If Assassin’s Creed Valhalla is in fact based on historical events as the intro screen says: it is based very loose. Despite all of its oversimplification and misrepresentation of the Viking invasions in Britain, there is one thing that the game represents Really Well, the idea that England’s history is a history of immigration.
This has not been a great decade for the UK. Successive Tory governments seemingly eager to dismantle their own land, regardless of the cost to the population, have overseen two extremely divisive and unnecessary referendums, the first on Scottish independence, the second and far more disastrous on land withdrawal from the European Union, which is throwing the entire British economy on the toilet.
Boris Johnson’s administration in particular has proven immensely unqualified for the job. He and his friends have so missed their Covid response that it is an island nation with one of the best public health systems in the world has still been found to be one of the deadliest epicentres of the pandemic.
And yet! This incompetent gang of rich brats and sweaty claws has been a success by their own standards insofar as they can still be re-elected, partly because of the dysfunction of the opposition British Labor Party, but also because they are the whistling flag-bearers of a resurgence (or a calcification among older populations) of a particular idea. A rejection of the country of Britain has turned into a rapidly changing modern world since the 1990s, in favor of a Britain they misty memories of childhood, or stories from their parents, or old postcards or cookie jars.
Instead of remaining part of the European Union and all that it stands for, there is a sizeable part of the UK population – not everyone Who voted for Brexit, but it’s there – who would prefer “Great Britain is for the British”. And when they say that thanks to the obvious influence of the larger population on the politics of the nation, they really mean “England for the English”.
That’s … a downright racist approach that is reflected in the fact Immigration fears were one of the determining political foundations for vacation voters in the Brexit referendum. To believe that England is for the English assumes that there is a definition of “English” in the first place. “Others” who came to Great Britain after successive waves of immigration in the last century, be it from the Indian subcontinent, the Caribbean, Africa or, more recently, from continental Europe (and especially Eastern Europe), do not fit in and are not welcome either.
But what does it mean to be English? Who qualifies for this prestigious group? Did a people one day crawl out of the mud, walk over green hills and claim an empty land? Of course not. British history is Are defined through immigration, displacement and multiculturalism, sometimes peaceful, sometimes violent, something that despite all his other efforts Assassin’s Creed Valhalla gets very correct, and that serves as an excellent – and timely – reminder.
Valhalla Seldom mentions the idea of ”Engl and” other than a geographical unit. Instead, it knows that in the 9th century England was a place of tremendous social and political upheaval, inhabited by a number of diverse and often hostile groups, some of whom were there for much longer than others.
The game plays out two kingdoms – Mercia and Wessex – who hate each other and are mostly Saxon, a group that didn’t hit British shores until the 5th century. There are Britons at play with modern Welsh accents who have lived in Engl and for much longer than the Saxons. There are Picten to the north with modern Scottish accents and a strong barbaric energy, brief mentions of the Irish (saved for later expansion) and finally the newest folk on England’s shores, the Vikings (or Danes like them ‘) being more specifically named , even if Eivor always has to correct people she is actually Nordic).
In this way England is seldom portrayed as everyone’s Legitimate home, especially since you spend so much time among the Saxons and Danes. In the midst of the remains of Rome’s departure and before the Normans arrive, it is shown in Valhalla– and, given the story, pretty accurate – as a price people fight over whether they are old residents or not.
Besides all the people who live next to each other – or push others away – there is also their faith. The Danes brought their pagan beliefs with them and the Saxons are devout Christians (whose coexistence is again directly reflected in some small quests), but the game is also full of older religions bleeding on the edge of the map and even in a fiery lingering plot in Christian Practices. Valhalla Architecture tells almost the same story, with crumbling Roman ruins mingling with Saxon huts around Viking longhouses, all resting side by side in the same towns on the map.
While Assassin’s Creed Syndicate took place at the height of the imperial power of Great Britain and is immediately recognizable as such, Valhalla takes place in an England that is almost foreign, with little presence in its architecture or people to whom we can refer 1000 years later and who say, yes, that is what we would define as “English” today. In this way Valhalla shows a kind of national history of origin, a glimpse of its creation through the merging of people and ideas.
When the Saxons ultimately emerged as the dominant group in this struggle and wielded the greatest power in England’s early politics and language, towards the end of the story of the game we see an attitude that the Saxons as guardians of the land to the exclusion of all others, a philosophy which is then incorporated into the basic values of the arch-villains of the series, the Templars.
After a fight in a church, King Aelfred’s disgruntled sidekick, Goodwin, basically says, “England is for the English,” points out Eivor’s strangeness, and spat, “This island will never be your home” without knowing his own people relatively were newcomers themselves. It’s almost literally as you’d see it on a racist uncle’s Facebook comment section today.
However, this view contradicts the multicultural successes of the Viking colonies depicted in the game and the work of men like Stowe (below) who, as you can see below, had a more ingenious approach to Scandinavian settlement that speaks for this fact during the popular one (and clearly, historically correct) notions of Norse raids and major invasions were destructive incursions, the colonization of the Vikings could often be a more harmonious affair, as the continued genetic legacy of the time shows. especially in the north of England and Scotland.
I am not saying that Valhalla was specifically made in response to or even had Brexit-type beliefs in mind when writing the game. Nonetheless, the thoughtful exploration of the demographics of time through the game is incredibly useful in the current climate, as in a medium like this, no matter how loosely applied in some areas, history can still be an incredibly valuable teaching tool in others.