Assassins’ Creed Valhalla Review: An Epic Viking Tale That Lacks The Important Philosophy Of The Creed

8
  • Playstation 4
  • Windows
  • Xbox One
  • Action-Adventure
  • RPG
2020-11-10

Assassin's Creed Valhalla marks Ubisoft's twelfth main entry in the popular Assassin's Creed franchise and tells the story of a Viking warrior named Eivor of the Raven clan. Eivor leaves his/her (as the character can be a male or female) homeland of Norway and sets off to England in search of a habitable place for their people. Just like the previous two Assassin's Creed games, Valhalla sticks to an open-world RPG vision, but this time around, the vision is executed quite well. Many of the features that fans found annoying and downright uninteresting in Assassin's Creed Odyssey do not return to Assassin's Creed Valhalla

Assassin's Creed Valhalla tells an epic and streamlined Viking tale and gets rid of the grindy leveling requirements that were required in Odyssey to proceed through the main campaign. The biggest strengths of Assassin’s Creed Valhalla is its main story. But, it’s not just the main campaign that makes the game incredibly fun. Please note that the article is spoiler-free. 

Assassin's Creed Valhalla_1
Assassin's Creed Valhalla_1 Photo: Player.One

First off, Assassin's Creed Valhalla is a gorgeous looking game. The game takes players to multiple locations throughout the campaign, including Norway, England (this is where the majority of the campaign takes place), and North America. All of these locations are a sight to behold. 

Secondly, despite the Assassin's Creed label, Assassin's Creed Valhalla is not a true “Assassin's Creed” game, which has a reputation of being a stealth-based adventure. However, this doesn't mean that you will always find yourself in open battles in this latest entry. Assassin's Creed Valhalla does an incredible job in giving players the freedom to choose between a stealthy, assassin approach or let the whole town know why you are where you are. So, if you want to play as an assassin, you can do that. If you want to write your saga as a stalking hunter, you can do that too. And, of course, you can play the entire game as a ferocious warrior as well. 

RPG and Loot

Assassin's Creed Valhalla RPG
Assassin's Creed Valhalla RPG Photo: Player.One

While Assassin's Creed Valhalla is built on the same engine as Assassin's Creed Origins and Odyssey, Valhalla is more streamlined than the previous two. Loot has been minimized and enemies no longer drop weapons and armor. All top-notch gear is hidden away in various chests that can be found by exploring the world. Alternatively, you can also buy weapons and armor from shopkeepers. The blacksmith at your newly founded English settlement can upgrade your gear to its maximum level, so you don’t even have to look for powerful gear throughout the game if you don’t want to. In fact, you can play the entire game with your starting gear if you wish. That said, there are still many beautifully crafted weapons and pieces of armor in Valhalla and  some of them are even crazily overpowered. 

Upgrading your weapons and armor also changes their appearance. There are in total four upgradeable tiers - Fine, Superior, Flawless, and Mythical, the last one being the strongest in terms of stats. You can upgrade your gear at any time without needing to reach a certain power level, so long as you have the resources to do so.

Assassin's Creed Valhalla’s weapons can also be further improved with the use of runes. These runes provide bonus stats for your gear by adding different effects like fire, poison, sleep, critical chance, increased health, and more. There are also special runes that can be etched only on Mythical tier weapons.

Exploration

Assassin's Creed Valhalla Exploration
Assassin's Creed Valhalla Exploration Photo: Player.One

Like all other Assassin's Creed games, Assassin's Creed Valhalla also encourages exploration, and if you dedicate your time to exploring the beautifully crafted world of England, you will find many surprises waiting for you. Each region of the game map has three exploratory objectives, which are Wealth, Artifacts, and World Events. Wealth provides crafting resources, Artifacts include collectibles like cosmetic items, and World Events are short side objectives. Besides these, England also has plenty of hidden secrets that you can uncover, but I will not be spoiling any of these here. 

The most frustrating part about looking for these Wealth chests is that they are always hidden behind a boring puzzle. Additionally, Valhalla does a poor job of teaching you these puzzle mechanics and expects you to figure out the solutions with minimal hints or help. By the time you are 20-25 hours into the campaign, these chests can easily get on your nerves.

Narrative

Assassin's Creed Valhalla Narrative
Assassin's Creed Valhalla Narrative Photo: Player.One

We won’t be delving in the game’s narrative and storyline for spoiler reasons, but we will say that this time around the Valhalla story is captivating. As I progressed through the story, I found myself caring for the game's characters and especially Eivor, and even more so when playing as male Eivor thanks to the brilliant voice acting from Magnus Brunn that makes Eivor’s personality shine so well.

Campaign

Assassin's Creed Valhalla Campaign
Assassin's Creed Valhalla Campaign Photo: Player.One

In Assassin's Creed Valhalla, there are various story arcs that act similarly to sequences seen in the early Assassin's Creed games. These story arcs are satisfyingly lengthy, offering up to three to four hours of content. There are several of these arcs and by the time you complete the main story, you'll be at least 65-70 hours (10 hours solving the Wealth chest puzzles) into the game, excluding open-world activities.

What I really appreciate about the campaign in Assassin's Creed Valhalla is how well these different story arcs weave together into a single underlying story. The pacing of the main campaign is mostly great, however, there are few moments when the narrative feels poorly written. For example, in a late game quest, Eivor is presented with a choice of capturing a Saxon soldier so that they can use the soldier to reach a target. Instead of capturing the soldier, Eivor announces that they would be capturing the soldier and using them to find the target. Hearing this, the soldier draws his knife and cuts his own throat. These writing blunders can make the narrative feel kind of pointless and silly at times.

Combat

Assassin's Creed Valhalla Combat
Assassin's Creed Valhalla Combat Photo: Player.One

Combat in Assassin's Creed Valhalla is very grounded. Magical abilities have been discarded and replaced with more physical abilities like throwing a flurry of axes, dashing into enemies, and more. In comparison to Assassin's Creed Odyssey, the combat has been massively improved in Valhalla. As described by Ubisoft, the combat certainly feels weighty, and swinging around axes results in satisfying thuds when you make contact. There are a variety of weapons in Assassin's Creed Valhalla and after acquiring the dual-wield skill, you can pretty much utilize any combination of weapons, including dual shields. 

Stealth/Assassin

Assassin's Creed Valhalla Stealth
Assassin's Creed Valhalla Stealth Photo: Player.One

Stealth in Assassin's Creed Valhalla has been improved dramatically over Odyssey. Also, you can optionally choose to have guaranteed assassinations on any enemy, except bosses and Zealots. Unlike previous Assassin's Creed games, in Valhalla, there are two detection zones. One is called a distrust zone, where you can walk past enemies if you have your hood on and maintain a low profile. You can blend in with the crowd or engage in activities that prevent guards from detecting you. The distrust zone encourages players to get into areas silently, remain low profile, kill the target, and get out. 

The second zone type is the more traditional restricted zone, where enemies will detect you faster. This is where your assassin skills will shine the most. In restricted zones, you'll be encouraged to use verticality to your advantage. Personally, I really enjoyed playing the game with an assassin approach, but if it isn’t your speed, you  can always storm in through the front gates of any castle if you wish. 

Parkour

Assassin's Creed Valhalla Parkour
Assassin's Creed Valhalla Parkour Photo: Player.One

One of the major reasons why I grew to appreciate Assassin's Creed games is because of its free-flowing parkour movement. The parkour was hugely improved in Assassin's Creed Unity, but it was downgraded in Assassin's Creed Origins. Unfortunately, things haven’t improved in this area for Assassin's Creed Valhalla. However, the genius minds behind the level design team at Ubisoft at least made parkour more fun in Valhalla. The levels are designed in a way that facilitate easy traversal and verticality, giving you the opportunity to scout enemies from above. Still, I would have certainly loved to see some improvements in parkour animations.

Skills and Abilities

Assassin's Creed Valhalla Abilities
Assassin's Creed Valhalla Abilities Photo: Player.One

In Assassin's Creed Valhalla, there are two options to develop Eivor. One is the skill constellation that contains a total of 399 skills. By the end of the game, you will most likely end up equipping close to 300 skills. The skill constellation branches into three categories - melee, stealth, and ranged. You will typically earn two skill points upon completing quests, which is pretty generous. You can also respec your skills whenever you wish, allowing you to change up your playstyle as you like. Alongside skills, you also have an ability section that grants special combat and ranged abilities. Abilities are learned by finding Books of Knowledge that are hidden across the world. While the abilities themselves are fun to use, the skill constellation was very overwhelming to upgrade and seemed like it would continue to branch out indefinitely. 

Assassins Vs Templars

Order of the Ancients ACV
Order of the Ancients ACV Photo: Player.One

Despite there being no mention of assassins or templars throughout Valhalla, the power struggle between The Order of the Ancients (Templars) and Assassins continues. Eivor soon learns of the presence of this Order in England and is tasked to rid the island of every known member of The Order of the Ancients. Interestingly, every member of the Order has a unique confession this time, which wasn't present in the previous Assassin's Creed. Kudos to Ubisoft for that going the extra mile.

Zealots

Assassin's Creed Valhalla Zealots
Assassin's Creed Valhalla Zealots Photo: Player.One

Zealots are formidable warriors that roam the lands of England. They are punishing enemies and if you aren't prepared they can easily make short work of you. We recommend that you only face them when you have reached at least a 200+ power level. Some of these Zealots are also members of the Order of the Ancients, so you’ll need to face them if you want to rid England of the Order. There are a total of 15 Zealots that you can fight, each one of them has a unique fighting style. Fighting these Zealots are much more fun than fighting regular enemies, so running into one was always a welcomed diversion to whatever I was doing at the time.

Modern Day

Just like the previous six Assassin's Creed games, the modern-day storyline is underwhelming in Assassin’s Creed Valhalla as well. Ubisoft tried to connect the dots from previous Assassin's Creed games, but  didn’t do it in any compelling way. If you haven't been keeping up with the modern-day Assassin's Creed lore, you'll likely find yourself more confused than you previously were. The modern day storyline was quite linear as long as Desmond was in the picture. After Desmond’s death the whole modern day storyline fell apart. It might just be time to keep Assassin’s Creed games entirely in the past.

Quality

Furthermore, Valhalla isn't perfect from a technical standpoint. In my 70 hour playthrough on PC, the game crashed around six to seven times. Valhalla is also ridden with bugs such as characters not playing talking animations when dialogue is being spoken, animals stuck in rocks, poor enemy AI, loading into the game with drunk animations, sounds not playing as intended, and more. Thankfully,  none of these issues are as drastic as what was seen in Assassin's Creed Unity at launch, and didn’t hinder my enjoyment all that much

Final Thoughts

Assassin's Creed Valhalla
Assassin's Creed Valhalla Photo: Player.One

Assassin's Creed Valhalla is a great Viking game but it's not really a true Assassin's Creed game that I've been waiting for. The game tells a captivating story of a Viking warrior trying to settle in England, but it's not what this long time Assassin's Creed fan wants. 

The game's biggest strength is its narrative. If you play Assassin's Creed Valhalla as a normal Viking open-world game, you will certainly enjoy it. But, if you expect it to stick to the Assassin's Creed philosophy, you are in for a disappointment.  

REVIEW SUMMARY
Assassin's Creed Valhalla
8
An epic Viking tale that lacks the Assassin's Creed philosophy
Assassin's Creed Valhalla is a major improvement over 2018's Assassin's Creed Odyssey. The game tells a captivating story of a Viking warrior and presents the player with a marvelous open-world to explore.
  • Gripping Narrative
  • Gorgeous World Design
  • Amazing Soundtracks
  • Streamlined Approach
  • Fun combat
  • Ridden with Bugs at launch
  • Convoluted ending
  • Boring puzzles
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