Ubisoft is reportedly spinning off a planned Assassin's Creed Valhalla expansion into a standalone game, according to a new Bloomberg report, which says the decision to turn it into a standalone game was made to help strengthen the company's upcoming release slate. Code-named Rift, the new game will feature the Valhalla character Basim Ibn Ishaq, and will be smaller than recent full-scale Assassin's Creed games, trading open-world environments for a greater focus on stealth-based gameplay.
The decision to turn the expansion into a full game was made in part because of the growing gap between Assassin's Creed games—Ubisoft stopped releasing annual sequels a few years ago—and the difficulties it's had with other high-profile productions, including Skull and Bones, and Beyond Good and Evil 2, both of which have been mired in development problems for years. The company is also reportedly struggling with an exodus of talent, driven by low pay, frustration with the company's creative direction, and the longstanding allegations of widespread workplace abuses.
The report was corroborated by Eurogamer, which said in a separate story that it has also heard of the project, and of its transition from a Vahalla expansion to a smaller standalone game. According to Eurogamer, the character of Basim will be fleshed out in the game in a story that takes place ahead of the events in Assassin's Creed Valhalla.
The description of the game as a smaller-scale spinoff of Assassin's Creed Valhalla also matches up with what Ubisoft has done with the Far Cry series, which has had standalone spinoffs of the mainline series since Far Cry 3: Blood Dragon. It's an approach that has enabled the company to bulk up the series without developing entirely new games, and it has also opened the door to creative approaches that might not have been possible in the mainstream series: Blood Dragon's '80s action movie parody, Primal's prehistoric world, and New Dawn's neon post-apocalypse.
The Bloomberg report says the new Assassin's Creed game will be out in late 2022 or sometime in 2023, ahead of the live-service Assassin's Creed Infinity.