Saturday, September 23, 2023

‘Assassin’s Creed Valhalla’ is a journey to the land of ice and fire

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In the beginning In the 2000s, my family and I had been living in Iceland for three years. Before we landed in a place we would live in for well over a decade once we returned to the United States, the Land of Fire and Ice was where I called home.

Iceland was a fascinating place to live, from the physical landscape to the history and culture of the country. I have fond memories of hiking the sides of an inactive volcano and seeing massive geysers for the first time. Once we got back to the US I knew I wanted to go back someday.

Living in Iceland was certainly an important part of what would soon become a continual urge to travel that I still have to this day. Travel is something I have always loved, even if it is only a short day trip. So when the Covid-19 pandemic started and quarantine became our global standard, I knew all the trips I had planned for 2020 and the ones I wanted to take for the foreseeable future were not happening.

As my forties continued, I definitely found myself missing the excitement of going on a day trip and planning longer getaways. This is something that many people lacked, but travel was prohibited.

Thinking of traveling though? Completely doable.

I found myself thinking about the hypothetical trip I wanted to take to Iceland. This hypothetical trip was something I had dreamed of since I was a child, and even before the pandemic, I really had no idea when it was going to happen.

But in November 2020, a game that I had been extremely excited about was finally released. As a longtime fan, I looked forward to Assassin’s Creed Valhalla just a little more than usual. With the game centered around the Vikings and the main character Eivor, part of the set is based in Norway.

Norway and Iceland have similarities in their landscapes, both being Nordic countries and being so close to the Arctic Circle. Mountains, snow, and sprawling fjords are common sights. That’s why I spent the first 10 hours of Valhalla simply exploring the opening section of the game in Norway. I played through the main story and enjoyed it a lot, but was very keen to just travel around the map, checking out the different areas and the side encounters that were available.

Valhalla The Norwegian section was wonderful. And for me, who really lacked the actual geography and sights of Iceland, it captured a bit of what I remember being in Iceland.

Once the night has fallen Valhalla, you pretty much see the northern lights all the time. I had seen clips of the Northern Lights in the game’s first trailer, but it’s different seeing something in the trailer than seeing it on your first play-through.

When I lived in Iceland, I saw the Northern Lights several times. It’s a little hard to describe how amazing they are, but “magical” captures part of what it looks like. So in Valhalla, I took the time to walk to one of the fast travel points that was on top of a mountain to both get to the point and get a really good view of the Northern Lights.

It’s a simple thing in the context of a game; Discover the scenery as you play and explore. But seeing the Northern Lights as I climbed through the mountains (and fell to my death a handful of times) brought me back a lot to one precise moment.

I can’t remember the exact year, but it was right after Christmas in early January. There is a Icelandic holidays called The thirteenth, which marks the end of the Christmas season. To celebrate, great bonfires arise. Christmas trees are also felled. So this particular Þrettándinn, my family and I went to a bonfire that was in the town near where we lived at the time. It was absolutely huge! I remember seeing old wooden furniture and people’s Christmas trees (the living kind) in the giant pile that made up the bonfire.


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