Assassin’s Creed Valhalla is beautiful: like a painting by Caspar David Friedrich – with strong colors, with a certain drama in its tonality. Ubisoft Montreal reveals how the next-gen Assassin’s Creed came to be for PC, Xbox Series X and PS5.
Assassin’s Creed Valhalla works with very strong colors and a rather dramatic atmosphere, but is based on the real landscape of England from the year 886.
Volumetric clouds absorb the clear blue, orange and purple of the sky
Assassin’s Creed Valhalla
tested on the Xbox Series X. When rain falls, when sunlight peeks through the clouds or in the middle of a lightning-filled night, its particles sparkle to reflect the light. Water wave patterns use subtle 3D tricks to make them feel more organic and real. It’s also great how much love has flowed into details here: the leaves that are whipped up by the wind, that seem to sway realistically and trample, regardless of whether they are influenced by the wind or your steps. Climbing the series’ observation towers is a delight to see the beautifully modeled England of 2020
But how did this picturesque world come about, which feels like a painting by Caspar David Friedrich?
s Creed Valhalla
takes place in 9th century England. Close enough to modernity to be recognizable, yet shrouded in the fog of myth, in the early Middle Ages. We sail past Roman ruins, because Rome tried for centuries to gain a foothold with its legions in East Anglia, which was to mature into England. The sun breaks through the trees and reflects in the sail of our longship. We marvel at the way the light flickers between the branches and the golden haze that adheres to the land when docked. Much like the pyramids and giant statues of gods that the islands are in
Assassin’s Creed Odyssey
covered, this sunlight and this land feel magical. For Raphael Lacoste, Art Director of
Assassin’s Creed Valhalla
Emotion must come first:
We don’t want to simulate real life. ‘Cause if I want to see the real world
I just open my door and go outside. We want to create a believable feeling for England, but also a strong fantasy level. The mysticism that surrounds this land. “
Raphael Lacoste, Art Director Assassin’s Creed Valhalla
England painted like a watercolor
A really nice game that just celebrates the sunrise like The Witcher 3 once did.
The game’s England is real, with iconic city names, monuments, and a detailed mix of Scandinavian, Anglo-Saxon, and Roman architecture. “We have to pay attention to tiny details,” Lacoste explains in the context of Ubisoft’s podcast series on Spotify, “like the wood carvings on Norwegian temples.” But this England is also mythical, a capricious and romantic fiction that his lighting system with the paintings of Caspar David Friedrichs seems to share. Friedrich’s principles of image composition are entirely at the service of aesthetic effects and image ideas. In order to express perceptual contents like a parable, the painter used the means of construction and compilation as well as a whole reservoir of contrivances. He followed traditional landscape painting when a pictorial concept could be implemented, but broke with traditions when they narrowed him in this way and thus came to a picture conception that was revolutionary at the beginning of the 19th century.
Ubisoft Montreal has put a tremendous amount of work into the interior design of its buildings, all of which are intricately decorated.
Even though the painter moved within a considerable range of design options, a clear canon of design principles can be recognized. Designing the world of the Ubisoft epic also began with concept illustrations and paintings that capture characters and locations, but also the lighting and mood. There are several seasons in England that do not exist with this intensity in reality. One region blazes with red and white birch trees, while another is covered in green. Just like in the real world, only on a more artistic level, with much stronger colors and an always dramatic composition. There is a global day-and-night cycle, but it is also adjusted by the hour. It’s a painterly interpretation of the time of day and not a generic simulation. And this is repeatedly alternated with mystical worlds, such as Asgard – the kingdom of the gods. A monumental building, with statues at the entrance, almost looking as if it came from a sci-fi world with astral paths and glass architecture that a northerner could only dream of at the time.
Whenever mythology comes into play, Valhalla puts that Hollywood filter over the game so that it is clearly different from reality.
Technology always haunts the feel of those original concept images. During development, the team “overpaints” by taking screenshots of the game and painting over them to further develop elements such as light and shadow. “You can be in a very dark area and see the sunlight falling on the top of the hill, and then see the sunlight hitting the edge of a tower,” the art director explains. Suddenly this tower is a stopover on the way to the next destination. This is how the composition works in general – there are fields in front of us, a bridge, a river – a monastery, an outpost, a huge fortress await on the horizon. Since we have a Viking longship it is easy to make pit stops. Many regions offer these rivers so we can land right at our destinations or close enough that it is just a short walk. The longship can be put on autopilot and then the camera can be switched to film mode or simply swiveled to the side to observe the landscape.
The eagle is now more of a magical partner than a drone for scanning military bases
We have a more emotional relationship with the Raven, but it is less of a tactical tool in our arsenal. Valhalla requires more initiative.
cancels the classic eagle view. In
Assassin’s Creed Origins
the eagle companions were the Swiss army knife for stealth missions. They were easy to use to mark every enemy in a fortress, achieve precise targets, and find treasure. “It created a strange relationship with your bird by simply throwing it in the air and then scanning the area,” says Philippe Bergeron, Design Director of
Assassin’s Creed Valhalla.
“It got very mechanical, a little too mechanical for our tastes and our vision of the next game in the saga.” Eivor has a raven, Synin, and we can send this feathered friend up to see nearby destinations like treasure and world events Quest objective is highlighted in blue. In practice this means that we can see straight away that our objective is somewhere in a fortress.
England is not Egypt, it is not that beautiful, rich and architecturally impressive. But Ubisoft gets a lot out of its world through the Roman influences.
But it no longer shows us where the target person is – we have to do the work ourselves.
It gently forces you to switch to the adventurer mode a little more. To research and discover, gather insights and information to narrow your goal further and further ”
says Bergeron. “There is a small element of danger.
If you go in there you won’t be as sure as you used to be. “This friction is also present in other elements of the game. Eivor heals by eating rations. Dodging and parrying feel less forgiving, at least in those first few hours of our test, which is far from over. By Odin, there are so many adventures ahead of us. So many kingdoms want to be conquered, so many glorious battles to be fought.
Assassin’s Creed Valhalla fascinates us because it constantly takes us to new places we never expected – like Asgard, the realm of the gods.