The long-awaited next installment of the Assassin’s Creed series is here with fire and blood. This time set in another historical era people love. 873 CE Europe, aka the age of Vikings. The kingdoms of what we now know as Europe are slowly forming. Driven from Norway by endless wars and dwindling resources, smaller clans of Vikings from Norway and its surrounding areas are looking for places to plunder and settle. Unfortunately for England, the country looks the most plunderable. In Assassin’s Creed: Valhalla, you play as Eivor, a warrior leading her fellow Norsemen to England to carve out a better future for their people.
Right from the start of the game, the player becomes immersed in Viking culture, a feat that Ubisoft excels at in all of their games. Dancing, singing, being rowdy, and loving mead are Viking cultural staples. The opening sets the tone of how they celebrate and their values of honor and family. The music in-game and the ambient world music are both superb. In Valhalla, characters can be found singing drinking songs or singing sailing songs on the way to raids. The ambient music by composers Jesper Kyd (Assassin’s Creed II, Assassin’s Creed Brotherhood) and Sarah Schachner (Assassin’s Creed Origins) was an excellent addition to the experience truly giving this mystical nomadic journey feel. Norwegian musician Einar Selvika also created original songs for the soundtrack. His song, “Lust for Battle,” without a doubt was my favorite. I even added it to my own playlist for epic music. However, the great environment just doesn’t stop at audio but visuals as well. It’s safe to say that this game was meant to take full advantage of the next-gen consoles’ wonderful graphics upgrades and 4K experience. The skies, especially in Norway were absolutely beautiful. Dancing Nothern Lights match beautifully with the amazing snow textures that leave actual trails once passing. It’s such a stark contrast when Eivor and the clan get to England. However, the large stone structures and green flora are equally as breathtaking. The world is gorgeous and sets the tone for Eivor’s amazing Viking Saga.
The biggest advantage AC: Valhalla has in gameplay is the sheer amount of what you can do. Even in the opening sections, there was almost too much to discover! Of course, I didn’t let that stop me. Exploration is rewarded by discovering wealth or mysteries which pop up on your map view depending on your setting. Wealth has a lot of different meanings but you can collect things like supplies to upgrade equipment, weapons, and even books that teach you new abilities. These special abilities are like the once in AC: Odyssey but you must explore for them rather than progress the plot. The skill tree is based on overall power, not levels. Players can choose their own playstyle by choosing to level either in the melee, ranged, or stealth damage tier. Of course, these can be picked up in any combination. Truly tailor Eivor’s abilities to your own playstyle. Players can also increase certain skills and gain gold in some of the many mini-games they offer. There are opportunities for drinking contests, dice games, hunting challenges, stacking stones, and more. One of my favorite activities, flyting (word battle) increases Eivor’s charisma ever successful session. I found that to be super helpful.
For all you simulation game fans, the settlement you found coming over to England is customizable. Leaving you with endless options to tailor your settlement to your people’s needs. Also, every upgrade benefits Eivor directly. From there, the game is all about protecting your own. making alliances with other settlements or kingdoms, and waging war on those who threaten your livelihood.
This being a Viking game, Ubisoft couldn’t just keep combat looking the way it was. The visual elements of combat in Valhalla are definitely more brutal. Limbs are cut off, heads go flying and people get set on fire. Such as the rapid battles Vikings favored. As far as mechanics, the game is still pretty much the same to the AC: Odyssey so previous players won’t have any trouble figuring out the controls. The best addition to the gameplay has been the ability for Ivor to make more of an impact on how the story progresses. Even if the player doesn’t know their action affects the future, it does. There are so many decisions to be made in the main plot that there endless versions of the end of the game.
It would be impossible to say that this game is not entertaining. There’s just so much content that a wide variety of players could have a blast. The plethora of mini-games is a good example. At any given point, Eivor can spend her silver to play wagers on various things, I definitely lost the first drinking challenge but I will have my revenge soon. Eivor can just go around the game world exclusively to challenge local drinkers and brewers.
Exploration is where the true fun begins. You have all of these places to explore and get to on your longship. These longships are made to go in and out of rivers and seas for raids to earn much-needed riches and resources. And that’s exactly what players should use them for. Getting close to an unclaimed or enemy settlement, you can call a raid to plunder the piece of land for more wealth and discover mysteries as I previously mentioned, or even crafting supplies to upgrade your quiver and ration pouch. It is such a visceral feeling to just sail around on the ship with your homies, singing and telling stories, then all of a sudden an area that looks valuable pops up. You can just drop what you are doing, sound the war hammer and storm their beach. I’ll never tired of that feeling that just makes one so hype.
Overall, AC: Vahalla has some unique features but it still does feel just as if I’m playing an intense overhaul mod of the previous Assassin’s Creed game. While the environment, mini-games, and some mechanics are new. Combat wise, it’s largely the same. For two years in between games, I understand that there are some things that probably were cut out for time. If I had to guess, they cut out what could’ve been a revamp into the combat and AI. I hope that in a future installment of Assassin’s Creed, there will be more unique gameplay.