Assassin's Creed Valhalla- how the next game in the series doubles down on RPG elements
The next entry in the Assassin's Creed series, Assassin's Creed Valhalla, has just been announced for release on current and next-generation consoles later this year. Although the Viking setting is sure to be the most exciting news for some, what really stuck out to me is the revelation (No pun intended) that Valhalla will be diving even deeper into the RPG elements that made Origins and Odyssey so exciting. Or divisive, depending on how you like your Assassin's Creed games.
Thanks to a really detailed Eurogamer article that features an interview with lead producer Julien Laferrière, we've heard some pretty interesting things about how Valhalla intends to become more and more like an RPG, and less like the old games. Of course, it's still intending to keep a lot of the Assassin's Creed DNA, but it's sounding closer to Odyssey than Black Flag.
The first interesting detail comes from the inclusion of your own Viking settlement that'll act as your home base. You'll be able to see the consequences of your actions made throughout the story and build it up bit by bit as you get further into the game.
It's your own Viking village you'll see prosper and grow, and which your clan mates will live in. Instead of exploring one territory, then moving on to another and having no real opportunity or reason to return, the settlement changes the structure. So you'll go on an adventure and then be encouraged to come back to your settlement.
Assassin's Creed has sort of tried this sort of thing before, such as upgrading the Villa in Assassin's Creed 2, or the Homestead in Assassin's Creed 3, but this seems a lot more involved than just buying some upgrades, with your clan growing and reacting to what you do in the game. There are still buildings and upgrades to be bought though, and the article specifically mentions barracks, blacksmiths and most interestingly of all, tattoo parlours.
The mention of tattoo parlours brings to mind a much bigger focus on character customisation, an important staple of role-playing games. That seems to be the case here, as the article mention that you can customise your tattoos, beards and hair, war paint and gear, which seems like a big step-up from Odyssey's set characters. Although she's not shown in the reveal trailer, you can also choose your gender in Valhalla. Although this was also in Odyssey, that was more of a character choice, and not creating your own hero. It'll definitely be interesting to see how Valhalla goes about with a more player-made protagonist.
Role-playing does seem to be a much bigger part of Valhalla's identity, according to this interview.
Any military location you encounter on the rivers of England is fully raidable. We want you to be playing the ultimate Viking fantasy, so you'll get to have your Viking buddies going with you on a longship. Sometimes you'll get resources to take back and upgrade your settlement, or maybe additional firepower to help take down higher level bandits in the region.
The specific use of "ultimate Viking fantasy" makes it sound a lot like the team really want you to focus on actually playing as a Viking and doing all of the things you'd want to do in that time period. There seems to be less and less focus on being an Assassin, but that's been a pretty clear shift since Odyssey and arguably even Origins.
Valhalla's official website also explicitly mentions RPG elements as a main feature of the game, which should really indicate how important it is for this entry.
The advanced RPG mechanics of Assassin's Creed Valhalla give you new ways to grow as a warrior and a leader. Influence the world around you while acquiring new skills and gear to suit your playstyle. Blaze your own path across England by fighting brutal battles and leading fiery raids, or form strategic alliances and triumph by your wits. Every choice you make in combat and conversation is another step on the path to greatness.
The most interesting part of that summary is the mention of choices in conversation, which hopefully indicates some sort of advancement from Odyssey's already pretty-great conversation choices. To be completely honest, the description here sounds very similar to something BioWare would develop, a sort of Viking-y Mass Effect if you will. That's certainly not a problem.
Outside of RPG elements, the article also dives into a lot of cool elements unique to Valhalla, such as the Viking mythology, longboats being used for transport and not combat, and the new animal companion fittingly being a raven. Whilst it's always best to judge a game based on gameplay footage and not announcement summaries, Valhalla definitely sounds like it has a lot there for RPG fans and the new generation of Assassin's Creed.