I begin this review in the form of flyting, so for those who read, be wary my writing. ‘Twas 6 games ago that played this I.P., little did I know that this one would surprise me. A new adventure, a journey of thrill, but be careful, some sins do linger still. Should you purchase this piece? That’s up to you. We’re it for me, I would buy two. I shall end my flyting and proceed with the review. Enjoy my article, as a bid you adieu.
By Odin’s Beard
Ubisoft’s latest IP in their Assassin’s Creed franchise takes us to the era of Vikings. You play as Eivor, a Viking raider who sets out with the Raven clan to conquer the Anglo-Saxon lands of England.
Upon arriving in England, your clan settles down in Raventhorpe, and from there you may plot out your conquest. Being given options as to which clans you would want to ally with. Majority of the game’s story progression is focused on forging alliances with other clans in order to take over the different surrounding kingdoms.
You are given the liberty to choose which regions or clan you wish to interact with first, usually around 2 at a time. This gives you a sense of control on the pacing of the story and at the same time, it does look too overwhelming. Sometimes, when players are given too many items on a checklist, it can seem like a chore.
Choosing clans to ally with are done through the Alliance Map, the game’s story/mission hub the lets you keep track of progression. Each interaction with a clan is its own questline, and you even have the option of deviating from this path to finish the questline of another clan. However, doing so might be a bit tedious as you’d have to select the current clan of interest through the Alliance Map again.
In addition to that, each clan’s questline is indeed a joy to playthrough. Supporting characters that Eivor meets are well written and interesting to follow. Even though their stories are self-contained, they add a color and life to the world.
Sadly, the main character Eivor is not as interesting. He/she seemed like someone who just follow the leader of the clan. Though you are given dialogue wheel options that have different tones, it did not really give Eivor a personality for me to latch on to. Hence why I was so excited to meet every OTHER clan leader, who seemed more fleshed out.
Of course the Hidden Order of the Assassins do make an appearance in this game, but I like that the main plot does not really involve the Creed. If anything, their presence here feels like a cameo. Which honestly is not a bad thing. I believe they could have straight up made a Viking game without the title Assassin’s Creed.
The most important and enjoyable feature of this game is the Settlement Upgrading system. Not to mention it fits the era that this game is placed in.
One of the overarching quests is to upgrade Ravensthorpe. Doing so will unlock new buildings for the player to interact with, like a Blacksmith, a Stable, or a Fisherman’s Hut. This also progresses the story even more.
This feature of upgrading a city isn’t new, this was also done back in Assassin’s Creed 2. But it seemed like a padded-on mechanic. Whereas this time, growing Ravensthorpe feels fulfilling and beneficial to your playthrough.
In order to upgrade your settlement, you need to collect materials throughout the open-world, which can be done by doing what Vikings do best, raiding. This is when things get interesting and fun.
You begin raids by travelling through the rivers of England on your war boats filled with your crew. As you stumble upon a base with supplies, Eivor sounds the horn and your troops head into battle. This is far from the stealth gameplay we are accustomed to when playing the A.C. Franchise. Going in guns a’ blazing (well, axes in this case) has never felt so good. The sounds of swords, axes, and shields clashing between one another, volleys of archer arrows trying to halt your crew from gaining further ground, all these mixed together deliver an exciting and satisfying feeling of a true Viking battle.
Whosoever holds this Mouse and Keyboard
The A.C. franchise started off as a stealth game. But throughout the years, the stealth gameplay kind of felt redundant and flat out boring. Which is why, I’m happy that they’ve finally changed it up by making the stealth aspect an option. Thus, giving more emphasis to traditional swordplay and head-on combat.
I mean, do they really expect us to play as a Viking who hides in the shadows? I think not.
Even though I do give them praise for this, it doesn’t mean its the best gameplay out there. Valhalla’s combat is quite basic. You have regular attacks and strong attacks, unlockable skills, and the ability to parry attacks. However, this strays far away from a button masher, and at moments will have you stop to think about how you will finish off a certain foe.
Enemies have stamina bars which can be depleted by parrying their attacks. You will then be able to set them up for a sweet and brutal execution kill. Not to mention, the A.I. is quite challenging, making a few mistakes can definitely get you killed, and boy did I have my fare share of deaths. But not once did I blame the game or coding, for an unreasonable hit or death. Almost every time I made a mistake, it was because I myself didn’t block or parry at the right moment. Which is why finishing off an opponent is even more satisfying.
Players are given a variety of weapons to choose. Axes, spears, two-handed axes, etc. Heck, you can even use a shield as your main weapon of choice. Each weapon has its own unique playstyle, this gives players several possibilities and combinations of how to enter battle.
Simple, yet effective
Valhalla goes even deeper than just combat, with the addition of equipment upgrading, a skill tree, and an ability list. This character progress will indeed keep players invested for some time. It does not feel like its padded-on because you are working towards a goal. Missions have a suggested power level in order to complete, and of course, Templars are highly skilled boss enemies that roam around England and can certainly one-shot you if you lack the proper gear and experience.
Equipment can be upgraded by collecting resources, and mind you that resources are not easy to come by. Making this aspect of the game indeed satisfying. You can further customize your equipment by attaching runes to them. Each rune giving different stat boosts depending on your build. Since I’ve been thoroughly enjoying my time with getting up close and personal, I geared myself to excel at melee combat. Not a single stat has gone to stealth or ranged attacked.
The skill tree provided is huge and diverse. Your character’s build will venture into 3 main areas: Close Range combat, Long-range, and Stealth. Leveling up and gaining skill points are quite easy, so progression doesn’t feel like a grind. Skill points can be used to upgrade passive stat boosts, or even learn new skills to use during combat. Players are also given the freedom to reset their skill points so that they may try new builds and playstyles. In short, Ubisoft wants you to have fun with their game, and I am having fun.
Players can also learn and use several abilities during combat and you can set up to 8 different abilities at a time. These abilities are different from skills and move sets. Meaning, they will be available for you to use no matter what weapons or equipment you have. In order to unlock these abilities, you must find them scattered throughout the open-world. This makes world exploration even more satisfying.
The Great Outdoors
Ubisoft has learned a lot over the past 11 open world games it has created, at least when it comes to A.C. franchise. Not including Watch Dogs and Far Cry. They have made open-world games that are too huge and with almost nothing to do. On the flip-side, they’ve made open-worlds with too many repetitive tasks to do. And with Valhalla, I’d say Ubisoft is definitely going in the right direction.
I see a balance in the map given to players to explore. Just big enough with the right amount of collectables and tasks to accomplish. Some hidden secrets for players to find as well. Past games would have me Syncronize with a tower, then all of a sudden the world map shows me 20 different things I can collect, thus giving that feel of having a checklist of chores to complete. Valhalla tones it down to be less intimidating. When I sync with a tower, 3 or 4 blimps of my map show up. I was honestly excited to sync with a tower and see what was available. Primarily because it no longer felt like a chore.
The traditional parkour movement is still around but its sadly the weakest aspect of the game, considering its been in the franchise for so long. Character movement does feel tighter and quicker, but does not bare any overall improvement. Its the weakest, because nothing has changed.
A main mode of exploration in this game would be travelling via boat travel along the rivers of England. This is the fastest way to get around the world, especially to far away destinations. Sailing through the rivers can be set to auto-pilot as well, but this is where it falls flat. As you travel via boat from point A to point B, you have the option of listening to songs sung by your crew or ask one of them to share a tale. Sadly, the songs I’d say aren’t as catchy as they were back in the Black Flag installation, and the stories aren’t as compelling as them make it seem. Also, not once did a crewmate finish their story being told. Stories are interrupted quite often, especially once a raiding camp passes, the story is put on hold unless you skip the raid and continue down the river. Not to mention the destinations between travel are not too far from each other for stories to actually finish. As far as interest goes, not once did I feel the need to stay on the boat to finish the story.
Epic Rap Battles of History
There are also minigames for players to partake in, such as drinking battles, orlog, and most especially flyting. Among all the mini-games, flyting was the one I had the most fun in.
Long story short, flyting is the rap battles of that era. A duel won by words and wit. Sure, on the surface level its just a matter of picking the right dialogue option. But I was always compelled to read out my answer and see if I myself can best my opponents using my words. Not only was it engaging to partake in, but winning a flyting contest would increase your charisma and affect some dialogue options in the campaign.
Final Verdict – 8.5/10
There is a lot of heart and soul put into Assassin’s Creed: Valhalla. Nailing the aesthetic of playing a Viking raider, charging into battle with brute strength, pillaging camps and villages to bolster their own clan. Being given the liberty to choose your style of play absolutely merits longer playthrough. In truth, the game is definitely not perfect or groundbreaking, but it is definitely one of the best in the franchise. Small improvements to the overall core gameplay of the Assassin’s Creed title have indeed done this installation wonders.
I end this review as poetic as I began, if you’ve read this far, then with you I stand. The essence of a Viking has truly been displayed, no longer must you wait to enter the fray. Swords, bows, or blades that are hidden, its your freedom as the player, to choose what you are given. There are still a few features that need to improve, like movement and sailing, need I continue? If this title interests you then cough up the moolah, and be ready to sing its praise, VALHALLELUJAH!
*This game was reviewed using a PC via a review copy sent by Ubisoft.