Assassin’s Creed Valhalla Review – Rekindled Interest In The Franchise

Developer – Ubisoft Montreal

Publisher – Ubisoft

Platform(s) – Xbox Series X|S, Xbox One, PlayStation 5, PlayStation 4 (reviewed), Google Stadia, and PC

MSRP – $59.99 (Standard Edition), $99.99 (Gold Edition), $119.99 (Ultimate Edition)

Release Date – November 10th, 2020

Thanks to Ubisoft For Providing A Review Copy

I can’t claim to be a massive player of the Assassin’s Creed titles, not because I have a dislike of the franchise, it just wasn’t something I ever got into. With Assassin’s Creed receiving a small one-year break after the release of Odyssey back in 2018, I felt now was as good a time as any to get back into the Assassin’s Creed franchise with their release of Valhalla. With there being so many Assassin’s Creed games, each game is usually welcome to newcomers and this one isn’t an exception, revealed earlier this year, Assassin’s Creed Valhalla follows the theme of Vikings.

While I’m not a massive player of Assassin’s Creed, I’m fully aware of a lot of the tropes and mechanics that the games usually follow. So to put it simply going into this game, I knew what to expect in a ton of aspects. Regardless, going into a game knowing what to expect isn’t bad in the slightest, it’s all about the execution at the end of the day and I went into Valhalla hoping it can pull that off.

Set in the 9th century, you follow the story of Eivor, a Viking leading a brotherhood of raiders from Norway to a new land in England, where you’ll forge your own journey. Similar to Assassin’s Creed Odyssey, Valhalla gives you the ability to choose from the memory-stream of male or female or even a cross of the two. For the entirety of my playthrough, I stuck with the female memory-stream, so I can’t comment on the other two streams, although to my understanding there isn’t much if any discrepancy if you were to differentiate.

To the best of my ability without spoiling anything minor or major, I can classify the narrative of Assassin’s Creed Valhalla as good. While this isn’t a big game (more on that later), it’s definitely a long game. As I said earlier, execution is key and Valhalla is subject to a bit of filler in its narrative. A game can go as long as it needs to tell its story, but for the most part, the narrative needs to flow at a steady and consistent pace, which I don’t feel this entry does enough of. I was originally put off by her arduous personality but as a protagonist, Eivor grew on me the more I played, but I can’t say the same for a lot of the notable side characters.

Your path will fluctuate based on many of the dialogue choices you make as Eivor and I will say Ubisoft Montreal did a great job on that aspect. Dialogue genuinely feels like it shapes your narrative although it does take a while for it to feel like the story makes due on that front. Admittedly, I’m not a fan of RPG style cutscenes where the camera flips between each character as they deliver dialogue, this is 100% a personal taste thing, but it’s just not for me. Assassin’s Creed Valhalla isn’t a predictable or cookie-cutter narrative, it has its moments. It just lacks that spice and stability that could take it to the next level.

Ubisoft went on record before the release of Valhalla and made it very clear that the size of Valhalla is shortened down from that of previous entries. After comparisons I did myself, they lived up to that claim. Assassin’s Creed Valhalla isn’t too big that you get a feeling of the world being massive just to be massive. It’s condensed enough where it feels like it has a size of near perfection. A short part of the game takes place in Norway then we move on to England where the majority of the game takes place. Now, what’s most important is how they make use of the world they’ve created.

Like most Ubisoft games, the world is filled with a multitude of random events, activities, and entities to uncover. Random Events in Valhalla ironically feel very arbitrary than what I expected. For example, there was a couple who were seeking a “thrill” for their relationship, so they wanted me to break items in their home and burn it (I’m not joking). There was another guy who had me throw boxes of his stuff off a cliff, who then himself committed suicide by jumping off said cliff. Activities vary through a couple of mini-games which I found fun for the most part. Flying (exchange of insults) was by far my favorite activity to do, The Drinking Challenge was fun, you have to press a button whenever a circle encloses in a certain area and they make it more difficult because you have to do this while you also staying on balance the more you drink. A dice mini-game called Orlog is OK, once you figure out how to actually play the game that is.

You can do these Raids with your clan of raiders, which sounds fun in theory but there are some minor annoyances. You’re able to do a Raid solo if you please but there are certain rewards you can’t open without the help of your clan. To get these rewards, you’ll be forced to call in your clan, I usually just fight enemies, collect nearby fortune, then continue fighting enemies. The combat flow for raids isn’t for someone that plays large enemy sections solo as I do, but like I said it’s a minor thing.

I enjoyed many of the side quests and activities that Ubisoft put into Valhalla. I’m fully aware that this is the same open-world format that a lot of games (not just Ubisoft) have followed over the past couple of years, but I personally care more about the quality of content a developer puts in the world over whether or not the format is overly similar.

Combat did a complete turnaround on me after my initial impressions in the first couple of hours. Initially, I thought everything from movement and especially combat felt very heavy. While I still feel that way about the movement to an extent, Combat has turned into my favorite part of Valhalla. You have the ability to duel-wield with many different weapons such as Axes, Hammers, Daggers, and Flails or you can do the classic weapon and shield combo. The room for freedom and improvisation is a nice thing to see in this entry and you’ll never feel you’re being restricted in what you can do.

The visual gore is extremely apparent in this entry. Heads fly off, and blood splatters all over the place. This was a very clear design choice to coincide with the feeling of being a Viking Raider in the 9th century and it works tremendously. No punches are pulled with animations where you shove a sword through an enemy’s chest or stomp an axe into another enemy’s head and I think that’s the way it should be. This isn’t a realistic type of combat experience, it’s more of a fun and violent combat experience.

I usually do a hybrid of head-to-head combat and stealth, but I usually stuck with head-to-head because the stealth mechanics are a bit inconsistent. There can be times where I can pull stealth off without a hitch, but then I’ll try to stealth and be screwed over by certain mechanics that don’t work right all the time. The system in place isn’t terrible or even unplayable, it just feels like it needed more polish. It doesn’t help that Enemy AI can be so idiotic, I’ll make so much noise in an area where I’m fighting enemies and blowing up oil lamps, and I’ll still find enemies close to the action completely dumbfounded to all the action that just took place.

Combat can be enhanced through abilities that differ substantially from each other. The skill tree is gargantuan in its own right and is set in three different playstyles with Raven (Bow), Wolf (Stealth), and Bear (Melee) which contributes to your overall Power. Skill Points are earned frequently, so you’ll always be upgrading something until you max everything out, which will take a while.

Graphically, Valhalla has its ups and downs. I played this game on a base PlayStation 4, so I would imagine it looks much better on next-gen consoles coming out this week (as of this writing). From afar, most textures look great, when you get a wide landscape shot when synchronizing an area (which plays stunning music) it looks gorgeous. It’s only when you get up close and personal with certain textures that you see the muddied makeup of some surfaces. These ailments will probably be close to non-existent on next-gen consoles, but for the most part on this generation of consoles, Assassin’s Creed Valhalla is a fine experience visually.

Technically, this game has its fair share of glitches and issues. I had a dead enemy floating in the air in a straight posture. When I did a raid, the boat got caught on a wooden piece next to the water and none of my clan would leave the boat to come to help me with the raid. The worst of them all was a part where I got stuck in the snow and was shaking and sputtering around and I couldn’t move and had to fast travel to get out of that glitch. I should also preface that this particular glitch happened to me more than once.

Note – Below is the Video of the Eivor shaking and stuttering in the snow. (Video is Compressed)

I can’t say the number of glitches and issues I had was extremely abundant to harm my overall experience, but they’re still an annoyance when it happens and can’t go unnoticed.

Ubisoft has piqued my interest in some of its recent releases such as Watch Dogs: Legion and upcoming releases such as Immortals Fenyx Rising. A lot of you reading this will already know whether or not you’ll be getting Assassin’s Creed Valhalla, some will have waited for reviews to decide their purchase. At the end of the day, I can only give you my thoughts on how I perceive this game and if I’d recommend it. This is the first Assassin’s Creed I’ve played in a couple of years and overall I enjoyed myself and still am as I continue exploring throughout the world. What it does, for the most part, it does well and what it doesn’t do well, it doesn’t do bad enough to the point of feeling dejected.

Assassins Creed Valhalla is an enjoyable overall experience, and you’ll get your money’s worth in terms of content. It has certain aspects that aren’t that great such as Enemy AI and its glitches aren’t too frequent but are definitely notable. It shines in more areas than it fails in others and for that reason, I’d recommend Valhalla and if you were a fan of recent entries, you’ll definitely like this one. At the end of this review, I’m happy to say that Ubisoft has rekindled my interest in the Assassin’s Creed franchise.

Rating - 8/10

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