Content of the article: "How well does Valhalla follow AC’s core commandments and rules?"
Last year I wrote a post discussing how well each title did in terms of following the 10 commandments to retain the series identity set forth by creator Patrice Desilets and with those the 8 other rules for franchise identity. As a recap, all the games prior to Origins broke and bent a total of 13 rules, while Odyssey alone broke 14/18. Today, we look at how Valhalla stacks up. Mild spoilers below.
For those unaware, the 18 rules and commandments are:
- Assassin’s Creed will always tell the story of the secret war between Assassins and Templars
- Being an assassin doesn’t make the main character a ruthless killer. He kills, but he has principles and never murders innocents. He avoids collateral damage as much as possible
- The war between Assassins and Templars is the foundation of our Franchise story in the past and present.
- The Assassin should always be agile, socially skilled, unbeatable with a blade, and a stylish bad-ass.
- Pivotal moments in Human History are the basis of our Franchise. Assassin’s Creed will always take a revisionist approach to real events. We’ll use historical gaps to create our story.
- History should always be portrayed as relevant to our core audience, with facts that tie into present-day common knowledge and edgy modern Art Direction
- Assassin’s Creed is based on Technology – Nothing is Magical, Everything has a plausible technological explanation.
- Assassin’s Creed is about digging in a character’s past through their DNA in order to understand what really happened in key historical moments.
- Since the player relives the deeds of his kin through his DNA, the I.P. cannot be set in the future. DNA of unborn people does not exist.
- Assassin’s Creed can bend Historical accuracy but cannot create a Uchronia.
- Historical places and Events. Give a new explanation for historical facts and events. Brings “historical lessons” to the player in a way that’s relevant to a modern person
- Main character silhouette or posture (Eagle motif)
- The “static/glimpse” and “limbo” elements (Memory corridors, and white room confessions)
- Present conspiracy. What the Templars are planning in 2012 and why they are looking for clues in ancestor lives.
- Player Fantasy of being an Assassin
- Animation quality
- The living world (big scale, living crowd, sense of freedom).
Taking it from the top, we can firmly say that Valhalla does tell an Assassin’s Creed story. Much of the game’s best moments in the story focus on this war between the Assassins and Templars, even though the groups, names, and ideologies shifted between the centuries. Eivor is not a ruthless killer, as they can’t kill civilians without desynchronizing, even in raids. Whether or not the story of Assassins and Templars is the foundation of the story I think would be a bend, though. Without spoilers, Eivors motivations lie in assisting their brother Sigurd, and will occasionally overlap with the goals of the assassins, and even that is debatable if you beat the game. That said, the assassin story is heavily important, so at most I will say that rule was bent.
Eivor is not stylish, but they certainly are a badass and technically can wield a blade. Social stealth is back as well. If anything, the stylishness is a point at poor combat animations, the quality of which will be discussed later. The historical basis is definitely used as well, as the game takes place during the Great Heathen Army’s invasion of England. And overall the game is fairly grounded within that. History is also relevant, however, the edgy modern-day art direction is iffy. Most of the UI is still very generic fantasy RPG and lacks the same feeling as prior titles. The art direction, sound direction, and having small things like the memory corridors back when fast traveling is all much better, but there are still times when the game appears to be trying to distance itself from the fact that you are in an animus. Why aren’t arcs called sequences, or missions called memories? Once again we have name changes for the sake of name changes and at the cost of the brand identity. So with that in mind, I feel the commandment was broken. Origins and Odyssey both had Layla exploring DNA she gathered directly and I considered that a pass, so I will consider rule 8 a pass here too.
Like with Origins and Odyssey we have weapons that can just suddenly poison and set on fire which I deemed to break rule 7 for being science. I also docked origins for the Apep fight which in hindsight may have been harsh, but Valhalla more or less quadruples down on the Apep drug trip. I do really like the implied explanation of it, however. The runes and weapons though that just burst into flames on a crit for me makes me still say that this rule was broken.
Rule 9 is an easy pass for Valhalla, but rule 10 is a bit weird. Valhalla is not accurate to the Viking period. Many weapons are from the 16th century, armor is all over the place from being Roman, 13th century Scottish, and some being Asian that came to eastern Europe in the 13th and 14th century. Flags used are historically inaccurate, Roman Ruins are comically large, architecture is all over the place including Norman Castles (but calling them Roman), and brick which Anglo Saxons didn’t use. Many Roman buildings are at least partially intact when in reality the only Roman buildings left were fully intact to be used palaces and Roman Walls, but most stone was stripped down to be foundations for Anglo Saxon houses. This era also when some cities like Lunden and Jorvik would have begun to use timber frames on waddle and daub houses to begin jettying and extend floor size. This is never seen, but massive Viking architecture is throughout England. Stave Churches are also found repeatedly despite being Christian Architecture from the 15th century. The game is pure Viking fantasy, not actually realistic. Now a Uchronia is a setting based on the real world with no real-time setting. Valhalla is meant to be 873ce, but nothing in the world actually conveys this. Just like I failed Odyssey for similar reasons (though instead focusing on the pure fantasy elements), this is just a pure Hollywood fantasy, and thus I would call the rule broken.
The game passes with rule 11. (Minor spoilers) I do want to complain that we only see 1 real historical battle, and it chooses to tell and not show the accomplishments of many of the big-name historical characters. It was irksome but didn’t break the rule. That said, many of Eivor’s robes look fantastic, have that eagle look, the present-day conspiracy is alive and well for the first time in years, and confessions are back!
Things get worse with the last set of rules for the games though. Ultimately Valhalla does not deliver on the fantasy of being an assassin. You are a Viking first and foremost. 80% of the story you are doing Viking stuff, and feel like a Hollywood Viking. There are deep lore connections, which are fantastic, but the feeling of being an assassin isn’t there. (major spoilers) You don’t even join the assassins like in Black Flag. You affiliate with the assassins because it suits your goal of pacifying England, and the best assassin arcs are still just alliance pledges. Animation quality is better than odyssey but worse than origins. There are still many times when the animation isn’t synched, and the combat animations (especially dodging), and parkour animations feel floaty and strange. With that, the parkour is better than odyssey, but like with both Origins and Odyssey, you still cannot cross an entire city on rooftops. The game has better parkour areas, but they’re mostly short pathways built mostly for tattoo pages and running after the tattoos only shows how bad parkour feels as you go to jump onto a wire and instead just jump off the roof in a random direction. Parkour needs to be overhauled in the next game. Finally is the living world, and I feel it did fine. Most major regions feel distinct, and every shire has some minor changes based on the story which is a nice touch.
Overall the game is a lot better than Odyssey. Commandment 3 was bent, with 6, 7, 10, 15, 16, and 18 broken. This score of 6 breaks and 1 bend is actually better than Origins but is still more than any single game that came before Origins. I think the biggest failure is to make it deliver on the assassin fantasy. Many fans, including myself, are clamoring for that feeling back, and while Valhalla has an overall enjoyable story and lore, it doesn’t seem to be quite what many fans were looking for in terms of an Assassin’s Creed game, which I feel is reflected well by the score it got with the rules and commandments.
- My ideal Assassin’s Creed game will probably never be made
- Did the new trilogy release in the wrong order?
- I’ve been playing AC Valhalla and it’s been one of my favorites since Unity. I’ve played all of them with varying degrees of interest. I love the Ezio Trilogy, AC3, Black Flag and Unity.
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