Ubisoft lets the Vikings go
Assassin’s Creed Valhalla Review
After Ubisoft's assassins had recently made ancient Greece unsafe, the latest offshoot of Assassin's Creed Valhalla takes us back to the time of the Vikings. A scenario that fans of the series have been wanting for years. Is the 12th part of the series any good? We will tell you in our Assassin's Creed Valhalla review.
Slowly our longboat pushes through the thick fog. A raven circles in the sky and informs us with a loud cry about the nearby shore. The blood is pulsating in our veins because the fog does not give us any idea what to expect. As we slowly catch sight of land on the horizon, we blow our horn and twenty angry Northmen (and women) take out their axes. The raid begins. Assassin's Creed Valhalla reveals many fresh ideas in our review, and most of them work.
The Story of Assassin's Creed Valhalla
After two excursions into antiquity, Assassin's Creed Valhalla finally takes us back to where everything began for the series in 2007: the Middle Ages. This time, however, we are not going to Jerusalem, but to the ninth century in Europe.
The adventure begins in the icy expanses of Norway, where our protagonist Eivor Wolfsmal has grown into a stately warrior after the death of his father. The protagonist can be male or female because this time we are free to choose the gender of the main character, and we can even switch it at any time during the game.
Eivor and his loyal friend Sigurd are not at all pleased that King Harald of Norway wants to take over the country and our kingdom under his banner. The two of them grab some companions to cross over to England and create a new home there. The English don't make it that easy for us to build our settlement.
Assassin's Creed Valhalla finally gives more space to the plot and spins a gripping story around the main character, which should appeal to fans of the TV series Vikings. In other aspects, the approach of the settlement construction provides a fresh breeze within the series, which culminates in the best story since Assassin's Creed Unity.
From Norway to England
We spend the first hours of the game in Norway. Typical for a series, it is up to us how long we want to spend in the frozen north. If we stick strictly to the main missions, we'll transfer to England within 5-6 hours.
If we want to discover everything, synchronize all viewpoints and complete all secondary tasks, it will take us 15 hours to leave for our new home. As you're used to from Ubisoft, the map of Assassin's Creed Valhalla is littered with interesting places or objects: We collect legendary treasures, hunt rare animals, search for artifacts or duel each other in a drinking contest.
While none of the side activities offer a truly revolutionary gaming experience, fans of the series will once again get their money's worth. Especially since the tasks have once again increased significantly in terms of gameplay variety compared to Odyssey and Origins.
It is also exciting that the gaming experience changes fundamentally with the arrival in England. The construction of our settlement provides a fresh approach and a new kind of "home feeling" in Assassin's Creed.
A Home for Assassins
After our raven clan has crossed the icy North Sea, the crew lands in a former camp of the sons of Ragnar. Sadly, Ubbe and Ivar, who we actually wanted to meet there, are gone.
Once we have got rid of the bandits who have settled there, we can already start building. Fortunately, we decided beforehand to steal some supplies from our former king, which makes the new start a little easier. After all, our materials are sufficient to build the base of the Assassin Brotherhood. In order to be able to erect more buildings, we have to go on a raid and pay an unpleasant visit to the nearby monasteries.
In this way, we collect the necessary resources to upgrade our settlement during the course of the game, construct new buildings and thus unlock completely new game elements and missions. This is perhaps the greatest innovation of Assassin's Creed Valhalla, which actually motivates much more than we had previously suspected.
More Role Play in Valhalla
Origins and Odyssey already went the way towards action role-playing games from a gameplay perspective. Assassin's Creed Valhalla continues to follow this path, but with some very clever changes.
While in the last offshoots we stumbled upon new, better equipment every second, this time, there are more RPG elements. Weapons and armor can be upgraded and additionally improved at the blacksmith, which increases their values - so even after 20-30 hours of gameplay, you're still on the road with the (upgraded) starting items. For completed missions, you won't receive the classic experience points, but ability points, which are invested in new skills in the huge talent tree. These range from passive skills for more damage or more health to new active skills like a double assassination and much more.
We especially like the fact that there are no longer classic talent trees for assassination, melee, and ranged combat, but that all paths offer useful skills for every play style. Speaking of assassinations: the legendary Hidden Blade finally makes its comeback in Assassin's Creed Valhalla very early in the game.
Stealth & Fighting: The Gameplay of Valhalla
Those who have already played the last two offshoots will quickly feel at home with the combat system of Assassin's Creed Valhalla. The core gameplay of the series hasn't changed much.
The game still lets us choose our approach. We sneak through high grass to silently take out guards, get rid of enemies with our bow from a distance, or unpack the axe to face the open (and rather bloody) confrontation. This interplay of fighting and sneaking works even a bit better than in Odyssey and is as motivating as ever. Your combos will also be quite different depending on the weapon you're using.
It is easy to get over the fact that the enemy AI is still operating at a mediocre level. However, some annoying AI dropouts, translation errors, and minor bugs do spoil the fun a bit. On the other hand, fans of the first hour are happy to have some returnees: from the leap of faith into a haystack to the already mentioned hidden blade.
Assassin's Creed Valhalla turns out to be a successful extension of the formula that started the series with the last two action RPG offshoots and makes useful improvements where it was most needed. The game offers exactly what you would expect from a modern Assassin's Creed - and just that little bit more to make it feel fresh.
The Beauty of Norway
We firmly believe that Assassin's Creed Valhalla gets the most out of the current consoles. This is the burden of a cross-gen title because the next Assassin's Creed for Next-Gen should easily outshine the current entry.
Nevertheless, the game conjures incredibly beautiful landscapes and wonderfully atmospheric lighting moods on the screen, although some surrounding textures miss details on closer inspection. However, given the sheer size of the game world, the graphics framework is more than impressive and makes us pause and pause again and again to take a snapshot in photo mode.
Special praise is due to the outstanding soundtrack and we don't just say that because we are huge fans of the Viking theme. Not least thanks to Einar Selvik, known through the Nordic folk band Wardruna, the background music of Assassin's Creed Valhalla regularly causes goosebumps. It's arguably one of the best soundtracks the series has produced so far.
Assassin's Creed Valhalla: Our Verdict
Those who already liked Origins and Odyssey will love Assassin's Creed Valhalla. While the basic structure is based on the two predecessors, the developers have put the right screws in place to create a new and better gaming experience.
Sure, it doesn't have much to do with part 1 and part 2 anymore - even if the assassins and covert elements have a higher priority again. As an open-world action RPG, Valhalla doesn't make any notable mistakes, at least in terms of gameplay. If you're a fan of the Viking era it's a must, if not you should at least try it out. A huge game, in which we will probably sink over 100 hours as it promises a lot of entertainment. Perfect for the dark fall and winter days ahead.
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Original article by EarlyGame's Philipp Briel.