Assassin's Creed

AC Valhalla is not well researched and is at times even immersion-breaking

I’ll top this off by saying that I am enjoying the game. But I’m just 12 hours in and apart from gameplay and overall story, it’s really hard to take some things seriously, which is in turn damaging the hole experience of playing AC Valhalla.

Also, this is not supposed to be a critique of all the over-the-top AC-stuff like mythical beasts or necessary things like having to adjust the size of cities, buildings etc. for the sake of video game stuff, although it is funny to hear Eivor say that the main building in Ravensthorp is fit for a king or something. Yeah, because it looks like a ginormous wooden opera house from the outside.

It’s an AC game and especially after having played Odyssey, this was to be expected. The Early Middle Ages are not exciting architecturally. I can tolerate Norway being a damn glacier too because then there is less in it to make look ridiculous. I know that giant axes and all the other fantasy things are what people are really into.

But at the same time, the game tries to come off as that educationally somewhat valuable game (considering previous thing like the guided tours in Origins and Odyssey), most of the time even having those "We're like Vikings or The Last Kingdom but more historically grounded because we’ve got references to sagas and skalds!" vibes. Which leads me to my main critique points:

  1. So many references to Old Norse literature and mythology are badly researched. The game seems to make the same mistake so many people make when they start to look up those things on Wikipedia or whatever, the main thing being taking Old Norse literature as a safe source of "Viking" life and culture for instance (it is amazing how the game both objects to and perpetuates the stereotype of Vikings being a culture btw.). Those sagas the game really likes to shove into people’s faces are and Icelandic thing, written hundreds of years after the Viking invasion of England and most of them have barely anything to do with Vikings. The term "fornaldarsögur", which are the sagas that evolve around things before the Norse settlement of Iceland, also already implies a uniquely Icelandic perspective in my opinion. Sagas were basically just popular stories about Icelandic people doing things in Iceland (and occasionally somewhere else). And don’t even get me started on things like the Eddas, which the researchers for AC Valhalla obviously used in the most literal sense ever when the let characters say things like "when the gods used to walk among us". Eddic prose and poetry was mostly compiled by Christian Icelanders in the 13th century onwards. The history of tradition of Old Norse texts is too much to write down in this post but I really wonder why nobody seems to have told the developers that it is highly debatable what and if any parts of Old Norse literature are a reliable source for anything mainland Scandinavian pre-Christianisation.

  2. How the characters speak. The actors themselves did a really good job as far as I can tell. But what was the casting strategy here? Apparently, they tried to hire people with fitting backgrounds. But having Danish, Norwegian and Swedish actors trying their best to pronounce Old Norse words in the 21st century, while there are also Icelandic actors in the mix is not it. I wouldn’t mind that, as having Scandinavian actors in a "Viking" game is the obvious thing to do but there is so much inconsistency in regards to how Old Norse words are pronounced. That in combination with the natural accents of the voice actors being noticeably different even when the characters are supposed to be from the same place (i.e. Eivor and Sigurd), can be so immersion-breaking. I don’t think that all that Old Norse stuff the actors‘ fault as they were probably being given direction on how to say things but you just can’t have people pronounce viking the English way and use valkyrjur instead of simply saying valkyries at the same time. Also, why are the names spelled so randomly. Sigurd and Ivarr at the same time makes no sense, that’s the same as having Platon and Homer at the same time. Either it’s Sigurðr and Ivarr or Sigurd and Ivar. And those are by far not the only odd pairs.

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I mean none of those things are a big deal if you’re just in it for the ride and like to battle your way through England but I’ve never had the experience of not being able take characters seriously that are trying so hard to come off as the ultimate WoW viking wet dream or whatever the creative direction for the game was. Sigurd, you talking about wanting to be in a saga while being dressed as some kind of Viking pharao does not make you more Norse than a regular farmer in 9th-century Denmark.


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