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Why We Needed Assassin's Creed Valhalla


25 Jun 2024

Written By:

Edited By:

Colum Blackett

Assassin’s Creed Valhalla’ was released November 10, 2020, and was praised by both fans and critics. It was a big step forward in the franchise as fans for years had hoped to explore the Norse era of history and what Scandinavia had to offer. It was heavily anticipated upon release, and gathered a large following after its incredible cinematic reveal trailer in late April of 2020. The trailer excited many fans as it showed the return of the famous Hidden Blade, and also revealed some of what to expect in the era of the Vikings. However, it was a big deal having ‘Valhalla’ release when it did, as the world was at the peak of the Covid-19 Pandemic. People needed a reason to be happy or stay distracted. Assassin’s Creed fans had waited patiently for Ubisoft to navigate game development during a global pandemic. It forced work from home situations and changed entirely how to develop a game while remaining safe from health violations.

Valhalla’ fortunately did not face any major delays leading up to its end of year release date. Ubisoft had done a fine job keeping their employees safe from the Coronavirus while still being able to work and complete a game as big and as ambitious as ‘Valhalla’. November of 2020 was also the highly anticipated launch of the next-generation gaming consoles. The PlayStation 5 and Xbox Series X|S were set to launch around the same time as each other, and along with the pandemic, the Semiconductor Chip Shortage was also a major problem in the world at that time, meaning purchasing one of these new consoles was borderline impossible. Restocks at select electronic stores and websites were done regularly, yet still supply was unable to meet demand. Covid, and the shortages combined made life difficult for a lot of people. 'Valhalla' releasing alongside the next-generation consoles, including the weight of the global pandemic pulling it down. It made the game become a source of comfort to fans across the globe. The state of the game industry at this time was as bad as it had ever been, and having 'Valhalla' in the mix was a great solution to fans not wanting to think about the pandemic, and became a staple of the industry to the gaming world during that time.

When ‘Valhalla’ was still in production, a big phenomenon surfaced across the gaming world, and was seen by fans as a secret tease for the upcoming Assassin’s Creed game, as Ubisoft perhaps unintentionally created an in-game poster from one of their other franchises, ‘The Division 2’ of what seemed to be a Viking holding the Apple of Eden, which is a popular recurring artifact shown throughout the Assassin’s Creed series. It had fans wondering if Ubisoft hid an easter egg in the game to get clues as to their upcoming game. Ubisoft officially denied these claims, but fans had their suspicions that the next game in the series really would be a Norse Assassin’s Creed game, and they were right, as shortly after fans dubbed the new game to be called ‘Assassin’s Creed Ragnarok’. Fans also called the game ‘Assassin’s Creed 2020’ to be more plain. But later on, shortly after all the rumors fiasco did Ubisoft officially announce the game as ‘Assassin’s Creed Valhalla’ in April of 2020. 

When ‘Valhalla’ was released, it became a coping mechanism to gaming fans during a very dark time. It was a major upside in the gaming community, and a big thing to look forward to from already faithful Assassin’s Creed fans. It was available on all major gaming platforms at launch, which was important considering very few people owned a next-gen console and could play the advanced version of the game. Ubisoft offered a free upgrade to the next-gen versions to players who purchased the game on either PS4 or the Xbox One. It was a good gesture from them as it saved people money and helped gamers avoid spending money on the same game twice, which had become a popular tactic in gaming at that time. It helped give players who were unable to upgrade yet. So, they would be able to play the new and improved version of the game they already owned. Ubisoft's marketing strategies for the game were also a big help to the fans as they were able to be even more excited about 'Valhalla'. Ubisoft's efforts to engage with their audience were a welcome gesture to the community, including having activities they encouraged fans to complete while in lockdown, such as cosplay from home and AMA's. This allowed fans to ask their most anticipated questions they had for the developers, giving fans a chance to interact with the creators and unify the community as one. The addition of Virtual Photography in the game was also a contributing factor to the game's success and allowing people an opportunity to explore and capture the land of Scandinavia, considering doing this yourself was challenging with the restrictions of the pandemic.

The release of ‘Valhalla’ went quite well, as it performed great graphically, and was even moved up from its original release date to match that of the Xbox Series consoles and their much anticipated launch. It showed fans that Ubisoft was confident in their game, and they were rewarded as ‘Valhalla’ went on to become a monumental hit, selling record amounts of copies in its first week alone. Fans were happy to explore the history of the Vikings, which had been heavily requested for years from fans of the series. Fans loved ‘Valhalla’ for many different reasons. Norse Mythology itself is very popular amongst historians and gamers alike. Games such as ‘God of War Ragnarok’ became a gigantic hit due to its storytelling and a faithful adaptation into Norse Gods. ‘Valhalla’, meanwhile had their own version of the Norse Mythology, by adding it in with returning features and storylines of standard Assassin’s Creed games, such as the Hidden Ones against the Order of the Ancients, which is a earlier in history battle between the more modern Assassin’s Brotherhood vs the Templar Order shown in previous games. Ubisoft succeeded in adding their own touch to Norse Mythology, making it very believable for the story while staying true to the source material.

For fans, the reason ‘Valhalla’ worked so well was because it was truly just a great Assassin’s Creed game in all aspects. The changes made in this game compared to previous games in the series such as ‘Assassin’s Creed Origins’ and ‘Odyssey’ were great additions to the game, and seen by most as a large improvement. The new features added included horse stamina, which gave you a meter on how far you could gallop with your mount without it getting exhausted. It offered players strategies such as escaping from enemies, meaning monitoring your horse's stamina to escape successfully. Another change included a new form of the classic Eagle Vision now known as Odin’s Sight, which allowed the player to get a landscape of the environment around them, and have them watch out for enemies in the area or where to find your objective. Weapon customization became more important for reasons such as adding runes to weapons and gear, making them more powerful and more durable against higher-leveled enemies. Building up your settlement was also a major addition to the game, where you could improve your home with pillaged materials taken from River Raids against rival clans, or found in chests hidden in enemy territory and around the map. These were welcome additions to the game, as they added a very unique form of exploration and combat that the series needed badly. 

Fans were also happy that Ubisoft decided to bring back certain popular elements of past games that were eventually left out of the newer games in the series, such as Social Stealth and Hidden Blade assassinations on enemies. Social Stealth allows the player to use the environment as cover, for example by equipping a cloak and going unnoticed through crowds in distrust areas. Including that, the game gives you the iconic Hidden Blade, a long-time staple of the series quite early on into the story, and allowed players to get familiar again with the weapon and the techniques needed to take out an enemy fast, or getting in and out of an enemy restricted area while killing your target. These were great additions for both fans of the current games and fans who could prefer the originals and its old formula. It catered to both sides of the fanbase who may have different opinions based on the direction of the franchise, but quickly pleased the ones who doubted ‘Valhalla’ which is a big reason the game was as popular as it has gotten to be. 

As we look back on this game, it truly is one of the more influential games in the entire Assassin’s Creed franchise, as it did a great job providing an excellent experience for fans and being able to distract the players and keep them busy while not trying to think of the dark time our world was going through then. In years, the gaming community may look back on this game as one of the first, if not the first true next-gen game made in the PS5 and Xbox Series era. Ubisoft did a spectacular job creating the beautiful world of both Norway and England during the Norse era, and creating a game as memorable as this one. ‘Valhalla’ was a great way to not only satisfy returning fans of the series, but also to entice new players to create new fans of the series. It was a game for everyone, even if you were not familiar with the ever-popular Assassin’s Creed games. ‘Valhalla’ was a gift during the Covid-19 pandemic, and allowed fans and gamers alike to enjoy it even in the darkest of times. Ubisoft once again hit the jackpot with ‘Valhalla’, a game we did not know we needed as much as we did. 

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About the Author

Hayden is a passionate Freelance Writer based in South Carolina who joined TOWCB's Writing Team in 2020 during the Covid-19 Pandemic, writing articles on all things Assassin's Creed Valhalla. He left the group to focus on studies, joining our Alumni program, but triumphantly returned with fresh ideas in 2024 to pick up where he left off, only this time covering Assassin's Creed Shadows.

Hayden Bird (TombAssassin)

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