The Assassin’s Creed continuity is… spotty at best. Early entries into the series still took an alternate view of history and featured some magical elements, but were firmly grounded in their era. Origins and Odyssey, the two most recent instalments, have swung for the fences with suspension of disbelief, and have opened the world up so much more, refreshing the series.

These have been welcome changes, and seemed to have reinvented Assassin’s Creed’s identity. Black Flag, the pirate focussed, swashbuckling title, looked destined to a life of relative obscurity as the black sheep. Now though, while Valhalla is certain to take some cues from Origins and Odyssey, it seems to be throwing Black Flag a lifeboat.

The obvious link between Black Flag and Valhalla is the focus on naval conquest, with Viking boats featuring heavily in what we’ve seen of Valhalla so far. In Black Flag, the game gave you your own ship and placed massive emphasis on using it, for transportation, exploration and combat. Though the famous – or, infamous – Ubisoft towers were still present, large parts of Black Flag were Assassin’s Creed in name only. So much so that while the naval features were well received, they were completely cut out of every subsequent game. It’s even speculated that a lot of features will be recycled in the upcoming new Ubisoft IP Skull & Bones.

Assassin’s Creed: Black Flag was not really an Assassin’s Creed game, and it doesn’t seem like Valhalla will be either; neither of the Ezio variety nor the Kassandra. Fans have already reacted with mild surprise and disappointment that the hidden blade, a staple of the franchise, is set to feature. It doesn’t seem like it belongs in Valhalla, even if Evior wears their blade proudly rather than hiding it away.

Valhalla feels like a more action packed game than perhaps any AC previously; a title it will snatch from long time holder Black Flag.

Valhalla’s narrative director Darby McDevitt has already said we’re in for a much smaller map this time around, made up of little pockets of action rather than one big, sprawling world. This means not only scaling back the scope of Origins and Odyssey, but also returning to the sea faring nature of Black Flag. It also gives an opportunity for some form of return to the naval sieges, tweaked to include landings and an assault on foot.

While it’s been confirmed that naval warfare won’t be present in the game the way it was in Black Flag, boats will still have a huge significance to the gameplay and won’t just be for set dressing in cutscenes. This though is part of why Valhalla feels like the perfect sequel to Black Flag: it’s not about recreating every element of Black Flag as it is about capturing the spirit.

We don’t need to have big naval battles in Valhalla, because that’s very clearly a pirate thing. As long as Valhalla commits to the essence of being a Viking, it will emerge as Black Flag’s true sequel.

While the Assassin’s Creed series breathed new life into the action adventure sandbox, the series has come in various different shades over the years; especially if you include the spin offs. Black Flag tends to hover around the top or the bottom of fans’ personal rankings, rarely in the middle, because the swashbuckling, blood splattered gameplay is so different to series usual modus operandi. Love it or loathe it, Valhalla looks set to follow suit.

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