So, the beans have been spilled and we have seen the teaser art for a potential new Assassin’s Creed game based on the Viking era. While Ubisoft has not yet confirmed nor denied this at the time of writing this article, Kotaku has since confirmed this with the two independent sources that revealed it to them. While a lot of players have begged Ubisoft for an Assassin’s Creed based in Feudal Japan, I feel like I’ve been waiting for this era in the franchise since 2007. This is definitely exciting for me personally because I see a ton of potential of Vikings mixing with Assassin’s Creed lore, this article is to share my thoughts as to why I see a great game coming our way.
With that said, as you read this keep in mind that this is merely my opinion of why this could be a great game and shouldn’t be taken as official fact. Also, I don’t know the direction they will take the game nor do I know who will be the lead designer (I pray it’s Ashraf Ismail) so all of my hopes could be complete garbage. If everything goes right, the age of Vikings could be a great match for the Assassin’s Creed franchise so let’s discuss why.
Who were the Vikings
To start this, let’s first define who the Vikings were and what they actually fought for. When you picture Vikings, most people might see an ax-wielding, power-house, tree of a human being who pillaged strong forces and armies. While this is a somewhat true, Scandinavians who were in a Viking clan were much more well-rounded people who appreciated the luxuries of life, intelligent farmers and cultivated the society around them.
Between the 8th and 11th Century, there were some Scandinavian people who wanted a life of riches and luxury so they left their homelands to seek these things with their own clans. Not every person from Scandinavia became a Viking at this time in the same way that not every former Royal Navy sailor became a Pirate, these were people that wanted a “free” life outside of their societal norms. These particular Scandinavian people were known as Vikings which roughly translates to “Pirate Raids” from their language. However, Vikings were more than just raiders as they were also farmers, boat-builders, and even skied for fun (I did not make that up: http://thedockyards.com/athletic-vikings-norsemen-started-skiing-6000-years-ago/).
The Viking people also had their own clans/tribes that they protected and cared for, even from other Viking clans. These clans were treated just like blood relatives and were responsible for the security of their own members including avenging their fallen. Not only were they protective, but were also organized with their own government and economy to make the land thrive. Now this is all a very brief summary of the history and I encourage you to do even more research into the history, but this article is for the potential of an Assassin’s Creed Vikings game. Assassin’s Creed titles take a lot from history to develop their stories so all of the history is important to know, but from what we just read can definitely be made into a fascinating narrative.
Assassin’s Creed “Kingdom”
Now picture the history of the Viking era with the lore and storytelling of Assassin’s Creed games. All of the games in the franchise use a fictional main character like Ezio, Edward, Arno, and others which then we can conclude we won’t be playing as a known Viking warrior. The only way I could see you playing someone real is if you played as a forgotten son of Ragnar.
So, as I typed that last sentence, a whole narrative struck in my head which I’m going to take a couple of paragraphs of your time. Ragnar Lothbrok was a legendary Viking warrior who led many raids against Anglo-Saxon England, so legendary there was a narrative written about him and his sons (fittingly known as the Sons of Ragnar) called “The Tale of Ragnar’s Sons”. His sons were also feared warriors such as Ubba who led the “Great Army” and Ívarr the Boneless who was a master of strategic battle, most of these sons were from different mothers and so will your character. Imagine you were born into a Viking tribe, not knowing who your father is, all you know how to do is farm and cultivate the land you have.
It’s not out of the ordinary for Assassin’s Creed games to take creative liberties in history, so what if while you were harvesting your crop the Sons of Ragnar came to raid your village. You hide away as a young boy, watching your village burn down and you feel helpless at the time. As you try to stand up and help, you witness the towering Björn Ironside slay your mother right in front of you. Björn looks at you, drops his victim and turns away leaving you traumatized and vengeful. In your rage, you meet another Viking tribe who train in the way of the Assassins and they adopt you as your own. You train with them, learn about the Sons of Ragnar’s roots with the Templars, and take them out one by one until you reach Ragnar Lothbrok in front of the pit of snakes that he is destined to perish in. You look him dead in the eyes and he looks into yours with a sense of familiarity. Ragnar knows who you are and breathes a sigh of relief saying “Ah, my son. I knew you’d return to your bloodline. A true Son of Ragnar”. Your eyes burn with a controlled vengeance as you reply “My blood with the Creed.”, you assassinate Ragnar with your hidden blade. With one last look of pride at you, a Son of Ragnar, he then falls into the pit of snakes as history has written his death.
Okay, so some of that narrative is super cheesy and has been used before, but this is why I’m a podcaster and not a full-time narrative writer. You see the point though, the Sons of Ragnar are just one simple facet of Viking culture that you can make an interesting narrative from, but there’s so much more.
There are way more historical Vikings to encounter and I didn’t even include the Viking gods/folklore that could pop up as part of the Isu in the Assassin’s Creed lore.
The Ones Who Came Before
In the lore of Assassin’s Creed games, there are special humanoid species known as the Isu who created the Apple of Eden (which we saw in the teaser poster in Division 2). The Isu are not gods, but they are known for their triple-helix DNA, highly advanced intelligence, and obtaining a sixth sense. They are known as the species that “simply came before” our species did, what if the Viking gods were actually the Isu in this new Assassin’s Creed game?
The Vikings once believed in the Norse gods who were described to have human attributes with multi-dimensional facets, they were also believed to interact with humans in spiritual and natural affairs. This is very similar to the Isu where they also had human personalities and had more advanced attributes, but also used our species of humans as a workforce.
Now I understand that the Isu is generally made of the Roman gods such as Minerva and Jupiter, but I’m also still in hopes that the Norse gods can enter the Isu realm because we are in a reboot phase in the franchise. Imagine trying to track your target when Loki pulls a detour in your way, or Balder to guide you when crafting a warship, or even a massive side quest where you encounter Vali and your reward is his bow. While putting the Norse gods as a part of the Isu might be slightly lore breaking, I don’t think it would be outside of the realm of possibilities in this stage of the franchise. The fact that there is a spiritual presence within the lore opens the door for these Norse gods and could add up towards an amazing gaming experience.
All in all, this Viking age could bring back the Isu to the front stage of Assassin’s Creed titles. They have been present in Origins and Odyssey, but I felt their potential was still lost in the mix of things. This section of the lore needs to be expounded upon more and the Norse gods could be the way to go.
I have only touched the tip of the iceberg when it comes to the potential of having a Viking age Assassin’s Creed. There is so much more in Viking/Nordic culture that the development team can really run with and make a compelling story and gameplay. I also understand that it could go horribly wrong, the team could easily try too hard to be the “next” God of War and screw everything up. Whenever a development company sees a game do extraordinarily well, they tend to try imitating that same style and failing at release (Battle Royale games, Looter Shooters, Witcher copies, etc.). However, if the team just tells a story in the style of Assassin’s Creed that surrounds itself with Viking mythology and culture, I think we might have a hit on our hands.
We don’t know anything about this game yet, so all of this might still be useless speculation. Either way, I see a lot of potential coming from the new Assassin’s Creed game especially if it’s true that it will be based on Vikings. Time will tell, but Fall 2020 will be here faster than we realize.