When Assassin’s Creed Origins was revealed as an RPG game with an open-world, some of us at Hypertext were sceptical about the move.
As it turns out our skepticism was unfounded and the follow-up, Assassin’s Creed Odyssey quickly became a firm favourite in the Hypertext office.
That game was a journey of epic proportions, with myth and legend being flung together in a way that was not only enjoyable, it was compelling. We’ve finished that game and its associated DLC twice because it was just that good.
Assassin’s Creed Valhalla then had big furry boots to fill and from the outset, our expectations were high.
Is it worth playing though? The short answer is yes, absolutely. Let’s dive in a bit deeper.
Of Odin and Animus
The opening salvo of Assassin’s Creed introduces us to Eivor and the Viking people as a whole. We are shown both the compassion and the raw unhinged savagery of the Vikings during a party and then the moments following the party where Kotve the Cruel raids your home.
We are then shown Eivor being attacked by a wolf before being plucked from the Animus and meeting Layla Hassan once again.
We are given a bit of exposition and then told that we’re in the US which is strange for several reasons. The first is that we were in Norway when the Animus terminated the memory stream and we spend the large majority of the game in England.
This is the first thread Ubisoft leaves hanging for players to tug at and rather than dreading the Animus sections of the game we were chomping at the bit for more.
Upon returning to the Animus you are given the choice of playing as Male or Female Eivor. There is an option to “Let the game decide”, but we prefer making a choice. Though, that having been said, you can switch at any point.
Your Eivor’s gender doesn’t really matter as you can still romance the same people and the story itself doesn’t change. While we enjoyed the mystery of the differences between Kassandra and Alexios in Odyssey, we ultimately abandoned every playthrough with Alexios as Kassandra was just more fun and Melissanthi Mahut’s performance is impeccable.
Upon returning to Norway and Eivor’s memory stream we are tasked with retrieving our gear and weapons. This is where Valhalla introduces its gear set system.
Gear is scattered throughout the world but you will want to look for sets of gear from the same class namely Wolf, Raven and Bear. Equipping yourself completely with items from a set will unlock new bonuses in combat.
Unlike Odyssey however, gear is not thrown at you left and right. For the most part you’ll be upgrading your equipped gear with weapons being swapped out as you try different approaches to combat.
Gear is upgraded from both your inventory as well at a Blacksmith at your Settlement so you won’t have to go back and forth until you need bigger upgrades.
A game of chess
The main goal of Valhalla is to establish alliances with the leaders surrounding your home of Ravensthorpe. As you form alliances new leaders will be revealed and you will need to complete a series of quests for these leaders in order to win their favour.
Each of these stories is engaging and while some ask you to do busy work, the story being told here is worth a bit of mindless adventuring every so often and in fact, it’s welcomed. Between the complicated relationships that form and the many puzzles you’ll be solving, a bit of mindless adventuring now and then serves as a nice break.
There are also world events which will appear on your map and HUD from time to time and the rewards for completing these range from XP to gear. These little side quests are great and make the act of exploring Ubisoft’s world feel just a bit more organic.
While vying for alliances, you will be exploring and you should be raiding. The reason you should be raiding that you will receive Raw Materials and Supplies that will be used to upgrade Ravensthorpe which in turn unlocks new quest lines.
Fortress battles are a lot of fun. These battles take place when you are in the final moments of earning an alliance pledge and winning will award you with a welcoming presence in these regions which means guards won’t attack you on sight.
While we want to stray away from spoilers we must mention that there are several storylines which branch off from the main quest of making England your new home and kingdom.
Those that loved the mythical aspect of Odyssey will be treated here as will those who just want to do more than dispatch Anglo-Saxons and Danes by the dozen. Those who loved the aspect of hunting down the Cultists in Odyssey will be pleased to know that the quest line has returned in its own way.
Each of these quests will give you a bit more insight into the history and legend of the Vikings while filling out the Assassin’s Creed lore and Eivor’s story as you play.
In the opening moments of your arrival on English shores, the prospect of what lay ahead of the player can seem daunting.
The ability tree is immense with three branching paths representing the Raven, Wolf and Bear atunements.
Each of these trees unlock new skills that will change the way you play the game. Thankfully, there is cross over here so even if you spec into melee play, you will still be able to do stealth kills and upgrade your bow’s damage. This gives you the player a bit more freedom to switch up combat and take a more stealthy approach before you start to swing axes at enemies.
Players earn experience rather quickly and there are no “time savers” for XP available in the store though you can purchase materials if you don’t want to raid monasteries.
For the most part your time in Valhalla will be spent the way most Assassin’s Creed games are spent, heading to vantage points to unlock fast travel points, exploring the world for clues to quests, gear and Books of Knowledge (which unlock new skills) while offing enemies as you go.
It’s altogether a very satisfying gameplay loop and you will get lost in digital England for hours.
For years I have maintained the opinion that Assassin’s Creed: Black Flag was the ultimate title in the series, but today I have to put that opinion to bed.
Assassin’s Creed Valhalla has a rich story to tell and it gives you the agency to tell it the way you want it to play out. Yes, there are things that one has to do such as upgrading your camp and forging alliances, but all the while we felt that our Eivor was different to the other folks playing Valhalla in the office.
The other storylines that are introduced are genuinely interesting and we can see completionists spending many many hours in this game approaching the 100 percent completion mark.
The RPG formula has paid off for Ubisoft and Valhalla is a beautiful culmination of all the work that has been done in this series since Origins. The systems are friendly and easy to grasp, the exploration is addictive in ways Odyssey inspired us to be and the story will have you pushing to explore the next chapter.
As regards performance we have experienced a total of two graphical glitches in our time with Valhalla and a recent patch has resulted in us not seeing any.
The series hasn’t achieved perfection just yet, but Assassin’s Creed Valhalla is the best game in the series yet and if you’re looking for the next game that will take 90 hours of your life, this is the one.