After over 60 hours spent playing, Assassin’s Creed Valhalla feels like the culmination of what Ubisoft has been building towards since changing up the formula of the series with Assassin’s Creed Origins in 2017. It’s the most open world RPG feeling game in the series, but it’s able to tie itself back to the roots of the series in ways that may not be expected.
The game nails the viking aesthetic and is overall gorgeous to look at. I really felt like a viking while raiding my way across England to make a claim on the land. The game has many ways to tailor the playstyle to how you want. At the beginning, you are able to adjust three different forms of difficulty options. You can change how hard you want combat, exploration, and stealth to be. Each are independent of each other and can be changed on the fly. Thus, if you feel one combat is a bit too easy, you can crank that up without impacting the stealth elements or exploration or vice versa with the others.
Ubisoft decided to change up the narrative with Assassin’s Creed Valhalla. Unlike previous entries, it doesn’t feel like there is a real grand narrative to the game. Instead, once the game moves you to England, you are tasked with building alliances with different areas to grow your own settlement and reputation. Each area has it’s own story arc that feels like their own complete story. These different arcs build on each other to create a strong narrative foundation, and I found they started to tie together as I continued to progress.
Side quests have changed as well. While there are still certain side quests with their own stories to follow, now, most of the side missions are more one off “world events” as they’re called in game. These have been some of my absolute favorite moments in the game. I’d just be wandering around and then stumble upon someone who would provide a simple quest to be completed. The first one that I was wowed by was when I met Axehead while roaming the world. He was a just a guy sitting down in an area with an axe sticking out of his head and a bad headache. Once I spoke to him I was given the option of not saying anything or give him the hard truth about the axe and pull it out. I decided the latter, and then just sat there with him not wanting to make the choice but knew what I had to do.
World Events aren’t the only thing to discover in Assassin’s Creed Valhalla either. The map is populated with three different colored dots; blue, gold, and white. Blue dots are mysteries. These are world events, flyting (which I highly recommend as they increase Charisma which gives more dialogue options), secret fights, legendary animals, and so much more. Gold dots are treasures and equipment you can find in the wild. Then, white dots are cosmetic tattoo designs and hidden artifacts. There are so many of these scattered around that I was always getting pulled off track to go investigate one of these dots.
Assassin’s Creed Valhalla’s combat system feels very smooth and fluid. The skills you unlock become integral to combat as these are needed to be peppered in the mix of your light and heavy attacks to do massive amounts of damage. The weapons and equipment have also been changed up in Assassin’s Creed Valhalla. Gone are the days of finding a plethora of different weapons with varying degrees of rarity. Now, you become more attached to your specific weapons and upgrade them to their best stats.
The two biggest additions to Assassin’s Creed Valhalla are the settlement and raids. When I first saw the raids, I thought they’d be a bigger and better version of the battles in Assassin’s Creed Odyssey while burning down all the buildings. Unfortunately, they’re more just kill the small amount of enemies and then claim a few treasure chests full of resources. You then use these resources to build your settlement. While building the settlement is neat, there’s really not much to it. A few basic shops open up and a few unique quest lines appear from growing your settlement. You can even recruit some NPCs to come live in your settlement. However, even at the higher levels, it doesn’t feel that lived in as you barely interact with the people that are there in meaningful. Thus, I found myself away from the settlement most of the time, with little to no consequence, unless there was a specific quest I was doing.
One the biggest downsides of the game is that the skill tree is very lackluster. You are given three different ways to progress the tree, however, most of the time you’re spending your skill points on minor upgrades such as small health, attack, or stealth increases. Then, you don’t know what new skills you’re progressing towards until you unlock a new section of the tree. Thus, you may not like where a certain tree goes or the available skills may not fit a certain playstyle. Luckily, you are able to respec your skill points at any time, so you can build out your tree in a different way if you aren’t liking your current set up. Though, this isn’t always great as you still don’t know what skills are available in the other branches until you build them out.
Unfortunately, Assassin’s Creed Valhalla also suffers from numerous technical hiccups. I’ve had it both freeze up and hard crash on me multiple times. One time the crash caused me to lose over two hours progress as it ate my autosaves and I had to repeat multiple quests to get back to where I was. Another issue I’ve run into throughout the game is where a quest NPC will either just stop moving or not be interactable until I reset to a fast travel point or reset the game itself.
Overall, Assassin’s Creed Valhalla is a a wondrously beautiful open world RPG chalk full of things to do and discover. It’s one of those games where you can jump in at any time and just run around and chip away at at your leisure or get lost for hours on end just discovering all the little hidden things. Despite the technical issues, Assassin’s Creed Valhalla continues the strong streak of recent entries in the series, and showcases why Assassin’s Creed is Ubisoft’s premier franchise.
Score: 8 out of 10
Reviewed on Xbox One X