Assassin’s Creed Valhalla | Review

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Assassin’s Creed Vahalla is the latest instalment in the award-winning series that now spans well over 20 games. In recent years the series has started incorporating more of an RPG element with a lot of success. The first steps were seen in Origins, but it really came together in Odyssey (A game many consider the best in the series. Although fans of Brotherhood might argue that).

Vahalla builds on the new RPG direction and works to remove some of the frustrations around progression and vast amounts of loot that impeded Odyssey. But perhaps it overcorrects with the loot and more worryingly it definitely hasn’t shortened the game into a tighter experience.

Sprawling out into a massive 60+ hour story Valhalla is a game you should go into fully prepared to spend the best part of three full days of your life playing.

As Eivor, you get to live out the Viking fantasy during their invasion of England. Eivor can be played as either male or female (and unlike most games that lock this choice at the start of the game. You can swap back and forth later on). This is just one of the many choices Ubisoft have left up to the player that will continue to define your character, the direction you travel, the relationships you build, and ultimately how your story is told.

Having left the recently unified Norway with your brother, you set up camp in England and start building your first settlement. You will also have to build and maintain alliances with other Viking clans that have settled nearby, and a few Saxons lords (who seem to forget you massacred many of their subjects a bit too quickly).

The core gameplay loop is built around these Alliances. When picked from the Alliance Map you enter into a set region with its own self-contained stories, characters and missions to complete.

Although they are all areas that you will finish and forget about, some characters will pop up later in other areas. But it’s not enough to build a feeling of a truly connected network.

With a big focus on discovery and exploration, you are very much left to your own devices. There are very few times, that I can remember, being forced to meet a certain skill level to progress the game. This is a risky approach, it is easy to get lost in the world and end up wasting hours without making any progress on the story.

For players that like to push through a narrative, there is an over-reliance on open-world busywork that will test your patience.

Combat can be clunky. It uses a pretty standard light and heavy attack that can be combined with a series of special moves. You have some choice over your style as you can dual wield weapons, or use a two-handed sword or axe for example. The dual wedding looked fun but the left-handed weapons share the button with the parry action and that gets annoying fast.

Fighting is heavy and brutal, but the main gripe is that it becomes very easy very quickly. To the point where stealth kinda goes out the window after a few hours. The risk of dying once you are powred up is so minimal that there is no real reason to not just reduce your style to rushing in and chopping heads off with a giant axe.

Levelling up in Valhalla is a convoluted system. You earn XP from playing that then increases your “level”. Each time you level up one rank you are given two skill points. These can be spent on any of the skills in the vast skill tree. Which then increases your power level.

The skill tree is a sprawling constellation layout that is difficult to take in, much of it is obscured so you can’t plan to a skill you want and often find skills hours after they would have been useful. Plus it can all be reset at any time so your choices have little long term impact.

Character development and relationships within your clan take time to develop. You have to seek them out rather than have side missions given to you. But for the wider game, despite the 60 hours of gameplay, thanks to the splintered alliance system, the relationships are often rushed through and don’t have the impact they should have had.

At the end of the game, there’s barely a handful of characters I really cared about. Considering how many I met that is a missed opportunity.

The second issue is one mentioned in the opening paragraph. The over correction with loot. While Odyssey had silly amounts of loot and you spent too long in menus throwing things away. Valhalla has the opposite problem with only a small handful of variations to collect.

Overall: Valhalla is a vast stunning looking open-world RPG that really pushes the Ubisoft open-world format to its limits. At times it can be clunky, but forgivable due to the sheer technical achievement of delivering at this quality at this scale.

If you like to explore, and discover on your own and are okay with gameplay loops repeating. Then Valhalla has lots of offer. We started our adventure on PS4 and finished on PS5 with some time also spent on Xbox Series X. The step up to NextGen is amazing with a solid 60fps making it very difficult to go back.

At 60+ hours though the game feels too long, it could well have been wrapped up around the 35-40 hour mark and still feel like a real epic adventure. By hour 60 it had overstayed its welcome. Perhaps, its saving grace was the fact there are so few other titles to play on the Next Gen consoles at the moment.

Note: Ubisoft provided us with Review code for PS4 and PS5 to review the game. Microsoft did include an Xbox Series X Code to help review the console at launch.

Assassin’s Creed Valhalla is available now on PS4, PS5, Xbox One, Series X|S, Stadia and PC.

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