On the trail of the Vikings

Montreal studio Ubisoft is ready to go to great lengths to ensure the truthfulness of the facts staged in its popular series Assassin’s Creed. Very far, even. For his last offering, Valhalla, it is as far as Norway that the team traveled to walk in the land of the Vikings.

Obviously, the final product, available since November 10, is an entertainment product and not a historical simulation. That, the producer Julien Laferrière specifies from the outset.

Nevertheless, like the previous entries in the saga, this new adventure is firmly anchored in the History which was written, several centuries ago.

“In each of the games in the series, History becomes our playground. So it’s important to do our homework”, summarizes Julien Laferrière, in an interview with Journal.

“But beyond all that, we want to entertain the players, tell them a story and above all make them experience emotions,” he adds.

Flexibility

This is where the choice of which historical period explored in each new game becomes crucial. Eras such as the Renaissance, the American Revolution or the Peloponnesian War (all used as a backdrop for previous entries) offer a certain level of freedom much sought after by creators, allowing them to venture there with a certain margin. of maneuver from a narrative point of view.

“In the case of the Viking Age, there was a great oral tradition, so a lot of historical elements are still a bit hazy. For us, that’s where it gets super interesting, ”says Julien Laferrière.

Thus, these “historical vagueness” can shelter some liberties and moments of pure fiction. But for the rest, no question of turning corners. This is why the Ubisoft studio relied on the work of many experts and researchers to refine Valhalla, where you take control of a warrior (or a warrior, the player’s choice) to explore Norway, then England.

Breathe the Norwegian air

But even the most exhaustive of research cannot provide certain crucial elements. That’s why a team from the Montreal studio traveled to Norway to follow in the footsteps of the Vikings and breathe the fresh Nordic air.

“It’s one thing to talk to the experts and have it explained to you. But it’s another to go there and see the Northern Lights with our own eyes, to work with weapon masters to learn ax and shield wielding, to meet people who have rebuilt longships. with the techniques of the time. All that comes in addition to research and deepening it, ”says Julien Laferrière.

Indeed. And this experience, combined with the research carried out upstream, also allowed them to present a story and a more truthful universe, far removed from the usual Viking stereotypes.

“When we think of the Vikings, we often imagine a tall bearded man with a horned helmet who speaks while growling,” the producer says with humor.

“But these people, they were humans like us. Obviously, they were forged by difficult living conditions, by a reality that was different from ours. But they had political motivations, they wanted to make their clans prosper, they did not necessarily loot for fun, women had a super interesting place … This is the story we wanted to tell with Valhalla », He ends.

Assassin’s Creed : Valhalla is currently available on PC, PS4, PS5, Xbox One and Xbox Series.

Grandiose epic

Brutal and bloody battles, breathtaking images, a captivating quest … Assassin’s Creed delivered with Valhalla one of the best chapters of his popular saga. This is saying a lot.

Fans were looking forward to it, this new Assassin’s Creed. And they will not be disappointed. Because the Montreal studio Ubisoft has taken the player (almost) entirely elsewhere, while keeping the essence that has made the reputation of the series.

Here we slip into the skin of a Viking (whose genre we can choose as we please), in order to travel first through cold Norway and its snowy landscapes, then England, luminous and lush. Does the choice to play a man or a woman affect the flow of the game and its control mechanics? No. But it will undoubtedly allow many to have a stronger and more sustained emotional bond with the hero he controls.

Strong emotional connection

Because this emotional link is one of the main elements that is deepened here Assassin’s Creed : Valhalla. From the first minutes, it becomes clear that the story we are offered is largely based on emotions. Our hero is more than just a Viking who shamelessly plunders territory after territory. He has very human motivations, very legitimate … and sometimes even downright overwhelming.

The visual rendering – it’s on PS5 that the author of these lines tried out – is also particularly impressive, even superior to what longtime fans are used to. From the austere landscapes of Norway to the vast fields of England, every universe – even every image – is breathtaking.

Note that this Valhalla marks an even more pronounced turning point for the series, which here flirts even more with the codes of the RPG than its predecessors, namely Origins and Odyssey. It’s more advanced, more assumed … but perhaps also more divisive. Some fans will appreciate it, others much less.

Small flat, however. There where Valhalla loses points, it is in terms of its control mechanics. Often less fluid than one would have liked, they come to seal the gaming experience, otherwise almost irreproachable.

  • Assassin’s Creed : Valhalla (4/5)

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