Assassin’s Creed Valhalla is the latest edition of the new generation of Assassin’s Creed games, which blends rich stories and characters with frenetic action, stealthy assassinations and accessible RPG-lite player development to deliver a complete package.
Welcome to the world of the Viking. Where death in combat is the highest achievement, drinking mead until dawn is a social norm, and England is yours to raid and control. In Assassin’s Creed Valhalla you’ll live out your most epic Norse fantasies without the imminent danger of losing your head to an errant (or targeted) axe, or having to deal with the ever present smell of unwashed Viking.
In Assassin’s Creed Valhalla you play as Eivor the Wolf Kissed, which is absolutely the single most badass way of describing someone who survived a wolf attack that left them with lifelong scars on their neck and face. Character selection is fun here, as you can once again play as a male or female character, or have the game switch between both as the story allows. It’s an interesting choice which deepens the immersive experience. Once in the world of Valhalla, you’ll have a chance to live out your innermost Viking fantasies and explore a world ripe for the raiding.
“Once in the world of Valhalla, you’ll have a chance to live out your innermost Viking fantasies and explore a world ripe for the raiding.”
As with any Assassin’s Creed game, Valhalla has an excellently written story which runs through fantasy, mythology, and real-world events to tell some old tales from new angles. It’s Engrossing and detailed in equal measure, and you really feel like you’re getting a front row seat to what happened in ancient times. Whatever can be said about anything else in this game, you have to respect the level of effort that’s gone into the detail, voice acting and all-round narrative.
Combat is ferocious and, more than in any previous Assassin’s Creed title, it really suits the Viking style. One of the options is to turn off/on dismemberment, and boy-oh-boy do you want to have this switched on! Some of the slow-motion assassinations and finishing moves are spectacular. Mind you, this is definitely not a mode for the faint of heart, little kiddies or the slightly squeamish.
Valhalla lets you make some real choices about weaponry, and if you haven’t heard already, SHIELDS ARE BACK, BABY! Axes and shields, giant broadswords, long handled axes, the super-fun (and exceptionally dangerous) spiked flail or pikes – all manner of deliciously deadly options are available to you. Each weapon set presents different attack and defensive options, which are both challenging and rewarding. Mythical weapons also return, including Excalibur or the absolutely devastating Mjonlir, which takes a bit of effort to find and even more effort to wield. If you’re so inclined, you can forego defence altogether and go in with Twin Axes that present no option to block, so you’ll need to be exceptionally good at dodge rolling your way out of combat. As with Origins and Odyssey, Valhalla lets you choose the attack style that suits you best. And for the complete lunatics out there, yes, double shields are an option, and it’s exceptionally fun.
When you initiate a raid on a village or military outpost, it won’t just be you wading into battle. You get to take a boatful of your finest warriors with you, which helps you take on the enemy hordes. It makes a massive difference to how you approach battles, as you have allies to assist in taking down the toughest foes, and in turn you have to revive your crew if they should fall in combat. It’s fun and furious, and a big step up from the regional control battles of Odyssey. You can also appoint a trusted Lieutenant, called a Jomsviking, and kit them out with specific gear to make them an extra powerful ally. You can make a Viking in your own image, or craft a terrifying beast who strikes down opponents with ease. The two goals may not be mutually exclusive…
As with Odyssey, Valhalla continues in the tradition of boat travel by including Viking longboats in the game. They’re exceptionally fun to launch a raid from, or when you allow them to be on autopilot to drift through the countryside. There’s also the option to sing songs or tell stories as you travel along, although whenever you get close to a raid point, or a bridge, these are cut off, which happens all too frequently in the English map. Anyone hoping for the iconic roaring sea shanties of Black Flag may be slightly disappointed though. The authentic music and the interesting stories you can choose to listen to are more reminiscent of travelling by boat in God of War. You may find yourself slowing down before you reach your destination just to hear the end of a story or finish the current song.
“The RPG elements within the game run deep.”
There are many other ways to pass your time in Assassin’s Creed Valhalla. You can just sit around in the village challenging your brewer to drinking competitions, throw dice in a friendly game of Orlog (Which is definitely setup as this game’s version of Gwent) or take part in Flyting duels, which are basically Viking rap battles. Basically, there are many fun ways to spend your days that don’t involve lopping peoples’ heads off.
The RPG elements within the game run deep. Between an expansive skill tree, character buffs for performing activities, character customisation options and weapon selection, there are many ways for you to bring out your true Vikingness. Some of the haircuts, beards and tattoos can really spice up that Viking flair. There are also the standard completely bonkers options available through the ever-present Ubisoft store, for those who care less about Viking lore and more about looking godlike while striding through the battlefield. While they are welcome expansions on this new generation of Assassin’s Creed games, it is still RPG-lite, in that you don’t have to invest too much time to get the most out of the game.
The climbing mechanics have also been improved for Valhalla. You’ll feel less like you’re forced to find a specific handhold, and more like a skilled Spider-Person who can climb every mountain or ford every stream. It’s more leisurely, and seems to fit into the Assassin’s Creed games, while once again providing no context as to why your character can move upwards on vertical surfaces like a Marvel superhero. There are a number of different surfaces to climb including mountains, fortress walls and, you guessed it, lookout towers where you sync views to discover the surrounding environment. They are familiar skills for anyone who’s played Assassin’s Creed before, but seem unsuited to the heavily armoured Viking characters.
In Assassin’s Creed Valhalla, less Assassin and more Viking is ALWAYS the answer to any question. If you’re presented with the choice of how to take down a fortress or invade a village, the full-frontal approach works ten times out of ten. The stealthy/assassin elements are there, but aren’t really that enticing or useful. Guards will spot your movement more often than not and the margin for error is so slim that you are better off charging headfirst into the fray and dealing with the consequences – it’s the true Viking way! Even late game, once you’ve buffed up your assassin skills through the overly complex skills tree, all-out attack is the preferred approach.
There are a number of frustrations in the game, including but not limited to puzzle doors where you have to either find a key to unlock it or break a log barring the door from the opposite side. Both of these options seem decidedly un-Viking like. And while the puzzles are fun and slightly challenging, it definitely detracts from the clearly obvious Viking solution, which is break the thing down/open with the GIANT AXE THAT YOU’RE HOLDING! Likewise, there are also frustrations with activities that occur outside of the Animus. These Tron-like minigames link the story to modern times as people are reliving the past through virtual reality. As with any other game in the series, nothing good has ever gone on outside of the Animus, which only distracts from story immersion. Stop trying to make it happen. It’s not going to happen!
“In Assassin’s Creed Valhalla, less Assassin and more Viking is ALWAYS the answer to any question.”
It should be noted that this game was reviewed on the PS4 Pro, so none of the next-gen PS5 or Xbox Series X features or graphics were able to be experienced, however the game looks beautiful and runs smoothly. There’s still the typical amount of glitches expected in any Assassin’s Creed game, and the load times are overly long – especially when fast traveling, but overall the experience is still a pleasant one.
Assassin’s Creed Valhalla is the number one game for people looking to raid monasteries, awkwardly navigate rivers in longboats, and get drunk with Vikings until they pass out in a random campfire in the English countryside. It’s a total Viking experience that ticks a lot of boxes for an entertaining and engaging experience. However, with each new release the Assassin’s Creed franchise seems to drift further away from the original gameplay model, having become a more immersive situational experience.
Ultimately, Assassin’s Creed Valhalla is an exceptionally deep, RPG-lite experience with a strong story and addictive gameplay, and easily the best version of this last generation of Assassin’s Creed games.
Assassin’s Creed Valhalla is available November 10 for PS4 and Xbox Series X|S/ One, November 12 for PS5.