Saturday, 25 May 2024

Assassin’s Creed Valhalla: A Viking Saga with Surprising Innovations

Ubisoft Montreal, known for pushing the boundaries of the Assassin’s Creed franchise, continues to impress with their latest installment, Assassin’s Creed Valhalla. This Viking saga brings together familiar elements in clever ways, delighting both new and longtime fans. We had the opportunity to speak with producer Julien Laferrière, who shared insights on the game’s successes, post-launch priorities, and the creative decisions made during its development.

The Unexpected Reception

Laferrière expressed his delight in seeing players embrace the settlement feature, which was a central element of the game. The team invested considerable effort into its development, and it was gratifying to see players appreciating and enjoying it. Additionally, the introduction of world events, which add humor and a change in tone, exceeded expectations. Laferrière had hoped players would appreciate this new addition, but the overwhelmingly positive response was unexpected.

The Evolution of the Settlement Concept

The decision to use the settlement as a hub originated from the desire to create more memorable characters. The team realized that in previous games, characters tied to specific areas of the map were often forgotten once those areas were explored. To address this, they introduced the settlement as an anchor, a place where players could witness the consequences of their decisions and interactions with NPCs. The settlement provided closure and allowed for more screen time for characters, making them more memorable.

Crafting a Memorable Introduction

Creating a captivating intro sequence was a significant challenge for the team. With numerous changes in Valhalla, they needed to strike a balance between introducing players to the game’s systems without overwhelming them. Through a series of iterations, the team managed to guide players while still allowing for familiar elements. The beginning of the game introduces the concept of collecting berries for health, offers a high point reminiscent of previous games, and reinforces the distinction between Vikings and Assassins. While some players found it a bit lengthy, the team believes it sets the tone and adequately introduces the game.

Eivor’s Gender Choice: Exploring the Lore

The inclusion of a third option, “let the Animus choose,” provides players with an opportunity to explore the deeper question of who Eivor truly is. While this option appeals to lore enthusiasts, the team ensured it didn’t feel random. The choices made by the Animus have a certain coherence, allowing players to have impactful and meaningful experiences. Players are encouraged to choose the gender that resonates with them, whether it’s a consistently female or male Eivor or a mix of both.

Post-Launch Priorities and Player Feedback

Building on the success of Assassin’s Creed Odyssey, the team is committed to listening and responding to player feedback. In addition to the planned post-launch updates, the focus is on implementing quality-of-life fixes and optimizing the game for new platforms. The positive reception on PS5, Series X, and PC motivates the team to capitalize on the game’s high-end capabilities. Laferrière emphasizes the importance of aligning with player expectations and incorporating additional content and features accordingly.

The Art of Decision-Making

When crafting Valhalla’s gameplay experience, the team remained true to their pillars. However, one feature that didn’t make the final cut was naval combat. Research revealed that Vikings did not engage in extensive naval battles, leading the team to approach the ships as vehicles rather than combat vessels.

Unveiling the Skill Tree

To create a sense of discovery, the team decided to shroud most of the skill tree in fog. This approach engages players by provoking curiosity and encouraging exploration. At the same time, the team ensured that players could respec and make individual skill selections without undoing the entire tree. The goal was to provide a vast skill tree that offers versatility and a wide range of options.

Variety: A Key Focus

Valhalla stands out for its diverse range of side content, presenting players with surprises throughout their journey. The team made variety a key priority during production, striving to engage players even after many hours of gameplay. This commitment to surprise players led to a wealth of activities, minigames, puzzles, and unexpected encounters. Each location in the game presents unique surprises, reinforcing the team’s belief that variety enhances the long-term play experience.

FAQs

1. How does the settlement feature impact the gameplay?
The settlement serves as an anchor, allowing players to witness the consequences of their decisions and interactions. It provides closure for characters, making them more memorable.

2. Can players choose Eivor’s gender?
Yes, players have the option to choose a male or female Eivor. There is also a third option, “let the Animus choose,” that alters Eivor’s gender at different points in the game.

3. What are the post-launch priorities for Assassin’s Creed Valhalla?
The team aims to address player feedback, implement quality-of-life fixes, and optimize the game for new platforms. They are committed to delivering additional content and features that enhance the player experience.

4. How does the skill tree work in Valhalla?
The skill tree is initially obscured by fog, inspiring players to explore and discover new abilities. Players can respec and make individual skill selections without undoing the entire tree, offering flexibility and customization.

Conclusion

Assassin’s Creed Valhalla brings fresh innovations to the franchise, impressing players with its clever integration of familiar elements. The settlement feature provides a foundation for memorable characters, while the game’s variety of side content ensures surprises even after hours of gameplay. Ubisoft Montreal’s commitment to listening to player feedback and continuously improving the game sets a high standard for future updates. Join the Viking saga and experience the wonders of Valhalla.

(This article was originally published in Game Informer issue 332)