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Assassin's Creed Valhalla Review -

21/12/20

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Assassin’s Creed Valhalla takes players on an adventure like no other, offering stunning landscapes and captivating story arcs that make it both refreshing and memorable. At times, it feels like the missing link for the franchise, striking a perfect balance between the classic Assassin's Creed games and the new RPG formula, masterfully bridging the gap. The game carefully finds a way of improving on many of the core Assassin's Creed pillars, adding more options than ever before. Although marketed as a Viking adventure game, Valhalla takes a successful leap of faith towards taking the series back to its roots, easily making it one of the most exciting and ambitious Assassin’s Creed projects in recent years. It’s a return to form for the series, offering countless opportunities for the player to master their own playstyle, and immerse themselves in another historical adventure.


Valhalla is a game that looks to the past to drive the series forward, and operates in the space between old and new, making it feel both familiar and creative. The new narrative arc story structure overseen by the guiding hand of Assassin's Creed legend Darby McDevitt and his team of scribes are proof that the series should never be afraid to move away from annual releases, and take the time it needs to improve. It’s immediately clear that a great deal of thought and care went into building the game, that goes way beyond simple fan service and makes the entry a true reflection of the Assassin’s Creed franchise. It's an injection of pure creativity, and a game that should not be missed.

There's never a dull moment whilst exploring the world of Assassin's Creed Valhalla, as it continues to find ways to surprise the player at every turn. It's the first game in the series to properly fill the open world, making it feel dynamic and life-like. As you navigate the Kingdom's of England, you'll discover endless activities such as flyting challenges, cursed areas, world events and more. Exploration is encouraged, and the game rewards you for your efforts, generously offering XP points (skill levels) and loot upon completion.

The open world experience is unlocked early on in the game, and as you tie up loose ends in Norway, you can sale across the sea to England to begin the adventure. On your travels you'll begin to uncover the mysteries of England, as you encounter numerous puzzles that keep the player guessing. Puzzles are a nice feature that really add to the experience, taking different forms throughout the game. Valhalla always finds a new way to challenge the player, and encourages the use of all the tools at your disposal to overcome them. Sometimes you need to destroy a weak wooden wall to loot a chest, or shoot a door barricade through a slightly open window to enter. There are a ton of scenarios like this that make you think, and require a bit of thought before gaining a reward. 

There's also a great range of environments to explore, from the snow-covered mountains of Norway, to the swamps of East Anglia, so don't be surprised if you start to clock up hours using the photo mode tool as you capture the perfect moment. It's easily one of the most visually impressive games ever created, and it's immediately noticeable. England is huge in Assassins' Creed Valhalla, and each kingdom feels different to the last. There's always something new to discover, so look out for the coloured dots on your mini map to uncover loot that will improve your progress. You can hit bandit camps to gain supplies such as leather and iron ore which can be used to upgrade weaponry and armour, or complete a raid on a monastery to steal riches that can be used to expand the Ravensthorpe settlement. Crafting is an essential part of the game, and you use the spoils of your adventures to do this.

One thing that sets Valhalla apart from recent entries is the unpredictability of the world. In some ways, it feels like a Far Cry game, where many animals will attack on sight. It's not just animals though, as Eivor will be attacked from all angles whilst navigating the world. Bandits hide in bushes, waiting for your arrival. Zealots pursue you across the map. Snakes crawl our from under barrels. Wolves strike as you stalk the perimeter of an enemy camp. You never know when you may need to defend yourself, and the world itself is as deadly as it is beautiful. This level of unpredictability adds to the experience and brings it to life. It's extremely easy to gain XP just by playing the game, and you are constantly rewarded just for taking part.

The cities of England bare a resemblance to that of Assassin's Creed I, taking the series all the way back to its origins. London has featured in the games several times, but the version you see in Valhalla is very different, a city built in the shadow of Roman ruins. All across England you'll see the Roman ruins, and get a sense of their widespread influence over the land. Even the Ravensthorpe settlement holds a memory of the past, as the pillars of an ancient structure can be seen near the longhouse. Later in the game you can even help local resident Octavian establish a museum, to house all of the Roman artefacts you discover.

The settlement itself is right in the heart of England, and acts as a base for Eivor and the Raven clan. It's in a good central location, close to the city of Leicester. All narrative arcs begin and end here, as the wind calls you back to Randvi to report your progress. By upgrading and improving the settlement, you open up new opportunities such as ship customisation, romance options and legendary animal hunting rewards. You also give the members of Ravensthorpe a purpose within the clan, and make it feel more like a bustling hub. It's worth taking the time to familarise yourself with the settlement, as the traders and locals are essential to Eivor's progression. For example, Gunnar the blacksmith will upgrade weaponary and armour, whilst Reda will supply new contracts and rare items. 

The cultural differences are represented well in Valhalla, as Saxon cities feel completely different to those inhabited by Vikings. Architecturally, the structures are also different, and even the layout of the cities differ. Religious beliefs are also well represented in Valhalla, as Viking sites such as Jorvik have statues for the Gods, and locals will even reference them in conversation. You will hear talk of Thor, Freja and Tyr as you walk the streets, whilst you will hear about Jesus Christ and God whilst wandering a Saxon city. Even the camps held by bandits or cultists all contrast to each other. Accents also appear in the game depending on location, making a southern territory easily distinguishable from a Northern one. The team did a great job at adding variety in all areas, and that's just one of the reasons players will get lost in the expansive world, and fall in love with the game. 

Edited by Ashlea Buckley

Notes

Odin's sight is a short burst , Odin's sight is a watered down version of eagle vision

Stamina depleats during combat and restricts dodging.

In Combat, Timing is everything - Not all attacks can be blocked - 

enemy weakspots highlighted - Civilian casualties result in desync - Exploit a weakness

 

Great variety of enemies, mud throwing

Database returns but is way less detailed

 

Tool wheel resembles AC2/ ACB, freezes the game to change - Tool wheel is a step back, freezing the game for selection purposes like was the case in Assassin's Creed II (2009)

Stealth - Air assassination, haybale, whistle, Hide bodies

Sit on Bench - Blending techniques, shoot from haybale

Destroy hanging objects, stealth to look like accident - Social stealth expanded upon

New health system, berries

Once again one save profile per player

No arrow crafting

Rope dart (harpoon)

Sounds from early games, Assassination sound from AC1, database noises from 2

Codex pages return

Sleep - Letter box - Quests sent via letters

New Desmond Miles Audio Clips

Beams and ropes to amplify parkour opportunities

Animus Anomolies

Hidden Ones Bureau resembles AC1

Thrown into boss battles - Environments aren;t always great - Faravid, tiny room, Ivar the Boneless on a cliff

Better Online Features

About the Author

Col is the Community Admin for The Ones Who Came Before, and one of the Community Builders for The Mentors Guild.

He is also a former Ubisoft Star Player, and has spent the last 6 years working within the Assassin's Creed community on countless projects.

Twitter

Colum Blackett

A Return to Form for the Series

The World

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Story

The main story of Assassin's Creed Valhalla is both memorable and interesting, and uses creative storytelling methods to slot nicely into Assassin's Creed lore. Players will embark on a twisting adventure with many story arcs, all different from one another and each with their own characters, plot twists and outcomes. There's no doubt that it's a great story set in the Assassin's Creed universe, and one of the longest games in the series. Completing Valhalla's main storyline will easily take you over 100 hours, but that's not a bad thing. It's a gripping tale with many twists and turns, and you'll notice that each quest has a purpose, as Eivor looks to build alliances across the map. Both Magnus Bruun and Cecilie Stenspil deliver a solid performance, full of charisma and making Eivor an instantly likeable character.

Valhalla immediately gives you the key to your own destiny, as for the first time ever, you play as one character with a male and female counterpart. You can even let the Animus decide, or change Eivor's appearance at any time. The reasoning behind this is explained later in the game, and it's a clever take on previously established Assassin's Creed lore. The game is in some ways the spiritual successor to Black Flag, as Eivor works alongside the Assassins (Hidden Ones) without joining them, as their motives align. Both sides benefit from this union, and even manage to cooperate without any disagreements. Basim sees potential in Eivor straight away, even when Hytham questions it. You have the opportunity to play like a true Assassin, without even joining the Brotherhood. The Order of Ancients returns, once again acting as a shadow group influencing the land. Information on the group is scarce, so Eivor has to investigate to find out names and motives. Once you get going, taking down one member will lead to information on another, making it possible to hunt them all down. All information gained on the order will be stored in the inventory, giving you hints on where to begin your search. In this sense, it's more like the original Assassin's Creed game, where Altair had to learn information before beginning an assassination mission. It really adds to the game, as you have to put some effort in to wipe out the Order. There's also an incredible new animation when you assassinate a target, rewarding players with some of the best white room conversations in the entire franchise. By eliminating members of the Order, you also gain new abilities and skills from Hytham, such as the Leap of Faith, making it worthwhile. 

All narrative arcs begin and end at the Ravensthorpe homestead, thanks to a new feature called the Alliance Map. Eivor pledges allegiance to a cause taking part in one of England's territorys, and travels there to form an alliance for the Raven Clan. The new quest system introduces self contained story arcs that act more like chapters of a book than scattered missions. Each quest has a purpose, and brings Eivor closer to a resolution in the area. Although the game moves away from side quests, and replaces them with narrative moments and activities such as World Events and Cursed Areas, it does a really good job at filling the open world, and even provides some great narrative moments for Eivor. World Quests are some of the best side activities since AC III's homestead missions, and really develop Eivor further. You don't have to take part in them, as they are not tracked on your quest radar, but by ignoring them you are actually missing out on some great content. They all vary in tone, but it's worth taking some time away from the main storyline to focus on the other activities available in the world, even just to increase your XP or improve your charisma through flyting battles. You won't regret it. 

 

One big difference to Assassin's Creed Odyssey is that a romance option doesn't lurk around every corner, but when they do, they generally occur through the main storyline. Romances in Valhalla feel more developed than the previous entry, as it requires Eivor to spend time with them on quests before anything blossoms, rather than rushing into things. It's also possible to be rejected for the first time, something which occurs is an NPC already has a partner or simply isn't interested, adding another depth to the romance options. Another change is the replacement of the usual eagle companion for a raven, something which roots itself in Norse mythology, as Odin had two ravens called Huginn and Muninn.  Although Valhalla has brutality in combat, the tone of the game never really drops to a dark place like in previous entries, and even when faced with loss, Eivor remains determined and composed. The character is clearly very different to what the marketing campaign tried to portray. One thing I did notice however is that the game sometimes shys away from the dark history of Viking culture, with themes such as slavery and pillaging barely even getting a mention. Assassin's Creed should never be afraid to tackle difficult topics, and it's interesting that these themes didn't really surface. 

Characters in the main storyline are all very different from each other, and each narrative arc introduces a conflict which Eivor can resolve. The game does a really good job at hiding character motives, making betrayal even more surprising. Basim for example arouses suspicion early on, but it takes a full playthrough to discover his true intentions. Each arc has you question those around you, as you secure the future of the kingdom. The wrong decision can have catastrophic consequences, as seen in the Linconshire when selecting a new ealdorman. Choices never stray too far from a fixed narrative, and although the game has multiple endings, they all follow a similar pattern. The dialogue options have also been improved, and do a good job at sticking to Eivor's personality, rather than giving options that don't line up. Eivor isn't a blank slate, and no matter which version you play, you're going to see the same character traits. Voice acting in particular is solid across the board, with a number of stand-out performances making the game even more immersive. Players feel compelled to resolve each narrative arc, and return back to the settlement to progress. The balance of tone is well executed, and although the game is long, it's well worth it. 

Parkour

Stealth


 

Immerse yourself in Norse culture as you raid

The Hidden Blade makes a return, but with a Viking twist. Eivor wears the blade differently, as it was originally intended, so that enemies may see the lethal tool that dispatches enemies so effectively.

Limited item drops, with more of a focus on unearthing unique pieces through completing puzzles and raiding tombs. 

Reward the player

 

Do Zealots have unique armour?

his extremely strong entry gives players a brand new historical 


 

Triumph

Parkour is a fundamental pillar of the Assassin's Creed series, and it's probably the only franchise pillar that Valhalla hasn't progressed forward with in some way. At times it can be frustrating, as Eivor takes a long time to navigate rooftops, making a direct approach more and more tempting. Although parkour feels slow and uninspired, the game offers a huge variety of environments that increase opportunities. There are more chances than ever before to use parkour to your advantage, with many climbable buildings. Scaffolding is also something that features in the game, making it easy to navigate from above. Some buildings such as churches and longhouses also have open windows which can act as an entry point, or you can destroy a stained glass window to enter, all of which are accessible thanks to parkour. Beams and ropes also string houses together to amplify parkour, and cities such as York also have Roman ruins scattered around which can also be navigated. Tree parkour also returns, a useful feature that should never have been removed. Some of the trees you scale are incredibly impressive, especially in Jötunheimr, and it's great to see this feature return. Don't expect style though, as Eivor's parkour technique is basic at best. With Basim away and Hytham injured it's clear that not much (if any) training was given. It can be argued that Vikings didn't know parkour, but it's something players expect in an Assassin's Creed game.

Parkour in Valhalla isn't great, but the opportunities to do so are. It's clear that the team spent a great deal of time creating parkour environments, and even when it feels sluggish, it can be to the players benefit to use it. Animus Anomalies are probably biggest parkour failure in the game, as players control Layla Hassan through tedious platform challenges to gain information. Although the feature itself is a cool idea, parkour makes it difficult to enjoy, as it lacks any sense of urgency. Looking back to Arno Dorian, or even Desmond Miles, it's clear that parkour has drastically lost any sense of speed or style, which is a shame. Valhalla brings back floating pages to collect, which takes Eivor on numerous parkour routes. It's nice to see them return, but they can take a few attempts to collect. Parkour clearly needs revamped, but the many opportunities that Valhalla introduces to do so are a welcome addition to the franchise, opening many new doors and avenues of exploration.

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