Assassin’s Creed Valhalla Review


Posted on November 25, 2020 by Michael Merchant

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  • 9/10
    Total Score - 9/10
9/10

Summary

Valhalla isn’t just a fitting end to this new trilogy, it’s also the strongest entry yet.

Release Date: Nov. 16th, 2020

Reviewed on: PS5

Publisher: Ubisoft

Available on: Xbox S/X/Series S/Series X, Playstation 4 and 5, PC

Over the last few entries, Assassin’s Creed has moved drastically away from the traditional formula. In my opinion, this isn’t a bad thing as I am a fan of vast open world adventures. Assassin’s Creed Origins really hit the mark for me especially as it is set in Egypt. However, with the release of Odyssey, I felt that it went a tad overboard on providing fluff content. Unfortunately, it got to the point where it was a slog to get through the majority of the game. To this day, I still haven’t completed that adventure. Fortunately, Assassin’s Creed: Valhalla seems to have found the perfect balance between Origins and Odyssey. 

You start this viking epic in Norway. A cold landscape, full of icy seas and snowy mountain tops. You begin a brief prologue as a small child named Eivor, partaking in a feast to honor the new bond between your father and the new king. The feast is interrupted by your family’s blood feud enemy and the majority of your clan is brutally killed. You manage to escape with the help of your new king’s son, Sigurd, but you are separated and attacked by a wolf. After a nasty bite you manage to grab your axe and save yourself. You are now Eivor The Wolf-Kissed.

Many years have passed and you are now an older and much stronger Eivor. The first part of your journey is based on getting revenge with the help of Sigurd and his father’s clan. With access to your longboat and crew basically from the start, you are free to explore Norway. You can choose to spend your time finding all the secrets that land has to offer or delve straight into the story. Quickly you being training in the ways of the assassins with the help of the Hidden Ones. You come to discover that the Order of the Ancients is behind the most powerful rulers in the world and it is your mission to identify and assassinate its members. After you finish the Norway story arc, you travel with Sigurd to England to begin a new life and find the remaining members of the Order.

Once you arrive in England, the game begins to really spread its wings. England is split into about 15 territories and your task is to help each King or Thegn in order to gain allies so your clan can secure its position of power in the new world.

These quests are full of political intrigue and betrayal, while each feel unique and cinematic. I really enjoyed the time that I spent building the alliances and finding members to join the clan. The story is easily one of the best parts of Valhalla, especially when you are learning more about certain characters and their past.

Where the game arguably slows down is in the exploration, especially if you are playing Pathfinder difficulty. It can take several hours to explore and find everything in a territory. I’d say I have spent maybe triple the time finding all the nodes on the map than actually continuing the story. Each area three categories of nodes, Wealth, Mysteries, and Artifacts. 

Wealth nodes are either resources, pieces of armor, or weapons. The first major improvement of Valhalla, limited armor and weapons. This makes each piece of equipment feel valuable. In Odyssey, you obtain loot every few minutes which makes each piece less important feeling. In Valhalla, I have used the starting armor set for nearly the entire game because the passive traits suit my play style and I like the look. I love this aspect, you can enjoy the look of an armor set and you can stick with it the entire game and it will be completely viable. Same with the weapons. If you find a weapon you like, you can upgrade it and stay with it for as long as you like.

Mysteries are basically the side quests. These are varied experiences that involve solving puzzles, helping villagers, killing specific enemies and the like. Completing mysteries basically provides you with more points to spend on the skill tree and can increase your charisma. These challenges aren’t often hard to complete and provide a nice change of pace to the gameplay. My favorite mystery is Flyting, which is basically viking rap battles. They also added a dice rolling mini-game that is actually more strategic than you might initially think it is.

The final type of nodes are artifacts. These are items that can provide you with additional tattoos, treasure maps, and ancient Roman artifacts. These are often the least important items to find on the map and are typically just types of collectibles. If you are looking to save time in the game, I would focus on finding the wealth nodes as these are the most important to helping you upgrade your equipment and character.

The combat system is very simple, basically consisting of a light attack and a heavy attack. You can combo these in different ways and they will perform attack variations. You are able to also assign 8 different abilities from a total of about 30. At any given time you can select 4 different ranged abilities and another 4 melee abilities. These range from poisoning your weapons to calling a wolf to attack your enemies. I really enjoyed using some of these abilities, in particular the leap attack which sends you flying into the air causing damage to the impact area and also staggers enemies hit by the impact. However, even when playing on very hard difficulty, the combat was rarely so challenging to the point where you absolutely had to use abilities to stay alive, it just makes it more interesting.

The other part that I really enjoyed in Valhalla was the expanded skill tree. In Valhalla, your character build can be nuanced down to adding more health or increasing your critical hit chance. The tree is broken up into three sections, Bear, Raven, and Wolf. Each tree suits a specific playstyle and you can mix and match as much as you want. This reminds me of Final Fantasy X’s sphere grid which basically provides upgrades to your stats as well as unlocking abilities. Each tree also corresponds to your equipment as well. Armor and weapons are associated with the Bear, Raven, or Wolf and upgrading particular nodes will increase the stats of those items.

The Bear tree is typically more heavy weapon and armor focused. Nodes provide bonuses to stats such as stun, critical hit damage with abilities like dual wielding heavy weapons and rushing attacks. The Raven tree is based on stealth. Nodes include upgrades to melee critical hit chance, assassination skills and quicker melee weapons such as daggers and one handed axes. Finally, the Wolf tree is focused on range attacks and provides bonuses to ranged critical hit chance and bow attacks. 

I personally found myself using mostly the Raven tree at first as it fits the assassin theme a bit more than the others, and around the 40 hour mark I was already branching out to the other trees to grab fun abilities to help round out my character. Don’t worry about experimenting with the tree and different builds as you can re-spec your character for free at any time. This is a fantastic feature and you will never have to worry about making the wrong choice or shy away from exploring the different trees.

To go into some depth of the game on a technical level, there are some issues here. Screen tearing is very noticeable both on the PS4 Pro and PS5. I can only imagine how it appears on the regular PS4. This is worse during cutscenes, even on the PS5, you will consistently see screen tearing. While this doesn’t hamper the gameplay, it can definitely take you out of the scene when you see the characters faces with lines through them while they are talking. 

Graphically, the game is very beautiful. Scaling to high peaks and stopping to view the scenery during a sunrise was something I did often just to take in the time and attention the developers spent to make this world a living thing. I messed around with the photo mode quite a bit as well to capture images of my adventure. While the PS4 Pro provides a solid 30 FPS, the PS5 makes the details of the game especially great and provides a consistent 60 FPS gameplay. 

I also faced issues sometimes with quests being glitching, as I have run into two different times where a quest will not continue due to not being able to interact with an item or character in the environment and will require a reset of the game or further progression to proceed. None of these glitches have been game breaking for my playthrough.

I have yet to finish all of Valhalla, and I will update this review if anything drastically changes, but I can safely say after the 70+ hours I have spent so far the game is worth the purchase price of $60. I can see the game easily lasting over 100 hours to complete everything and while a portion of the time will be fluff, much of the time spent has value. If you are a fan of either Origins or Odyssey, you definitely can’t go wrong with Valhalla.

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