Assassin’s Creed Valhalla
Developer: Ubisoft Montreal
Release: November 10, 2020
Assassin’s Creed Valhalla is set between Norway and England and you control a Viking named Eivor, aka Wolf-kissed for reasons which become quite apparent very early on in the game. The opening area gives you a taste of what Viking life is like as you converse with your fellow clan members and partake in various actives, such as drinking! You really do get the feeling that these Vikings have been a clan for a long time, they almost have a family-like quality to them and that is shown very early in the game.
As you start your adventure in Norway, you get to choose your gender, or you can let the game choose for you. This time around I decided to go with the female rendition of Eivor. Eivor starts as a little bit of a blank slate, sure there’s a revenge plotline which the game pretty much opens with, but apart from that Eivor seemed a little bland to me at first. As I progressed through the story, I realized that Eivor’s character is not that bland at all, just a little nuanced than I am used to and I soon found myself snorting at some of her hilarious responses during dialogue and has since become my favourite Assassin’s Creed protagonist. I must briefly mention that the BOTH voice actors for the female and male variants of Eivor do a fantastic job at delivering lines a believable manner, which is a big change from the Alexios from Assassin’s Creed Odyssey who suffered from some horrendously delivered lines.
After some disagreements with the current way Norway is being ruled, you, your adoptive brother Sigurd, who was due to become your clan’s king before the aforementioned disagreements and most of your clan decide to seek a new life in England. Many a Viking has already begun to settle areas of England and the countries rule is split into different counties, each with their Saxon king. You and your clan soon start a small settlement dubbed ‘Ravensthorpe’ but to gain any renown you will first have to make some alliances among the divided kingdoms of England.
Gameplay in Valhalla builds greatly on the open-world RPG systems that Origins and Odyssey set up while at the same time cutting out some of the bloat these games added. Valhalla feels a little more ‘Assassin’s Creed’ than both Origins and Odyssey, I feel a bit of black flags DNA throughout the game, but I cannot explain why. Perhaps, it’s the more stripped back approach to weapons, gear and RPG elements. You see, in Assassin’s Creed Valhalla, you do not have a ton of different weapons or armour sets, this time around they are more refined, and you can level them up adding additional damage output and slots for runes. Runes are found throughout the game and can be equipped to a weapon or piece of armour to offer an additional damage boost or enhanced protection respectively.
Being a warrior, Eivor is naturally gifted in combat, as are your fellow Viking clan members. To build your settlement of Ravensthorpe you will need supplies and materials and the best way to get these is the traditional Viking way: Raiding and pillaging. Across England, there are various Saxon monasteries all holding treasures and supplies ripe for the picking. How this is where the game differs most from other Assassin’s Creed games, you can take a whole longship’s worth of Ravens Clan Vikings to the nearest monastery and initial a raid. Eivor will sound her horn and along with your clansmen will storm area taking treasures and supplies that can be used to upgrade Ravensthorpe with new buildings.
Raids are incredibly fun; you will need help from other Vikings to force open doors and open heavy treasure chests. It’s during these raids that you will realize just how capable Eivor is at combat and for me, this feels like best in the whole series, which is saying something as there are 20+ games in the Assassin’s Creed series. All of Eivor’s attacks and abilities have a satisfying weight behind them, you can feel the brutality behind each swing, blow or throw and Valhalla has hands down some of the goriest finishing attacks in the series which is to be expected from Vikings I guess!
The bulk of Valhalla’s main story has Eivor travelling to different regions to build allegiances. Each area has its own unique problems which usually end in Eivor providing her services to gain favour, these vary with things such as helping crown a puppet King or to weeding out a traitor from the upper ranks of an ally’s inner circle.
Once you pledge to help an area you will be given numerous missions based in that region usually culminating in an assault. As Assault is like a raid but much bigger in scope, this could involve storming a castle with numerous walls that you’ll have to use a battering ram to smash through, which is very satisfying, or sailing with an ally clan while being pelted with flaming arrows. The Assaults usually end in a boss fight, where Eivor puts a stop to Assault with her blade quickly.
Once one pledge is fulfilled it’s on to the next area. It’s worth mentioning your ‘Power Level’, this is effectively what level you are in the game, each discovery, kill etc in the game awards you with experience and when you level up you will gain 2 Skill points, these can be used to unlock passive skills such as +4.7% additional health or an ability such as arrow volley or throw and enemies discarded weapon at another, a person favourite of mine.
Power Level acts as an indicator of difficulty, although you can tackle most tasks and areas right away, you’d be wise to make sure Eivor at or around the required level for the task at hand. There are plenty of opportunities to earn additional experience, collect upgrade materials and unlock additional abilities which are hidden across England. Each area has a collection of Wealth, mysteries and artefacts that can be collected. A ‘wealth’ is usually a piece of armour or weapon and the artefacts are leftover Roman treasures which are usually hidden pretty well.
The mysteries are some of the most bizarre aspects of the game, one section early one has you meet a soldier with an axe lodged deep in his head, you have some humorous dialogue before sending him to ‘Valhalla’. Other mysteries involved eating hallucinogenic mushrooms and chasing a large White Elk while speaking to rabbits. The game really does have a lot of comedy to it and it’s all written pretty well! This helps to stop the game getting repetitive as there is always something unique to do in each area.
Performance and Presentation
Presentation-wise, Assassin’s Creed Valhalla is stunning at times. This is the first game in the series made with the PS5 and Xbox Series X in mind and it really shows, there where many moments where I just had to stop and take in the surroundings. The version of England they have in this game is pretty much spot on, it really does look a lot like our English countryside, only with more Vikings. I’ve never personally been to Norway, but I must say the sections in the mountings are very pretty and even made me feel somewhat cold.
Character animations are smooth and realistic, skin and other textures look great also. The addition of a photo mode is very welcome in Valhalla and all the photos in this review were captured with it.
Now, I’ve spent this whole review listing the positives of the game and there really are a lot, however, there is some bad as well and it’s the usual affair with Assassin’s Creed. Bugs, Bugs everywhere. Thankfully, there has been a couple of patches which have fixed a lot of the minor issues. I recently completed a story segment which involved sneaking into a fortified castle and take out every enemy soldier. I did this perfectly, very stealthy and not caught once, this took me about half an hour of carefully sneaking around the castle, collection treasures, collection keys and freeing prisoners. Afterwards, a pivotal story cutscene started which halfway through, crashed the whole game to desktop. Upon reloading the game, I was right back at the beginning of the mission. This was infuriating, however, this also taught me that running in ‘all guns blazing’ is also just as viable and much quicker! In my playtime, I had the game crash to desktop a total of three times and it was only that one occasion in particular that annoyed me.
One last gripe I had with the game is performance, this was the same for Origins and Odyssey and it does seem a little better here, but Valhalla seems to be very CPU bound and this is especially noticeable in Norway. Thankfully, performance seems to smooth out a lot in England where most of the game takes place, just something to be aware of. For reference, I played using a Ryzen 3900x paired with a 5700 XT @ 1080p60.
Assassin’s Creed Valhalla is now my favourite Assassin’s Creed. The characters of Eivor and Sigurd are very well developed, and they take the story in some very interesting directions late in the game. The gameplay feels great and behind a couple of technical issues is one of the best games I have played this year and I will be going back to play additional season pass content as it becomes available. Be sure to pick up a copy of this great addition to the Assassin’s Creed series.
PC review code kindly provided by Ubisoft