In nature author Robert Macfarlane’s 2019 examine of all issues subterranean, named Underland, he attaches being beneath floor to the idea of disposal. Beneath the floor is the place “waste, poison, trauma, secrets and techniques” conceal—or the place we conceal them. In Valhalla, Grendel is a deformed human exiled from the floor on account of his otherness. He’s an uncomfortable reality hidden away till all his anger, hatred, rejection, and isolation bubbles up from the deep, violently.
The Beowulf poem is unbelievable not only for its early, vivid depiction of the English panorama, but in addition the distinction it attracts with a lot later, extra modern, views of nature. Nearly all of open-world video games view panorama via a Romanticist lens—lush vibrant forests, inexperienced rolling hills, elegant mountains. The landscapes of Beowulf are a lot darker. England is a extra hostile place—its forests nonetheless thick and shadowy, its bogs but to be drained, the hills not fairly totally pastoralized. By way of narrative, all through Murderer’s Creed: Valhalla there’s this central conflict between Christianity and paganism, however operating in parallel, within the realm of panorama, there’s additionally a stress between the idyllic and the inhospitable.
The Bizarre and the Eerie
It’s simple to bask within the panoramic fantastic thing about a recreation like Valhalla, however like the actual lands they’re based mostly on, digital England is a spot constructed atop intense violence and atrocity. In Macfarlane’s essay “The Eeriness of the English Countryside,” he describes English landscapes as being “constituted by uncanny forces” and “part-buried sufferings.” Referencing one other quick story by M. R. James, “A View from a Hill,” the place a picturesque scene is remodeled right into a stage of loss of life and execution when seen via a pair of binoculars produced from the bones of the lifeless, Macfarlane reveals how historical past can hang-out a spot.
Peeling again a panorama’s historical past reveals “the cranium beneath the pores and skin of the countryside.” Valhalla’s England is brimming with uncanny forces—warfare, invasion, battle, struggling, and contested possession are all over the place. As Macfarlane mentions in his essay, the ghosts right here don’t have anything do with ectoplasm. As an alternative, England’s spectres are solely historic. Actual, horrific occasions rotting simply beneath the tranquil, pastoral floor.
Valhalla is obsessive about the traditional, the cursed, the wyrd. Newness rubs shoulders with the outdated methods at each alternative, and there are even hints of the demonic and occult. One in all a number of actions that recurs throughout its large map are the “cursed symbols.” Gamers are tasked with fixing environmental puzzles and clearing these pockets of darkness, a lot of that are discovered deep underground or nestled away inside tree hollows.
Valhalla’s landscapes are additionally extra usually eerie. Typically it’s merely the best way gentle catches towards the silhouette of a barren hill or moor. Different instances an unearthly ambiance will stand up from the land, pockmarked as it’s with barrows (or fairymounds, as they had been referred to in instances of outdated), Roman ruins, and stone circles. Typically you’ll stumble right into a labyrinthine cave community, full of darkish trinkets, the skulls of stags, and even burning wicker males. Within the recreation’s Gloucestershire space there’s a complete quest regarding the pagan pageant of the burning of the enormous wicker man (sure, like the 1973 film, there’s somebody caught inside). In East Anglia there’s a hellhound generally known as the Black Shuck, which prowls the countryside. One other string of quests sees you combat a coven of daggered witches—amassing their weapons, you’ll finally discover a Roman break beneath the earth containing a statue of what seems to be just like the Green Man (a pagan image of rebirth), who you’ll have to stab within the again with stated daggers as a way to entry the treasure buried even deeper.
Street to Break
Valhalla’s standing stones are a very eerie function. In Anglo-Saxon instances, these preparations—locations like Seahenge and Stonehenge—had been stated to be the work of giants, or petrified individuals who had dared break the legal guidelines of the land (akin to dancing on a Sunday or milking a neighbor’s cow). One idea that may assist us perceive all this eeriness is “hauntology.”