Rumors that the next Assassin’s Creed game will focus on Vikings had been prevalent since an easter egg in The Division 2 teased that possibility, but it wasn’t until the reveal of Assassin’s Creed Valhalla that we all understood just how much the next game would focus on Viking history and culture.
As some of you may know, you can’t just say “Vikings” and assume everyone knows the time period you’re talking about. Vikings were active for hundreds of years in some form or another. That raises questions about when, exactly, Assassin’s Creed Valhalla will take place.
While we’re waiting for confirmation on the specifics of Valhalla‘s era, we’ve used some of what we know so far as well as what we can reasonably speculate in order to come up with a rough time period for the events of Assassin’s Creed Valhalla.
The 9th Century and the Viking Age
In an interview with Game Informer, Assassin’s Creed Valhalla creative director Ashraf Ismail said that the game will take place during the 9th century. That makes a lot of sense as the fabled Viking Age is generally agreed to have started in 793, and many of the most notable historical events of that age (certainly the ones hinted at by the trailer) occurred during the Viking Age.
What was the Viking Age? Most historians seem to refer to the start of the Viking Age as the time when the various Viking tribes began to expand into other parts of Europe. Specifically, it’s often traced back to a Viking attack on an abbey in 793, which alerted many to not only the intentions of the Vikings but their deadly methods as well.
It wasn’t until the start of the 9th century that Viking attacks across Europe became much more frequent and well documented. It was during that time that the Vikings became known as some of the world’s most vicious warriors.
Along with their reputation as fierce melee combatants, this is also the rough time period when the Vikings became widely recognized as some of the most skilled sailors in the world. Their technologically superior (at the time) longships allowed them to move quickly across harsh seas and quickly transition from water to land in order to execute devastating raids.
The Great Heathen Army
The biggest reason why Assassin’s Creed Valhalla will likely focus on the events of the 9th century is because of the historical impact of the Great Heathen Army. As we noted, the Vikings primarily relied on hit-and-run campaigns during the early parts of the Viking Age. That style of attack was complemented by their superior sailing skills and brutally efficient assaults on smaller settlements and travelers who wandered too far from safety.
While that style of battle played to the strengths of the Vikings, it didn’t exactly allow them to easily win major battles against larger forces. That’s believed to be the primary reason why the Vikings formed what is now known as the Great Heathen Army sometime around 865.
The Great Heathen Army was a large collection of Viking forces who were determined to attack kingdoms and settlements in order to expand their reach. Despite the name, even generous modern estimates suggest that the number of warriors in the army only numbered in the low thousands.
Nevertheless, the Great Heathen Army, which is believed to have been led by the sons of mythical Viking hero Ragnar Lodbrok, was successful in many of its early military campaigns. Said campaigns were largely focused on England, which the Great Heathen Army began to invade around the time it was formed in 865. The Vikings of this army were known to accept and violate peace treaties, which may have given them an additional element of surprise against larger and more technologically advanced enemies.
The Vikings enjoyed a number of victories during this time, but the tides started to turn sometime in the 870s when King Alfred of Wessex ascended the throne and launched successful counter-attacks against the invaders. By the late 9th century, the Great Heathen Army was essentially dissolved and the invaders were scattered.
The History Channel series Vikings primarily focuses on the exploits of the Great Heathen Army. It was an infamous time for the Vikings, and much of what you likely think of when you picture Vikings stems from their actions during this time period as well as the early European descriptions and depictions of them.
The Kingdom of Wessex
The history of the Kingdom of Wessex is extensive to say the least, but for our purposes, we’ll begin in the early 9th century when Ecgberht, King of Wessex finally defeated the dominant Kingdom of Mercia after years of conflict.
While Ecgberht did not remain ruler of Mercia for long, Wessex still retained some of the most notable Mercia territories (which included Kent, Sussex, and Surrey). By the time of Ecgberht’s death in 839, Wessex was a growing force. Its growth and rise only continued during the reign of Ecgberht’s son, Æthelwulf.
It was around the time of Æthelwulf’s reign that attacks from Vikings became more frequent. While Æthelwulf drew praise for his handling of the Viking attacks, some of the more notable strife of his era was internal as he and his son Æthelbald maintained split control over the kingdom.
Æthelwulf was eventually succeeded by his sons: Æthelbald, Æthelberht, and Æthelred I (in that order). This was an interesting time for Wessex. While the kingdoms of Wessex were united following the death of Æthelbald, both Æthelberht and Æthelred I were forced to deal with increased attacks from Viking invaders, which threw Wessex (and much of England) into turmoil. That was especially true of Æthelred I, who had to deal with the attacks of the Great Heathen Army.
By 871, Æthelred I was dead and Æthelwulf’s fourth son, Alfred, was named king. Meanwhile, the Great Heathen Army had managed to spread throughout England. Through a combination of diplomacy and military campaigns, Alfred was able to withstand the onslaught of the Great Heathen Army and not only repel them from Wessex but eventually help force them to withdraw from England.
Alfred’s reign lasted until nearly the end of the 9th Century (October 1899). By the time of his death, Wessex had defeated the Vikings, reformed its legal and education systems, and firmly established itself as one of the most powerful kingdoms in England.
Assassin’s Creed Valhalla Likely Focuses on 871-878
Given what we know about the actual history of the Vikings and Wessex, it stands to reason that Assassin’s Creed Valhalla likely takes place sometime during 871 and 878.
871 is the first year that Alfred came into power, which could help explain why we see him issue a proclamation of war against the Vikings in the first Valhalla trailer. This is also when the battles between the Vikings and Wessex reached a bit of a fever pitch, as both sides enjoyed some of their most notable victories and suffered historic defeats.
It was a time period filled with drama and legendary figures that offers plenty of opportunities for significant historical conflicts complemented by dashes of Norse mythology. While it’s possible that the game could cover events that occur before and after that timeframe, we’d be shocked if Valhalla didn’t at least touch upon the events that occurred between 871-878 given what we know about the real history of that time and what we’ve seen of the game so far.