Straight off the bat, we get a glimpse of the Viking homeland. They have set this scene up to look cold, dull and uncomfortable, but don’t be fooled. This is probably just a glimpse of the land during the cold winters, as it has been confirmed that the reason the Vikings invade England is not that they want a warmer climate, but because the land is running low on resources due to becoming overcrowded.
The architecture in this shot is beautiful and gives us an idea of life of the Danes beyond raiding and fighting. It gives us our first glimpse of the ideas of a settlement which will play an important part in the game once you reach English shores. This shot gives us a clue as to what types of buildings will be available for use to build, from the huts to the halls and the temple in the background. It might also give us a clue as to the type of tasks we can complete in our spare time such as woodcutting in order to get the resources you need to build your settlement.
In this shot, we get a glimpse of Norse rituals that would be a huge part of everyday life for the Vikings. They would often perform sacrifices to their gods and use blood as a bonding connection to the protection from the gods. This also shows us our first glimpse of clan sigils. Look to the shield on the right-hand side and you’ll see the Raven painting on the shield. This could mean that we might get to choose our sigils or that the raven is our protagonist sigil which I will explain later. Either way, it is nice to see the element of their culture added to the game.
This beautiful shot of the northern lights gives us just some idea of how incredible this game could look (most likely on the next-gen consoles more than current-gen), but more importantly, this shot shows us a closer look at the religious side of the Vikings. This statue, for those of you that aren’t aware, portrays the God Odin, known as the All-Father. If you’re a fan of Marvel then you’ll know that Odin is the father of Thor (among others). Some of you will have noticed the horns and antlers in this scene, which I will talk about next but for now, I will say that this shot shows a sense of sacrifice and death, and for good reason, since death was something that the culture accepted and celebrated more than most, as any warrior who died bravely in battle, would believe that Odin would choose them to join him and the many warriors who have died before, in Valhalla, where they would drink, feast and fight for the rest of eternity until the time of Ragnarok, the twilight of the Gods and the end of the known world.
Some rituals, such as sacrifices for plentiful farming, can be performed by almost anyone in the clan, but certain rituals require particular beings such as a Seer, an Angel of Death, or those with reputation. This character appears to be some sort of Seeress, and whilst she wears horns on her head, do not fall for the common misconception that Vikings wore horns. That idea was first derived during the Operas to make the Viking characters seem more intimidating and often associated them with horned devils.
This character is performing a ritual that seems to offer protection to our protagonist, Eivor before his journey West. However, given that this game is set during 873 AD, this is 80 years AFTER the first recorded Viking invasion at the Church of St Cuthbert in Lindisfarne, which happened in 793 AD, meaning that this is not the first time Vikings will have sailed west, but perhaps it is the first time Eivor and his clan have, so they would be asking for success on their journey from the Gods.
Another look at hometown culture for the vikings, as we are shown a dock and the famous fjords that surrounded the settlements. There has been confirmation that you can travel back to Norway, possibly to trade or for certain quests, and so this shot gives us a glimpse at not only the beginning of Eivor’s journey but also an idea of what you could be returning to. A sense of what you are leaving behind, as well as a small idea of the possible scale of the land you could traverse whilst in the homeland. The many tall mountains could easily be used for treasures and of course the famous ‘View Point’ mechanic that is apart of every Assassin’s Creed game in the main series.
Raiding and sailing are a big part of the experience, but unlike previous games such as Odyssey, Black Flag and Assassin’s Creed 3, there will not be any Naval combat in AC: Valhalla because the Vikings didn’t fight on the water. Their longships were not equipped with weapons for fighting on the waters, and there would be little room for any archers to stand and shoot across to other ships, so don’t expect your sailing adventures to be filled with battles on the rough seas.
However, these rough seas could indicate a sense of danger for you during your missions, or for your clan, since it is well documented that many viking ships have been lost during the long voyages, which could mean that you still have the mechanic to loot whilst on the water, or rescue anyone that falls victim to the tragedies, similar to the rescue and loot mechanics in Black Flag and Odyssey.
Similar to the shield mentioned in the third screen shot, the sails of these ships have a Raven sigil painted onto them, which again could either mean you get to choose a sigil, or that Eivor’s own clan sigil is the Raven. This sail seems to have two Raven’s on either side, which could represent the two Raven’s belonging to Odin, Munin (meaning “memory”) and Hugin (meaning “thought”).
Finally, we reach English shores and this shot, in particular, gives us just a small taste of the scale of the land, with the high cliff faces, the rolling hills and with the lighting and sense of warmth, this shot gives us a sense that this is almost paradise to the Vikings.
More than raiding and pillaging, there were many Vikings that travelled to England for nothing more than finding farmland. Farming was a massive part of the culture along with trading, and the majority of people within the settlements were farmers, so this shot really gives us that sense of lush farmland that would appeal to the Vikings as they approach.
Vikings were recorded as being heartless. They had tactics that could topple empires, and used them to their advantage. This could be a possible mechanic for the player to choose when to attack, and how to attack. Perhaps there is a new system that allows us to plan our raids.
Though portrayed as merciless by the English, this shot shows us the softer side to some of the Vikings. Like every culture, there are those that are heartless and those with sympathy. Our protagonist, Eivor, prevents the pointless murder of this woman and her child, which gives us a sense of Eivor as a person. We always see our protagonist as a hero in these games, and even as a vicious Viking, there are players who will want the choice to be cruel or kind, especially since we have learned of the choice and consequence mechanic, which will alter the game based on our choices.
Burning villages on either side of the river gives us a sense of scale of the English settlements, as well as similar to the shot of the fjords, giving us a glimpse of possible viewpoint locations such as the church in the background.
It also shows us that we could use our ships for travelling up rivers to find and raid new settlements as we traverse the English land. The size of this river seems to show an early London (Formerly called Lunden), which we have learned is certainly one of the areas we will explore in the game, and so the river could be the Thames, which would certainly require a ship to travel across.
Back to bright colour and warm daylight, these next scenes show us the new mechanic of settlement construction and give us a glimpse of the types of buildings we can construct. In the background, you can see a great hall being erected, as well as housing, so it certainly seems that we will have a choice of what buildings we want in our settlements, as well as possibly a choice of placements, so that our settlements will differ to that of other players and give us a real sense of “This is my settlement, the way I like it, and I want to defend this because it’s mine.”
More than the buildings, it seems that we will also have a variety of decorations we can build and buy for our settlements, such as monuments to the gods, such as this wooden monument, as well as some of the animal skull monuments we saw earlier on with the Seeress.
Now we get our first glimpse of the narrator of the trailer and our villain. Though it has been said that the idea of heroes and villains are more nuanced than usual in this game, which means we could see a more compromising side to the King, who I will name for you soon, as it is revealed in a few missable details.
This wider shot of the King gives us our first clue for those with some historical knowledge. The crosses on the King’s clothing may at first seem like a simple Chirstian or even early Templar cross, but it is in fact the Crest for the house of Wessex, which is our first clue as to who this King is.
Before we move on to the biggest clue about who the King is, I wanted to point out this close up of his companion her, as it seems to me that this character is the possible Commander of the Guard, but more importantly, from the look on his face, I feel like he is certainly someone to be wary of. He seems to enjoy the idea of war and it feels to me, though this is of course just speculation, that this man is pulling some of the strings and secretly persuading the King to act in a way that is more advantageous to his own goals rather than what is best for the kingdom.
So here is our true reveal of the King’s identity, but it could easily have been missed by some. The wax seal placed upon the document bears the words “Alfred Rex” which reveals to us that this man is King Alfred, later known as Alfred The Great, who was the King of Wessex and later known as King of the Anglo-Saxons from 871 to 899.
If you’re not sure how this stamp reveals that he is King Alfred, then turn your attention to the ‘Rex’ part of his name. Rex is not his surname, but is in fact Latin for ‘King’, and that is how we know who he is.
Moreover, this shot allows us to get a glimpse of the word “war” which is bold and freshly inked onto the page, and this could very well give us a glimpse of the future of the plot as King Alfred was famed for defeating the Danes at the Battle of Edington in 878, so this could well be the war he is referring to, though do bare in mind that there were many battles with the Danes during Alfred’s reign.
Turning our attention back to the Vikings, we have a glimpse of the crew of Eivor’s longship, who remain nameless for now, but I suspect that along with the crew customisation option, such as the one we saw in Odyssey, though more advanced, we may also get to learn their names, and build a relationship with them. Viking crews were often built upon bonds of friendship and respect. I have no doubt that Eivor knows the name of each man and woman aboard his ship, so it would be important for the player to know their names as well, so that we can feel that bond with our crew and should it happen, feel the loss of each member that falls in battle.
Here is a look at the scale of the battles, as this could possibly be the Battle of Edington, though the lack of Alfred’s presence here suggests it’s just one of many great battles fought during the viking incursion. Again, this battle is carried out at night, or seemingly dawn, as we can see in the next clip, which again, could point to a possible choice of when you battle.
However, one thing I noticed throughout this trailer is that all of the fight scenes seem to see the armies scattered amongst the field. I am personally hoping for a sense of tactics within the larger battles, which would include the options of command for your army to find some sort of formation, such as the famous “shield-wall” that would see the Vikings take a defensive stance in order to strategically pick off the enemy soldiers one by one.
This quick shot gives us our first real look at weapons beyond the typical sword, axe and shield, as we see spearmen fighting for both sides, which also gives us an idea of varying enemy types.
Archery in some form has been a part of the Assassin’s Creed series since the early games, with throwing knives being an optional choice since the very first game, and now with the Vikings, we are given a new badass ranged attack in the form of throwing axes.
A closer look at the Saxon army shows us what could possibly be a choice of shields, since the famous round shields of the Vikings would be a primary choice, other options could include Saxon’s kite shields.
Game Developers have promised us a more visceral combat experience, as you can see in this shot of a Saxon being decapitated with a swing of an axe. The developers also told us of a skill tree of sorts, so perhaps this skill is optional and unlockable, if the player chooses.
Eivor has now lost his shield and gives us a look at the new dual wield mechanic that has been confirmed for the game. This mechanic apparently lets you dual wield a combination of weapons from two swords or axes to an axe in one hand and sword in another, even the choice of dual-wielding two shields, to simply shield-bash your enemies to death, which sounds fun.
As mentioned before, mythology plays a big part in the culture of the Norse people, and so the trailer gives us a glimpse of Odin. It is not yet clear how far into the mythology Ubisoft is letting the player delve, but they have said that they want this game to be a little more grounded than the previous two instalments, that saw the player fighting mythological creatures of Greek and Egyptian mythologies. However, the vision of Odin leads to something special for this game.
The vision of Odin is accompanied by the sight of a Raven flying overhead. Since the first game, the Eagle has been the symbol of vision for the series with the previous two instalments taking the “Eagle Vision” mechanic to the next level by giving us control of an actual Eagle to scout the settlements and fortresses to give us the advantage of knowing where the enemies are and how best to strike the camps to succeed. Eagles do have a place among Vikings, but the newly added Raven companion is more symbolic to the culture, as you’ve seen previously on the shield and sail designs. So to replace the Eagle companions of the previous two games, we now have a Raven who is also customisable.
Scanning the battlefield we can see more weapon types and possible enemy types. The viking warrior to the right seems to be wielding a warhammer of sorts, and in one hand no less. So we could see a variety of blunt weapons again like we have in previous games. This could also mean that we have a choice of character builds, with varying damage and defense with each piece of equipment you choose for Eivor.
One complaint about the last instalment of the series was the lack of the infamous hidden blade that has become a staple of the franchise since the very first game. However, as we can now see, there is a difference to this version, as it is worn above the arm rather than on the inside of the arm.
Another fun thing I noticed that some might have passed off as a simple cinematic detail, was the soldiers around the battlefield had all stopped to watch Eivor fight the brute, and this could imply that there is a sense of champions that could easily be used to end a battle without more loss. The Saxons now seem frightened, and their lack of morale is due to the death of their champion so could this be a mechanic of finding the biggest, baddest foe on the field and eliminate him for easier success?
Moving beyond the trailer now, as there are some more clues hidden throughout the content that has been released. For example, if you pre-order the game, there is a new mission pack for you called “The Way of the Berserker”, which shows us this grizzly looking bear. It looks as though this bear has seen battle, and we have heard that Wolves are available as mounts for the game to replace horses if the player wants, so perhaps this bear is also available as either a mount or a companion. Origins and Odyssey had the ‘Tame Animal’ perks, so perhaps this is returning for Valhalla.
Looking at the Collector’s edition of the game we get a look at the idea of a Female Eivor, as it has been confirmed that players will have the option of choosing between a male or female Eivor, but the choice will not necessarily alter the story in any major way.
A closer look at the available DLC with the collector’s edition shows us that we will have options to customise the Raven, our settlements, our longships and also our weapons. The previous game (Odyssey) gave us the ability to add bonus perks to weapons, and so in this new game we continue to have that option in the form of Runes that we will add to our weapons and gear to give them various perks such as more damage or more defense etc.
A bonus to purchasing one of the collectables from the Ubisoft Workshop reveals the option of customising Eivors tattoos, as you will receive a special code for a tattoo pack. This means that the RPG elements of this series are really reaching new heights and will allow the player to experience a more immersive experience.
Finally, as a last pointer, have you looked properly at the new Assassin sigil? It certainly looks like two upside down axes to me. Just a little fun and very clever design from the developers and designers of this game.
Bravo Ubisoft, bravo!