“Assassin’s Creed Valhalla” Polygon Review: Writing a New Nordic Epic

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It is glorious to die with a battle ax, at least the Vikings in “Assassin’s Creed Valhalla” think so. The battle axe will accompany you on your journey after death, whether in the hall of Odin or on the eternal battlefield. Most of the Viking history in popular culture revolves around war and plunder, and “Assassin’s Creed Valhalla” is no exception. But as the title of the game implies, the story behind and the myth of death are the more important part.

This complex legend depicts the friendship, glory, and gods of the Norse people. Like battle axe and fate, these will determine whether a person can enter Valhalla, the Hall of Valor. Ubisoft’s latest historical open-world game features Aivor as the main character. She is a stoic Viking warrior. In the words of the Vikings, she is a “warrior.” The whole story of the game is also presented through her perspective to a large extent.

Enter the Hall of Valor

The stage used to show the complex personality of Aivor is the history of the expansion of the Vikings into England. She and her brother broke away from their father’s rule and went to open up a new home, and of course a lot of killings followed. As a large number of xenophobic Anglo-Saxon groups controlled most of England, the journey of these Vikings to England became very complicated. However, the English land they named Ravensthorpe is a lush rural world with magnificent scenery. A community with complex interpersonal relationships is growing here.

What kicked off the story was a memory of Avor. Her family held a feast with another Viking clan in Norway. Father Warin asked Avor to present a gift to King Stibjorn to symbolize the alliance between the two clans. At this time, “Cruel” Koyotvi led the tribe to commit the crime. After a fierce battle, Koyotvi gave Warin another option: As long as Varincon surrendered his life, Koyotvi would spare the rest of the clan. Aivor’s mother Rosta tried her best to oppose and asked Warin to continue fighting, but Warin finally accepted the death-but Koyotvi perfidiously killed Warin and Rosta and his wife, and wanted to kill the entire clan.

Avor escaped with the help of Sigurd, the son of Stebjörn, but this matter entangled her all her life. Many people, including Aivor himself, thought her father died like a coward. At the same time, other characters in the game have been emphasizing that her father died without glory, as if it were a betrayal. After that, the Animus broke down and disconnected. Only then did the game ask the player to choose the protagonist’s gender. Afterwards, the picture changed, and Aivor and Sigurd (at this time, Aivor had been adopted by King Stibjorn, so Sigurd became Aivor’s brother) had grown up, and they set sail with a Mysterious new friends from hidden forces went to England together.

Like the predecessor “Assassin’s Creed: Odyssey”, players can freely choose male or female protagonists in “Assassin’s Creed Valhalla”. In addition, it also provides a third option: let Animus choose. But no matter which one you choose, you are playing Avor-only the appearance and title of the protagonist are changed. I chose the female Aivor. I think it would be weird to let Animus help me choose, because the system will choose protagonists of different genders at different stages of the game. This phenomenon is related to the modern instrument used to simulate ancient memories, and the modern story line explaining this phenomenon itself is also very puzzling. As we all know, the “Assassin’s Creed” series has always been about the struggle between two mysterious organizations that control most of the world and hold different ideas about how the world works-the Knights Templar and the Brotherhood of Assassins. The story about Animus is also a branch of this grand narrative.

This modern story line is confusing to me, so I generally choose to ignore it. I have always hated to travel between ancient and modern times, so I have no reason to let Animus choose the protagonist for me.

Since the default gender of this game is “Let Animus choose”, Ubisoft claims that both male and female are the “canonical” genders of the protagonist. However, gender selection will not have any impact on the plot other than changing the appearance and voice of the protagonist. In addition, the female protagonist is often marginalized in the “Assassin’s Creed” series of games, which makes this statement very hollow. Bloomberg once reported that Ubisoft executives believe that “female host games will not sell well.” This may indicate that Ubisoft has a greater culture of gender discrimination. In addition, it is worth noting that the development of “Assassin’s Creed Valhalla” is catching up with a turbulent period for Ubisoft, with dozens of people accusing multiple Ubisoft employees (including several senior executives) of sexual harassment or sexual assault. Ashraf Ismail, the former creative director of Assassin’s Creed Valhalla, is on the list. In June of this year, Ubisoft launched an internal investigation on Ismail’s extramarital affairs and expelled him in August.

When playing and evaluating “Assassin’s Creed Valhalla”, it is impossible not to take Ubisoft’s cultural environment into consideration, especially considering Ubisoft’s views on female characters in the history of the “Assassin’s Creed” series. For example, Alex Amancio, the former creative director of Ubisoft, once said to Polygon in 2014 a widely criticized remark. He said that the reason why a certain Assassin’s Creed had no female assassins was because “the extra workload was too much. “. Because of this, when mentioning “Assassin’s Creed Valhalla” and its gender selection system, I have to wonder how much Ubisoft’s so-called “both genders are canon” attitude in the history of female characters in the “Assassin’s Creed” series Embodiment of the degree.

It feels complicated to discuss this issue, and I actually really like how the game has shaped Aivol. The way she struggles with family history and her own destiny is fascinating, and her own personal relationships also reflect this complexity. She is calm and cunning, and she can become very fierce when defending her clan. She is a true warrior. Interestingly, the word “Drengr” in Nordic is gender-oriented. According to the “Icelandic-English Dictionary” co-authored by Richard Cleasby and Gudbrand Bigfussion, it is usually used to describe a “brave, heroic , A valuable man.”

This word is used throughout this game to describe Avor, regardless of whether the protagonist is male or female. I like this very much, because this regards Aivor as a good warrior, not an excellent and “different” female character-as if this is an idyllic world where men and women will not be treated differently. . Although I am very happy to see Ben used this word to reflect Avor’s personal ability, I can’t help but wonder whether this is not a statement, but just because gender selection has no effect on the plot.

But anyway, I like Aivor very much, and I particularly like her role rooted in real history. Some scholars who study early Nordic history say that in this culture, people’s views on gender are not simply gender dualism. Medieval research scholar Carol J. Clover once said in “(Regardless of Sex: Men, Women, and Power in Early Northern Europe)”: “Whether this culture considers “biological gender” to be irrelevant, “social gender” is The key? Or is it just that it simply does not make any clear distinctions between genders, but in fact it is different from the dualism that we hold, thinking that the two are unified and consistent?”

The battle begins

There is no doubt that “Assassin’s Creed Valhalla” is a stealth RPG game, not a stealth game with role-playing. When the player hides in the crowd, he can choose to trigger a large-scale battle or perform a quick assassination. At the same time, the Vikings also used their own means to “sneak” when plundering-driving a narrow long Viking ship to quietly approach the enemy camp and launch a surprise attack without warning. Aivor has a Hidden Blade, a gift from Sigurd. But her Hidden Blade was not hidden on the inside of her arm, but directly on the arm armor, because she hoped that the enemy could see her destiny directly through her weapon.

Speaking of enemies, although some Saxons can get along with the “Dan people” they call, there are many twists and turns, and the core gameplay is that Aivor needs to “pacify” various parts of England. These regions have their own legends, like independent story lines, the ending (sometimes) will bring about an alliance.

There are many kinds of these tasks, and Aivor can participate in all kinds of activities. The combat design of the game allows players to choose their favorite attack method. For example, I am a reckless man, I will always sound the horn to announce my arrival before plundering the monastery, and then attack directly. Unless really necessary, I rarely use stealth, but in general, I can fight the way I like: instead of carefully planning the route, I prefer to go straight. The beauty is that you have a choice. Of course, this is natural in such open world games.

In most cases, the missions in the game involve serving for the leader of a certain area-whether it’s expelling Saxon invaders or rescuing captured soldiers. This means that in exchange for the safety and stability of the Black Crow clan, Aivor sometimes has to sacrifice his ego to help some people he hates. No matter where you arrive, you have to make a choice. Although these regions have relatively independent story lines, the choices you make will affect the overall situation.

The option system of “Assassin’s Creed Valhalla” is not particularly subtle. It is still a system for choosing between being a jerk or being a good person (Avol’s choice is based on her view of glory, whether it is good or bad) . But I find that sometimes even the simplest option makes me feel very contradictory, such as whether I should allow a despicable guy to die holding his battle axe.

The goal of completing these tasks is to promote the development of the storyline, but also to allow Avor to upgrade and gain skill points. With each level up, the outrageous skill tree in the game will open a new branch. To be honest, wanting to unlock all the skills is undoubtedly a fantasy. At first, I ordered them casually, because I had no idea how to add them. The good news is that after I have become familiar with the game and its various systems, I have more confidence to go back and add points in a way that suits me better. Because this is an open world, nothing can stop me from running to a high-level map adventure in the later stage. Can I succeed? Of course not. But can I try? This work gave me this option.

Embrace the myth

As Polygon editor Simone de Rochefort wrote earlier in her game preview, the Assassin’s Creed series has been inextricably linked to religion from the beginning. But the recent “Assassin’s Creed: Origins” and “Assassin’s Creed: Odyssey” began to integrate mythology and a more diverse ancient belief system into the story. In “Assassin’s Creed Valhalla”, mythology has once again become the core. In this work, myth and reality are intricately intertwined, almost erasing the boundary between the two.

Odin, Freya, and the Hall of Valor are as real to Avor as God is to the monks ransacked by the Vikings. Whether in ordinary tasks or in other tasks involving myths, you can feel these in every aspect of the entire world.

One of my favorite areas is the small town where Aivor celebrated with the residents the Savin Festival (the harvest festival for pagans, which probably influenced modern Halloween customs). This is a large settlement, divided into two by a small river, and the residents decorate the town with turnips and lanterns. They asked Aivor to wear the traditional Savin costume and asked her to knock on the doors of residents’ houses, recite poems, and exchange rewards. This is a night of mischief and celebration, and a good time to take a short break from the violent life of the Vikings (of course, everything changed the next morning).

I am very happy to watch this stoic, serious woman running around the town like a child, constantly elated by the rewards she has received. Although a bit stupid, it has portrayed Avor and the world she lives in more vividly.

Compared with the previous work, the boundary between the human world and the gods in “Assassin’s Creed Valhalla” is more complicated and blurred, and this makes the historical background of the Savin Festival more grounded than other mythological mission lines. Although these tasks in this game still have a familiar taste, the blurry boundary between reality and fantasy allows us to explore the fascinating Norse myths and beliefs. Although these elements have always been in the series, they are better reflected in Assassin’s Creed Valhalla. To some extent, I hope that this work can spend more time on mythology and belief system, rather than “pacing” England.

The process of the Norse gradually gaining a foothold on the land of England is a key part of the story of the entire Vikings landing in England, and this also makes it a key part of the story of Aivor and his brother Sigurd. But in order to highlight the process of conquering the fortress and the ruins, the game sacrifices the narrative of the peculiar relationship between the two brothers and sisters, Aivor and Sigurd, and between them and the myth. Developers want to create an open world with length and immersion, a world that seems to live there forever, and I can understand their desire for it. I also like to think that I can do all kinds of things in this world. But many times, I was obsessed with finding and plundering the monastery outside to obtain property, leaving Sigurd and the whole clan behind.

The most fascinating of “Assassin’s Creed Valhalla” is a story about faith, glory and family, but it is buried in a huge world full of battles and side missions. The balance between these elements is not always ideal, but at least one thing that makes me happy is that it forces me to spend more time looking for interesting things in this game world.

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