The latest edition of Assassin’s Creed introduces the player to a new protagonist who, true to Viking roots, is sent tromping through Europe raiding and pillaging to establish dominance of Europe’s inhabitance. Many of the aspects of Assassin’s Creed: Valhalla will be familiar to fans of the franchise but this entry in the series strives to improve and innovate in almost every aspect of the package.
The player’s character, Eivor, is a Viking with a complicated history that attaches to her brother who is determined to make a name for himself. Their Viking party travels from their native land of Norway to settle Anglo-Saxon England. At this point the game introduces the player to a settlement that serves as a homestead. More on that later. If you are bored already, I was at this point also. This game does a lot of table setting in the early hours for payoffs that occur latter in the story.
The story is a slow burn but you are eventually tasked with going into a variety of territories to make alliances with those that inhabit them. Each territory presents an environment that is unique and story arches that are surprisingly intriguing. It is evident that the team behind this game is directly inspired by narrative focused games like Red Dead Redemption 2 and the Witcher 3. At times you are asked to investigate multiple interest points to gain understanding of what transpired. This process at some times asks the player to decide which council member is a traitor or decide who will ascend to power in a given territory. The character development in each territory is well done and forces the player to make decisions which have lasting effects within the territory arc and the game’s main arch.
Many of these choices lead to meaningful and impactful outcomes that continue to ripple through the narrative on multiple occasions. This game shines in these smaller story arches, continually bringing resolve to complicated political conflicts and then seamlessly transitioning to a new arch with just enough information to keep the player engaged. There were multiple times during my playthrough that I sat, controller in hand, moth agape due to unforeseen turns in narrative.
Near the end of this main narrative the story does retreat into AC Sci-Fi which muddies the waters on a well woven story. As impressive as the short narrative arcs are, the good will the game builds mid game is tested near the end and left me lacking understanding of what was actually happening. This section is a forced attempt to tie all AC storylines together. Abruptly departing from a well woven story into a convoluted, under explained SciFi tale which ultimately hurt the overall tale.
This title is Assassins Creed: Valhalla and it is, at its core, an Assassin’s Creed game. For fans of the franchise, the gameplay will be familiar yet different. The heavy/ light attacks are back which couple with unique skills earned throughout the game. There are certain points with boss difficulty spikes which forces the player to change play styles or level up and return later. The weapons the player collects within the game are each unique which is a departure from recent entries in the AC franchise. Those weapons are upgradable and customizable which allows the player to find the fighting style they prefer and then upgrade the appropriate equipment. In past titles many weapons and armor pieces would be scrapped or sold but these uniquely crafted tools accompany the player through the journey while receiving both cosmetic and stat based along the way.
At certain points in the game, the player is beckoned back to the settlement. Over the course of the Viking raids, chest collecting, and quest completions the resources gained can be invested into the settlement. The new installments to the village worthy of your investment are a variety of shops to improve and flesh out player experience. Some of these new building can upgrade player abilities or customize your character, while others introduce you to characters to check in with after crossing a veiled enemy from your wanted list or simple a home for characters who have been by your side for the entirety of the game. The settlement provides a wonderfully fulfilling gameplay loop enticing the player to venture out into the world to gain resources and return to improve the homestead piece by piece. Though this part of the game is mechanically sound there is an unexpected depth to the characters who settle in your village. This depth is expanded upon with specific side quests centered around those characters. Due to some narrative twists Eivor is asked to judge on disagreements within the settlement. These engagements build out the backstories of occupants of the settlement and ask the player to pass judgement for settlement squabbles which welcomes more emotional investment from the player.
Like many AC games before, this game has many things to consider and take on. There are treasures to seek out, mysteries to investigate, and side quests a plenty. The quests off the beaten path are unique and intriguing. Though near the end of my journey through Vahallah I was focused on the main questline I never stopped feeling the pull of the many amusing, handcrafted experiences.
The time I spent with the side content had me doing a host of unique and memorable things. I followed a pig named Mrs. Trotters through the woods seeking out buried treasures, refused to pay a bard who then sung songs dragging my character’s name through the mud, and rescued a little girl that chased a white rabbit into a cave. (Alice in Wonderland much?!) These pieces of side content a represented on the players map with a blue dot. The two other types of dots represented on the map are Gold (treasure) and White (collectables). This three-dot system allows the player to seek out the content they desired without aimlessly unveiling a generic looking question mark, an appreciated departure from games released in prior years.
As much as this game has to offer, there have been many reports of technical issues. I personally have few technical issues which included the Xbox resume functioning failing, NPCs being unresponsive within a quest series, and the occasional ally’s AI breaking thus hindering progress. All of these minor issues were fixed for me with a simple reload of a previous save. I played on an Xbox Series X which, as of the writing of this, is a new console that has been experience a host of issues across games. I have also received reports of issues within the PC copy and Xbox One/PS4 versions of the game. The most significant issue I experienced was a lost save which left over 10hrs of gameplay unaccounted for. Was I frustrated? Yes. Has this issue hindered my admiration of this game? Yes.
If I had the ability to fully separate my frustration of lost progress and my overwhelming positive experience with in this game, I would encourage anyone looking for a meaty well-rounded experience to this game. Because I cannot completely separate those experiences, I suggest waiting for the bugs to be completely worked out before picking up a copy of this game. This game is a 5 star experience but I fear technical issues and early game frustrations could ruin a player’s Viking Romp through Anglo Saxon England.
This game is undoubtable one of the best AC games ever made. I unapologetically enjoy this franchise and this entry in the series is top notch. Its ability to craft narratives arches of varying size is impressive. The vast content offering is impressive with varied tasks to keep the player busy for many hours experiencing ancient Europe. Technical issues were present in this title at launch and did affect my experience. My advice – wait for this game to be completely patched, and then enjoy over many play sessions. Assassin’s Creed Valhalla is a marveling achievement for the franchise and continues to push the gaming genre forward. I extremely enjoyed the time I dedicated to this game and would highly recommend it to fans of the series or those looking to get reacquainted with the world of Assassin’s Creed.
Edited by Dr. Zubat