The latest installment in the Assassin’s Creed saga transports us to the cold north and the green shores of England like a Viking in search of his destiny
The process of creating a video game does not start and end with strict development, all that code and programming that makes things work the way they should. Nor should we stay with the design and modeling of characters and textures, dubbing or motion capture. A video game begins with an idea, that of one or more people who have something to tell and, from there, it expands and grows like the branches of a tree. It is interesting, if not fascinating, to know all that process and the anecdotes that it leaves along the way and that is why we want to embark (pun intended) on that journey for what is probably one of the most anticipated games of a year as strange as It’s been 2020: Assassin’s Creed Valhalla.
During the official presentation event of Assassin’s Creed Valhalla, many curious facts were revealed that allow us to peek into the creation and development process that gave rise to the game. The main people in charge of this installment revealed that the original idea of making an Assassin’s Creed in the Viking Age was something they had in mind for a long time (because, in their words, “Vikings are great”) and that they launched the proposal very little some time after AC Origins hit the market, beginning development while AC Odyssey was in production.
Darby McDevitt and Philippe Bergeron, Narrative Director and Level Design Producer respectively, wanted to highlight that two of the main aspects they wanted to focus on during the creation of the video game were the narrative and the naturalness and immersion of the plot in the video game world. Regarding the first point, they had to assess the construction of the story taking into account details such as that Eivor is an invader in hostile territory (so it cannot help random people) and in the amount of gaps and details that we do not know of the time, which must have been filled in with fidelity and respect. For the narrative construction itself, the ancient Norse sagas have served as a source of inspiration and that is why the development of Assassin’s Creed Valhalla presents “an episodic structure”. Regarding the second aspect we have highlighted, the team was clear that they wanted “the game to feel fresh after 70 hours”, something very difficult to achieve. To do this, they sought a better integration of the missions in the world and in the story itself, making it more natural to both accept and complete them and avoid those tedious checklists that we have seen in other installments.
They also highlighted their determination to be more selective with the content they offered, thus reducing the missions, collectibles and equippable items but improving the quality and the player experience with the available ones.
In the place of the events
With these clear concepts, it was time for the inspiration trip, a visit to Norway and England to see first-hand some of the most iconic places of these two kingdoms that can be explored in Assassin’s Creed Valhalla and its atmosphere in order to transfer an experience very close to reality.
In the north (Norway and Denmark) they not only recognized the forms and textures of the landscape, but they also approached Viking culture in a unique way thanks to the communities and museums that recreate what life was like at that time with great historical fidelity . Bows were fired, axes were wielded, chain mail was dressed, instruments of the time were played, looms were used, and it was celebrated in the great hall, with its horns raised, as if Odin himself were paying them a visit. Of course, he also sailed (with work as a rower included) in an authentic longship built as at the time. In England they rediscovered the wild beauty and greenery of the islands, as well as the magical essence and past echoes that places like Stonehenge or Hadrian’s wall give off. According to the team, this journey of inspiration allowed them to offer a much more real experience in the game by taking elements that they saw in situ and, in turn, moving away from the cliches and stereotypes that still exist today about the Vikings to contribute a much more complex to the looters of the north.