Assassin’s Creed has done it again. I’ll have to admit, I had gotten a little burnt out on Assassin’s Creed games. But once I saw the trailer for Assassin’s Creed: Valhalla, I knew I had to give it a review. And I’m really glad I did. I had a really great time with this one. I’m not sure if its because the Viking setting coerced me into being more of a brute this time around, or if it was just a different feel overall.
Either way, I had a lot of fun. There’s something that was a little less sexy about this game that I think gives the player less of an expectation to live up to as a bad ass assassin. It felt good to bash a door down and swing a Viking axe in both hands until I’m covered in blood. And it felt good to throw a torch onto an enemy’s straw covered house.
Don’t get me wrong, the signature AC mechanics and gameplay are there. Just less important in Valhalla. So the freedom to choose how I played were really what made it so enjoyable. So here we go.
A story worth diving into
Assassin’s Creed: Valhalla’s story follows Eivor, a Norse Viking. After the opening cinematics and gameplay, players are able to choose a male or female character. I myself chose a male playthrough. Right from the beginning you are pulled into the story. A story chocked full of emotional twists and turns that really keeps you hooked.
The game itself has the usual Assassin’s Creed feel to it. There’s plenty of opportunities for stealth tactics, assassinations, and more hand to hand combat than you can wave a hidden blade at. But one thing in particular kept me interested in this release of the franchise—the story.
I’m not sure if it’s because I’ve taken a break from the series for a bit, or if the story really is that good. Either way I thoroughly enjoyed the story. It really gripped me. The quest for honor, the ups and downs—all of it seemed to keep me interested in continuing my journey of retribution.
Classic Assassin’s Creed feel
One thing that you’ll notice when playing Assassin’s Creed: Valhalla is the signature AC feel. The climbing felt super smooth, the striking was spot on and the feeling of satisfaction you get from taking down that boss that’s been a thorn in your side; all of it really felt great.
My favorite part of the Assassin’s Creed has always been the climbing. I’ve always taken a big chunk of my gameplay hours to go and find all of the synchronization points and in Valhalla, those points are really really fun. It seems like they’ve increased the amount of climbable assets. Specifically in the natural environment.
Mountains can easily be scaled and if you’re wanting to tap into your inner Alex Honnold, this is the game for you. I can’t tell you how many times I would just scale a mountain and take a fifteen minute detour just to climb to a high point and swan dive off. Never gets old.
The combat has the same familiar mechanics—repeated striking, parrying, countering, locking on, and of course assassinations. I did find the combat a bit too basic for today’s standards. The striking felt good when I was striking, but other times it felt like some opportunities that I missed in combat should have been strikes or counters. I think it could have used more work.
But the one thing that I really enjoyed that is new to the combat in the AC franchise is the ability to dual-wield weapons. You can choose two one-handed weapons to double up on your damage level. Or you can do a Viking axe and a shield. Or two shields, if that’s your thing?
More detailed leveling
One thing you will notice as you level up with Eivor is that you will be awarded Skill Points. With the Skill Points you can pick which skills and abilities you unlock. This allows you to have an even more personalized experience.
There are three different leveling branches: Bear, Wolf, and Raven. Each branch corresponds to a different skill type. For example, the Wolf branch represents stealth skills, while Bear branch represents melee skills, and the Raven branch represents ranged skills.
This massive tree of skills really makes for an interesting dynamic allowing players to really customize their play style to exactly what you want. Although I would have liked to see more unavailable abilities and skills to give me an idea of what the later-game options were. But that didn’t have much of a negative impact on my playthrough.
One of the more brutal but primal and exciting parts of Assassin’s Creed: Valhalla is the addition of Raids. Raids allow you to sound your horn, storm the beach of a settlement, and pillage your way through water-side villages and towns. After causing pure mayhem and destroying everything in your path, you and your Viking clan can help yourself to any and all loot available in the vicinity.
As you get further in the game the rewards grow increasingly larger but the villages and camps increase in difficulty as well. I really enjoyed this part of the game, although I must admit a small part of me did contemplate if I was enjoying it a little too much. After all, that little whaling village didn’t necessarily do anything to warrant me and my clan decimating everyone in sight.
Building a settlement
As you progress you and your clan settle in what becomes known as Ravensthorpe. An average sized riverside settlement that has all the amenities that a Viking village should have. Well—after you build them of course. That’s right, you can build a settlement!
Whether it’s building a Blacksmith, or a fishing hut, you can add things to your settlement to increase certain buffs throughout your Valhalla experience. This really makes things interesting because if you’re like me, building any kind of settlement is a lot of fun in itself! There was times in the game that I was only doing things in the game with “building out a certain part of my settlement” in mind.
Fun side activities
I should mention, I didn’t spend a ton of time with the side activities. But I did try them all out. There’s a variety of little games and activities that you can do around various parts of the game. Activities such as Flyting were especially fun. Flyting is basically a Viking rap battle where you have to match the cadence and intensity of your opponents phrases. It’s a little tricky but definitely a good change of pace. And quite the laugh at times.
I also did my fair share of drinking games which are surprisingly really fun. And they did a great job of incorporating the feeling and effects of intoxication into the gameplay after the drinking games too. If I could suggest one activity to try it would be the drinking games. Other fun activities include hunting, fishing, and dice games.
What I didn’t like
All in all, I really enjoyed Assassin’s Creed: Valhalla. But it still had it’s shortcoming’s for sure. For one, I thought the graphics were a little underwhelming. Don’t get me wrong, it’s a good looking game. But I thought that some of the aspects graphically were fairly average. At times the snow seemed amateurish. It seems like the developers at Ubisoft were going for less of a realisitic look and more of a graphically powerful experience. So does the game look good? Yes. But I’ve seen better graphics from other games out there currently.
I also wasn’t too fond of the combat. It’s another lukewarm topic for me. Was it bearable? Yes. Did I have fun? Yes. But it wasn’t the best combat I’ve experienced, even for an Assassin’s Creed. Like I said earlier in the review, some parts of combat felt good. But other parts felt like it should have flowed better.
Overall I had a great time playing Valhalla. And I would recommend it to anyone looking for a decent single player combat game. It’s not perfect but I don’t know many games that are.
I hope you’ve enjoyed my review of Assassin’s Creed: Valhalla. If you’ve played it, let me know what you think about it down in the comments. For more great reviews and other gaming content be sure to follow us on Facebook and turn on notifications so you can be notified when we publish new stories.
Image Credit: Ubisoft