Assassin's Creed Valhalla Ending Discussion with Darby McDevitt: Information Roundup
Here is our roundup containing all of the new Assassin's Creed Valhalla information coming from the official Ubisoft Ending Discussion with Narrative Director Darby McDevitt, that aired on the 12th March 2021.
MAJOR SPOILERS BELOW
- The end of the world scenario that is looming in Valhalla was hinted at in messages that can be found in Assassin's Creed Origins.
- It was important to the former Creative Director of the game to have an Assassin character from the Middle East (Basim), as the game is set close to the AC1 time period, and this would start to bridge the gap.
- The entrance to the Norwegian First Civilization vault containing the Yggdrasil device from Assassin's Creed Valhalla is marked as a symbol on a map in Assassin's Creed II.
- The Yggdrasil device took inspiration from the Assassin's Creed Movie, where users are plugged in, resembling fruit hanging on a tree.
- The decision to have Basim replace Layla as the Modern Day playable protagonist by trapping her in the Yggdrasil simulation was proposed at an early stage of development. The original idea was to have players take over as Shaun or Rebecca, which would have been a choice, meaning you could switch back and forth at any point. This idea was scrapped so that fans could play as the mysterious Basim, a member of The Hidden Ones and reincarnation of Loki.
- The team wanted to tie up loose ends, such as Layla's purpose and giving the Staff of Eden an important use, which was to revive Basim. Many narrative threads that connect to previous games were added to the game, making them more meaningful than Easter eggs. (Examples below)
- It was very important to the Narrative Team and Creative Director to bring back Shaun and Rebecca, as it was hinted at by the introduction of William Miles in Origins that Layla's Assassin cell, and Desmond's old team would cross at some point. Also they are popular characters internally. Darby has also been writing for Shaun and Rebecca since Assassin's Creed Revelations. This decision to bring them back was made early on in the development of Valhalla.
- At the beginning of the game, players can sense a tension between Shaun and Rebecca, and Layla, as they have seen the consequences of a Piece of Eden controlling an Assassin before (referencing Desmond killing Lucy & Layla killing Victoria with the Staff in Odyssey)
- The Vinland (North America) addition wasn't suggested until 2019, but the idea came from Ubisoft CEO Yves Guillemot. Although historically Vikings didn't travel to NA in the Vinland Sages for another 200 hundred years after the game, the team liked the suggestion and made it happen by reasoning that the Templars are always one step ahead of actual history. They would have hidden their trip to North America.
- The reason for The Order of Ancients trip to North America was made to be very simple, as well as Eivor's purpose there. The connections to Assassin's Creed III via the Grand Temple and the Crystal Ball tie together threads, explaining how the Mohawk tribe came into possession of it.
- There is an Ezio Auditore reference in Jotunheim, where Gunlodr asks
"Are you there, prophet? Can you hear me" in an attempt to send messages to the future. As Havi and Gunlodr walk away, a voice can be heard asking "Who are you?". Although this is not voiced by Roger Craig Smith, it is Ezio, and references his first conversation with Minerva in AC II, and also Jupiter to Desmond in Assassin's Creed Revelation's Time Nexus.
- All of the cities in AC Valhalla are direct homages to the cities in AC1, down to the assassinations and mission set-ups. This idea to pay tribute to the cities in AC1 was first proposed by Darby during AC Origins as the team were looking to refresh the brand, but it found it's place in Assassin's Creed Valhalla.
- Quest Design Director Philippe Bergeron also worked on Assassin's Creed I as a designer. He made sure that the cities were a direct homage to AC1 such as Acre and Damascus, and kept the team on track.
- Origins introduced the idea that different Isu tribes lived in different locations around the world. By establishing different sets as Isu, the team felt less restricted and could explore new ideas. Norse Mythology represents a Northern Isu clan, whilst Egyptian are an African Isu clan, who are different from the Mediterranean Isu (Capitoline Triad/ Greco-Roman).
- The team thoroughly researched Norse Mythology, and looked for parallels between it and established Assassin's Creed lore. For example, the doomsday event known as Ragnarok in Norse Mythology was tied to a mass extinction event known as the Toba catastrophe, that in Assassin's Creed lore wiped out the Isu (Revelations).
- It was important for the team to make the dual protagonist system work in a way that fits with Assassin's Creed lore. Two different early pitches were proposed by Darby when he joined the project.
Pitch 1: Protagonist would be a male Viking, with the female version actually being Layla projecting herself onto the avatar (referencing similarity between Desmond and Altair in AC1). This could also now be done with Basim projecting his face onto a male or female, which could lead to some interesting dialogue.
Pitch 2: A Sage, where you are the reincarnation of Aita. You play as a female Viking, but you can switch to looking like Aita.
- Eivor being Odin reincarnated is the direction that was agreed upon in mid 2018. The former creative director was really interested in the Odin and Loki stories from Norse mythology, and proposed a counter idea that Eivor could be a sage, but the reincarnation of Odin instead. Odin is the perfect mix between a leader and a lone wolf, and it would be really interesting for players to realise that they are playing as the reincarnation of Odin. The ultimately led to the internal personality clash between Havi and Eivor, acting as an angel/devil on the shoulder in regards to choices. Fight Club is a film that was used as reference for this conflict.
Other Isu Reincarnations and parallels include:
Sigurd - Tyr
Svala - Freya
Basim - Loki
Halfdan - Thor
Faravid - (Not confirmed, but probably Freyr)
Juno - Hyrrokin
Aletheia - Angrboða
Jupiter - Suttungr
- Darby hints that there are more reincarnations that have not yet been discovered!
- In Norse myth, Odin was always trying to survive Ragnarok, so the other characters grew naturally out of this idea. Nine were chosen as that is an important number for the Norse and recurs frequently in myths: Nine worlds, Nine times etc.
- The idea of someone seeing a prophecy doesn't make sense in AC lore, but Eivor is actually seeing things that have already happened (Odins Memories). The Asgard / Jotunheim sections are Eivor's interpretations of prophecy, but she doesn't realise that the events already have happened in the past. Eivor as Odin has already betrayed Sigurd as Tyr.
- When Fulke captures Sigurd, you can read her torture notes that describe how he shouts "I am the lord of Justice". She then wonders if he means Tyr, and decides to cut off his arm like was done in Norse mythology to trigger his old trauma, unlocking the ancient memories.
- There are hints and clues dropped very early in the game, such as Eivor having a vision of Sigurd with one arm early in the game, where he calls her 'Havi'. Moments like this make complete sense once you have completed the game.
- The prophecy that Eivor will betray Sigurd steers the course of the game, leading fans to question their choices and wonder if they are fulfilling it. Oxenfordscire arc: Sigurd changes and some fans online do not like him anymore. This was the intended effect, as the team wanted fans to hate him enough to punch him, because it leads you to question if the prophecy could be becoming true.
- There are moments where fans may believe they are betraying Sigurd, such as punching him, or the Randvi romance subplot.
- There are five choices in the game that determine whether Sigurd stays or go. They are a test of your loyalty to Sigurd as a leader. Did you respect the chain of command?
- Early on in the game, Basim describes meeting Sigurd, and it felt like a forgotten memory of an old friendship resurfaced, and Eivor brushes it off completely. This scene was written by Darby to add an element of foreshadowing.
- The scene where Eivor and Basim are sat around the campfire in Kent references Loki's loss. Basim misses his son terribly, and argues that the people closest to you can hurt you the most. (referencing Fenrir and Odin). The scene was written halfway through production, but it was easy to write as all the pieces were already in place. This is also the first moment that Basim and Eivor get to sit down and talk after Sigurd's capture. Eivor was initially suspicious of Basim, but this scene humanising him, leading players to let their guard down and potentially no longer suspect him of ill intentions.
- Players who have not completed the Jotunheim / Asgard arcs may be confused by the ending in the vault with Basim fighting Eivor.
- Original Prophecy Pitch: Eivor would never reach Valhalla, but it led to unsatisfying results, as a prophecy telling you that something is definitely not going to happen can lead to an accepting mindset that all actions are futile to change things. The betrayal prophecy is more actionable and human, something which players can relate to and worry about as you play.
- The end scene with Basim in the vault was slightly changed to suit the pace when recording, something which the actor performances helped with.
- If you look closely, there are similarities between the reincarnated / parallel faces: Sigurd and Tyr look similar for example.
- The end of the Myth Worlds arc depicting Ragnarok, with the Gods drinking the mead and joining the life tree to be reborn before facing their doom is once again Eivor's interpretation of Odin's memory. Side by side with the Animus Glitches (Lokis memories) it is very similar, but with a Norse Mythology Filter distorting it. "The curtain of mythology" covering Isu history.
- The animus anomalies were something that were discussed during the development of Assassin's Creed Origins. Darby is always looking for ways to get the present day fully integrated into the game without creating a stop-start situation (that we say in the Desmond games, Black Flag etc). This is people who are gameplay oriented to bridge the gap.
- The animus anomalies peel back the curtain and show real Isu history, and how they were really reborn. It also shows how Loki was reborn. This is the parallel to the myth worlds, but the animus anomolies add to this as they are from Lokis memories. We see beyond the point where they face Ragnarok.
- Loki kills Heimdall, Odin's son before adding his DNA to the machine, becoming the ninth to be reborn.
- The Toba catastrophe footage from Assassin's Creed Revelations can be seen on the screen. This is not necessarily Asgard, and could be any Isu city. It has never been specified which city this was. (I always assumed it was a Mediterranean city as a statue of an Isu that looks like Minerva falls)
- Basim placed the Animus Anomalies to tell Loki's story and perspective to the Animus user (Layla).
- When Desmond turned on the machine in AC III, he activated all of the existing temples around the world, overclocking them and causing them to create a magnetic field that would shield the earth from the solar flare. Since his death however, they remained on, allowing Basim to move around and lead Layla to him by messing around with it. He overclocked the device, causing the earth's new destruction scenario. The Nornir say that they weave in fealty to our master, referring to Basim's influence within the machine.
- Basim helps Layla save the world, but he's the reason that it's in danger. He also traps her in the machine.
- The Yggdrasil device is capable of projecting endless simulations, and the Valhalla program is just one of many. Any calculation can be projected.
- The Valhalla program scene is meant to demonstrate that real life is better because it's imperfect, and the artificial quality of the simulation is realised by Eivor. It's possible that Svala started the Valhalla program, as she was already there. The true purpose of the device was to plug yourself in before death, and live endlessly in the machine as Svala did. The Yggdrasil machine can also preserve people in a suspended state, providing nutrients and prolonging life.
- At the end of the game, Aelfred leaving the order as Grand Master mirrors the historical rise of Christianity during this time, and foreshadows the shift from The Order of Ancients to the Templar Order.
This also bridges the gap, and hints at the birth of the Templar Order.
- Darby believes that the Hidden Ones don't need to change much to become the Assassins, as the tenets, goals philosophies are the same, but the Templars and The Order of Ancients have clear distinctions, which are made clear by Valhalla's ending.
- Shaun hints in a note that Edward Kenway may have named his son after the Hidden One 'Hytham', after searching the Assassin archives. This was Darby's contribution, who wanted to connect the game to AC4. The name was spelled differently to act more as inspiration for Edward rather than a direct copy, and because of the time difference.
- Fans of the AC franchise will always analyse, theorise and discuss the games in depth. Darby is particularly proud of how much discussion Valhalla has sparked within the AC Community on community forums/ discord servers, reminding him of the Ezio era.
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