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Assassin's Creed Valhalla

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30/4/20                                  By Colum Blackett                                 Edited by Ashlea Buckley

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Ubisoft have officially revealed the highly anticipated Assassin's Creed Valhalla with an 8 hour long art demonstration by BossLogic.

 

The game, set during the Viking age will take players on the adventure of a lifetime, as they travel from Scandinavia to distant lands. 

Here are a couple of things we hope to see in the game.

7: Norse Mythology

If you've ever watched Vikings or The Lost Kingdom, then you'll know how rich and expansive Norse mythology can be. As the title suggests, Valhalla (from Old Norse Valhöll "hall of the slain") was an important belief for all members of Norse society, as it's where deceased warriors rise again and feast with Odin in a great hall, located in Asgard. Only those who lived honourable lives could enter the great hall and fight amongst Odin's warriors. This encouraged warriors to be brave and helped them to embrace the idea of being slain in battle.

Other Gods such as Loki, Thor, Frigg, Balder, Hod, Tyr and Heimdall also played a pivotal role in the lives of Norse folk, as they too were among the Æsir clan, who were considered to be the most important of all the Gods. The second clan, known as the Vanir was made up of gods associated with health and fertility such as Freyja and Njord.

In Norse mythology, Ragnarok refers to an end of the cosmos scenario where a great battle commences between the Gods, Giants and Humans, which leads to the inevitable destruction of the universe before a rebirth. Although most are destroyed in the chaos, the survivors include two humans and several Gods who go on to recreate the world.

Notable mythological creatures that battle during Ragnarok are Fenrir the Wolf, Jörmungand the monstrous serpent, and Nidhogg the dragon, all of which would be perfect for great battles in Assassin's Creed V, similar to the Trials of the Gods community events from AC Origins (Animus glitches). 

 

Assassin's Creed Origins did a great job at recreating Ancient Egypt and it's beliefs, so hopefully the next entry  really explores Norse mythology and religion in depth. This is just a brief overview of some of the features in Norse Mythology, but we'll be visiting this again in a future article.

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Jörmungand, Midgard's Serpent, by Alex Alice

6: Raids

Raiding was one of the key elements that transformed many Scandinavians from simple farmers to seafaring warriors, navigating ships to distant lands in search of treasure, plundering and slaughtering at will. Villages, towns and monasteries were ransacked in Europe and beyond.

One such notable raid took place at the monastery of Lindisfarne (Holy Island, Northumberland, UK) in the year 793, where viking raiders desecrated the holy church of St Cuthbert, sending shockwaves throughout Europe. Many within the Christian community saw the devastating sacking of Lindisfarne as sign of divine displeasure from God, who had sent a great army of heathens warriors to punish the sins of humanity. 

Another notable raid, The siege of Paris took place in the year 845, and began with a fleet of Viking ships containing 5000 warriors sailing up the river Seine and attacking small villages in France, before separating and attacking on both sides. The city of Paris was then attacked on Easter Sunday, with the Viking forces remaining there until the King paid a ransom of 7000 livres (French pounds) of gold and silver, amounting to approximately 2570 kg. The raid, among many others is said to have been led by the legendary warrior Ragnar Lothbrok and his sons, who would go on to form the great heathen army. 

Not all of the Viking raids were loud and destructive, as a sneakier approach, known as stealth raids were also conducted, generally taking place at night or during the early hours of the morning. Warriors would sneak in to enemy camps, and silently kill all those in sight. Looting would take place, and the camp was normally burned to the ground after. This would definitely be a favoured approach for a proto-Assassin.

GameRant list a number of possible ways that raids could take place in the upcoming title, ranging from story quests to drop-in/drop-out co-op missions, so it'll be interesting to see how the events are incorporated into the game.

Irish Gael attack a viking raiding party. Painting by Angus McBride

5: Upgradable Base

The last time we saw an actual hideout was in Assassin's Creed Syndicate, where the Frye twins operated from a stolen train known as 'The Great Eagle'. The train acted as a base of operations, and even contained records of missions. Although it could not be upgraded, it would change depending on your progression, adding souvenirs and money generated by The Rooks. Although this feature was heavily watered down from previous entries, it still existed.

The best example of this is feature is Monteriggioni in Assassin's Creed 2, the town where Ezio's family owned a villa. Upgrades could be made to the shops, defences and infrastructure, and the more effort you put in, the more money and perks you would gain. When you first get to the town, it is in desperate need of repairs, and you slowly make improvements and progress throughout the game to get it back to it's former glory.

Another example of the upgradable base feature can be found in Assassin's Creed III, where Connor would complete the homestead missions and help to establish a small settlement on the land beneath the Davenport homestead. The missions are arguably some of the best for Connor, as they show him in a different light interacting with members of the nearby community. The more missions you complete, the better the town homestead becomes, making more resources available.

 

AC IV Black Flag had The Jackdaw, Edward's beloved ship that could be upgraded in numerous ways, and acted as a mobile hideout. In the Captain's quarters, you could find maps, Kenway's fleet, outfit and weapon selection options.  

In Assassin's Creed Origins and Odyssey, the protagonists are wanderers, and do not have a base of operations. The Vikings were raiders, and brought back all treasures to their homeland of Scandinavia. It makes sense that after particularly successful raids, changes would be made to the towns in order to defend, expand and improve. If you look at Kattegat in season one of Vikings (tv) compared to later seasons, you can see a clear difference between the fishing village of trade, and the fortified town that has upgraded in order to prevent invasion.

If the upgradable hideout feature was to return, it could bring back the base progression system that seems to have disappeared as the new RPG format focusses more on abilities, weapons and armour. What an honour it would be for a viking warrior to protect the homeland against those who wish to attack.

Viking Repose By Seb McKinnon

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4: Improved Modern Day

Since the death of Juno in the Assassin's Creed Uprising comic book series, the modern day story has been lacking purpose in the main games. Some even argue that it died with Desmond in Assassin's Creed III, and others are asking for a way to skip it entirely.

 

Origins introduced Layla Hassan, an employee at Abstergo. After an attempt on her life from Sigma Team, she uses her new abilities (learned through the bleeding effect) to defend herself. She is then visited by William Miles, leader of the Assassin Brotherhood, who recruits her.

Fast forward to AC Odyssey: Layla is now leader of her own Assassin cell leading a search for First Civilisation artefacts. She learns that a mercenary called Kassandra wielded an Isu weapon known as the Spear of Leonidas. With the help of Dr Victoria Bibeau and an advanced animus, she discovers the broken Spear and the entrance to Atlantis, where she meets Kassandra herself, who has been kept alive thanks to the Staff of Hermes Trismegistus. The pair talk, and Layla is awarded the staff, ending Kassandra's unnaturally long life in the process. (Fate of Atlantis DLC)

Layla takes on the title of Heir of Memories, and goes back in the animus to learn more about Kassandra and her role as 'the keeper' (protector of the staff). During this time, Layla learns of a First Civ member known as Aletheia who guided Kassandra. Upon exiting the animus, Layla hears Aletheia's voice coming from the staff, telling her to unlock the seal of Atlantis by identifying three symbols, which could be found in the memories of  Alexios (Deimos), who killed the sculptor Phidias, Kassandra's associate. After viewing the memories of Kassandra's brother, Layla is pulled out of the animus by Victoria who is worried about her health. They are then warned about 'the interloper', a man who wished to interfere. 

Layla and Victoria enter the chamber, where they are met by Aletheia who did not foresee the Heir of Memories travelling with a companion. We then see Kassandra being tasked with the Trials of Atlantis, which were created so that she may pass on her strength against the staff's corrupting influence to Layla one day. Layla is once again forced out of the animus due to her increasingly aggressive behaviour. Victoria wishes to end the mission, as the bleeding effect due to time in Alexios's memories has changed Layla. The pair argue, and Layla grabs the staff back from her, before hitting her over the head with it, instantly killing her.

Aletheia appears and states that the Heir of Memories would never do such a thing, and she must think on her decision to appoint Layla. More Kassandra memories are completed in the Animus, and Layla is once again pulled out, this time by Aletheia, who informs her that the Interloper is here. Juhani Otso Berg (The Black Cross/ Leader of Sigma Team) appears. He seeks to take the staff from her and end her life for leaving Abstergo, and the two engage in a battle, with Layla defeating him. With Berg on the floor, she brutally impales him with the staff, severely wounding him. Layla realises that her time in the vault is coming to an end, as her position has been compromised. She contacts her Assassin cell and requests that they rescue her from the vault.

Odyssey was guilty of cramming a ton of First Civ content and Modern Day progression inside DLC, but towards the end of The Fate of Atlantis, it;s finally getting interesting again. Otso Berg states in AC Rogue that he is a descendant of a Viking who took part in the Lindisfarne raid, so it's highly likely that we'll see him again in the next entry. Hopefully the next game can progress the modern day story in the main game, rather than in side content or transmedia material that only a small majority of fans will play or read. There's so much scope for the modern day story, and it really can be improved upon.

Layla and Otso Berg    Source: Ubisoft

3: Improved Post-Launch content

Assassin's Creed Origins and Odyssey had some of the best post-launch content in Ubisoft's history, but they can go even further with the next entry. Both games had a wealth of DLC material, but only a small portion of fans stick around to complete every bit of 

 

All credit to Ubisoft, much of the content is free and accessible to all players, such as The Lost Tales of Greece, and even more memorable, The Trial of the Gods. These timed community events took players on epic battles against Egyptian Gods, making them some of the best free missions to be added post-launch to an Assassin's Creed game. 

Ubisoft are making great progress with post-launch content, but need to find a way to make it less repetitive with the next entry. The content means that players always have something to do, and community events bring people together to face the same challenges. Even something as simple as increasing the level cap (AC Origins), or adding exclusive weapons and enemies can bring players back and keep the game alive. 

Odyssey had a mercenary system similar to Shadow of Mordor, where random enemies were added with a name and basic backstory. They also added special abilities to to make the experience more challenging, and rewarded players with special weapons and in-game currency. 

Improvements can be made by moving away from added packs and skins post-launch, most of which break the historical immersion (Unicorns, Pegasus etc). Instead, a system of gaining these rewards through free missions would mean that more people have the chance to gain unique armours and weaponry. Of course, in-game purchases (microtransactions) will never be removed, as they bring in a huge amount for companies, but if players can only unlock the best equipment by spending more in-game, it adds a paywall that isn't always fair.

Odyssey added the Oikos of the Olympians, which allowed players to exchange in-game resources for the exclusive weaponry or armour, which is definitely a better way of progressing your character's appearance in an RPG.

Bringing back the Assassin's Creed Legacy outfits would also be a huge step in the right direction, and making them available for free is a must. 

In the age of Vikings, it would be great to see Ubisoft build upon the last entries, and add post-launch content that is engaging, memorable and personal to the player's experience. Expanding upon the mercenary system can be done by adding interesting stories or even several missions before hunting enemies down. 

 

Surely they can do better than 'Testiklos the Nut'.......

Events such as defending your home-base, or avenging an ally, or even missions similar to the legendary ship battles in Black Flag, would really add to the experience. Finally, Ubisoft could definitely replicate the Trials of the Gods missions from AC Origins using the creatures found in Norse Mythology, such as Fenrir the Wolf or Jörmungand the sea serpent (more listed above). Ubisoft are definitely on the right track, so hopefully we'll see the best post-launch content yet in Assassin's Creed Valhalla.

Oracle Character Pack from Assassin's Creed Odyssey

2: Customisable Ships

Ships were extremely personal to the Vikings, as they were the only form of travelling over seas. In order to become expert navigators, a great deal of thought went in to the construction of ships, making them light and durable. 

''The Viking ship was perhaps the greatest technical and artistic achievement of the European dark ages. These fast ships had the strength to survive ocean crossings while having a draft of as little as 50cm (20 inches), allowing navigation in very shallow water.'' (Hurstuic)

The ships were built with overlapping side planks fixed together with iron clinker nails, giving them flexibility that allowed them to pass right over waves instead of resisting the force. They were also extremely fast in comparison to the ships of other nations, making them manoeuvrable and quick vs sluggish and bulky enemy fleets.

 

Crossing the sea was a dangerous journey, and could be extremely cold for all on board. Some ships, which could hold up 60 men, were lost at sea, whilst others were blown completely off course. It was common to see figureheads carved out of wood mounted to the front of ships. This was added to scare enemies, and were often shaped like snakes or dragons.

In Assassin's Creed Valhalla, it would be great if we had the option to customise our ships, adding detailed wood carvings, figureheads and different coloured masts to our vessel. Another great feature would be the ability to customise the colour of the shields, which were held in place by a rack and fixed to the side of ships. 

We could also upgrade our ships withe the profits made from looting, or even meet traders throughout the game who can improve the defences. Vikings ships were not created for battle at sea, but improvements to the defences and durability would certainly have been a top priority. There's so much Ubisoft could do with this feature, and it really would make the seafaring voyages more interesting. Who knows. Maybe they'll add in a couple of sea shanties too.

''Assassin's Creed Ragnarok' concept art by former Ubisoft artist Michel Nucera

1: The Blood Eagle

No doubt one of the most brutal methods of execution ever, The Blood Eagle was an extremely rare ritualistic practice detailed in late Skaldic poetry and in Nordic sagas. 

The victim would first be restrained, as an eagle with outstretched wings was cut into his back. Next, his ribs would be hacked from the spine with an axe, then pulled out along with skin and everything else to resemble the wings of an eagle. This horrific form of torture would be left resembling a bird in flight for days, in order to deter people from committing the same crimes. 

So why is it on the wishlist?

Quite simply, symbolism.

The eagle is a powerful icon in the Assassin's Creed universe, and it would make sense to tie in the Blood Eagle torture method with AC lore. 

Perhaps proto-Templars caught proto-Assassins and executed them in this way, or maybe it could be a way of brutally ending a target?

Either way It could definitely tie in to the ideological conflict that rages throughout history, and could be something that was practised by a dark precursor fringe group that would one day become the Assassin Brotherhood.

Could this be something from the darkest corner of the Assassins history?

The Blood Eagle by All That's Interesting

Col is the Community Admin for The Ones Who Came Before, and one of the UK Assassin's Creed community ambassadors.

He is also a former Ubisoft Star Player, and has spent the last 5 years working within the Assassin's Creed community on countless projects.

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Colum Blackett

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Assassin's Creed is a registered trademark of Ubisoft Entertainment

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