“A Vikings Tale (also, there’s assassins).”
A Review of Assassin’s Creed Valhalla
Author: Josh Warby
Ubisoft’s latest instalment to the “Assassin’s” Creed universe is here, and while underwhelming in many areas, it sparks an interest that will have you traversing across England for every shiny glint of mystery that graces your mini-map. Here is why some people may love or loathe the direction this release took.
Seeking glory and fame, Eivor and the Raven Clan depart Norway to establish their presence and power across the Anglo-Saxon realm of England, ruled by King Aelfred, and currently under occupation by other Vikingr. Your goal is to make alliances and conquer while unveiling a deeper mystery connecting the Hidden Ones and the Order of the Ancients to Eivor’s tale.
GAMEPLAY & MECHANICS:
Following the same formula as Origins and Odyssey with slight adjustments, the combat remains challenging on a higher difficulty, though still clunky and frustrating at times. Enemies simply spam moves or altogether avoid damage from your “mythical” weapons, all the while dying with comedic ragdoll effects that ignore the laws of physics. Sailing makes a return in the form of your clan’s Vikingr longship, in which you’ll mostly be traversing down the rivers of England, spinning tales, singing songs and perusing for spots to dock and raid. As expected, your companions involve Roach, er, I mean, a generic horse that you summon with a whistle, as well as a scouting raven, replacing the usual eagle. Disappointingly, Ubisoft refuses to polish the climbing mechanics, simply making this title a little more realistic in that Eivor climbs certain surfaces slower, and the common issues of “just jump UP!” still remains rage-inducing, especially when having to chase those damned tattoo blueprints. A welcomed addition is an ability to instant kill with your hidden blade, allowing for instant executions no matter the enemy’s level. Players are able to wield a multitude of weapons, as well as dual-wield (even two-handed weapons, for the right upgrade). The most common combinations are axes, shields, flails and hammers. Essentially, Eivor will spend a large portion of his time pledging to regions of England, taking on intriguing quests which are beautifully written, and making a name for him or herself, while battling with their own bizarre and mystical visions of the gods. Barring frustrating and outdated mechanics, the story holds strong and the world is visually stunning to explore and experience.
Asraf Ismail (personal life aside) takes the helm for Valhalla, previously responsible for Black Flag and Origins , my personal two favourites of the entire franchise. The era and lore, while most may find the furthest thing from a stealthy assassin, are a soft spot for me. The setting managed to integrate the Hidden Ones into the story smoothly. Eivor, while burly and brazen about fighting for death and glory, dons the hood and undertakes the methods of the Assassins for the sake of his goal, and the freedom to switch between playstyles is great for those who want to experience the classic bush-sneaking, hay diving killer, as well as the horn-blowing, monastery burning warrior scourging the historical playground of the Viking era. While some have found the addition of untrackable side quests frustrating, I’ve found them to be a breath of fresh air. There is no shortage of them, and they can mostly be completed then and there with some very entertaining tasks, rather than the “ retrieving my old ring from a cave of bandits ” formula Ubisoft is often guilty of. Reminiscent of Origins and Black Flag, the protagonist is memorable and likeable, with proper character development and pace. Another tremendous draw is the mythological aspects, teased with dream sequences and visions, so as to not feign reality, allowing fans of Norse mythology to divulge into more fantastical tales until God of War Ragnarok releases. Accompanied with superb dialogue, the game is littered with many diamonds in the rough of its overall framework.
Besides the aforementioned clunkiness of certain game mechanics, the game also boasts unsurmountable bugs across all gaming platforms, so much so that gamers have taken to comparing it to the mess that was Unity . Yeesh. Some players have reported no such issues, or very few, and that may be the result of the first two patches, however, the game has been out long enough to render a third and polished patch; certain missions or interactions are simply impossible to complete due to these bugs, making it especially frustrating for completionists. The general lack of effort put into movement (both parkour and combat) is nothing new, but we were hoping this time round it would be improved upon. Ubisoft seems too afraid to break from their tried and tested formula in certain regards , and while the game does indeed take new welcomed risks, we hope to see more in future titles; it’s been long enough. With the release of Ghost of Tsushima, Sucker Punch’s first attempt at an open-world franchise, I have less interest in a Feudal Japan Assassin’s Creed. If Ubisoft applied the same effort as other developers did, they’d be the better for it. That’s what they did with Origins and it paid off. I’ll also add that the music, during combat, while on your longship or while exploring in general, is extremely repetitive. Finally, the environments are stunning but the character animations are horrific. Almost every NPC looks like a rubber mask on an apple attached to a stick, moving their mouths and hands up and down at random with zero emotion. Don’t even mention the children NPCs. Google it.
Assassin’s Creed Valhalla offers a vast and mystical world, full of entertaining and well-written quests. There is always plenty to do, though Ubisoft needs to focus on quality over quantity, hopefully fixing some game-breaking bugs soon, and considering these complaints when releasing the next instalment in the saga. The risks they’ve taken are great, and we hope to see more of that, bolder than before.
ZAPA Gaming Reviews – Rating: 7.5 / 10
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Genre: Open-World Sandbox RPG
Platform: PS4 / PS5 / Xbox One / Xbox Series X / PC
Install Size: 50 GBs (+ 10 GB Patches to date)
DLCs: DLCs imminent – mentioned in the Season Pass
Updates & Patches: Patch 1 (4 GBs), Patch 2 (5 GBs) – no further updates mentioned