Benoît Richer Interview: Assassin's Creed Valhalla Co-Dev Game Director
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We are proud to release the second interview in our new series dedicated to the development of Assassin's Creed Valhalla, featuring Co-Dev Game Director Benoît Richer from Ubisoft Montreal!
Col: First of all, congratulations on the reveal of AC Valhalla, it looks absolutely phenomenal and we can't wait to learn more. Are you pleased with the response to the game so far?
Benoît: Very much yes! All of our key new features along with some legacy ones that we want to bring back with a fresh new take really resonated well, people are excited about the game experience that Assassin’s Creed Valhalla will offer!
We were excited to be able to show an early look at the game right at announcement, even as we are working on it and the game is clearly not finished. People need to be aware that if we want to show them stuff early instead of holding back everything, there’s still going to be some issues that we know as game devs that we’ll have the time to fix. There’s still going to be people that judge the whole game harshly by seeing a bug & or a detail they didn’t like in a video, without playing.
For me it’s like judging a wine by its color and not by tasting the full experience, how every element comes together. But honestly the vast majority that we see online are really hyped for the game and it’s awesome! It’s really motivating for everyone!
Col: Have you seen any of the Valhalla fan content created so far, and is so, does anything special come to mind?
Benoît: I’m actually following a lot what’s happening online with the fan & the community and I’m really impressed with everything I see (quality & quantity!), like beautiful fan art, amazing cosplays, gear crafting, Discord channels, the #ACSisterhood movement, YouTube videos, live Twitch sessions, historical research, etc.!
All of those actually show a great passion for this game and it’s really exciting to be part of it! I try, as much as I can, to answer questions online (that I can answer obviously) and give my support! The AC community is really awesome!
Col: How excited are the team to be working on such a unique project?
Benoît: You have no idea how much the whole team (hundreds of people across the world) is very hyped and excited to work on Assassin’s Creed Valhalla! It’s quite a challenge to be working on an Assassin’s Creed title as it comes with a lot of expectations from the players, but if you look at the passion, dedication and expertise that this team has, everyone is confident in the unique experience that Assassin’s Creed Valhalla will offer.
What makes it unique in my opinion is how everything comes together in perfect harmony to create THE best Viking experience out there in an Assassin’s Creed world; like the theme, the historical pivotal story moment, the strong narrative moments, the lore, the new features and systems that makes you feel #LikeAViking, the music, the immersion of the world filled with activities that represent their culture, beliefs and way of life!
Assassin's Creed Valhalla releases November 10th 2020
Col: How large can your settlement grow to, and how does Eivor deal with the problem of over population?
Benoît: We’re about to reveal more about the settlement soon, but from what I could say right now, is that we’ve designed the settlement to be quite expandable and the more you level it up, the more there’s people that bring their story, contribution and opportunities for Eivor. Each new buildings has their purpose and some will even provide new abilities!
Col: Can you choose the strategic positioning of your settlement?
Benoît: No. When you arrive in England, there’s an area where you go to build your settlement but as for the why this place was chosen, I can’t say more not to spoil the story.
Col: The UK is know for it's unpredictable weather. Do NPC's react to the weather accordingly? If so, can you give us a few examples of this mechanic?
Benoît: Indeed this is an aspect that we wanted to make sure was represented and something that the player could use for their own advantage. For example, you can see a storm coming in the sky, or if there’s dense fog (especially in certain areas or time of day), players can take advantage of this as it’s going to impact enemy perception.
Col: Do we hear accents in the game?
Benoît: Yes of course. You can hear Norse, Welsh, Danish and Scot giving a true phonologic texture. Our Vikings are made up of Icelandic, Norwegian, Swedish and Danish actors, so yes a lot of beautiful accents.
When Eivor first arrives, Ravensthorpe is little more than a Saxon longhouse and a couple of tumbledown shacks.
Col: What can you tell us about 'Puzzle Forest', and the mysteries that can be found in the world?
Benoît: I’ll start by saying that we do have puzzle wood that you can explore and what you encounter there is really interesting. We do have quite a lot of various activities in the world that represent the Norse/Saxon culture, beliefs and the time period under 3 different categories; 1-Wealth, 2-Mysteries and 3-Secrets.
For the Mysteries, among them there’s the offering altars where you can bring back specific offerings to receive blessings from the gods, Standing stones where you have visual anamorphism gameplay to find the hidden place of energy, the World events that are individual captivating story moments that tells more about who these people were and give different emotional tones to the experience, the Animus anomalies that are present day moments merged into the simulation where you need to complete very interesting puzzles in order to recover part of a hidden message that was left for Layla to find, various World boss encounters from legendary folklore beasts to very hardened characters that has deep and interesting stories, hidden underground Caverns concealing secrets, and some others that were exposed already such as Cairn stones landmarks, Flyting the famous rap battles, and more that we’ll let the player discover for themselves.
As for the Secrets, among them there’s Roman artefacts that you could find old Roman vestige structures and bring back to a collector in your settlement, Curse symbols to find and destroy that are affecting you psychologically and even physically as the Norse were affected by those curses, Hallucination mushrooms you can consume in order to resolve 3 different types of imaginative puzzles, Flying papers which are a nice homage to Black flag as you can find customisation items, Manuscripts where you can find hidden treasures in the world and other secrets to discover.
Col: Other than the Ringleader, what are some of the other new enemy types that feature in the game?
Benoît: I’ve never worked on a game where there was such a wide and interesting variety of different enemy archetypes & bosses in a game! We have many different factions such as the Norse, Saxon, bandits, Celts, Picts and others and each of them has unique archetypes & unique abilities. Like a Norse Viking Rusher that rushes and jumps at you (or your raid crew) with dual wielding axes, a huge Saxon Housecarl that gives a lot of pressures constantly attacking with his flail, a Bandit Boar Master that use long fire torches to sends his boars at you and so many more that we’ll let the player discover!
Also it’s worth mentioning that this time around, we have archetypes that work in synergy, like for example that Ring leader in the presence of archers could assemble them to call “volley shots”, a huge bandit Destroyer that could spill oil on your and the floor while a bandit Pyro set it on fire or the boar master with his long fire torch. All of those, along with player skills & abilities are going to ensure a very cool progression and variation through the course of the game and in various territories!
Col: As the world is filled with meaningful content, what sort of collectibles will players be able to find in the world?
Benoît: A lot of them has been covered in the Mysteries and Secrets questions, but there’s a lot more that the player will discover in the world helping his survival skills (as Norse were amazing survivalist and we wanted to cover this aspect in gameplay in a more significant way) such as healing Plants, various Mushrooms that has different effect such as adding adrenaline for players to unleash their abilities, healing, however some other are more dangerous so players will have to be careful and learn the distinction, Minerals to collect or hunting for Leather in order to upgrade your gear and also your carriable capacity of arrows and health rations, Notes & flavor items that are adding richness, depth and historical background to the world, Tattoos in flying papers and some more that we’ll let the player discover!
We would like to thank Benoît for joining us for this interview, and to Gabe Graziani and the Ubisoft PR department for making it possible.