Ubisoft’s Assassin’s Creed: Valhalla is the latest instalment in the franchise and after a lockdown full of binge-worthy Viking programmes, such as The Last Kingdom and Vikings, I couldn’t wait to sink my teeth into 100+ hours of brutishly conquering the whole of Europe.
As we sail the sea does Valhalla keep us pinned to our seats long enough for us to complete its lengthy campaign?
"It All Means Nothing"
With the Assassin’s Creed franchise covering pretty much every era, it was only a matter of time before Ubisoft made us pick up our axes and raid villages throughout Europe as Vikings.
We start as a kid named Eivor gifting a ring to the king of the Raven Clan, Styrbjorn. Chaos quickly occurs as the settlement is attacked by another clan lead by Kjotive, one of the many villains in the game.
You manage to escape with your brother, Sigurd, before falling down a cliff onto the ice and attacked by wolves. You’re saved however by the Animus, yes the animus is still very much a thing and we’ll touch on that in a moment. This leads to the gender selection process or the option to let the Animus chose.
Back in 2007, Assassin's Creed came with two storylines, one being the historical events that occur throughout the game, the second being the modern-day company Abstergo, use a machine called the Animus to recreate historic events to learn more about the pieces of Eden.
Desmond, the modern-day protagonist, escapes with a group of assassin’s and agrees to fight against the templar organisation. This gave a reason for Desmond to delve into the animus as Altair and Ezio. Find the piece of Eden and the hidden secrets behind it.
The Past is in the Past
Now, as with the previous couple of titles, it feels as though there is no real reason for the animus to be included anymore. After Desmond sacrifices himself, the animus storyline hasn’t really had that grip for me. I tend to forget until I die or the odd cutscene appears where you come out of the animus, but for no real purpose.
Layla has been at the forefront of the modern-day fight to stop the world from ending and as much as that sounds like a simple enough story, it’s really not. The whole thing ends up being messy and complex enough for the player to skip these cutscenes and dive back into the animus.
These games could without doubt serve as standalone games with the hidden one’s being the main connector in the last 3 AC titles, Odyssey, Origins and now Valhalla. The assassin’s and templars can still battle it out through the ages without us having to create a reason in the modern-day for it.
Outside the animus, the story is slow. Valhalla doesn’t have the drive to keep gamers invested for a potentially 100+ hour experience. Instead of being one story, Valhalla is broken up into various short stories which can become a little tedious. There are times when the story grasps you, making you feel for Eivor and his struggles. But there is no comparison with Ezio and Altair.
Who wouldn’t want to dive from a 500-foot building into a tiny haystack?
Ok so maybe that’s not everyone's cup of tea, luckily you don’t have to. Assassin’s Creed has always had the ability to create breathtaking moments from every viewpoint and Valhalla does not disappoint. From the very first synchronization, you can immediately see this is the best-looking title of the Ubisoft franchise.
From the snowcapped mountains to the subtle details on every weapon the graphics in this game are truly incredible. With the recent update, players can decide between Graphics and Performance mode, Ubisoft stating that the latter will 'adapt the resolution and graphics settings to maintain 60FPS,' which they advise for PS5 and Xbox Series X holders.
Valhalla is a thoroughly amazing visual experience whether it's on the new or old generation console. However, if you’re lucky enough have the new-gen… Enjoy!
"I Have No Wish to Hide This"
Valhalla continues in developing the franchise from a stealth-based game into an RPG game alongside games like Witcher 3. The in-depth customisation of Eivor’s abilities, skills and appearance give you the freedom to play any way you want.
Whether it's wielding two axes, finishing people with their own weapons or firing an arrow into the skull of an enemy, there are so many different ways to enjoy Assassin’s Creeds combat system.
The various weapon combinations and abilities stop the combat from having that hack and slash feel. There is nothing wrong with hack and slash games but with the storyline being approximately 40 hours on the easiest difficulty ignoring all side quests and skipping the dialogue, I’m glad the combat doesn’t just boil down to button bashing.
That being said the one thing missing from what was a stealth game is, stealth. And I understand why! Assassin’s Creed foundation was hiding in the shadows, keeping a low profile and assassinating your targets without anyone noticing you were there.
Sneaking around town, hiding in bushes and haystacks just doesn’t feel like the real way to play as a Viking. Even Eivor receiving the hidden blade states, ‘I have no wish to hide this’ as he places the blade on the outside of his arm rather than hiding it.
You can try to play stealthy however the game always pushes you in the other direction. For avid stealth fans, this probably isn’t a game for you.
Finally, the introduction of Raids are a welcome addition. Through raids, you earn materials to improve your own towns and properties. However, they can easily become monotonous and feel more like a dull grind and it wasn’t too long before I scrapped them off altogether.
From the identity crisis with the animus project to the repetitive gameplay, Assassin’s Creed: Valhalla certainly comes with its fair share of problems. Still, Valhalla as a standalone game is one of the best of the franchise and is well worth the money given the sheer volume of content.
It provides long-lasting fans, as well as new gamers the enjoyment of traversing new landscapes with the old mechanics we know and love as well as a few new ones that add to the experience.