Assassin’s Creed: Valhalla is the latest entry in Ubisoft’s long-running historical simulation series. While the AC games are certainly inspired by history, they oftentimes play fast and loose with some of the more granular historical details. It’s something we spotlighted earlier this year after Valhalla’s big reveal, and we’re returning once again for another look having now played through the entire game.
A few disclaimers before we begin, though. It should go without saying, but the sci-fi, mythological and specifically mechanical aspects of Valhalla are not what we are talking about here (Hidden Blade included). I mean, I personally wish the Animus was a real thing, but unfortunately, we as a society are not quite there yet, technologically speaking.
An aspect that Valhalla does remarkably well, as opposed to a lot of other media, is the proper usage of the correct names and terms of the era.
“Viking”, for example, actually means the act of raiding and pillaging, whereas “Vikingr” would refer specifically to a member of such a raiding party. Norse, Danes, Northmen, or Heathens were other names by which these people were known (who were not unified in the manner of, say, the Saxons of England) depending on who was speaking, but we will use the more widely recognized term Viking here for the sake of simplicity.
Finally, as is sadly too often the case with history, we should add the caveat that there is infinitely more that we don’t know about the people we now call Vikings than we ever will. The records and fragments that historians work off of from the Viking Age (793-1066 CE) were either written after the period, or by literate Christians of the era, and it’s hard to imagine bias not clouding their minds, considering the treatment they received at their subjects’ hands!
The Lack of Swords (for Eivor)
Something that players will inevitably realize (I’m embarrassed to say it took dozens of hours in my case) is that in Valhalla, Eivor is entirely unable to equip one-handed swords. There is not a single one you can acquire in the whole game, which is very odd for an RPG (especially set during this time period), although you are able to temporarily take one from an enemy as part of a finishing animation.
This is pretty strange and doesn’t make a whole lot of sense. As the child of a jarl, and later the ward of a king, owning a fine sword would have been an important status symbol for Eivor as a member of the Norse aristocracy, setting them apart from the rank and file.
Swords were highly prized weapons in Norse culture, often being buried with their wielders, and while expensive, were not prohibitively so. A Viking that had taken part in a successful raid would have been able to afford one… if one without ornamentation. The Laxdæla Saga lists a sword as costing a half-crown, worth roughly as much as 16 milk cows (which is a fact I learned, and now you have to).
It’s interesting, then, that everyone except Eivor seems to have one. Kjotve’s men in Norway all have them, Saxon troops have them as well (although iron was more plentiful in England). It can’t be budgetary restraints on Ubisoft’s part either, as the animations already exist in the game. And while you can get two-handed swords, they present an entirely different kind of issue.