There are so many series that I really enjoy in gaming, Grand Theft Auto, Gears of War, and Halo just to name a few. However, one series in particular that has rarely let me down over the years, as well as one that always sticks with me, has been Assassin’s Creed. The Assassin’s Creed series is extremely well known for using history as a means to tell not only a story in the past, but also a modern-day story as well. The first games in the series had you playing as a modern-day assassin, Desmond Miles as he spent most of his time as Ezio Auditore da Firenze, an ancestor of Desmond, to help him find and discover Pieces of Eden to help fight against the series main protagonists at the time, The Templars. The series has evolved over the years and since the release of Assassin’s Creed Origins back in 2017 the game has shifted from very stealthy gameplay to more of a roleplaying game experience of which was a very refreshing welcome to many that have long enjoyed the series. The addition of a more loot-based weapon system was just the foundation however, as the previous game in the series to date, Assassin’s Creed Odyssey, built upon that foundation by providing dialogue choices which were a first for the series as well as a massive overhaul to the map and other gameplay elements such as being able to select the gender of your character.
Here we are now with the latest game in the series, Assassin’s Creed Valhalla, which is set in the world of AD 873 where the Viking invasion of Britain is set to take place. The game features the main character, Eivor, through a series of events at the beginning of the game, works with his brother, Sigurd to head from Norway to England in an attempt to build their clan as well as a settlement by going on various activities to help build their settlement up and make alliances with the various factions within the kingdoms of Merica, Northumbria, East Anglia, and Wessex. The game starts you off in Norway in which you will have a very decently sized map to explore. Exploration in Valhalla is a very welcome one due to the fact that you are given a guide on the map screen of just how many important things there are to discover. In the bottom right corner of the map screen, you are shown just how many there are of a particular item or side quests in what Valhalla calls “Mysteries”, as well as artifacts such as new tattoos, are able to be applied to your character. This makes exploration very easy and not seem like such a rugged task. Synchronization points, a series mainstay, return yet again as a means of being able to reveal certain parts of the map, however this time upon reaching these new heights, you will be shown where these various activities mentioned above are located and will be added to your map, giving you easy access in finding these locations and not so much having to walk around for hours having to search for them.
The gameplay is something that will be familiar to those that have played Odyssey especially when it comes to the fighting mechanics, this time, however, you are able to dual-wield just about any weapon combination you can think of so long as it is a one-handed weapon so for those that are looking for the more classic Viking style you can run into a raid dual-wielding axes if you wish or mix it up with an ax and a shield. Raids are a very new welcome to the series as you are able to bring your fellow Raven Clan warriors to battle at certain points throughout the game and these Raids are located on your map. Upon boarding up on your longboat, you can then travel to these raids, once you arrive you will be prompted to hit a button that will start the raid of which causes your clan to leave the boat and start attacking these villages. Raids are crucial to the new settlement system in the game due to being where you will earn the supplies you need to upgrade certain buildings in your settlement, Ravensthorpe, such as a Stable for your horses as well as being able to change the appearance of your Raven, Sýnin, and also the appearance of your horse. Your settlement will level up over time which will unlock new buildings that will be essential to your progression in the game.
One important part of your settlement will be Gunnar, the blacksmith, which is where you will be able to upgrade the rarity of your weapons, depending on what rarity your weapon depends on if you will be able to add runes to your weapon, much in the same way as God of War. Upgrading the rarity of your weapon can also even change the appearance of it. One disappointing aspect of the game is that there is no transmog feature meaning that you cannot revert back to an old appearance of your weapon so if you happened to like how your weapon looked when it was of silver rarity, you won’t be able to go back to it once you upgrade it. This was something that Ubisoft added later to Odyssey but was for some reason removed here. Hopefully, it will be an added feature later down the road.
While the side quests in Valhalla are very plentiful, my one major frustration with the game has to be that upon finding a side quest, that particular quest isn’t added to your “Quests” tab in the pause menu. This can be quite annoying at times, especially if you don’t pay close attention to what a character says or if you decided to take a break and reload your game and not remember what you are supposed to do. One quest, in particular, had me going around a swamp with someone that gave me a quest to light various braziers after which I wasn’t sure where to go or what to do next since I had been following this quest giver around. It ended up taking me 30 minutes of randomly wandering around before I finally found the area I needed to be at. The game does have various difficulty settings this time around for exploration and combat. However, unlike in Odyssey when you set the exploration difficulty to easy, the game would usually show you right where to go instead of needing to explore, that isn’t the case so much here in Valhalla as I tested to see if it did this same thing and it does give you clues on where to go but it doesn’t point right out where you need to be at on the map.
For those hoping for more Assassins in their game this time around, you won’t be disappointed. The game does have you build a Hidden Ones Bureau at your settlement and Hytham, a member of the Hidden Ones, will be your guide. There are of course all the assassin things you can still do in the game, even though it seems that you will probably enjoy more direct combat as opposed to sneaking up on your enemies to assassinate them. You can still blend into crowds and hide in bundles of hay all you want, but in a world where you are playing as a Viking, it just doesn’t feel all that right here as I had way more fun directly running into forts and castles to take them over. Abilities in Valhalla really shine here and in order to add more abilities to Eivor you have to find Books of Knowledge that are spread out in various places across the game and in order to upgrade these abilities, you will have to find the same Book of Knowledge for that ability twice.
Leveling up this time around doesn’t feel at all like a chore as you can earn XP much more frequently and gain what Valhalla calls, Power. You earn a new Power rank for every skill point you earn and spend. The Skill tree or what the game calls the Path to Exile is where you will be spending your time crafting the type of build you want for Eivor. As you progress in the game earning skill points, you can spend these points on various buffs, upgrades, and more such as more health, fire resistance, adding poison to your attacks and there will be points on the Path that add additional major buffs and skills to your character as well as unlocking new areas on the Path. Much like in Odyssey and Origins before it, each area in the game has a recommended Power level before attempting to explore it. In the almost 20 hours I spent playing Valhalla, I never felt like there was a grind just to access certain portions of the map since the game does a great job of guiding you to places where you have quests to undertake using the Alliance Map which can be found at your settlement. This is how you decide on which questlines to pursue in the game by making a pledge to do quests for a particular area which various questlines offering bonuses such as upgrades for your settlement.
As far as how the game runs, well I only had the opportunity to play Valhalla on an Xbox One X and I didn’t run into too many issues while playing. I felt the game played rather smooth for running on the One X and it never felt too sluggish whatsoever. Others reported texture tearing of which I never had a single issue within my time in Valhalla. Loading times of course felt like they took about a minute when fast traveling as well as loading up the time, however, I am certain that these loading times are much smoother when playing on an Xbox Series X or a PlayStation 5.
Assassin’s Creed Valhalla is an epic-Viking RPG that those who are huge fans of this particular time period will thoroughly enjoy and also for those that are hoping to feed that RPG itch. There are so many things that Valhalla gets right as an RPG that I am able to forgive some of the frustrations that I mentioned earlier. This is one game that you won’t want to miss this year and one that will surely take any completionist some time to finish especially with there being so many unique boss encounters, odd quests that will leave you with a smile, and a game that you simply won’t want to put down.
Thanks to Ubisoft for providing Brian with a review copy of Assassin’s Creed Valhalla to review. This game was reviewed on an Xbox One X.