It’s finally here! It took us a week and a half, but we finally have our Assassin’s Creed review ready to share with you guys. And let me say that this was a huge surprise for me on both storyline and gameplay fronts. It seems like the team at Ubisoft Montreal has managed to find the perfect balance between old and new RPG oriented Assassins Creed games.
I’ll start this review by saying that Valhalla brings back every single aspect that fans were missing from the last entry in the franchise, that being Assassins Creed Odyssey obviously.
If you have skipped this game entirely don’t worry because the main complaints about the game were the lack of the Assassins faction and the lack of the respective Hidden Blade, alongside some stealth elements that were also a bit MIA even before Odyssey.
But don’t worry because Assassins Creed Valhalla got you covered, it brings back major stealth points that made the original Assassins Creed game exciting. That means bringing back social stealth, the famous hidden blade, planning to assassinate a target, and being able to one-shot bosses with a single strike from above or behind.
But before we take the leap of faith to talk about gameplay, let’s first discuss the story, and do we have a surprise for you. You see, this story was written by Darby McDevitt who you may remember or not as the major contributor to the Ezio games alongside Black Flag and other projects set in the AC universe.
At the start of the game you will be able to pick if you want Eivor to be male or female. You can always pick the dynamic option that will adapt the sex of the character according to what the cannon storyline says.
Without spoiling too much, let’s say the game starts before you embark into England. However, once you start your voyage onto 9th Century England, the story starts to unfold and it uses the Settlement you are building as a hub for the storylines that will unveil in the future. The storyline in Valhalla is really special and I don’t really feel like even spoiling the starting area.
One of the things there is to love about Valhalla is definitely the cast of characters. Sigurd and Eivor “bromance” not only gives personality to this characters but shows a compelling and interesting story that develops over time. Sigurd and the rest of the side characters like his wife Randvi and among many other bring to the table a sense of a group that keep learning with each other.
Honor and raiding are very powerful words among Vikings. Valhalla explores the Viking theme in a great and powerful way, we will meet characters like the King of Norway, King Harald, who brings to the story a very different perspective of the Vikings and reveals an interesting dynamic between each clan in the game.
As with all other Assassins Creed games, Valhalla also features some modern time sequences. These sequences continue right after the events of Assassin’s Creed Odyssey : Fate of Atlantis DLC, for those who haven’t played don’t worry because there’s a great explanation to the newcomers or old franchise fans that recently returned. However we do recommend watching on Youtube a playthrough to understand much better what previously happened. (This game follows the modern times storyline knot that started during Origins)
We have to note is that fans of previous entries in the franchise will be very pleased to see some characters being mentioned. Valhalla seems to be on a quest to “end” the previous “paused” storylines in the franchise.
But one thing we have to say is that Ubisoft gave every faction in the game its own spotlight throughout the story from the start to finish. You’ll get some great Hidden Ones (Assassins) storyline, Viking culture and raid stories, some story from the Saxons and their religious views and of course the major story point being the Templars (since this game is during the 9th Century, they are called like in Odyssey, The Order of the Ancients)
After you leave Norway, the “story starts” with Eivor arriving in England and setting up his settlement around a swamp, from there you will build alliances on the various regions of England.
Once you start levelling up your settlement, you will notice more opportunities have opened up for you and you start dwelling even forward in your settlement like opening up a Museum or even a Fishing Hut.
Each Region in England has it’s own main story, secondary missions with a few story bits alongside A LOT of extra treasures. The World Quests always have a storyline and it’s rare that they are fetch quests, the best part of it is that they treat it like a puzzle as they don’t tell exactly the player what they should do.
The gameplay around Eivor has changed a bit compared to the previous game, this time around the “Stamina” is more important than ever due to every roll, every dodge, every attack counts towards depleting your stamina meter. From my perspective it’s perfect, as it requires the player to do some additional thinking on when to attack and when to step back for a bit. I believe this Souls like approach from Ubisoft Montreal is a step in the right direction to further evolve the RPG oriented gameplay in the game.
During the early parts of the game you will feel that the combat isn’t “flowing” as it’s supposed to, or that there are things missing. Ubisoft ended up “time gating” some of the abilities so the gameplay during the intro part of the game feels a bit lacking but that’s only temporary.
One has to comment on the Skill Tree, due to the fact that it completely changed when compared to Odyssey. This time around we are looking at a “star/tree” based like system, as we previously have seen in games like Path of Exile. By unlocking points through levelling up you can focus on the type of play style you want to adapt by spending those points on the skill “star/tree” that you wish.
Nevertheless, this system can be somewhat frustrating to a new player or someone who doesn’t understand the percentage “game” of trying to build a character around it. The talent tree is somewhat intimidating as you will be able to see below, but we recommend to take a step by step approach and even reset some of these talents if you wanna try a different build.
With that being said, stealth is definitely a viable build this time around for all types of enemies. Not only can we one-shot high level bosses if your talent tree is built around it, but we can do the double assassinations chain that helps clearing out camps. It feels balanced in terms of both difficulty and reward at the end of the day and that’s something we couldn’t say about the previous iterations in the franchise.
Stealth is my favourite gameplay aspect on the Assassins Creed franchise, and I’m excited to say that this time around the team has nailed it. From being able to spec your character around one shooting bosses with your Hidden Blade or even using social stealth techniques to be able to blend in with the crowd or sitting at a bench it brings back what was amazing about the original Assassins Creed game, something that was dearly missing in the last few iterations.
Overall, the combat is amazing and a step up when compared to previous entries like Odyssey and Origins, stealth is on the same level as brute force combat. Both are viable options and you can end up deciding on just one of them.
How does it look? Well, it looks amazing. We can definitely see some huge technical upgrades when compared to both previous entries.
The major improvement is definitely the horse AI, this time around the horse doesn’t get stuck and can pretty much jump everything that a normal horse would. Both Playstation 4 and Xbox One models run the game just fine at around 30 frames per second, on both Playstation 5 & Xbox Series X the game runs at 60fps for the first time ever on the consoles.
The game environment looks amazing from the inside of the buildings to the lush forests and terrifying swamps scattered throughout the game. You will feel right at home with the colour palette and the art direction that brings to life 9th century England. Each region has its own colour palette and once you move into big cities like London you will feel more of a medieval look and feel.
The character models are vastly improved when it comes to textures and models. There’s a vast improvement to random NPC alongside side characters which I wasn’t expecting. Cutting it short, the game looks and runs great on next generation systems, although you shouldn’t expect the good stuff like Ray Tracing, as Ubisoft decided to go with the performance route using 60fps alongside better visuals on these new machines.
From the technical standpoint there are a couple of issues, in all versions there are pop in throughout the game from either city objects or even environment objects like rocks. Both Playstation 5 and Xbox Series X version feature screen tearing, the latter suffering the most. However, Ubisoft has promised a patch so we hope for the best.
At the end of our review, we can only comment that the game evolves perfectly into the end game. You can expect an amazing storyline from the beginning till the end with a great cast of characters, gameplay wise you can expect your character to become stronger on what YOU want TO DO. You will be able to adapt to the style of combat according to what you want, from either stealth to brute force or even a hybrid of both.
Assassin’s Creed: Valhalla is a MUST for any Assassin’s Creed fan, you can expect an amazing & dynamic storyline that will tie up previous knots alongside a compelling gameplay experience that allows you to play the way you want, you can additionally expect a huge world to explore and discover as previous games in both England and Norway. Valhalla is the best RPG game yet in the Assassin’s Creed franchise.