Assassin’s Creed Valhalla is the latest release in the mainline Assassin’s Creed series and it launched on November 10th, 2020. As I have previously said in my first-impressions post, this game brings everything that I loved about the series and its roots into the new-era of Assassin’s Creed. Finally, for the first time since I played Black Flag, I feel like I haven’t been let down, but in fact been treated to even more than I could have originally wanted from this game.
Let’s say this before going forward, the game is not without its issues – bugs, clunky in areas and more often than not simple AI – but, what the game does right, it does really right. With that in mind, let’s get into our official review of Assassin’s Creed Valhalla.
Regarding the story, the opening scenes of the game build a foundation for the characters and overarching theme in such a way that seems interesting, albeit a little typical. The main story will see you become Eivor, a Norse viking who seeks vengeance for his mother and father. Alongside our protagonist we have Sigurd, a viking prince whose family takes in Eivor after what happened. In the early stages of the game, Eivor appears to be a rather stale, basic character with few traits of his own as he appears to hang off every word Sigurd says. This is partially understandable as he has looked up to him ever since the early days – but seriously, it’s time to be your own man. Eivor becomes a major supporting pillar to Sigurd in his conquest for glory in England after his father bends the knee to another Norse king. Generally speaking, the story is typical viking narrative – there isn’t much in terms of depth to this. That isn’t a bad thing necessarily but when your main character can feel dry at times, it becomes noticeable.
Where the story really does itself justice is with the plethora of short ‘mysteries’ spread all over the world. These are kind of like side quests in which you encounter a character who has their own – usually rather amusing – story to tell. Honestly, the game would be somewhat lacking without these as they provide the majority of the humour to the world. Often lighthearted, the quests can range from needing to pull an axe out of a mans head, to foraging viper eggs so a woman in the sewers can be a living stink-bomb. These short moments really break up the game in a way that is needed – not everything in life needs to be a raging conquest.
I will give props to Ubisoft for something else in the story too – I really like the story arc system. Basically, at Ravensthorpe – your hub – you will choose a region to quest in next and each region has it’s own story. These last maybe two to three hours, and help you get to know the lords of the region. What I like about this system is it can give the game longevity. Picking up the game after a few weeks of Call of Duty? Why not play through one of your outstanding arcs. There’s progress there that you can take at your own pace. Usually these arcs aren’t really linked to one another either, so there is a low chance that you will feel lost after coming back in the future.
The gameplay of Valhalla is brilliant – apart from a few bugs and some repetition – I cannot really fault it. Repetition is almost unavoidable in a game like this – it isn’t that bad but after a while you will notice it in the gameplay. Minor bugs and clunkiness that I have encountered includes glitching clouds, dodgy raiding AI among other small things. But enough about the small negatives because this game packs an incredible amount of awesome positives.
The stealth aspect of Assassin’s Creed has always been something that I want – I mean, we are assassin’s after all. The notion of being an assassin means to be light on your feet and able to fade into the crowds. This has been missing from the last few entries in the series, but here it feels like it has actually been given some much needed attention. You’re encouraged to case the joint before sprinting in headfirst (which is still an option), planning your route and studying the routes of guards. You can specifically make this aspect of the game more difficult with the inclusion of a second difficulty setting for this style of gameplay – which is a nice touch. The Assassin’s Creed games of old all prioritised the need to get in and out, no one should know who you are and why you are after your target. Sure, this isn’t the case here, but the attention that they have given this approach again is much appreciated from a long time fan.
Exploration has never felt better in an Assassin’s Creed game. You can see that the game has built upon the previous titles and really filled Valhalla with a ridiculous amount of things to do and see. Yes, in some cases this can be overwhelming, but knowing you can take it at your own pace or not at all is a comforting thought. The world is gorgeous to look at, from riding over the rolling hills of the midlands to climbing the steep peaks of Norway, or sailing with your crew down one of the many rivers or canals throughout England. Exploration and how you traverse the landscape really make the game. Dotted throughout England are raids that you can take part in. These come with recommended skill levels but you can tackle them when you please, if you dare. For me, this has been where my most buggy experiences have taken place. The ally AI has always seemed really absent, like I am raiding a camp of 25 men all on my own. This is quite a disappointing moment as one of the staple things we know about the vikings is their love of raiding, not aimlessly walking into a wooden barrel.
The skill tree allows for a lot of customisation to your approach to the game. If you want to prioritise a specific playstyle you can with the points you allocate. Different trees will lead you to passive abilities that will enhance your approach. Abilities themselves are scattered throughout the world in the form of knowledge tomes. Usually found within raids themselves, these abilities can drastically change the fight. It does take you out of the immersion a bit though when I have specialised Eivor to be a subtle assassin and the next thing I know I am flinging enemies around with a rope-spear.
The gameplay is one of the best approaches we have seen in an Assassin’s Creed game to date. I don’t know if I would put it higher than the mighty Black Flag, but if it isn’t above, it comes drastically close.
World design & Graphics
I will talk about the world and the graphics briefly as I have already mentioned a bit about it in my first-impressions. The world is absolutely stunning. The team have done such a great job in bringing it to life. The cities feel populated and Ravensthorpe feels like home – a place you can take ownership of. I was playing on PC with a 1660 Super and a Ryzen 5 3600 – running the game at a constant 45fps on High/Ultra. I must say that the game is beautiful throughout. The attention to detail, lighting and particle effects really shine through (see what I did there?).
One thing I will mention is that the character models themselves look great. The semi-realistic facial models of most characters and the details you see on the face of Eivor really does show that we have moved into the next generation of gaming. I was really impressed with the lipsync as well, which may be a minor thing for most people but I find that when it is bad in a game it can kill all immersion.
Assassin’s Creed Valhalla is a sight to behold, one that is pleasing to the eye but also stable to run. You can see the level of detail put in by the team at Ubisoft here – they deserve props for that.
Valhalla is packed with replayability, in this year of releases that we have had, it tops this category. There is literally so much that you can do in this game and come back to. With all the little bits of side-content, quests and collectables, I can see me coming back to this title at a later date – which is huge for me because I don’t do this often.
Additionally, with the post-launch content that we have been shown already, there are some great things in-store for the game. Mysteries on Ireland and a raid of Paris, these are just the first years expansion content, with more minor additions coming too.
The future looks really bright for Assassin’s Creed Valhalla.
In closing, I would say that this latest entry in a much loved franchise is one of the best to date. The game is worthy of so much of the praise it is receiving. No, I probably wouldn’t jump to calling it the best game in the series to date, but I would say it is a contender. Where the game shines, it is blinding. For the few minor issues I encountered, the golden touches are outstanding.
We believe that Assassin’s Creed Valhalla is a game that is worth your time. With the not-so-great year we have had with game releases, this could easily be a contender for game of the year.