It’s been years since Assassin’s Creed gave its heroes a home. For all the hours I spent as Kassandra, her brief stab at a quiet life left an odd taste, and there was nothing cosy about the cold stones of Atlantis. Valhalla’s village settlement, however, offers something very different. For new heroine Eivor, it’s a growing community of houses and people, shops and services, friends, families, lovers. It is a base for the game’s Ancient Britain-set campaign, a hub for travel to distant shores, a graveyard to bury the dead. And while its walls may be built from the same stones as BioWare’s Skyhold, it lies on earlier foundations set down by Connor’s Homestead and Ezio’s beloved Monteriggioni.
“It’s really tricky to show the settlement as it’s the core of the game,” David Bolle tells me. He’s a level designer at Ubisoft Montreal, and has worked on Eivor’s Ravensthorpe from the project’s start. “It is the centrepiece – everything folds back into here, including a lot of narrative and big story turning points.” Over the course of an hour-long presentation, I don’t see these story spoilers. But I do get to watch Ravensthorpe grow in fast-forward, as Bolle zips through its evolution, tents turning into timber frame buildings, a cluster of houses in a forest clearing into a bustling little community.
When Eivor first arrives, Ravensthorpe is little more than a Saxon longhouse and a couple of tumbledown shacks. Tents lie scattered, and from these you can choose which buildings to begin adding. One of this first selection will be the blacksmith, who will upgrade weapons in a similar manner to those found in Odyssey – though this service will now be found exclusively here. Your longhouse, meanwhile, becomes a base of operations for yourself and Randvi, whom Bolle describes as the settlement’s de facto leader. She is the wife of Eivor’s brother Sigurd (whose role takes him elsewhere), and can usually be found next to the game’s large campaign map – think Dragon Age Inquisition’s War Table. (Valhalla’s map covers the eastern half of England, from Northumberland down to the Isle of Wight.) There’s a room for Eivor to one side of the longhouse, a bed to heal up in, and a box where you’ll receive letters.
Constructing further buildings, and unlocking their services, requires resources you’ll find across Valhalla’s world – most notably via raiding up and down the rivers of Britain. The various wood and material currencies can be swiped from the chests of abbeys, or the underground vaults of church buildings, and then invested back into your own settlement. The suggestion was you could also get these from forming alliances and from elsewhere in the game’s open world. After being built, you not only get that building and its services, but the stories and missions involving that particular villager, letting you befriend and potentially romance them.