Assassin’s Creed Valhalla, the next installment in Ubisoft’s famed Assassin’s Creed franchise, is about to drop in about under a month. I had a chance to experience a whopping 6 hours of gameplay of the game in an exclusive preview, which left me feeling very optimistic about the forthcoming title.
Pre-COVID-19, Ubisoft would have invited us out to get hands-on with the game, but they had to improvise like every other industry and company. Unfortunately, I didn’t get to play due to hardware limitations, but Ubisoft set it up where I had my own personal “tour guide” for 6 hours to show me a sizeable chunk of the game before it launches.
In Assassin’s Creed Valhalla, we are transported to the lush world of ninth-century England, ditching the bright sunny world of Ancient Greece in Assassin’s Creed Odyssey.
Like in the previous game, you will be given the option to choose the sex of Eivor, the game’s protagonist. My virtual tour guide decided to go with the female version. Once my version of Eivor was selected, we are immediately taken to Ravensthorpe. This will be Eivor’s home and the settlement of the Vikings who are new to the land. From there, many of the game’s main missions will take place. You will also be able to do things like pet the local dogs and cats and customize Eivor’s physical appearance by either changing hairstyles and getting tattoos, you know, typical Viking stuff. As time goes along, you will be able to upgrade your settlement and add other cosmetic features like statues and upgrade buildings.
Ravensthorpe will not just be your launching pad to other English locations in the game, but to Norse lore’s mythical destinations. When Eivor communes with the seer, you will be taken to “mythworlds” very familiar with Norse mythology like Asgard and Jotunheim. The legendary Bifrost will also be in the game as well.
In my preview, we are immediately thrust into one of the games many story arcs that will have Eivor influencing politics pretty early in the game. In the mission, Eivor is instructed to head to Ledecestrescire to link up with her brother Sigurd who is working with two highly-skilled Raiders named Ivarr and Ubba Ragnarsson. The four are tasked with finding Mercian King Burgred and his wife, removing them from power, and installing a Viking-friendly king.
Like every other Assassin’s Creed, there is traveling involved to get to your destination, so while on the way to remove Burgred from the throne, I was able to take in some of Valhalla’s new massive world.
Speaking with Level Design Director Philippe Bergeron, I asked him about the process that went into designing Valhalla’s world? He broke down the process, explaining:
“Yeah, um, I mean, with like all of the uh Assassin’s games, like these are huge undertakings when it comes to designing the world. Um. We always start with identifying the setting that we as developers interest us and something that we want to know more about and want to research. Um, ’cause that’s always like a good litmus test, is what players are gonna like. Um. And then, it’s just like months and months and months of research, of trying to get familiar with, um, that world, uh, as well as the historical setting. Um, so a lot of research goes into it.”
“We do a lot of, actual, scouting trips to go and, you know, immerse ourselves in that environment. So not only the physical aspect of it but like the culture. So interviewing people, getting to know them, seeing what makes them tick, and uh you know, what kind of stories we can extract from that, that we could sort of portray it in the game.”
I also asked inquired if COVID-19 affected his team’s work. He revealed that everything was pretty much close to being done before the pandemic shut the world down. It was just a matter of finishing things up.
“Um, it, it’s, we are fortunate enough that like once COVID hit, we were pretty far into production already. So the design aspect of it and the foundation was pretty well-built. Um, so once, once COVID hit, we were actually in a state of just, I don’t want to say polish, but finishing it up. Um, so we knew what we needed to do and, in a way, COVID was actually helpful, helpful for us because once you’re … Like we, we work in an open space office, right? Where, um, it can be very chaotic and distracting. So working from home is actually, uh, a Godsend where you get to focus a little bit better. Um. So I know for me, personally, like I got way more work done doing it from home than if I was doing it from the office. So I found out something new about myself that way (laughing).”
Back to the action, the mission to find both Mercian King Burgred and his wife won’t be no quick undertaking. You immediately find out that they have gone into hiding and now will have to split up with the Ragnarsson brothers to find them. One mission will have you partnering up with Ivarr and the other with Ubba.
During the mission to locate the king’s wife, who is holed up inside a castle you have to infiltrate, I got to see Eivor’s raven Sýnin and the Odin Sense ability, which is basically “Eagle Vision” from the other games. During the mission, I got to see the massive skill tree that will give players the freedom to mold Eivor to their liking skill-wise. Basically, telling me that the preview wasn’t even scratching the surface regarding how powerful Eivor can become in the game. Also new in Assassin’s Creed Valhalla’s use of a Destiny-like power ranking system foregoing the level-up system in Odyssey, an improvement many players will more than likely appreciate.
Also noticeable in Assassin’s Creed Valhalla is the fades have become even more vicious. Don’t judge me, but I absolutely enjoyed seeing heads getting chopped off now and villains getting stomped during the preview. Once the mission was completed, my virtual tour guide did some free-roaming and showed off the raids feature. When Eivor arrives at a certain town or location, you will get the option to begin a raid by pulling out your horn and summoning your Viking brethren to loot and burn down everything.
Before I wrap things up, I encountered one insanely interesting feature during my Assassin’s Creed Valhalla preview. Throughout the game, Evior can partake in Flyting battles or, as Philippe Bergeron describes them, “Viking rap battles.” Flyting is a contest that Vikings partook in, where they exchanged words or insults with each other. In the game, Eivor will use Flyting encounters to build charisma. The higher Eivor’s charisma level, the better chance Eivor will convince a person to do something without using a weapon. It’s a fascinating concept indeed, and one I’m sure Assassin’s Creed Valhalla players will have a lot of fun with.
Based on what I witnessed, it’s clear the developers took what made Assassin’s Creed Odyssey great and expanded on it in Valhalla. The game doesn’t look like a rehash. I’m really looking forward to actually spending more time with the game. Keep it locked here at Hip-Hop Wired for a full review of Assassin’s Creed Valhalla.
Photo: Ubisoft / Assassin’s Creed Valhalla