It’s been a big week for Assassin’s Creed fans. Ubisoft announced on Wednesday that the next title in their hugely popular action-adventure series would be Assassin’s Creed Valhalla. Thursday morning, the publisher dropped a big cinematic trailer, screenshots, and our first details about the game’s epic story. Rumors of a Viking-centric Assassin’s Creed have been swirling since last year, when players discovered an Easter egg in The Division 2—a Norse warrior on a poster for a fictional opera called Valhalla. It looks to be a story with roots in history, Norse mythology, and the larger Assassin’s Creed universe. Here’s what we know so far.
When and where does Valhalla take place?
Assassin’s Creed Valhalla centers on Viking culture. The story takes place during the Dark Ages. “When we say ‘Vikings,’ it’s kind of used as a generic word,” Thierry Noël, historian and content advisor on Valhalla, said in a blog post. “It conjures up the image of brutes and plunderers that destroyed monasteries all over Western Europe, but in reality, it’s a bit more complicated than that. The term ‘Vikings’ actually refers to an elite class of the Norse society. They were a certain group of people in Norse culture that were traders, explorers, excellent seafarers, settlers, and, yes, sometimes invaders and plunderers.”
Hundreds of towns in modern-day England once began as Viking settlements, and those places seem to be at the heart of Valhalla. Players will leave their home and discover a new part of Europe in the Middle Ages. They’ll battle with a variety of unique enemy types along the way. You’ll also get to sail Viking longships, which carry cargo and raiders for quick “hit-and-run” assaults on enemy territory. “If you’re gonna make a Viking game, the combat needs to be visceral,” says creative director Ashraf Ismail in a new developer commentary. “It needs to be quite brutal.”
“It’s a fascinating time,” Noël says. “It may be dark, but it’s also a period of transition and transformation. The Roman world has disappeared, and the medieval era has not yet totally arrived. It’s a really interesting period of rebuilding the Western world, rebuilding values, rebuilding states and nations, and mixing cultures that were isolated before. It’s not only a period of conflict; it’s a period of intensive cultural exchange between people, and Vikings played an essential role in that.”
Who’s the protagonist in Valhalla?
In Assassin’s Creed Valhalla, you’ll play as a Viking named Eivor. You’ll get to choose whether Eivor is a man or a woman. They’re the same character with the same backstory and general arc either way, but gender is just one more way to grant the player a sense of agency. No doubt Ubisoft learned a lot about the challenges of having two playable protagonists with full performance capture in the course of making 2018’s Assassin’s Creed Odyssey. But they’re not two separate characters. Eivor is simply male or female, depending on your preference.
“This is a Viking raider who is from Norway, and who will be leaving Norway for the rolling green hills of England,” Ismail explains. “It’s about this idea of settling the people and building this thriving settlement, [which is] very important to the motivation of this character.” Taking Eivor into battle, players will be able to dual-wield almost any combination of two weapons, he adds. “Dual-wielding is a big part of the game. If you wanna dual-wield two shields, we let you do that.”
In the game’s new cinematic trailer, we glimpse a mysterious hooded figure on the battlefield, and a raven visits Eivor. They see this as a clear sign of Odin’s favor: “Odin is with us.” It’ll be interesting to find out just how much carries over from the fantastic mythology to the historically grounded world of Valhalla.
“In the myths, Odin has two ravens,” says narrative director Darby McDevitt, “which are thought and memory—they come from the [Old Norse] words for ‘thought’ and ‘memory.’ And they were just his two companions that would help him gather knowledge and wisdom about the world.”
Where and when can I play Valhalla?
Assassin’s Creed Valhalla is set to launch during the holiday 2020 season on PC, Xbox Series X and Xbox One, PlayStation 5 and PS4, and Google Stadia. Ubisoft’s taking pre-orders for a $200 collector’s edition of the game, which comes with a 30-centimeter statue of Eivor (female), a stylized Viking statuette (male), three concept-art lithographics, a soundtrack CD, and more. Anyone pre-ordering the game will get access to a bonus mission called “The Way of the Berserker.”
Featured Image: Ubisoft