Within the wave of news amid the official announcement of Assassin’s Creed Valhalla, developers at Ubisoft did their own breakdown of the reveal trailer. The four-minute cinematic trailer showcases the game’s Viking era setting, story premise, and what’s to come from gameplay. However, there are plenty of key details that the trailer doesn’t spell out.
In the video below, you can watch creative director Ashraf Ismail and narrative director Darby McDevitt talking through the trailer with Ubisoft news editor Youssef Maguid. They gave broader context for specific scenes and spoke about the approach for depicting Vikings with their culture and history in mind, and how the trailer also contains gameplay details. There’s also a hint as to how the new protagonist Eivor might be connected to the Assassins.
We have this next game in the storied franchise covered from all angles; be sure to read our own interview with Assassin’s Creed Valhalla narrative director Darby McDevitt for an even deeper dive into the game’s story. While a male protagonist is portrayed in the trailer, Assassin’s Creed Valhalla will let players choose between a male and female lead. There are also a few details on how Assassin’s Creed Valhalla uses next-gen console features.
Below is an annotation of Ubisoft’s Assassin’s Creed Valhalla trailer breakdown.
Story Setup And The Viking Age
The first shot they breakdown shows a settlement in Norway. Ismail says that the theme of home and settling other lands are important for the story and Eivor, the main protagonist.
Shortly after, there’s a shot of a large statue of Odin, the Norse god. McDevitt detailed that in Norse culture, people give offerings to gods in return for favors, usually before important events. You can see this ritual taking place. A sacrifice is made to Odin, and Eivor gets marked on the face with what looks like blood. The people are about to leave Norway and lead a raid to establish a settlement in England. Ismail said that these scenes tease the idea that the journey starts in Norway and eventually leads to England.
During the following scene of a raid, Eivor and his companion turn the corner and avoid attacking a woman and her children. All the while, the backing narration from an English King who mentions that the Vikings murder and kill blindly like savages, sparing no one–which creates a sort of dissonance. McDevitt brings up that much of Viking history comes from those they raided (the English) and that accounts are brutal. However, while the English (or Saxons) kept many records and writings to recount its history, there are other sources necessary to get the full picture. McDevitt says they want to show a complete story of an entire culture.
McDevitt went into more detail; the Viking Era began at the end of the 8th century with the attack on the “Holy Island” of Lindisfarne. When Valhalla takes place (beginning in 873 AD), there’s more of a focus on settling than raiding–people of Norway and Denmark coming to England. Around that time, settling and cultural assimilation happened fairly quickly and easily because of similarities between the two cultures. Valhalla doesn’t just depict the brutality of the era, but also the culture, alliances that formed, and the places they settled.
The next scene shows the nighttime raid seamlessly transition to a bright sunny day on the countryside, depicting the Vikings actually settling the lands. Ismail says that these Vikings left Norway and have to build a community and integrate in the local society. They were also farmers, traders, which Ismail said are also gameplay elements; you’ll play a role in building settlements and communities and make choices as a leader in the game.
McDevitt gave more historical context, and said that the evidence of how successful Norse people were in settling England can be found in the number of towns with names ending in -thorpe or -by.
So, the main story begins in 873 AD during the Viking era and at a time when England was several lands but not a unified country–there are multiple fractured kingdoms. In the game, you see King Alfred (aka Alfred the Great), who is the voice over in the first half of the trailer. Alfred is the King of Wessex, the southern-most kingdom (among three others: Mercia, Northumbria, and East Anglia). Wessex was known for having the strongest and fiercest opposition to Viking settlement.
Gameplay Hints Within The Trailer
The next scene they look at features Viking longships, which will play a major role in the game. Longships were unique to Vikings and allowed them to cover vast waters swiftly while carrying cargo and people. These were agile ships that allowed Vikings to get behind enemy lines fast for hit-and-run style raids.
You then see a depiction of a full on battle. These instances are said to be separate from smaller-scale raids where you plunder for resources, hinting that these are two different styles of combat encounters that are core to the gameplay loop. Large-scale battles can take place on fields and in fortifications, and the one in the trailer showcases some of the things you’ll be working with in Valhalla’s combat system. You can mix axes and shields, dual-wield axes, use a throwing axe, or even dual-wield shields. Dual-wielding is said to be a big part of the combat system.
Now, we see a bit more about Eivor and the intersection between Norse mythology and Assassin’s Creed lore. Eivor spots a hooded figure in the distance and a raven flying off as a thunderstorm begins, giving him the will to keep fighting. This could be a physical manifestation of Odin returning the favor of the ritual’s sacrifice shown earlier in the trailer. In the Norse mythos, huginn and muninn are two of Odin’s ravens named after their words for thought and memory, and it could Eivor’s interpretation that empowers him in the chaos of battle, as Ubisoft is going for a “more grounded” approach this time around.
Eivor is shown fighting a very strong foe, who will be a particular enemy type in Valhalla’s gameplay. This enemy is said to be a leader on the battlefield with unique abilities, heavy armor, and very few weakpoints (which sounds similar to Brutes and Enforcers in Odyssey).
The Viking-Assassin Connection And The Hidden Blade
Eivor looks to be defeated but escapes death by using the series’ iconic Hidden Blade at the last minute to kill the enemy. A small detail is that Eivor has the blade mounted atop the arm, unlike previous Assassins (except for Darius from Odyssey’s Legacy of the First Blade DLC).
Ismail and McDevitt spoke to how Valhalla mixes Viking fantasy with the Assassin’s Creed world. In the story, Eivor meets with the Assassins at some point, but doesn’t necessarily know what they’re all about–what’s important is that the Vikings and Assassins have common ground and end up working with each other. Eivor gets the hidden blade at some point early on in the story, though no further details were given as to how or why.
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