Ubisoft recently released game play footage of their upcoming Viking-themed entry into the Assassin’s Creed series, showcasing the female version of Assassin’s Creed: Valhalla protagonist Eivor in action as she storms a castle and takes on waves of enemy soldiers, while once again claiming that their newest entry will tell the “real story” concerning its historical inspiration.
On July 12th, Ubisoft hosted the digital Ubisoft Forward event, “an E3-style showcase with plenty of exclusive game news, exciting reveals, and much more,” their solution to the widespread cancellation of many industry wide preview and showcase events, such as the aforementioned E3 expo.
As part of this event, audiences were presented with a thirty-minute game play preview of Valhalla detailing the chain of events in an in-game mission titled “A Fury From the Sea,” which begins as a rescue mission for a man named Oswald but eventually culminates in the female Eivor and her fellow vikings storming a castle held by Rued’s Army.
Along with the 30 minutes of gameplay, producer Julien Laferrièr appeared via a pre-recorded message to provide background on the game’s inspirations and creative process.
Laferrièr recalls how, after the development team “did our research,” they discovered that Vikings “were not mindless barbarians,” but instead “had really human motivations.”
Ultimately, this revelation would inspire the team to tell “the real story about Vikings,” which Laferrièr claims “drove us to make this game.”
He stated, “When we did our research, we found that, you know, they were not mindless barbarians. Vikings were actually farmers trying to find new lands for them to settle. And so they had really human motivations.”
He continued, “So for us to have this opportunity to tell kind of the real story about Vikings, and kind of separate ourselves from the myths and the folklore, is really something that drove us to make this game.”
Unfortunately, like Assassin’s Creed: Origins and Assassin’s Creed: Odyssey before it, Valhalla has seemingly already begun to play fast-and-loose with its commitment to historical accuracy.
It is true that the Vikings may not have been the outright sadistic, brutish, and war-obsessed people that history has made them out to be, as many popular records and chronicles regarding the Norse warriors were the result of propaganda and exaggeration created by King Alfred, or Alfred the Great, during his years of military action against the Viking invaders.
However, the existence of widespread, highly respected female Vikings is somewhat disputable, even in the face of historical records. While the Birka female Viking remains may possibly mark the final resting place of a highly-decorated and skilled female Viking, and records of the Siege of Dorostolon record women among the fallen Viking troops, the official roles and feelings towards female warriors in Viking society remains a point of contention among many historians.
While many may point to Freydís Eiríksdóttir, a hardened, strong-willed female warrior who most likely served as the inspiration for the female version of Eivor. The sister of Leif Erikson, her life is only recorded in the Vinland sagas, historical Icelandic records of Norse warriors arriving upon the shores of Vinland, and only then she is mentioned just once in each record.
Further confusing historical knowledge of the societal roles and attitudes towards female warriors, The Saga of Erik the Red and The Greenland Saga, present conflicting versions of Freydís.
In the former, she is a fearless leader who chastises her troops for running away from battle as she charges forward, herself eight months pregnant, while the latter portrays her as a treacherous, back-stabbing murderer who is eventually ostracized from society for her treachery.
Interestingly, the option to select of a ‘female version’ of the main character, rather than an entirely different and separate female assassin, is a first for the long-running franchise.
Historically, the Assassin’s Creed games have featured numerous, playable female characters with their own individual backstories, arcs, and characters, independent of any male ‘base.’
In Valhalla, however, Eivor’s gender is changeable in-game through a menu option.
What makes this interesting is that Eivor is an apparently strictly-female name in Norse cultures.
Historical records provided by various governments show that there have been approximately zero recorded males born with the name Eivor in recent history (admittedly, this data may be out of date, but only by a period of ten-years, at max).
Individual female assassins have headlined previous entries in the franchise, including Syndicate, Liberation, and Chronicles: China. In the series’ most recent entry, Odyssey, players can choose to play as either the male Alexios or his sister Kassandra, each with their own narrative stories and conclusions.
Assassin’s Creed: Valhalla is set to release for the PC, PS4, Xbox One, and their respective next-gen successors sometime in 2020.