Comparisons between Ubisoft's Assassin's Creed Valhalla and Sony Santa Monica's God of War have been popping up ever since the latest Assassin's Creed game was announced. While the newly revealed Beowulf DLC mission brings Valhalla more towards God of War's mythological inspirations, it also highlights a key difference in the overall styles of these games.
Following Assassin's Creed Valhalla's divisive gameplay reveal on May 7, Ubisoft store pages went live and noted a Season Pass that includes a bonus mission called "The Way of the Berserker." While the English listing didn't give away much more than a title, the German listing gave a better idea of what to expect.
"Includes the story mission: The Legend of Beowulf," a translated version of the listing reads. "Discover the cruel truth behind the legend."
This confirms that Assassin's Creed Valhalla will dip its toes into telling some form of the classic Beowulf legend, though the brief description suggests that it will do so from a more realistic angle. It does seem like "The Way of the Berserker" and "The Legend of Beowulf" are distinct missions. The former is listed as a pre-order bonus whereas the Beowulf mission is part of the Season Pass.
While many Viking-tangental games like God of War or Expeditions: Vikings play up the Nordic setting, Assassin's Creed Valhalla focuses more on how the Vikings interacted with England. By putting the focus on England as a setting, the game sets itself apart from most other Viking stories, particularly in games.
As a result, Assassin's Creed Valhalla's Season Pass is taking the opportunity to explore the culture in-depth and possibly even critique the Beowulf myth. The German description teases a "cruel truth" about the story of Beowulf. If Ubisoft does want to embrace the mythological more than its been letting on, then using Beowulf opens the door to creatures like Grendel or dragons appearing in Assassin's Creed Valhalla.
While it's considered a classic legend, Beowulf has not been explored much in games outside of a tie-in game to the 2007 movie adaptation that was also published by Ubisoft. Interestingly, some scholars believe that Beowulf was written by the year 900, which also means that if we take the timelines seriously, then the legend could've been composed around the time that Assassin's Creed Valhalla takes place. Will the "cruel truth" be that Grendel killed the real-life king that Beowulf is based on, and the player will have to avenge him?
The Inverse Analysis — While Viking-related media has become more prominent in recent years, this Beowulf DLC shows that Ubisoft plans to make Assassin's Creed Valhalla unique by focusing on Dark Ages England and the people, stories, and mythology associated with it, all seen through the lens of a Viking invasion.
It would have been easy for Assassin's Creed Valhalla to fall back on well-known Nordic mythology for its DLC like Assassin's Creed Odyssey did with its Throne of Atlantis DLC, but the developers are taking a chance by adapting an English myth like Beowulf. While the Nordic region has been explored in a lot of Viking-related media, Dark Ages England is explored much less often.
We'll hopefully get a better idea of this game and its DLC during Ubisoft Forward, the digital event Ubisoft is holding on July 12 as a replacement for its usual E3 press conference.
Assassin's Creed Valhalla will be released in time for the 2020 holiday season.