“Players will experience many key stories that each have the epic scope of a feature length film,” says narrative director Darby McDevitt.
If there’s one thing Assassin’s Creed Origins and Odyssey cannot be faulted for, it’s a lack of content- in fact, both those games (the latter especially) have the exact opposite problem, where people often complain about there being a bit too much to do in their massive open worlds. Assassin’s Creed Valhalla is clearly going to be a huge game as well- but it also looks like it’ll be tackling side quests – and even the structure of its main story – a little differently.
Recently, a quote from the game’s narrative director Darby McDevitt revealed that with Assassin’s Creed Valhalla, Ubisoft are taking a different direction, which will apparently mean that there are almost no traditional side quests in the game. Speaking with GamingBolt in a recent interview, he talked about that in more detail, explaining why exactly this change has been made, and what it entails.
McDevitt explained that early in development, Assassin’s Creed Valhalla’s development team decided that the traditional format of side quests could not work for their game, because from a narrative perspective, it would not have made sense that a raiding Viking like Eivor would take time out of their raids and assaults and what have you to help a stranger in a foreign land out of the kindness of their hearts.
“One of the first things we asked ourselves when making Assassin’s Creed Valhalla was, ‘does the traditional main quest / side quests format work for a Viking who invades a hostile country?'” McDevitt explained. “The answer was a resounding no. Traditional side quests, as you find in almost every RPG around, just didn’t make sense for our character — we couldn’t see Eivor taking time out of their raids and assaults to stop and help a stranger out of the kindness of their heart. That sort of generosity applies to a Medjay, or a mercenary, or a generic hero, but not to a Viking raider. The locals would be too suspicious of Eivor.”
What Ubisoft landed on, then, was a format that would see side quests and the main story taking on a different structure. The main story in Valhalla comprises of several longer arcs, each of which, according to McDevitt, will have “the epic scope of a feature length film”, where some will tie into Eivor’s personal arc, some will be standalone, and some will be related to the more big picture story developments.
“After some deliberation, we made an early decision to change the usual RPG formula drastically and focus on telling more long-form stories with high stakes, sprawling arcs, and huge emotions,” McDevitt said. “So rather than playing one long main story and, for example, one hundred miniature stories, players will experience many key stories that each have the epic scope of a feature length film. Many of these connect to Eivor’s personal journey, others feel more stand-alone, but all are related to Eivor’s and their clan’s desire to carve out a permanent place of their own in England.”
Meanwhile, the world will also be populated by “smaller and more intimate narrative moments” called World Event that McDevitt says won’t be logged in the game’s quest log, but will “tug at your curiosity.”
“By embracing this format, it left us a lot of room for smaller and more intimate narrative moments scattered throughout the world, moments we call World Events — countless small little happenings, side stories, and surreal encounters that players may engage with as they see fit,” he said. “They won’t be tracked in your quest log, but they’ll tug at your curiosity.”
Darby spoke to us about a number of other things in this same interview. On top of confirming that the game will have 25 unique enemy archetypes and talking about how they will impact combat, he also discussed how the game’s narrative will use the series’ lore to bridge the narrative gap between the pre- and post-Origins eras, and what players can expect from the game’s open world in terms of size and variety.
Assassin’s Creed Valhalla launches for PS4, Xbox One, PC, and Stadia on November 17, and will also be available on PS5 and Xbox Series X when they launch. Our full interview with McDevitt will be going live soon, so stay tuned.