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Assassin’s Creed Valhalla Review | A Viking Conquest With a Sprinkle of Assassins

I never was a fan of the Assassin’s Creed series, not truly. I enjoyed the games all the way back to the original crusades but, the enjoyment always tended to be rather short-lived.

The graphics, the gameplay, the freedom to climb any structure. It was fun.

For a while.

But then it started to get repetitive. Sure, the gameplay got more engaging with each game that came out after the original, but none of them truly captured my attention for more than a few hours at best.

Until Origins.

I would have never guessed that an RPG element would have fitted well into the AC gameplay structure. But, lo and behold, it did.

Origins was amazing, and I’m not just saying that because I love ancient Egypt. It was a fantastic game.

And then came Assassin’s Creed Odyssey, taking the RPG concept even further and knocking Origins off its pedestal.

Hunting the various wildlife around Norway and England gives you animal parts that can be exchanged for rewards back in Raventhorpe.

The question now, is whether Odyssey will retain its position as the ruler of the Assassin’s Creed series or will the new kid on the block, AC Valhalla, snatch the title?

As someone who speaks fluent Old Norse, I was very excited to play Assassin’s Creed Valhalla.

Scroll down to the very bottom for a TLDR summary.

Gameplay

Let’s start with the wheels and cogs. How does it run, how does it feel, how does it capture the feeling of chopping someone’s head off?

I remember in past AC games, even somewhat in Odyssey and Origins, I often ran into trouble trying to climb tall buildings where my character would simply not go where I intended for him to go.

Assassin's Creed Valhalla | View over Northumbria
The view over Northumbria.

It could have been my own fat fingers, but I had a lot of instances where I went left when I meant to go up, or I jumped off edges to go splat on the concrete below when I meant to gracefully jump to the nearest ledge.

This hasn’t been occurring as often in Valhalla.

If anything, my fingers have only gotten fatter during the pandemic so it could be that they smoothed out this experience for those of us prone to unfortunate accidents.

As for combat, I tend to favor the path of shadow, picking off targets from a distance and leaving a bustling castle a wind-swept ghost town.

I know it looks a bit like I’m grinding on this poor soldier but I am in fact stabbing him.

Sometimes I’d leave one of them alive, just for fun.

Someone has to spread my legend, after all

I did, however, enjoy the brutally chaotic energy of full-on battles and skirmishes. Smashing shields into a rain of splinters and impaling Anglo-Saxons on their own spears. The battles were probably my favorite parts of the game, especially the bigger castle sieges where you’d need to accomplish a series of objectives like breaking down a gate with a battering ram or shooting pullies to send the moat bridge crashing down so your friends can storm the keep.

Leaping across targets with my charged up Adrenaline was a very satisfying feeling.

Overall, the game feels great. I experienced a few minor bugs and a couple of crashes while playing on my new PS5 but nothing too serious. I know others have had some big issues with bugs, so I guess I was lucky.

My only rant is probably over the fact that my horse was unable to jump off knee-high ledges.

I mean, come on…

But that probably speaks to how I feel about the rest of the gameplay if that’s my biggest issue.

The World

Experiencing the roaming hills of Mercia and the snowy wastes of Northumbria was an interesting journey.

It was exciting to experience this tumultuous period in England’s history and I am so happy they chose to revisit England for this particular era.

I can’t speak to the historical accuracies in the game, but I enjoyed the world they built.

The landscapes were truly stunning. A long trip to a quest objective may be a chore in some games but here it felt like a beautiful journey.

Many of the areas you may encounter just compel you to stop and take a selfie.

I’m a fan of the fast-travel feature, but here I was not as inclined to use it each time. Sometimes, I preferred to roam.

But, man, let’s talk about those NPCs.

I can’t tell you how often I cackled out loud while playing on the couch, scaring my poor cats resting on my lap.

Let’s just say it took me a while to get used to those Icelandic accents. I have never seen a Norse accent depicted this accurately before, so this was a refreshing and somewhat hilarious change.

The main thing that made me laugh was that every character seemed to sound like my parents when they speak English.

I don’t know if the whole cast was composed of Icelanders but if they were not, then I am thoroughly impressed.

England was surprisingly stunning from high up.

Normally in movies and games, Viking characters are portrayed with Norwegian/Swedish accents. Which, I’m sure, sounds like it would be historically accurate but that’s not the case.

The mainland Nordic languages have all become a distant relative to the Old Norse once spoken by the Viking settlers.

I don’t know if it’s because of the isolation or the zealous overprotection of our language, but modern-day Icelandic bears a close resemblance to Old Norse. In fact, I can effortlessly read the old Sagas like the Poetic Edda.

I have some Danish friends who are very jealous of that.

So, seeing the authentic accents and the language spoken so accurately by the Norse NPCs in the game put a smile on my face.

The Story

Probably my biggest issue with the Assassin’s Creed series. I hate the fact that the biggest part of the game is technically a simulation… or a memory? I’m not sure, honestly.

“THIS GAME COULD HAVE BEEN MUCH BETTER IF THEY HAD TAKEN THE ENERGY SPENT ON THE MODERN-DAY STORYLINE, AND FOCUSED ALL OF IT ON EIVOR’S WORLD WHICH, WHILE BEAUTIFUL AND BREATHTAKING AT TIMES, LACKED A BIT OF SUBSTANCE.”

I enjoyed the prequel story in Norway, the whole conquest of England and especially the smaller dynamics between Eivor and Sigurd and other characters. But, when they pull me out of that damn Animus and I find my immersion completely shattered I just want to scream.

Let’s just take the Animus out back and shoot it, please.

These pesky patrols think they own the roads.

This game could have been much better if they had taken the energy spent on the modern-day storyline, and focused all of it on Eivor’s world which, while beautiful and breathtaking at times, lacked a bit of substance.

To be frank, I think the whole war between the Assassins and the Order really took the passenger seat in this game so it makes me wonder… why bother with it at all?

Sure, from a marketing perspective Ubisoft obviously wants to capitalize on an established brand. But I feel like this could have just been a new game, or even the birth of a new series if they would just dump this whole Assassins angle.

It’s tired, worn out. Let’s move on or bring it to its epic conclusion.

For those who enjoy a bit of gore, AC Valhalla does not disappoint.

As for the many storylines of England, I can safely say I enjoyed most of them and I absolutely loved some of the characters like Ivarr Boneless or even sweet young Hunwald.

I think each arc was thoughtful, interesting and engaging with the exception of Hamtunscire. What the hell…

The final area, the one I thought this whole thing was building up to, felt like the final season of Game of Thrones. It consisted of one brief mission and one battle and suddenly Hamtunscire was ours?

This region was supposed to be King Alfred’s bastion but we didn’t even get to meet the man. I know there’s a conclusion with him in the Assassins questline but he felt like a pretty pivotal antagonist in the main storyline so I don’t think it’s too much to ask to get something resembling a climax with him.

Wink.

This article was originally posted on A Little Bit Human, written by Runar Thor.

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