Since the release of Assassin’s Creed Origins, Ubisoft took a bold step for the franchise and chose RPG mechanics for the mechanics over the traditional action-adventure stealth game we all grew in love with. It was a bold decision by the developer, but it has been building upon the concept and making every future title better and better in every mechanic and aspect. Assassin’s Creed Valhalla is the latest in the franchise and is no different than the past two titles in the franchise however it is set in Norse mythology and allows you to experience the life of a Viking. This is our review of Assassin’s Creed Valhalla in which we gulp down some mead and pillage some villages before singing some songs in our longboat with our clan.
Assassin’s Creed Valhalla puts you in the shoes of a young Viking warrior Eivor who witnesses a big tragedy while he was young and is now all grown-up and looking for revenge. Honor is something that Vikings do not compromise at all and since Eivor lost his honor at a very young age, he is now looking for revenge at the very person who is responsible for it. The game starts at a very slow pace however, it quickly picks up in action, and before long, you are using your axe to chop down enemies and taking back terrorists from your enemies. Valhalla features a choice-heavy story as well so you will need to make plenty of choices throughout the story which define how you develop your own saga in the game.
The world of Assassin’s Creed Valhalla is extremely pretty to look at. You start at the snowy mountains and open seas of Norway and then move to England where most of the game takes place. Each place has its own moments and is a treat to look at. There is plenty of activity in each region and activities for you to complete and get involved with the world of the game. While you are not pillaging or raiding others, you can play different fun games such as a drinking game where you must drink your share of mead before your opponents, play the dice game Orlog or bring out the poet in you by challenging others to a Flyting challenge. Apart from these, you have a plethora of hidden artifacts to find, mysteries to solve, and hidden loot to find in the game as well.
One of the brand-new mechanics that you will find in Assassin’s Creed Valhalla is the game’s new settlement system. Considering the fact that you are a Viking who is settling down in a new world, you will need a foothold in unknown worlds, and this is where the settlement system kicks in. Unlike in previous games where you played as a lone wolf, in Assassin’s Creed Valhalla, your clan is always there by your side which makes it important to take them with you everywhere you go. You start off by taking over a small village as your brand-new settlement and then you continue to grow it by raiding and pillaging nearby fortresses, monasteries, and villages for resources and supplies. These looted resources and supplies give you a chance to expand your settlement gradually and become a true Viking stronghold in England.
The expansion of your settlement is not just a visual upgrade as well. Each structure in your settlement is useful and provides a vital boost to your gameplay. For example, building the Forge allows you to have your blacksmith upgrade your weapons and armor and even get some new ones. Building a bakery gives you a steady source of food and rations while building a stable gives your horses a place to rest and be ready for your next excursion. For your fighters and raiders, you can build a Barracks where they will have a place to rest, freshen up and train as well. Having a squad that is fresh is always good for you during your raids and other battles. Right from the start of the game, you will get to know why it is so important to fight with your whole clan in the game.
However, as you explore the lands, you will do it in solo, but you can always call your backup when you are close to the seas. For some reason, your raiding party never leaves your Longboat so even if you leave the boat and move inland, your clan stays inside your boat unless you land on a beach on a Raid. Raids are another brand-new mechanic in the game and also one that is vital for your survival. These raids will allow you to get some rare resources and supplies that you will need to expand your settlement. You can initiate these raids from within your longboat only when you are with your clan. Initiating a raid sounds your clan’s horn and you will land on the beach and begin attacking the guards in the facilities.
These raids will give you plenty of resources and apart from the required resources and supplies, each location also hides many other secrets and collectibles for you to find as well. These include new abilities and skills, rare resources, wealth, and other important things that you will need for your survival in the game. Also, your clan fights their own battles so once you have initiated the battles, each clan member will find their own enemies to kill and help you out in various activities as well such as opening locked doors or lifting heavy chests open. Once your raid is complete, another horn will be blown and all your clan members will leave their pillaging and looting and get ready in the boat for your next task. This is extremely fluid, and I never saw any clan member glitching out or stuck anywhere in the world.
For transportation, you can either use your horse while traveling solo or you will mostly use your Longboat as it can accommodate your whole clan as well. For raids and attacks, you will always use your Longboats since they are the choice of transportation for Vikings and are greatly attached to them. These longboat trips are no short of fun in the game as well. Each trip is made fun of by your crew as they chat loudly, laugh, and share stories with each other. You can switch between songs and stories on these journeys. Requesting a song will start a song from your clan while if you demand a story, one of the clan members will share a story from their past. These do not really make sense but some of the stories are funny and will offer you a good activity since you will be spending a lot of time on these boats. Some of the activities are also only accessible while you are with your clan on your longboat such as Raids. Important story missions will also require your longboats. Because of this, the boat controls have been further tweaked in the game. They are pretty easy to control as you now have an auto-drive mode as well where you can set a marker on the map and just select to auto-drive there. For manual control, you can move around yourself as well however it takes much more time this way to reach your destination.
This brings me to the gameplay of Assassin’s Creed Valhalla. Since this time around, we are playing as Vikings and your clan is also a Vikings clan, their posters and statures are build accordingly. They are bulky, wide, and heavy however none of this matter for our main protagonist Eivor who might be heavy, bulky, and a true Viking at heart, he can still climb the tallest of the mountains and anywhere where he can stick his hands and feet in. He or she, depending on your choice, can easily climb mountains, run on ledges, jump down from high points and still survive like a nimble assassin. For most of the time, this climbing, running around, and all of the parkour was still pretty good, however, in some instances and in some areas, parkour was not actually that good as Eivor kept missing his next spots to jump or land. This has been a pretty old problem with Assassin’s Creed titles, and it seems to have crept its way in Assassin’s Creed Valhalla as well. There were a few particular instances in the game where I was unable to climb a pole despite it being right in front of me and in certain cases, I was unable to make a jump from a particular ledge to another and Eivor kept jumping back to the ground instead of the ledge.
With the big world of the game, it is possible to have a few instances where the gameplay mechanics would just give up however thankfully these problems were not present in story-related areas or any other areas you would have some sort of an objective such as finding hidden resources, fortresses or raiding monasteries or villages. Apart from parkour and general movement, combat is yet another vital mechanic when it comes to gameplay in the game. This time around, your main weapons are pretty heavy as you use axes, maces, and flails to fight your enemies. You will be happy to know that the hidden blade has made its return in the game however Ubisoft has made its gameplay a little different from traditional titles. You can no longer use it as the main fighting weapon in the game and it is only used in the game when you must silently assassinate your enemies.
While normal combat scenarios, you will always use your main weapons whether they are single-handed or two-handed. Incase of single-handed weapons, you can always equip a secondary shield in your other arm and use it as a shield against enemies. This gives you the opportunity to block enemy attacks and make them lose their stamina. Once their stamina bar is empty, you can disbalance them and land a damaging stun attack which apart from bosses in the game, kills your enemy in one hit. Apart from your enemies, you also have to manage your own stamina as well because every action you do in the game, consumes your stamina whether it is a light or heavy attack, shield block, or dodge. If you are out of stamina, you cannot perform any of these actions in the game and must wait until it regenerates for you.
The enemies in Assassin’s Creed Valhalla are not that smart, however. Most of them will simply blindly attack you without any strategy and thus you can easily chop them down. Your only threat is the heavy enemies who can break through your attacks and the bosses who will absolutely annihilate you if you are not careful. Even on easier difficulties, the towering bosses in the game can cut you down pretty easily. You face these tougher enemies and bosses on key locations in the game however the normal enemies are found everywhere, and you can have some really good fun chopping them down with your axes and arrows. You can mix and match your attacks along with special abilities that you unlock by finding Knowledge Books in the game to land some impressive hits on your enemies.
These special abilities are only performed if you have Adrenaline and you gain that by killing your enemies in the game. You can later purchase upgrades that will allow you to have more adrenaline points and thus land more special abilities that will give you an edge in combat. Each weapon and armor piece can be upgraded in the game and you can add runes to make them even more effective. The higher the level of your gear, the more runes can be placed on them thus making them even more effective in the long run. You can also add certain special effects to your gear and armor with these runes such as poison and more. Having these effects on your armor or weapon will give you another way to kill your enemies quickly. From your Barracks, you can also create your Second which can be customized and will be with you on your raids and attacks supporting you. You can change their equipment, look, and assign them tasks during battles however they will always remain one step behind you.
While the setting of the game might be based on Vikings who love to pillage and raid, this is still an Assassin’s Creed title and it remains true to its core with this. Stealth plays a big part in the game and you have your hidden blade this time around as well. You can crouch and move around enemy fortresses, areas, and encampments and plan your attacks. You can hide in the bushes and use your hidden blade to silently kill enemies that are closer to you. Apart from this, you also have other traditional modes to kill your enemies in the game as well such as ledge kills, drop-down kills, and backstab kills. Each mission in the game gives you the freedom to select your approach. Stealth is mostly much easier as you can kill one enemy after another but if you want to go in all-guns-blazing, you can do that as well. You can also use your raven to scout enemy encampments and mark enemies as well which makes taking them out much easier. Apart from your Raven, you also have an ability Odin’s Sight which scans the area around you and marks all collectibles, resources, special loot, and enemies. You can see them through walls as well.
The game progresses in the form of a traditional RPG as well. Each location on the map has a power level and you can only take down those enemies once you have reached their equivalence at least. While the whole map of the game is open to you right from the start of the game, the game encourages you to play the story alongside as well because of the level requirements. Head into an area where the enemies are too overpowered, and you will be chopped down in a second. For this, you have to play missions, increase your level, unlock new and upgrade your armor and weapons to increase your power levels so that you can explore these high-level areas easily and kill the enemies easily. You also have a detailed Skill Tree which will allow you to focus on three core mechanics including Stealth, Melee, and Ranged, and build your Eivor along these lines. Since you cannot really go for all of the upgrades, you can pick what sort of Eivor build you want to have and continue investing Skill Points in those areas to have the Eivor more suitable to your playstyle.
For me, Assassin’s Creed Valhalla is the most refined title since it changed its core-gameplay style to being an RPG than an action-adventure game. There are a few gameplay hiccups here and there, but I am sure that Ubisoft is releasing some patches for the game soon that will address these issues. For this review, I played the game on a system running Ryzen 3700X, 32GB DDR4 3600 MHz Ram with an AMD Radeon RX 5700 XT, and the game was running extremely well for me. I do not remember any frame dips in any points including the high visual-fidelity areas and Valhalla is no stranger to high-fidelity areas whether they are battles or simple sceneries in Norway or England. I still have plenty to explore in the game and will be starting a new game at a much higher difficulty as well. The world of Assassin’s Creed Valhalla feels extremely alive and beautiful and with your clan at your side, it is always fun to pillage and raid as well.
Assassin’s Creed Valhalla introduces a brand-new take on the franchise once again and this time around, it accurately portraits the lives of Vikings and their struggles for survival. Although the game did give me a lot of Red Dead Redemption 2 vibes at its start when I was settling down and developing the settlement, but I say this is a good way. I loved the new settlement mechanic and how it gave us a home away from home where we could come back, interact with the clan and do different fun activities with them. It really gives you a homely feeling. The visuals and technical performance including the brilliant soundtrack are top-notch however with such a big open world, there are a few gameplay issues here and there which need to be worked upon. Apart from this, Assassin’s Creed Valhalla could keep you busy with its lively and beautiful world for months to come. If you are a fan of the franchise or just a fan of action-adventure games with brilliant narratives and great combat scenarios, Assassin’s Creed Valhalla will certainly tickle your fantasy and can keep your holiday season busy on your flashy new next-gen consoles.