The Assassin’s Creed franchise has come a long way since its inception back in 2007. Gone are the quiet, calculated kills from the shadows, replaced with loud, brandish battles filled with violent fanfare and over-the-top executions. Valhalla is the biggest departure from the series yet, and it’s also perhaps the best entry.
Valhalla is as ambitious as it is grand, and it perfects almost every concept it carried over from previous games as well as creating new and enjoyable traits as well. The Assassin’s Creed of old is long gone, and what Ubisoft has created in its place is a beautiful, grandiose spectacle that reinvents the series better than it has ever been.
What Is It?
Assassin’s Creed: Valhalla follows the story of Eivor and his Raven-clan from Norway, a Viking group that strives on their code of honor and family. Eivor never falters from his love for his friends and family or his devotion to keep his word, and his mannerisms and bloodlust to take or protect those he cares about make him one of the most well-rounded characters in the series yet. As the story progresses, Eivor finds himself traveling away from Norway to the old shores of what is modern day United Kingdom, to start fresh and make a name for himself in the new land.
The idea of starting fresh is a concept that permeates throughout the entire story and Eivor, along with his brother and clan Jarl, Sigurd, set out to make new friends as well as increase his town’s reputation and stronghold in the new world. Making alliances with other warring regions on the map is the basis of the story and it’s a great way to follow in the path of how Viking settlers perhaps impacted the region many years ago. Eivor continually helps solve, or meddle, in the affairs of other regions in order to gain support and allies in the event he might need their help if he should go to war himself, of which Valhalla has lots and plenty to participate in.
Why Should I Care?
Raids are a fresh, new idea for the Assassin’s Creed franchise and they are fun, adrenaline fueled battles where you call upon your clan to kill everyone in a town and ravage the buildings for loot and materials. You generally have a core objective during raids to kill all hostiles and loot all chests marked on your map. While the raids have the same core concept, they are important to the success of your own town, quaintly named Ravensthorpe. Raids allow you to get materials needed to add more buildings and upgrade existing ones, so you can morph it from a two-building collection to a hamlet of various buildings with traders that can grant you access to tattoo parlors, fishing huts and food buffs. Finding more raids scattered throughout the world and upgrading my own town was a fun, enjoyable little sidequest. I constantly found myself searching out new raids in order to gain new materials.
Similar to Origins and Odyssey, Valhalla added a level cap for every region on the map, however any part can be entered from the start. The game does a good job of labeling the recommended power level you should be for each region and the enemy strength as well. Your power level is obtained in the form of skill points, which are earned from gaining experience. Experience can be earned from simple tasks such as killing enemies and finishing side quests. Each skill point gives you a point in your power level you use to fill out a branching tree of stats, ranging from ranged, stealth and melee. Instead of using these skill points to give you new abilities, however, you use them to collectively raise your power level and increase your character’s passive buffs, many of these which include raises to your melee damage or assassination damage. There are a few abilities which can be unlocked on the power trees as well, such as the ever glorious stomp kill or one called Brush With Death, which slows down time when you successfully evade an attack.
The combat in Valhalla is perhaps the best blend from all the games combined to create the most accessible, enjoyable brand of fighting yet. You can map eight abilities to the D-Pad, similar to what Origins and Odyssey created, but instead of you earning these skills with skill points, you must locate them in the open world through Books of Knowledge. The difference between these skills and the ones unlocked through the power menu are that the mapped abilities use adrenaline to be activated. Adrenaline is a new addition to the combat of Assassin’s Creed and one that adds a sense of strategy in the midst of hacking your enemy to death. Every attack, parry, or evade uses adrenaline and this bar slowly fills up when you hit an enemy or perform other various tasks. Adrenaline becomes an important feature to keep an eye on as larger, tougher enemies can hit extremely hard and being unable to dodge them because you have run out of adrenaline can be the difference between life and death. You can upgrade your adrenaline bar as you level up your power level to give you more an edge, but finding the balance of which abilities to equip, both melee and ranged, lets players adjust the combat to their preferences and it’s the best combat Assassin’s Creed has ever been.
Fighting is as simple as alternating between light and heavy attacks and using parry to block attacks. Evading gives you an advantage to get behind enemies or slow down time. Upgrading your skills and abilities gives you the option to gain adrenaline during successful hits or parry and continue your relentless assault. You have the option as well to equip two weapons on Eivor, on his main and off hands. It’s a strategic approach to your preferred style of play, as you can equip a sword and shield for a defensive approach or go all out with two axes to unleash the utmost amount of mayhem possible. I rocked a dual hammer-axe combo for most of the game that allowed me to knock down most enemies after I broke their guard while also hitting quickly with my axe. You can even learn the ability to dual wield heavy weapons later in the game, so the possibilities are limitless to which weapons you can use and try.
As stated before, mapped abilities are now earned by finding Books of Knowledge in the world, and in a first for the series, Valhalla allows you to see all collectibles on the map at any given moment when you are within range. Treasures, abilities, side quests and more are all easily seen and viewed on your map and can be tracked and followed. Synchronizing viewpoints allows you to open up the maps more to see more secrets to obtain, thus making their scaffolding quests both voluntary but also necessary. The world events are definitely the highlights of exploring, and these act as short side quests that you encounter. They will always be marked with an icon so you can’t miss them, but what makes them different than ordinary quests are they are usually short (lasting no longer than five minutes) and the game does not give you hints on how to complete them. They range from playing hide and seek with some kids, helping a guy covered in poop cleanse himself, and helping write the origins for Beowulf. World events are all incredibly wild and random and you find yourself seeking them out whenever you see them on the map.
Besides world events, there are plenty of other fun activities to participate in. Orlog is a dice game where players take turns gathering pieces to attack each other while earning power for special attacks. It’s a highly addictive game and can be akin to starting its own following like Gwent did from The Witcher. Flyting is the game where you insult the other person through rhyme and completing each one increases your charisma to give you dialogue options later in the game. The main quests do a good job of offering up original quests for each region, whether it’s playing detective to learn who committed a murder or helping play matchmaker for a King, each region offers something different so you never find yourself doing the same things twice. The Order of the Ancients (the precursor to the Templars) that were introduced in Origins and Odyssey are back as well and you learn even more about their backstory and how they settled in the European region. Of course, tasking with taking them all out is still an enjoyable feat.
You even get a chance to enter Asgard and cosplay as the gods for a short time and Layla and her companions return for some present-day moments, but these are far and few between. Her animus anomaly segments are quite fun, where you have to traverse a series of platforms in order to uncover secrets about the Isu. An incredible feat for a game this massive that not one main quest, world event or side activity felt like a chore or repetition.
What Makes It Worth My Time And Money?
Ubisoft has always done a great job in creating massive, open world and Valhalla seems to be their most ambitious world yet. The world is stunning and every town is teetering with lots of people, markets to shop and characters to meet. Armor and weapons all have distinct looks and characters all look and sound different. Eivor’s voice actors are both much more balanced this time around and the way the game works in which sex is canon is brilliant. There is just so much to do and enjoy at any moment you can easily find yourself spending hours roaming the world, looking for that next secret to unlock or Order member to kill.
Assassin’s Creed: Valhalla is an ambitious entry into the franchise that let you walk amongst the Vikings as you strive to make your name known. The people you meet, the wars you wage and the battles you fight all make Valhalla one of the most enjoyable entries into the series yet, and the updated combat and strategic leveling system help make it one of the most accessible as well. Although the stealth mechanics have taken a backseat to a more upfront combat approach this time around, the end result is one that opens the doors for many more epic adventures in the coming years. Valhalla is a benchmark for open-world games to come and is the pinnacle Assassin’s Creed game to date, one that any fan surely cannot miss.