Assassin's Creed Valhalla will bring back 'social stealth' and wrist blade insta-kills

When I think about Assassin's Creed, I envision high-flying ninja types in stylish hoodies gliding effortlessly through crowds, climbing spires, shanking their targets, and then, poof—they're gone, into the night. Times and circumstances will vary, but there's always a distinct element of professionalism to the whole thing. Giant Viking berserkers swinging battleaxes over their heads with two hands, as we saw in the Assassin's Creed Valhalla cinematic, doesn't exactly fit neatly into that perception.

The series has changed a lot over the years, as it's evolved from Altair to Alexios, and so has the hidden blade that assassins wear on their arms and pop like a low-rent Wolverine when they need to wrap things up in a hurry. Recent games have seen its utility reduced somewhat, from a tool of quiet instant kills to just another blade, albeit one you can wear. But Valhalla creative director Ashraf Ismail told Kotaku that its effectiveness as a stealth weapon will be restored in the new game, in part because it will have a perhaps unexpected focus on stealth-based gameplay.

"Eivor receives the hidden blade quite early on," he said. "We continue with the idea that Eivor is not a trained assassin. Eivor is a Viking who receives this badass weapon and has to learn very quickly. Early in the experience, Eivor will learn a technique that, with the right timing ... can one-shot-kill virtually anybody."

Ismail said that one-shot kills will require some skill to pull off, but it sounds like a skill players will need to pick up because, has he put it, "social stealth is back." That might seem like an odd approach in a game built around Vikings, famed in popular culture as the least-stealthy warriors in all of human history, but it actually sounds like it might be a good fit for the subject matter.

"The idea that a Norse person or a Viking is in a place that they’re not wanted, for them to sort of go incognito and kind of hide in the crowd, if you will, made a lot of sense," Ismail said.

Our first look at the new Assassin's Creed "gameplay" didn't really satisfy, but we'll hopefully get a better idea of what happens when Vikings get stealthy in July, during the Ubisoft Forward digital event announced yesterday. Assassin's Creed Valhalla is expected to be out in time for the 2020 holidays.

Andy Chalk

Andy has been gaming on PCs from the very beginning, starting as a youngster with text adventures and primitive action games on a cassette-based TRS80. From there he graduated to the glory days of Sierra Online adventures and Microprose sims, ran a local BBS, learned how to build PCs, and developed a longstanding love of RPGs, immersive sims, and shooters. He began writing videogame news in 2007 for The Escapist and somehow managed to avoid getting fired until 2014, when he joined the storied ranks of PC Gamer. He covers all aspects of the industry, from new game announcements and patch notes to legal disputes, Twitch beefs, esports, and Henry Cavill. Lots of Henry Cavill.