection of skills.
The development team aimed to introduce a wider range of enemy archetypes to Valhalla than in previous Assassin's Creed titles as they wanted the player to be continually surprised by the game even after playing for tens of hours. Enemy archetypes will have their own special abilities that they can use against the player. Narrative director Darby McDevitt said that the game has 25 unique enemy archetypes, and each "has a unique way of challenging the player." Some enemy types can coordinate with each other special attacks. Enemies can also use objects in the environment to their advantage. Some enemies are also capable of adapting to the player's actions and combat and finding ways to defend themselves. Enemies can also show personality during combat. While some might be intimidated by Eivor and fight more defensively, others might be more aggressive in their approach.
Conquest Battles, a feature introduced to the series in Odyssey, will return. They will be known as "Assaults" and will see the player lead Viking armies to attack fortifications. Raids are smaller battles where the player leads a raiding party to attack a target and secure resources for their settlement. The player will be able to build a raiding party by recruiting non-player characters to assist with these. The player will be able to create a Viking mercenary, or Jomsviking, that can be recruited by other players to act as a non-playable character within those games; the player will gain additional in-game rewards for successful missions that their Jomsviking takes part in.
The game will see the return of settlements, which have been absent from the series since . However, where these settlements offered the player passive gameplay bonuses, settlements in Valhalla will take on a renewed importance. Game director Ashraf Ismail described this as being " a lot of what you're doing in the game world is, at the end of the day, going to feed into the settlement so that it can grow, it can flourish." Quests will start and finish in the settlement and the player will be able to direct construction of certain types of buildings, which in turn provide benefits for gameplay. To build these structures, the player will need to lead the Vikings on raids to collect resources. In addition, the player can forge diplomatic weddings to form relationships between clans in the community. As with Odyssey, the player as Eivor will be able to explore romance options for Eivor, including same-sex relations.
Though the use of naval transport has returned, naval combat has been dialled back. Eivor's longship will act more as a means of travel when performing raids and for escaping after land combat, rather than being used in combat with other naval vessels. In addition to these, the player can engage in a variety of activities such as; hunting, fishing, brawls with other Vikings, drinking contests, and flyting challenges, which Ubisoft described as "Viking battle rap|rap battle".
PremiseIn 873 AD, war and overcrowding in Norway prompts Eivor to lead their clan of Vikings to settle new lands in Anglo-Saxon England, as part of the Viking expansion across Europe. The clan, and other Vikings that form the Great Heathen Army, comes into conflict with the kingdoms of Wessex, Northumbria, East Anglia, and Mercia over the next several years. Eivor's clan will face forces led by the leaders of these kingdoms, including Alfred the Great, the king of Wessex. It is during this time that Eivor meets the Hidden Ones and joins their fight against the Order of the Ancients. Explorable cities include Winchester, London, and York. Parts of Norway will also be included.
As with previous games in the series, Valhalla features a narrative set in the modern day. This story will follow Layla Hassan, a character featured in Origins and Odyssey. Valhalla will also contain story elements related to the Isu, who, as part of the lore of the Assassin's Creed series, are an advanced civilisation that pre-date humanity.
DevelopmentAssassin's Creed Valhalla had been in development for more than two and a half years by its announcement in April 2020. The main development was led by the Assassin's Creed Origins team at Ubisoft Montreal and supported by fourteen other Ubisoft studios worldwide. While the tail-end of the game's development fell during the COVID-19 pandemic, the bulk of the Ubisoft staff assigned to game were able to work from home with support of Ubisoft's information technology departments, assuring the game was ready for release in 2020.
Ashraf Ismail served as the creative director, having previously led work on Assassin's Creed Origins and '. The game's narrative director was Darby McDevitt, who was the lead writer for ' and Black Flag and co-writer of Assassin's Creed Unity. USGamers Mike Williams described the large scope and effort behind Assassin's Creed Valhalla as the equivalent of the series' "grand unifying theory" to combine all the past design and development work into a single vision without necessarily reinventing any of the previously developed concepts. McDevitt explained that Valhalla story was written as a recap of all the prior Assassin's Creed games, connecting them in non-trivial fashions, but not intended to be the final game in the series. He also stated that his experimental structure to the narrative was "quite unique for any game" he had seen as well as for the Assassin's Creed series itself.
Ismail cited Michael Crichton's 1976 novel Eaters of the Dead—itself a retelling of the epic poem Beowulf—as playing a major role in influencing Valhallas setting. McDevitt said that the development team recognized there would be similarities to the God of War games, but felt those games "skew very heavily towards the mythology", whereas Ubisoft wanted Valhalla to be a more "historically grounded" experience. Elements of Norse mythology will appear in the story. According to game director Ashraf Ismail, this will be based on how Eivor and the Vikings may take uncommon events to be signs of their gods' involvement rather than the more overt role that mythology played in Origins and Odyssey. This was particularly in light that much of the game takes place in England where Christianity dominated, so that the narrative and gameplay shows how Eivor would incorporate such foreign elements into their belief system. On the ability to select Eivor's gender, Thierry Noël, an advisor to the game, stated that while there was still historical debate to how much degree females participated as warriors within the Vikings, Ubisoft believed that women featured prominently in both Norse mythology and society, and so sought to reflect the Viking idea that "women and men are equally formidable in battle".
In researching the time period, Ismail and McDevitt said that the development team found that most historical records of the Viking expansion into Britain were written decades, if not centuries, after the event. They were often written from the perspective of the Anglo-Saxons and so portrayed Vikings as bloodthirsty invaders. However, the development team felt that this overlooked the Vikings' success in settling in England and the contributions they made to agricultural practices and their influence on the English language. The development team thus sought to portray the Viking Age more accurately, emphasising elements such as the settlement. This was represented in the trailer and promotional materials by juxtaposing Alfred the Great's narration warning of the threat posed by the Vikings with scenes showing the Viking community. This research, in turn, led the team to make the settlement a focal point of the game and gave Valhalla more of a role-playing flavor, according to lead producer Julien Laferrière. He compared the settlement's relevance to the importance of Skyhold in or the SSV Normandy in Mass Effect. Laferrière added that the team came to use the settlement not only to show the more cultured side of the Vikings, but as a means to show the player the results of choices they made in the game, including the "harsh choices to face" from missions.
In a Tweet that was later deleted, Ubisoft's head of communications for the Middle East Malek Teffaha discussed the subject of the game world where he stated that Valhalla will not be the largest or biggest game in the series. Teffaha also stated that Valhalla would address one of the main criticisms of Odyssey, namely that the game suffered from a bloated world populated by repetitive locations; in their review of Odyssey, IGN noted that the main story campaign—not including downloadable content—lasted for roughly forty hours, but that completing every side quest and location could extend that to over one hundred hours. In a later interview with Kotaku, Ismail described that much of the game's world was "handcrafted" and that they had put effort to developing content that was worthwhile for the player to explore and find that content, keeping it about "uniqueness" and "about respecting our players’ time and giving them mysteries and puzzles to sort of resolve".
Music for the game was composed by Jesper Kyd and Sarah Schachner, both whom have worked on past Assassin's Creed games. Einar Selvik, who had written original songs for the History Channel show Vikings, will work with Kyd and Schachner for new songs for Valhalla.
In June 2020, Polygon reported that Ismail "said he would step down from the project following accusations of multiple extramarital affairs with younger fans. Ubisoft later confirmed his departure to Polygon".
ReleaseValhalla is set to be released on November 17, 2020 for Microsoft Windows, PlayStation 4, Xbox One and Stadia. It will also be the first Assassin's Creed title for the next-generation of consoles, the PlayStation 5 and Xbox Series X. Ismail said that Valhalla represents Ubisoft's "flagship" game for these next-generation systems, and has been developed to take advantage of faster loading times both new consoles offer. Players on Xbox One or PlayStation 4 will be able to upgrade their game to the next-gen version on their respective platform at no extra cost.
Ubisoft's 2019 title Tom Clancy's The Division 2 included an Easter egg in the form of a poster that appeared to tease the next Assassin's Creed game as named Valhalla. The poster included an image of a Viking dressed in similar fashion to an Assassin of the series' previous titles and held what appeared to be an Apple of Eden, one of the Isu artifacts featured in Assassin's Creed series. The Easter egg led Jason Schreier of Kotaku to report that there was a new Assassin's Creed title in development, planned for release in 2020. However, on the game's official announcement in April 2020, McDevitt said that the Easter egg in The Division 2 was coincidence as the Swedish studio behind the game, Massive Entertainment, wanted to incorporate some Swedish iconography into The Division 2 and had no intention of referencing or teasing Valhalla.