Assassin’s Creed: Valhalla has been griping our attention for the last few days and while we’re not quite ready to pen a full review we are so excited to share our experience in the game that we couldn’t wait for the credits to roll.

As of time of writing, we have put in 12 hours into the game. Unfortunately for us power cuts and electric storms have stymied our playthrough ahead of the embargo lifting. As such, we’re going to be writing up our experience in a series of blogs ahead of our full review which will be out at this time next week.

Today will be the first with two more coming on Wednesday and Friday this week.

Preparing for the journey

We are reviewing Assassin’s Creed Valhalla on a PC with the following specs:

  • AMD Ryzen 5 3600
  • AMD Radeon RX 5600 XT
  • 16GB DDR4
  • SSD Storage

We are running the game at a high preset.

Ahead of jumping into the game you will be asked to select a difficulty for three areas of the game:

  • Combat
  • Exploration
  • Stealth

Each of these can be customised to how you want to play the game and you can change these options at any point during your play through.

First steps

Valhalla starts us off in a Viking longhouse in the Rygjafylke with a celebration underway. You play as a young Eivor who is tasked with giving a gift to their family.

Before long the town is attacked by another Viking who offs Eivor’s family in a rather shocking cutscene.

We do want to point out Ubisoft’s cinematography here as it is superb and during cutscenes we often had to remind ourselves we were playing a game and not watching a movie.

It’s here that players are taken out of the Animus and reminded that they are traversing the memories of a centuries old Assassin. It is here that you can make a choice between playing male, female or gender-fluid Eivor. We opted for the female iteration of the character.

During our playtime thus far we’ve only been asked to play as Layla Hassan once and we raced through this section. These are always the worst parts of an Assassin’s Creed game and we really wish Ubisoft would find a way to cut them out of the game entirely.

Once we’ve had some modern day exposition it’s back to Norway where we’re transported 18 years in the future after Eivor’s family is killed. The Viking is given a new moniker at this stage, Eivor Wolf-Kissed.

This serves as the tutorial of the game where you are introduced to fighting, stealth and exploration. This tutorial is rather short but that’s a good thing.

Rather than an eagle you have a Raven this time around that helps you spot enemies, resources and potential secrets on the map.

Once you are reacquainted with your gear you jump into your longboat and head home to the town of Fordburg.

Along the way you will be prompted to Raid.

Here, you will attack a coastal town with a view to hitting the main longhouse which holds materials that are used for crafting and possibly gear. Your crew helps you with these Raids and they are a lot of fun.

Once you arrive at your destination the game starts in earnest.

Norway’s mountainous landscape inspires exploration.

Eivor an eye

The first theme presented in Valhalla is that of honour and revenge.

Eivor wants to off the Viking that killed their family and that becomes your first mission. While preparing you happen upon Books of Knowledge and this is where Valhalla takes a departure from Odyssey in a big way.

By playing Valhalla and completing quests you earn experience points (XP) which can be used to unlock and improve abilities. This also improves your power level which – if too low – will make some quests incredibly difficult.

There is always time for fun and games, even when hunting for revenge.

The ability improvements that can be unlocked include aspects such as stealth, how much damage your attacks do and whether gear from certain clans will give you additional bonuses. The trees are massive and abilities are similar (weapon damage, stealth, health bonus) whether you choose to focus on the Wolf, Raven or Bear ability trees.

Skills are unlocked through the aforementioned Books of Knowledge as well as the ability tree. The Books of Knowledge are hidden throughout the world and inspire a bit of exploration.

What we love is that from the outset players are shown how good a set of gear – such as Raven Clan armour – can be. Equipping multiple items from a set grants a bonus with an even better bonus unlocked once you have all pieces of a set equipped.

This gear can be upgraded with materials taken during Raids and collected as you explore.

Once you have fought for your family’s honour, events in the game prompt you to head to England. The reasons why would spoil the game but it is a rather clever way to introduce a need to travel to a distant land.

And this seems as good a point as any to hit pause on our review diary for now.

So far Valhalla has not disappointed. There is a rather deep game here and the “distractions” from previous games have been weaved into the gameplay loop rather cleverly.

As an example, Raiding is not just fun, it’s necessary to progress the story and further your exploits. Flyting, which is a Viking version of a rap battle, is not just a silly pass time but improves your charisma which opens up some dialogue options.

The opening moments of Valhalla give you a taste of the scope of this game but nothing can prepare you for how much there is to do in England.

Especially with the sons of Ragnar Lothbrok awaiting your arrival.