Assassin’s Creed Valhalla – Why Changes To Storytelling and Quests Made Sense For The Viking Saga
Assassin’s Creed Valhalla is now available worldwide, meaning you can start storming castles, raiding monasteries, taming wolves, and leaping into conveniently placed piles of leaves. Taking place primarily in ninth-century England, Valhalla follows the story of Eivor, a fearsome Viking raider, as they lead their clan into a hostile land, searching for a new home and propelled by a mystical prophecy. The game is out now on Xbox Series X | S, Xbox One, PS4, PC, Stadia, and Amazon Luna, and will come to PlayStation 5 on November 12.
While there is a main storyline that runs throughout the entire game, each region offers a self-contained story with its own set of characters to meet, decisions to make, and outcomes to bear.
Assassin's Creed Valhalla does away with the more traditional side quests that we saw in Origins and Odyssey in favor of World Events. What was the reasoning behind that?
Darby McDevitt: When we started this game, we started to reflect on the actual purpose of the traditional RPG quest structure. If one doesn't feel like it's your mood at that moment, you let it sit there in your quest log.
What we found was that the traditional RPG actually assumes that you are the hero in this world, right? You are somebody who has their own personal motivation to go through this world, and as you wander through the larger world, people see you as some kind of hero, somebody who they can trust with their problems. In Origins, for example, Bayek has his own story, but everyone sees him and his medjay badge and they go, “Oh, that's the person that I can talk to to help me with my problem.” Same thing in Odyssey; you’re a misthios, so you have your own story, but other people see you as a mercenary. We didn't think that you could wander around England and just have random Saxons go, “Hey, can you help me with this problem?” Like, sure, I'll put in my quest log and get to it when I can.
Speaking of being an invader in this land, there are times when Eivor can feel like the villain. Times when innocent people are running away from you screaming. How do you balance player actions like that with the story of being a hero?
There was a version where you could not only raid, but you could actually go attack big castles. How do you just randomly go up and attack a castle when at the same time you're involved in this quest to help the people of that territory? So we actually pulled back from that. We made sure that all of these big attacks actually happen in the course of a story, and that you’re narratively led to it, and that took some of the edge off this feeling of being a total villain.
With the main questline taking place in episodic-style narratives, did you see that as an opportunity to have more memorable moments and characters that might usually be reserved for side quests?
DM: Well, I think just by virtue of the fact that there are, let's say, almost two dozen territory quests, and each one of these is two to three hours long, each one of them is going to have a handful of characters that you're going to know and love.
Just by dividing the world up in this way, I think you'll have a higher percentage of memorable characters in this game, because you're going to spend a couple hours at a time with them. By pushing that kind of event to the World Events, and then putting a lot more resources on these territory stories, every territory arc is going to have at least three or four characters that you spend a couple hours with.
Is it difficult to maintain a through line of a story through all of those different regions?
We do have an emotional through line in this story. Those are the territories where you meet with Sigurd, and the other ones are kind of one-off episodes, like a monster-of-the-week story, right? And then there are ones that tie together and pull through the main story.
One of the things that surprised me about the World Event Mysteries is that there’s no quest log for them, there’s no waypoint telling you where to go or specifically what to do. Even in the way that Wealth, Artifacts, and Mysteries are presented to you on the map and on the compass, it feels like there’s more of an onus on the player to investigate things for themselves. Was that a deliberate choice? [Minor World Event Spoiler]
DM: I think the goal of any good game is to allow a player to make interesting decisions. Speaking of the designers being more creative, a lot of the lot of the World Events turn into environmental puzzles, which is new for Assassin’s Creed. Were you inspired by anything? They felt reminiscent of Far Cry 5’s prepper stashes.
You have to look around; you have to use your environment; you have to figure out how to get in there; you have to shoot this or blow up that wall or scale this wall. This is, again, all about letting the player make interesting decisions, rather than just saying, “come to this location, there is a treasure chest.” This is a location – explore, investigate. Figure out what is needed to actually acquire it, and then try to do it.
Nov 10, 2020 at 18:40