Assassin's Creed Valhalla's protagonist Eivor looked like a force to be reckoned on the battlefield during the game's first cinematic trailer, but the war between the Vikings and Anglo-Saxons may not end up so well for them. Comments from the historian who consulted on Assassin's Creed Valhalla's story in an interview suggest that the Viking Assassins — or Hidden Ones as they are called in-game — are destined to lose.
Ubisoft, the developer behind the Assassin's Creed franchise, published an interview Thursday with Thierry Noël, historian and inspirational content advisor of the Editorial Research Unit on Assassin’s Creed Valhalla, all in the aim of fleshing out the historical context behind the game. While discussing King Aelfred, the nobleman in the trailer who orders war against the Vikings, Noël notes that the real-life Aelfred won this particular war.
This does not bode well for Eivor and their people, who will take on the Anglo-Saxon royal in Assassin's Creed Valhalla as you "lead deadly raiding parties" and "fight in massive battles." Does this mean that our protagonist is doomed to die? Probably, if the game follows the course of history.
"When the Vikings started to invade and settle England, all the Anglo-Saxon kingdoms fell, one after another," Noël explained. "The only one that survived was Wessex, which was the kingdom ruled by Aelfred. It not only survived, but he managed to repel the Viking invasion, and even managed to rebuild modern England. He’s a very important character for us."
While his role in the reveal trailer seems small, Aelfred will seemingly play a major role in Assassin's Creed Valhalla as the primary antagonist. Barring any fate-breaking interventions from the gods that put the history of Assassin's Creed Valhalla's world on a different path from our own, King Aelfred will have to come out successful in the end. Still, the trailer isn't afraid to paint him as the villain here.
"As King of Wessex at the age of 21, Alfred (reigned 871-99) was a strongminded but highly strung battle veteran at the head of remaining resistance to the Vikings in southern England," an entry about him on Royal.UK reads.
As Noel points out in the Ubisoft interview, there is a "gap between the reality of Norse society and the image we have of the reckless Viking." Most historical accounts of Vikings come from the victims of the Viking raids, so they're often a maligned culture in history known for violent pillaging. Even if they end up losing this conflict, Assassin's Creed Valhalla seemingly aims to deliver a more sympathetic look at this often villainized culture.
Putting the players on the losing side of history is a bold choice. We'll have to wait and see if Ubisoft follows through or whether Eivor might get some kind of miraculous happy ending. Even if this game's world ends up going down a different path, the sadness of the Viking's ultimate fate will be looming over players who know the real history of the Vikings.
There's also the case of the game's title: "Valhalla" is where Vikings believed they went in the afterlife, but only if they died in battle. This same interview stresses historical accuracy, so don't expect God of War-levels of divine intervention. Supernatural elements aside, this title is heavily associated with death and loss, so it would make sense for that to be involved in the game's finale.
The Inverse Analysis — All of these hints make it seem like there's a strong chance that despite all of the hard work players put into upgrading their character and establishing their settlement, the Vikings will ultimately be pushed out of England — and Eivor might die in the process. If this is true, Assassin's Creed Valhalla might have one of the most engaging and dramatic stories that the series has seen in quite some time.
Assassin's Creed Valhalla will be released in time for the 2020 holidays.