This review covers the early game and does not explore any spoilers from beyond the first few hours.
As we smash our way through the new games coming out in this fine February, we’re also treated to a new expansion for a beloved series. We have Assassin’s Creed Valhalla’s ‘Dawn of Ragnarök’ expansion, in which you settle into the boots of Odin with the goal of preventing the apocalypse. But today isn’t the day for this expansions review, instead, I want to take a step back and look at the original Viking simulator itself.
In the middle of 2020 Ubisoft announced the exciting news that they were ready to discuss the next step in the Assassins Creed legacy. As this was in the middle of a pandemic the creative minds in the back room decided to stream a Photoshop reveal over 5 hours. What was unveiled that day was none other than a scene from a battle between Saxon soldiers and Viking invaders paralleled with Norse styled longboats. It was fair to say that after this reveal the theme was obvious and within a few hours the title of the next instalment was released – Assassins Creed Valhalla.
Valhalla’s story focuses on a piece of the Norse invasion of England that took place between 872 – 878 AD, featuring many historic battles and sieges as we take control of England. As always Assassins Creed’s tales are a work of fiction (that’s what they want you to think) but they do include accurate historical references.
We are represented in this medieval adventure by Eivor ‘Wolf-kissed’ Varinsdottir, a young Viking who was bitten (smooched) by a wolf, earning them their nickname. As per the previous entry the player can also choose between male and female Eivor sacrificing no story elements in the process. Both voice actors are convincing, entertaining and fit into this world, further painting Eivor as worthy of joining the AC roster.
Origins and Odyssey were far more RPG focused, allowing you to gain experience, make decisions within the dialogue and customize the hero of the tale. As this was a trilogy it was assumed that this would also be reflected in gameplay and that was very much the case here. Valhalla is, to the dismay of fans of the early titles, an enhanced version of the recent entries. Replicating the choice and customization we’re now used to seeing, but also attempting to include beloved mechanics from the early games. Valhalla is Ubisoft’s latest attempt at blending 2 very different gameplay styles, recycling social stealth and various other returning mechanics. Although these familiar skills do add to the world’s options and your approach to situations, they do fall flat in practicality sometimes.
As would be expected of a Viking experience and an Assassins Creed game, the combat is a major focus. The brutality of a Norse warrior was highlighted in every combat situation I was led into, whilst the tools and skills that came with being an assassin enhanced this experience. Multiple brutal finishers across a solid number of weapons allowed for full combat customization, creating ideal conditions to experiment. Between brutal melee, stealthy assassinations and eagle-eyed ranged styles there are various ways to kill, battle and ghost your way through the world. This is the bread and butter of Assassins Creed, but there are some features that have been missing from the series that can now be revisited.
Valhalla reintroduces the concept of a home fort that was introduced in Assassin’s creed 2, allowing Eivor to customize, improve, quest and bond with his fellow settlers. This is a fundamental feature within this entry as for the first time in 2 games, you have a place to let your very braided hair down. This also introduces minigames and seasonal content, allowing you to feel like you have a home that celebrates the seasons and holidays. This is settlement management at its best for the series and was one of many new features that could steal you from the main story. To grow this settlement, you have one simple job, and that is to pillage and raid Saxons. Although this process is recycled and lacks diversity at times, it’s an opportunity to test your combat skill and leads to resources for your own settlement.
Ultimately this gritty and historical experience is a must for fans of the series who enjoy its new direction. Valhalla offers enhanced combat, a beautiful and detailed world, a breathtaking, exciting story and an entertaining experience. However, the additions made by Ubisoft to attract series veterans were flat at times and ultimately ring hollow in comparison to uses in older games. If you haven’t picked this title up yet I do highly recommend you do so, as there is so much engaging content. Even with its flat notes Assassin’s Creed Valhalla is a solid entry within the series and deserves a song in the history books itself.
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