Asassin’s Creed Valhalla and Its Problem with Historical Authenticity

The Assassin’s Creed series is probably one of the most intriguing and for no better word for it, one of the best series ever made by Ubisoft. A series that has been producing award-winning titles from the legendary Assassin’s Creed II to its later release of Assassin’s Creed Odyssey. However, to a lot of people, the excitement of playing Assassin’s Creed games are their historical authenticity. It’d be wrong to call the game historically accurate as it is definitely fiction. But a fiction based on a historical timeline, making the game really, really interesting to play.

Historical Authenticity in this regard refers to the feel of the medium in the timeline it was set in. Much like how the must-read How to Kill a Mockingbird was historically authentic to the Great Depression’s setting it was set in, even though it was written over two decades after. Assassin’s Creed games were similar in retrospect that it was appealing historically, even though we know that the game itself is fiction. While a storyline in books and games are fiction, historical authenticity becomes a way for people to get engrossed in the universe of said book. Much like how Tolkien’s masterpiece felt very medieval, even though the fictional aspects of the book were clearly there, the story felt authentic to something medieval.

However, Assassin’s Creed Valhalla, Assassin’s Creed series latest release, felt off as I pumped in hours in the game. The game introduced notably renown characters like Ragnar Lothbrok’s sons, yet its’ “Viking Fiction” felt off from what you were expecting out of an Assassin’s Creed game. You know how people would say, that to experience the most authentic London in Victorian era they’d tell you to play Assassin’s Creed Syndicate? This wasn’t exactly the case for Valhalla.

I do need to note that this game’s Viking authenticity is one of the best out of any Viking-related RPG games out there, however Assassin’s Creed Valhalla decided to take a very sensational turn in over-blowing some aspects of this experience.

Assassin’s Creed Valhalla was set in the era of the Great Viking Army (or the Great Heathen Army, depending on whose side you’re on) which is around the 865 – 878 AD. So the fundamental premise of the game, simplified, is there’s a boatload of Scandinavians coming into England trying to make a home for themselves and basically raiding Saxons for loot and survival. The game itself presents an accurate depiction of how London was in that era, which is mostly abandoned because the Romans left. The game presents London as a beat-up Roman ruin that hasn’t been cleaned in centuries, true to its historical timeline.

However, outside of the towns, the game presents England with castles. The first castles were built on 1066 AD, as compared to the game’s setting in 865-878 AD. That’s centuries ahead of time, making the game’s already great Viking authenticity feels off with something that shouldn’t really be there in the first place.

Perhaps, the problem doesn’t really show itself unless it was compared to something. A similar comparison to this problem would be seeing M4 or an AK-47 in a World War I game, and by then you’d know whatever game portrays it like that is anything but historically authentic.

However, what is the actual problem behind Valhalla not having the historical authenticity fans expected from an Assassin’s Creed game? The problem would be the fact that we have a cognitive bias called the “Dunning-Kruger” effect. The Dunning-Kruger effect is usually represented with an individual having low ability/knowledge at understanding something yet overestimating their low ability/knowledge that is related to the cognitive bias of illusory superiority.

Assassin’s Creed games are known to be historically authentic and this was to be expected out of the game after their two latest titles aside from Valhalla, Assassin’s Creed Origins (set in Egypt) and Assassin’s Creed Odyssey (set in the Peloponnesian War) having such an authentic experience of the timeline where it was set. I believe that Valhalla gives off the illusion of reality where castles are truly built in the era where the Great Viking Army proceeds to settle in England. This gives off the illusion of truth, the idea that if you’ve been honest the whole time, a lie would be believable because it’ll be going against the image you’ve set all this time.

(A comment section on an Assassin’s Creed Valhalla Castle Raid gameplay.)

The subject of historical authenticity might be nitpicky as it’s just castles over every other thing great about Assassin’s Creed: Valhalla, but it does pose the problem of making people less educated in the subject take on the background of the game a bit too much like as if it was facts. Didn’t we learn enough not to use Shakespeare’s plays to study for our history tests?

feat image via: Assassin’s Creed Valhalla

Wibi Irbawanto Written by:

A lot of my shower thoughts becomes articles I write. I dabble in International Relations, Law, Politics, Games, and Literature. 23 y.o., Bachelor of Law

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