After humming and hawing about whether I had it in me to weather another bloated 100-hour Ubisoft open-world checklist, I threw caution to the wind and dove into Assassin’s Creed Valhalla over the weekend.
Ubisoft has done well to create a compelling virtual incarnation of pastoral England and competently mapped out a playground for us to live out that gruff Viking fantasy.
Assassin’s Creed Valhalla is all grassy rolling hills, long-abandoned Roman ruins, a stunning auburn color palette, and brutal ax-swinging goodness. Even on a base PS4, the game’s a beauty.
Sure, it’s bloated with time-sapping side activities and has produced its fair share of signature Ubisoft bugs, but the odd 10 hours I’ve sunk so far into Valhalla have been nothing short of a good time.
There is, however, one thing that intrigues me: why do the children in Assassin’s Creed Valhalla have American accents?
My first encounter with one of Valhalla’s American-accented children came from a world event in Leicestershire. A small girl named Mae sits below an all-but-bare tree awaiting her father, who vowed to return before the leaves fall from said tree. One solitary leaf remains, which Mae watches intently.
The player can either reassure Mae that the father will be back before long. Or deliver a hard-hitting dose of reality by advising she cut her losses and move on. Opt for the latter, and you can whack the tree to dislodge the leaf, then deposit it on a stool in the nearby home as a form of repentance for your lack of tact.
She recounts her harrowing tale in a wholly out of place and unmistakable American accent. It’s not one you’d expect from someone that calls home a dwelling perched on a verdant English hillock, even in video game such as Assassin’s Creed Valhalla.
I found myself questioning whether I’d come across some bizarre quirk of this sodden island nation. From the west country accent to Liverpool’s endearingly unique twang, the isles’ people command the English language in a veritable panoply of intonations and pronunciations.
Had I come across some phonological oddity found in a secluded recess of Dark Ages England, long forgotten to the sands of time? After all, there’s no verifiable way to know what accent was prevalent centuries ago. The American one – itself borne of the homogenization of numerous English dialects and accents brought over by hordes of settlers – may have been closer than that spoken in modern-day England.
Further meetings with Valhalla’s children coughed up more of this American accent, which stands in stark contrast to the rest of the game’s older populace, who, so far, all have appropriate and convincing English accents. With this, hearing a sassy Anglo-Saxon child spout some side quest-triggering dialogue sounding like someone from Fresno, California sticks out like a sore thumb.
It isn’t exactly immersion-breaking; the Assassin’s Creed series takes many liberties and asks a lot from the player in the suspension of disbelief. Sporadic jumps to an alternative present-day, the retooling recorded history, animus simulations, Isu lore – it comes with the territory.
Instead, it’s a distracting, not to say humorous, quirk, which isn’t helped by the downright unsettling character models for Valhalla’s younger NPCs .