We analyze the new title from Ubisoft Montreal, a game that follows in the wake of its two predecessors, but that reintroduces some classic mechanics.
Bayek of Siwa and Aya of Alexandria were the forerunners of the Brotherhood of Assassins, then known as the Order of the Hidden. From the beginning, its fate was linked to that of the Order of the Ancients, which later acquired another name, that of the Templars. The centuries passed, but the conflict between both creeds lasted in time, until it touched the present. The story of Assassin’s Creed Valhalla, the newest work from Ubisoft Montreal, leaves the ancient world for the 9th century AD, a period closer to the time of the re-founding of the cult.
Partly due to plot constraints, Assassin’s Creed Origins, and to a lesser extent Odyssey, shed some classic elements that had been around since the first installment of the series. Social stealth, hidden blade, and parkour all disappeared without a trace, also because the playable formula had been almost completely redesigned with new mechanics. There is little doubt that the product at hand follows the master lines of its two predecessors, but introduces all these concepts from the past naturally and without fanfare. He does so through characters such as Basim Ibn Ishak and Hytham, who recall those Assassins from Altaïr’s time, not only for their clothing, but also for their status as sages and mentors.
The pagans come to England
Eivor, the protagonist of the video game, is completely unaware of the conflict between the two orders, including his own existence. He was born into a Norwegian family, a frigid land of snowy beauty. Its people, hard as ice, constantly fight against enemy clans. In those early stages of the adventure, the warrior is still a boy (or a girl, since you choose the sex and you can change it at any time or make the Animus decide for you), although the blood of war is bubbling through his veins. Before his eyes, a terrible tragedy takes place, the sap stains the ground scarlet and the desire for revenge penetrates his body like an ax in the belly. Welcomed by the King of Fornburg, Styrbjörn, his son Sigurd and Eivor become flesh and blood.
Years passed and together, still in their native Norway, they hunt down the ghosts of their past. Meanwhile, the young Viking is beset by visions. Odin visits him in those moments of sleep, whispering riddles, words that he does not fully understand. The seer unravels one of those dreams and predicts a betrayal. Desperate for revelations, he tries to understand if his destiny is forever marked. Can he deviate from the path opened by the gods? As the murderers will say years later, “nothing is true, everything is allowed.”
Events quickly rush, the king’s power declines, and Sigurd decides to explore new frontiers. As the leader of the Raven Clan, Eivor will follow him to England, a territory in which the pagans want to settle permanently. We are in a period of division between the various Christian kingdoms. The nobles, thirsty for power, carry out their movements within a game of thrones in which the pieces move incessantly, whoever falls. The pawns are displayed on the world map, much smaller than that of the previous installments, but let no one be fooled: the game is as extensive as the previous ones.
The story of Assassin’s Creed Valhalla introduces us to Viking fantasy, its culture, often smudged with fiction, interspersed with the mythology and beliefs of the Norse peoples (and colored with some clichés, of course). Still, Eivor does not embody the kind of character who solves all problems with violence. Not surprisingly, the project’s own narrative director, Darby Mc Devitt, has stressed on numerous occasions the importance of diplomacy, also embodied in the game. For this reason, although it may seem strange at first glance, the stealth mechanics fit perfectly with the plot approach: “Social secrecy was designed taking into account how you evolve within the country, in a context in which people are hostile towards your person.