Slowly, but surely I am playing through the entire Assassin’s Creed main game series. Albeit very out-of-sequence. AC: Valhalla is the third game featuring protagonist Layla Hassan, now living the memories of an 8th century Viking named Eivor. More than the struggle between Assassin and Templar, you’ll spend time on a conquest of England in this epic action RPG. The familiar game-building techniques of developers Ubisoft are layered on a canvas more massive than I’ve ever seen them paint. Conquering territories, making allies, upgrading your arsenal, lots of common practices in AC games. Still, Valhalla feels unique. Even following AC: Odyssey, arguably the best in the series, Valhalla still claims its fair share of glory.
The combat system of Origins and Odyssey returns, with minor adjustments. Most notably of which is a stamina gauge you’ll have to manage. The new tweaks work effectively. Maybe why I always wished to be fighting instead of doing whatever quest I was on. After seventy hours, I still want more combat, and bigger bosses. The skill tree seems like a total disaster at first, but it played out just fine for me. Focus on skills that’ll help you, and pick up any valuable passive nodes along the way.
Not every minute of my seventy hour story playthrough was enjoyable, but I always respected the effort being made. I sometimes found myself bored by the chores I was undertaking for the leaders of areas I wished alliances within. The game seems to push you to tedium. At times I found myself getting frustrated by how the story wasn’t really going anywhere. At the end of the game, so much of what I had done felt meaningless, which is especially disappointing when the illusion of choice is presented the way it is.
There are far too many side activities for most of them to ultimately be collecting uninteresting loot. There are a handful of side quests, which are generally wrapped up quickly and easily. A lot of time can be spent looking for the way into the room where you know the loot’s exact location, but this was an extremely unsatisfying activity for me. I wore the exact same armor set literally the entire game. This was fine, because everything can be upgraded to the point that if you want to do this, you easily can.
I did switch out weapons, however. There are some really cool weapon types, and you can even dual wield weapons, which is aided by certain skills. I preferred the morning star flail, becoming a master with his tool. Every weapon type has subtleties. If I were to play more, I would like to experiment with dual wielding, as it was something I never really touched due to the fact I wanted to focus skill points elsewhere.
Valhalla looks incredible. I can almost feel the cold as I track through the snow, or smell the lavender as I ride through a field. Detail resides wherever you look. Color is vibrant and utilizes the full rainbow. On my Xbox Series X it can run in two modes focusing on performance or graphics. I ran with the graphical option, which made a great display of ray tracing. Some of my favorite moments playing this game were traveling, or otherwise taking in the sights. The sound design is solid, with an excellent soundtrack of music that suits the atmosphere fantastically well.
The ending of the game was as satisfying as it was confusing. A million twists get thrown at you, and I am left reeling. What else do we expect from this franchise? The conclusion is always a whirlwind of colliding timelines, story arcs, lore dumps and far out sci-fi. I speak of the ending because I don’t want you to be discouraged during the moments where this game gets a little boring. If you are a true AC fan, stick with it. My promise is that you will be very excited for what is next, as well as find some nice closure for what you’ve been doing. I highly recommend you play the two games prior to Valhalla before you get to this one. It will help you understand, and also deeply enrich your experience.
Classic Assassin’s Creed fans may be let down by the lack of stealth in Valhalla, but Vikings aren’t really known for the modest path. Not to say you won’t be infiltrating, sneaking and executing, just not as much as other games. For this reason I am excited for the next game: Mirage. Ubisoft promises Mirage will take us back to the series’ roots for a shorter, stealth and parkour based experience. They will also continue the action RPG style of games with a title set in feudal Japan, a setting fans have desperately craved for fifteen years since the first game launched.
There is a lot of additional content if you want to keep playing after you beat the main story. For me, the shelf is where this one will go. Someday, I may delve back into this trilogy and do each with a New Game Plus and/or do all the DLC, but that time is not now. For the time being, I will keep progressing through the series. I have four games left, and they all fall in sequence with each other. For this reason I may actually play them in order, if you can believe such a thing is possible.
Assassin’s Creed Valhalla might not have been the perfect game, but it was fantastic nonetheless. I only paid $30 for a used copy, quite cheap considering what you’re getting. With the holidays coming up, I’m sure you can find a copy somewhere on sale. I knew nothing of Viking lore, or tradition before this game, but now I’m in love. If you’ve never played Assassin’s Creed, this might not be the best place to start, but this memorable saga a fine destination.
Credit: Assassin’s Creed Valhalla. Screenshots by me.