Way back in the time of Ezio Auditore da Firenze – no, not the late 1400s – while running along the rooftops of Rome, someone had a thought, wouldn’t it be cool to be an assassin in the Viking era? Fast forward to now, ten years later and just around the corner we are going to be greeted with Assassins Creed: Valhalla, Ubisofts latest entry in one of the major franchises of modern day gaming. I have always wanted to see Ubisoft venture into this era and to experience their take on it, but really, is Valhalla what I want in an Assassins Creed game?
Let me explain myself a little bit. I am a long-term fan of the Assassins Creed series, ever since I played a little bit of the original game on a friends Xbox 360 while I was still stuck on the Playstation 2. I went through every little detail of Assassins Creed Brotherhood and I was a faithful patron of the series up to Syndicate (excluding Unity). This is where it all began to get a little bit messy for me. I was one of the people in the camp who at first did not like the gameplay changes brought in by Assassins Creed: Origins and to this day I still feel somewhat uninterested because of it. Although, just because I don’t fully like the change doesn’t mean that I don’t appreciate that something needed to drastically change. The mechanics of the series were becoming somewhat stale and the story was running it’s course. At Ready Player Gone, most of us generally agree that Assassins Creed: Black Flag is still possibly the best entry in the series. The game featured a massive open-world, an interesting cast of characters and the most polished gameplay in the series thus far. With this all in mind, let’s approach why I am both worried and excited for Valhalla.
Ever since Assassins Creed: Syndicate brought us to London, we knew it could be done. The recreation of the Burroughs of London were brilliant and exciting. England is ripe with history and more than anything, I am surprised it has taken this long to get here. The world-map in the game is going to be larger than Odyssey. Covering the entire country of England and a good portion of Norway too. 9th century England saw much of our little island occupied by Danish and Norse vikings. The Kingdom of Wessex also gave way to who is considered to be its greatest ever leader, King Alfred the Great. So much history here to be explored and Assassins Creed has always done a great job of interweaving itself with it. Yes, there will be some creative directive that will effect historical accuracy, but in a way that is needed. It is needed because to truly be able to experience the cultures of the time, there has to be a degree of interpretation, which I believe we will be seeing with Valhalla, the hall of Odin.
My hope is this, I want the game to blend into the timeline of the Dark-ages. As Eivor, I want to interact with historical leaders, convene with the gods and experience life in a Viking settlement. Sure, it will not be 100% accurate, it can’t be – but to be able to experience a taste of it in a way that I haven’t been able to before is all I want.
That’s just it though – this is also my greatest worry. I could never really get into Origins or Odyssey for a few reasons and one of them being that the world is a little bit too big for me. There felt like there was always too much choice, too much freedom. This is completely personal here because for most this is exactly what they want in a game and I can appreciate it to a degree. I lose focus. I lost it in Red Dead Redemption 2 and I am worried that I will lose focus here in Valhalla. Which is a shame because these are some of the greatest games out there for lovers of a deep story and a living game-world. However, Valhalla may be bringing me a world that I can connect with, England is my city after all. To see it in such detail does make me increasingly excited for this game. The interpretation we are going to be given as well is from the side of the Viking. Much of what we know of these dark-ages historically is from the perspective of monks – a people who were regularly raided by the Vikings. So of course, most of what we have is of the darker side of the era and that means Ubisoft will be bringing some creative perspective here, but I think it will be welcome. With recent shows like Vikings and The Last Kingdom, interest for this game couldn’t be higher.
A final note on the world, is anyone actually interested in the modern-day storyline in this game anymore? I can’t say I have been invested since they killed off Desmond, but originally for me that was a huge aspect drawing me to the game. The idea of an ongoing war between the Assassins and the Templars throughout the span of history was such a cool concept. I genuinely feel uninterested in it now, it felt all over the place and relatively pointless in terms of the games, in the end it only became about the key figures. This is such as shame and I hope to see some sort of focus in Valhalla on this, the story could atleast use some decent closure.
Valhalla appears to follow the same gameplay structure as the last two iterations in the series. There will likely be minor changes and deviations throughout to tailor the experience, but I think we can likely expect a similar experience. This for me is where the series is walking along a tightrope, sometimes it feels solid, but other times the balance is off. Exploration will likely be as good, if not better than Odyssey as the world-building and the navigation credit it so well. On the other hand, Combat in the previous two games has felt somewhat sponge-like, less intuitive and more basic. Go here, clear out enemies, fight a boss etc. Now, I know the freedom aspect of the series gives the opportunity to do so much more than just that, but you don’t need to do it – you can just run in, spam buttons and if your gear is strong enough, you will win. Why is this the case?
The series has clearly taken a lot of inspiration from possibly the most successful RPG of our time, The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt. From quest structure to gear progression, combat to exploration, the game reeks of it. This could be a good thing. Could be. If done immaculately well. You see, the Witcher series is entirely fantasy based, it has much less in terms of creative restrictions as a series like Assassins Creed will have. This will effect the characters you design, the quests you write and the creatures you create. Assassins creed Origins and Odyssey do brilliant jobs of bringing a historical world to life. But in comparison to the plains of Velen, the bustling city of Novigrad and the beautiful region of Toussaint, surely you cannot hope to compete on the same level. The thing is, that is OK. Witcher is supposed to be fantasy, it allows for all these things, whereas Assassins Creed is based within history. You can say that pretty much everything is inspired by something else in gaming, Witcher is no doubt free of that too. Though, in Assassins Creed it feels blatantly obvious. The gear and battle-system really do feel similar in many ways, to the point where in both games you can just slash your way endlessly with the occasional dodge in for good measure.
I really do long to see something more in Valhalla with the gameplay. The settlement system, the longboats, the weapons, the mythology, the hidden blade, the assassinations. All these things are really in the favour of this release – I do think its going to be the small bits which make or break the game. If it feels clunky, spongy or boring, then it’ll go on the shelf; but if it feels deep, immersive and responsive, it may just be a brilliant start to a new generation.
So to answer the question I originally set out asking: Is Valhalla what I want? Yes, atleast if it meets my expectations I think it definitely could be what I want.
Overall, I am excited. Worried but definitely excited. I think this game has shown real potential and the sheer scale and detail of it all is really a great feat. Could it turn out disappointing? Most definitely, but I think somewhere at Ubisoft, they know that this has been a dream of the fans for years. It has been two years since the last Assassins Creed game was released and they already had a stable foundation to build upon. I do think there will be those that are slightly apprehensive like me as they long for the old formula, but this is a great opportunity to delve into something that could potentially change minds. So will I be getting the game? Probably, but maybe not on launch day, November is already heating up to be a massive month in gaming.
You can pre-order your copy of Assassin’s Creed Valhalla here!
All videos in the post are from the official Ubisoft Youtube channels.
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