Time to Pillage
Since Assassin’s Creed Origins landed and aped the style of the Witcher 3, the Assassin’s Creed series has gone from strength to strength. Valhalla while trying to get closer to the classic games still feels like a massive open world RPG and gives incredible value for money.
If you’ve played the excellent Origins or Odyssey, then you know what you are getting into with Valhalla. It is sprawling, full of exploration and vicious combat. The decision to buy comes down to wether or not you want more of the same.
Playing as a male or female Eivor, you start your journey in the snow-covered peaks of Norway, take a swift detour through England and venture into Asgard. If the character to be last time was Kassandra, this time the male voice actor puts in a better performance and seems more fitting for a Viking saga.
If you’re a fan of the Vikings TV series, you will know what to expect. There are references to Ragnar Lothbrok, Athelstan and more that come up along the 50+ hours you spend pillaging and exploring as well as fleeting references to Norse mythology. Like Odyssey, before it, the game is very much in its own niche timeframe neither during the Ragnar years or prior and can carve out its storyline in a time when history is lesser known.
Gameplay is slow to get going but more focussed than Odyssey. You have a base camp that needs improving and to do so you need to lead you crew of Vikings on raids of nearby Abbey’s and settlements. It makes the game different to the previous two and feels more like the classic Assassin’s Creed 2 when you were upgrading Ezio’s mansion.
The map is massive yet because it is more landlocked it lacks the WOW factor of Greece from Odyssey but gains detail and allows for the story to feel more personal and connected to the player. While each area in England has its own slight variance, there is still no doubt the country you are in and you never feel like you are doing something that isn’t relevant.
The combat is another matter. It eventually becomes what is advertised but you spend so long with just basic attacks that you wonder when Eivor is going to turn into the pillaging viking capable of cutting through Saxon soldiers.
The answer is about ten hours in. By then, Eivor will have the combat abilities for you to really get stuck into the enemy forces. It is a bit of an oversight for a game about Vikings and their vicious combat to start with a character who can only poke at people with his axe. Persevere, however, and you will turn into the Viking warrior the game promises.
Along with raids, there are sieges and storming of castles that remind you of Braveheart, where you can pick off archers or take control of the battering ram yourself. The feeling of actually storming the battlements of a castle or fort has rarely been translated in a game as well as this and every story mission that includes this, is a highlight.
There is of course some modern day trappings in the game. There are Assassins, Templars and some glitches in the system that draw you out of the fully realised world of the Animus and into the modern day.
These are necessary for the overall progression, but they really are a poor substitute in their current format. Back when you were forced to do these on a more regular basis, they may have been more annoying but felt more important. Now you can basically do the whole game without ever knowing how your actions have effected the mythos.
This is striking the first time you leave the animus as I only found out then the storyline from Odyssey, despite completing the storyline and dropping 60 hours into it. There has to be a balance between the Sci-Fi and the historical epic that the series has lost along the way. Solving the apple of Eden puzzles in the older games remains a series highlight.
In conclusion Valhalla is an excellent game, offering size, value for money and enthralling combat. Unfortunately, you can’t shake the nagging feeling that this current Assassin’s Creed formula is nearing the end of its life cycle.