I think we probably all have a game, be it franchised or not, that holds a special place in our heart. In my case, one of my ride or die games is historical stab-fest Assassin's Creed. Every time a new one comes out, I will get it and play it to the (occasionally bitter) end.
I was overjoyed at the new life breathed into the series with Assassin's Creed: Oranges. 2018's Odyssey, featuring best woman in the entire world Kassandra, and all her giant pals, was even better. And so when Assassin's Creed Valhalla was teased yesterday, you bet I sat and watched a man using Photoshop for 8 hours! So, my credentials as an AC fan established, here are my demands for Valhalla after watching the new cinematic trailer.
Of course, there are some changes and additions in Valhalla. Our friends at Eurogamer have an interview that goes into more detail, but this time you will be building up a settlement - a home to return to after your adventures. It will develop and level up, and even have a tattoo parlour, which is fucking boss. I am excited, obviously, and still have much to learn. But I want to get my cards on the table as soon as possible. So:
Much as I would be happy if every subsequent Assassin's Creed game was fronted by Kassandra, I am willing to concede that this is not possible. Because the teaser image only featured a big burly beard boi, I was worried that I wouldn't be able to play as a woman in Valhalla. After the trailer premier, I was naturally more worried because we only saw the big burly beard boi in action.
Eivor is a beefcake, such as would get 'also starring' billing on the Vikings TV show, for sure.
There he is, look. The GQ motherfucker. I've got nothing against him. But still, I nearly wept in relief when an Ubisoft press release revealed that you can play Eivor as either male or female, and customise some of their look, including their hair and sweet, sweet tattoos.
There's a lot of evidence that women were fully involved in being badass vikings as shield-maidens, so I would love them to be represented in battle (although for the sake of completeness I will point out that some historians dispute the existence of shield-maidens and say that nothing can really be assumed from finding women buried with shitloads of weapons). In any case, arguing about historical correctness in a game where you are playing through the ancestral memories of dead people partially at the behest of alien science gods is moot. Just put more cool girls in, thanks.
Also, keeping with the increase in RPG elements described above, I would like more options to do a sex in this one. Loki turned into a horse and had sex with another horse and then gave birth to a third, even weirder horse, so it's not like we have to be prudes about it.
Edit: here is the female Eivor in special edition statuette form:
I'm off to a good start, because the raven is confirmed as your new bird companion. And while eagles are pretty okay, I guess, they're not exactly corvids, are they? I mean eagles are basically sexy chickens, and ravens are patches of night sky come to life, but with the ability to use tools and solve puzzles thrown in. Your raven will apparently have "a bunch of new abilities" so I'm hoping one involves water displacement with rocks, or fishing stuff out of bins with sticks.
They're important birds in Norse mythology. Huginn and Muninn were a pair of ravens who flew over the world and reported what they saw back to Odin, so there is an inbuilt fulfilment of the AC game system right there. There is a big fuck off raven flying over yer man's shoulder in the teaser image, which was an early, subtle clue.
But to go full Norse, it would be really great if you got a pair. I know that's more complicated than having just one raven, but my understanding of game dev is that you can just copy and past the code twice??
Cool takes on Norse gods
Ubisoft are sadly in a position where they will be compared to God Of War, PlayStation exclusive, magical Norse single-dad sim, and first runner up in the 'games featuring murderous gods I am attracted to' competition. But the background plot of AC about a future-past race of sexy aliens who are also gods, which I have long since stopped pretending to understand, meant that Odyssey did some really fun stuff with the mythology of Ancient Greece, particularly in the final DLC.
Given that they put a focus on some of the cooler female gods in said DLC (and throughout the series, in fairness) I'm hoping they'll do something similar for Valhalla, and not just go all in on Thor and Loki - although we see in the trailer that Eivor is pretty convinced he sees Odin on a battlefield.
Lead producer Julien Laferrière tells Eurogamer that "We have found a cool way of integrating that with our lore which for today goes into major spoiler territory. But what I'll say is their gods were part of their daily life. They were believed to be roaming the earth, involved in fights - that was part of the Viking spirituality. And that's how we treat it in the game, which is true to beliefs and practices at the time." Sign me up, lads.
A refresh of the naval combat
Valhalla is clearly going to feature the same scaled down warfare that Odyssey had, which, like, whatever. I'd rather not. War is an interesting backdrop for a game setting, and I'm clearly not averse to affecting the tide of politics by discreetly skewering the right kidney, but I prefer to stay out of the actual battles themselves.
But the sea battles I'm alright with, because they're a change of pace from the close combat. The vikings were a famously seafaring group as well, after all. Their longships offer a chance to change things up a bit, though. They have a very famous and distinctive look to 'em, and could navigate all sorts of waters, including very shallow ones. It'd be really cool to be able to straight up beach your vessel for an attack on land, as well as having more manoeuvrability at sea. This happens in the cinematic trailer, and I would love it to be a thing in the game as well. "To secure resources," says the press release, "players can lead raids to select locations using their longship to earn much-needed riches and resources."
In fact, this time, your longship will be your fastest mode of travel around the country, along rivers and waterways. Excitement flutters in my breast.
Fun but realistic historical mates
I dunno which famous deados are likely to turn up in Valhalla (although it is confirmed King Alfred is going to be the big bad). But I really hope it cleaves to the standard set by Odyssey and Oranges. Earlier AC games got progressively more embarrassing in the way they introduced famous figures from history. By the time Syndicate rolled around, with the incident where you helped name the newly invented telephone, it was like the game was looking directly at me, wiggling its eyebrows and going "Eh? Eh?"
But Oranges and Odyssey were mostly free from cringe. Cleopatra turns up to deal with Bayek, but she's a canny political operator with a lot of ulterior motives. Sokrates periodically berates Kassandra about her life choices in an annoying way, which feels very true to life. And, importantly, neither Bayek nor Cassandra got the historical version of Q from James Bond, inventing improbable gadgets for them, Leonardo da Vinci. Let's never do that again.
A greater focus on stealth
The more recent AC games retooled the combat - it was one of the most noticeable changes, in fact - and while it's not as challenging as something like Dark Souls, it is significantly harder than it used to be. Ezio Auditore could parry and instakill his way to victory while barely breaking a sweat. In contrast, Bayek and Kassandra have to pick their weapons and parry precisely. It's all part of the new RPG-y direction, and I enjoy it. Buuuuut having said that... I want to feel like an assassin.
Y'know, a ghost, a silent killer, a creeping mist of death that somehow gains entry to your castle, murders your general, and then vanishes without trace. Kassandra becomes famous throughout Greece, which is cool in a Bethesda power-fantasy way, but this time I'd like to become a mystery. A legend.
Much as I enjoy buckling a swash, or doing an amazing kick, I will now point and flail in the direction of the exquisite Dishonored games, where you are unspeakably powerful as long as nobody notices you. And then when you do get noticed, and all the guards go on alert, you go "O shit o shit if that lad finds me while his mates are nearby I'm going to get fucking mullered."
Essentially, I want Valhalla to be the sort of game where you get an achievement for nobody seeing you. Sadly, this seems unlikely, since the press release describes "a revamped combat system that includes the ability to dual-wield weapons against a greater variety of enemies than ever before". But when Odin closes a door he opens a window, and in this case the window is presumably opened by throwing two axes straight through it. I will make do.
Pls make the present day stuff less confusing somehow?
I know Desmond is dead. I know the Templars were making evil computer games. I think the Assassin's are still lead by Danny Wallace and are in hiding somewhere? Beyond that, I cannot tell you. The thing at the end of the Odyssey DLC, with the magic stick and the weird fake underworld, I am just totally unable to comprehend. Can someone produce a pamphlet or something?