Assassin’s Creed Valhalla Review-in-Progress
Assassin’s Creed has been one of my favourite franchises of all time, and the changes they have made in the last few entries are wonderful in almost every way. While there were a few things in Assassin’s Creed Origins and Assassin’s Creed Odyssey that I didn’t enjoy, some of those issues have been rectified in what I like to call the “New Era” of Assassin’s Creed titles. From start to finish, Assassin’s Creed Valhalla is a fantastic experience, punctuated by dozens of highs, and very few lows. Let’s dive in!
A Story to Enjoy
Norway. The land of the Vikings, where warring clans go at each other for land, only to realize there isn’t enough land for all. When a young king looks to unite the country under one banner, Eivor and a few of his / her friends leave their homeland and trek to England in search of a new way of life. That’s the setup to Assassin’s Creed Valhalla (Valhalla) and one that I really enjoyed. So much of what you do and experience in England is based on those first few precious hours. You’ll head to England with your crew aboard your longships with lots of knowledge about why you are leaving, the people you are leaving with, and some mysteries that you’ll need to solve.
These mysterious are a result of Eivor’s many visions that he has, featuring Norse gods, of which Odin seems to play the biggest role. These are the mysteries that need to be unraveled in England, as players run across Mercia, East Anglia, Northumbria, and Wessex, the 4 major kingdoms that make up England.
Boy or Girl – You Choose!
Assassin’s Creed has proven consistently as of late that choice off the top is important to their players, so as in previous titles, players can play as either a male or female Eivor. The difference this time around is that there are not two separate characters to play as. Instead, you will play as Eivor – you just choose the gender. Although this doesn’t seem to come with many (if any) dialogue changes, I found playing as a Viking women much more enjoyable than playing as a man. May be I wanted to buck the stereotypical Norse Viking? Either way, I was happy with my choice off the top and never looked back!
If you played an Assassin’s Creed titles since Origin, the RPG elements that have become the norm are back again, although major tweaks have been made to looting, weapons, and armor that I think are perfect for the system. We will get to that – first I want to touch on a change I did not enjoy – the skill tree.
In past Assassin’s Creed titles, skill trees had a flow to them that made logical sense, and you often could see what was coming up in the skill tree to decide which path you wanted to take. Things seem completely random in Valhalla. You have no idea what you might unlock next, as you jump between constellations unlocking various perks that might upgrade your health, range damage, resistance to fire, and a wide variety of other things. The abilities that you are looking for are now locked behind rare book collection across England. While finding these books isn’t necessarily hard, it will take a lot of time, and many players might miss out on some of the better special moves!
Positively, however, Ubisoft has overhauled the inventory system. When running around in Origins, for example, it wouldn’t take long for my inventory to be filled with dozens upon dozens of weapons I was ultimately just going to sell to a merchant. And this bogged down the inventory greatly. In Valhalla, weapons and armor are found through various treasure locations on the map, and no longer looted off enemies. While some may miss the looting mechanic, I for one am happy I can focus on a specific weapons or armor set. Further, in your settlement – which is also a new addition to Assassin’s Creed – you can have your blacksmith upgrade and enhance your armor and weapons, prolonging their life span.
Another major overhaul to clean up the look of the game is in side quests. These are much more organic now – instead of tracking down dozens of ‘!’ on the map to see what people want, you can now engage in side quests via the games new ‘Mysteries’ which are generally small quests that won’t take you very far from the person giving it to you. And there are definitely some fun ones. Early highlights include helping a newly ‘converted’ monk burn a house down of worldly possessions, and helping to Norse warriors practice raiding by burning a house down. There is a ton of variety in these quests, and all of them put a smile on my face at some point.
The other great new additions in raiding monasteries and small settlements, taking down castles, and destroying fortresses. Through this new system, Eivor will team up with his entire Viking crew in full scale assaults that are as grand as they look. Even after multiple of these events, they never feel old. They are frequent enough to keep your enjoyment up, but not too frequent that you end up feeling burnt out on them. Doing these is also the way you’ll get resources to improve your own settlement, which might be on of hte best additions to an Assassin’s Creed title in a long time.
Not All Sunshine and Roses
As with most Ubisoft titles, there is a ton of performance issues throughout your experience. I’ve seen my Viking allies line up in a long row, shoulder to shoulder for no apparent reason. I’ve seen whales pop out of the water and hover for a few seconds. And I’ve encountered more than a few barred doors that won’t be broken form the inside, despite being able to. But what I can say is that none of these issues every impacted my game. While some reviewers have posted about full on game crashes, that has not been my experience. Most of my issues have been comical, with a few annoyances sprinkled in.
Still, a few patches – including a hefty Day One patch – could potentially fix a lot of these issues, and so it will be important to revisit this review in a few weeks to see what Ubisoft has managed to fix.
We will touch on the games presentation in just a few short days. We really want to see how Assassin’s Creed Valhalla looks on next gen consoles. We are currently playing on Xbox One X, and it looks absolutely stunning. We cannot wait to see how much better it looks, and how much faster it loads, on PS5 and Xbox Series X. Stayed tuned!