Do I need to have played Assassin's Creed to enjoy Valhalla?

Assassins Creed Valhalla Eivor Battle
Assassins Creed Valhalla Eivor Battle (Image credit: Ubisoft)

Assassin's Creed Valhalla is the twelfth main entry in the franchise since its debut over one decade ago. Thinking about playing 11 games to enjoy the latest to its fullest doesn't sound like a lot of fun, but luckily most Assassin's Creed games feature standalone stories. If you're worried about being too confused and getting lost when playing Valhalla, don't be. As long as you know some basic terminology and the general premise of the series, you'll be just fine.

You wouldn't know it from just watching the trailers, but Assassin's Creed games are always divided into two main periods: historical sections you mostly see in its marketing and the modern-day story taking place during the present. Ubisoft explains this gimmick with an in-game device called the Animus that allows the player to view memories of their ancestors. In Valhalla, the modern-day character, Layla Hassan, will be reliving the memories of a Viking around the late 9th century during the Dark Ages.

Everything we know about Assassin's Creed Valhalla

How does it continue the narrative?

In regards to the historical story taking place in 9th century England, it doesn't continue any previous storyline. Whatever Ubisoft is cooking up for our Viking pals has no relation to past Assassin's Creed games other than being a part of the same universe. As such, you may hear references to older Assassins or events that we've already seen, but you shouldn't need prior knowledge of them to understand what's happening.

I've likened the Assassin's Creed series before to the Marvel Cinematic Universe. You don't need to watch Ant-Man to understand Captain America. The same can be said for Assassin's Creed games. You don't need to play Black Flag to play Valhalla. Aside from a few direct sequels in the series (Brotherhood, Revelations), their stories are independent.

But if you are curious as to the entire story, we have the perfect guide for you.

Assassin's Creed: A series history for dummies


Assassins Creed Valhalla Castle Vista

Source: Ubisoft (Image credit: Source: Ubisoft)

Assassin's Creed Valhalla takes place during the late 9th century. Exact dates are unknown, but Darby McDevitt, lead writer, has said that the main story begins in 873 CE. Due to endless strife and scarcity, Viking clans leave their home of Norway for the shores of England. At this point, England is assembled of four main kingdoms: Wessex, Northumbria, East Anglia, and Mercia. King Alfred, the Great of Wessex, sees that Vikings and ruthless invaders rather than settlers looking for a new home and takes up arms against them to push them out of the land. While we don't know how Valhalla will play out yet, King Alfred will act as an antagonistic figure, and going by historical records, he remains the only English king to repel the Viking invasion successfully.

Because it takes place before the events of the first Assassin's Creed (the Third Crusade in 1191), the Assassin Brotherhood and Templars aren't known by such names. Instead, they operate as the Hidden Ones and Order of the Ancients, respectively. At some point in time, our lead character Eivor comes in contact with the Assassins, kicking off the age-old series conflict.

The only main games in the series to take place before Valhalla's time are Origins (49–47 BCE) and Odyssey (431-404 BCE). Valhalla could reference events that happened in these games, but there shouldn't be any direct connections given.

Modern day

Layla Hassan

Source: Ubisoft (Image credit: Source: Ubisoft)

Though the modern-day only makes up a fraction of the content, it remains vitally important to the series. This is the narrative that you will want some prior knowledge of.

Modern-day Templars, under the guise of a multinational corporation known as Abstergo, work to continue the Templar Order's ideals so that they can control humanity and effectively create a utopia. The Assassins also aim to create a better world, but they value free will above all else and view the Templars as an organization that wants to enslave humanity at any cost.

To enslave humanity and create their perfect utopia, the Templars search for powerful artifacts known as Pieces of Eden, which were made by god-like beings known as the First Civilization (also known as the Isu, Precursors, and Those Who Came Before). Millennia before any modern history as we know it, the Isu used these Pieces of Eden to subjugate humanity. After a cataclysmic event, the First Civilization was almost entirely wiped out, and the Pieces of Eden scattered across the globe.

Abstergo and the Assassins now race to find the Pieces of Eden.

Abstergo and what remains of the Assassin Brotherhood now work against each other in secret in a race to gather the Pieces of Eden to prevent others from using them. Both organizations see themselves as the good guys here. The Assassins value free will, and the Templars would instead rule through domination.

The series has featured a few different modern-day protagonists across its run, notably Desmond Miles, but now we're stepping into the shoes of a woman named Layla Hassan, a former Abstergo employee turned Assassin affiliate.

Last we left Layla, she had discovered the hidden city of Atlantis and became the keeper of the Staff of Hermes, a powerful Piece of Eden. As keeper of the Staff, it is said that she will bring balance between the Assassins and Templars.

What about its gameplay?

Origins completely revamped the series' gameplay mechanics, and it looks like Valhalla will change them up even further. You won't need to worry about knowing any legacy controls to make things a tad easier. And there will likely be tutorials in place to ease you in Valhalla's control scheme anyway.

From what we've been told, the combat aims to feel crunchy, brutal, and visceral, going so far as to allow players to decapitate enemies. There are also set to be mini-games like drinking and fishing.

Bottom line: New fans should find it accessible

Assassins Creed Valhalla Ultimate Edition Art

Source: Ubisoft (Image credit: Source: Ubisoft)

It'd be insane forcing you to play 11 other games to enjoy the latest, so Ubisoft makes it as accessible as possible with each new iteration of Assassin's Creed. It'll help to know some basic terminology like what Pieces of Eden are and who the Isu were, but for the most part, you shouldn't have too much trouble following along with the story.

Returning fans also shouldn't worry that it'll diverge from what makes Assassin's Creed, well, Assassin's Creed. There are sure to be plenty of references thrown in for longtime fans, and the creative team behind Valhalla is keen on ensuring it builds on lore in meaningful ways.

Jennifer Locke

Jennifer Locke has been playing video games nearly her entire life, and is very happy Xbox is growing a stronger first-party portfolio. You can find her obsessing over Star Wars and other geeky things on Twitter @JenLocke95.