Assassin's Creed Valhalla
Let me be clear (because I know it happens a lot with these games), I have not listened to a single other opinion or review on this game, these thoughts are completely my own.
Assassin’s Creed Valhalla. What is this one, number 10? You kinda lose track of them after they start giving them names instead of numbers, like Call of Duty did. There’s been a LOT of great Assassin’s Creed games, my personal favorites being Black Flag and Brotherhood, in fact Black Flag IS one of my most favorite games in general. There’s been some real mediocre ones, such as 3 or Rogue, which just seemed like they have good intentions but just a rough way of portraying things.
The franchise of Assassin’s Creed has always stuck to VERY specific guidelines, but like most games, the gameplay became VERY stale, the worlds were lifeless, and the combat (heaven forbid) was just copy paste from game to game. I still remember when Unity came out, the PREVIOUS massive next gen console release Assassin’s Creed game, and man that game was RIDDLED with problems. Bugs, graphical issues, crashes, but at it’s CORE a really solid and fun game. Sadly, you can’t really overlook a bunch of characters walking around with nothing but floating eye balls, or your character constantly getting invisibly snared on, well, nothing. It sucked to see how such a fun and innovative (because it really was, if you ever got around to forgiving Ubi and playing it) game could crash so hard.
This was my greatest fear for Valhalla. After Unity, things started to DRASTICALLY change for the Assassin’s Creed, and long story short, the games became a more RPG focused “hack-and-slash” title. Now, Origins was the first to start this, and I’ll be frank, I liked the world but didn’t like the game itself. It just felt like a trial run for what they would eventually WANT out of the titles. Odyssey was far better, in fact, probably one of the top 5 best AC games out there. Yes, it had it’s problems, but you have to admit they created one of the most beautiful and filled worlds to explore for literal thousands of hours. But of course, Odyssey had one big downfall that eventually made me lose complete interest in it.
The tedious questing, copy paste “A-to-B” missions, even the bounties got tiring after a while. All I wanted to do was have a compelling story as to WHY I was doing anything I was, and it just felt like Ubisoft created the massive and beyond impressive open world to cover up for the fact that, well, the story would leave you a little… disengaged.
And then comes Valhalla.
Now I’m ASSUMING that a lot of people are going to say things a lot different than I am here, but that’s fine, these are totally my personal thoughts anyways.
Assassin’s Creed Valhalla is, and I’m just going to say it, an 8/10 game. It’s not perfect, but dang is it recreating the way open world games work AND bringing engagement like I’ve never seen it before. Lets talk about that.
Open world games these days have a tendency to drag players through frustratingly boring and mediocre quests for HOURS or end, just to keep them playing, calling it “content”. I don’t know about you, but as a content creator, if I make a terrible video (which trust me, it’s happened a couple times), I’ll just delete it and move on. My reason? Cause content is supposed to be entertaining a good, enticing and bold. Not repetitive and monotonous. Odyssey was just that, a hard pill to swallow because everything felt so shallow. The stories that COULD’VE been told in amazing exposition, yet totally overlooked and typically botched as a result. Valhalla, on the other hand changes this.
Assassin’s Creed Valhalla is a game about vikings, and as such, you are brutal, you are ruthless, you care VERY little about new worlds opinions, and you are out for conquest and mead. This game somehow manages to take THAT premise (obviously there’s a BIT more to it than just that, but you get my point) and spin it into something so entertaining to play and watch unfold. There’s a lot to these characters as well, which is probably one of my favorite parts, and not JUST the main characters, but we’ll get to that later.
The MAIN characters of Valhalla have so much life and charisma, each of them feeling very much there own person, rather than in Odyssey where when I met one person I felt like I had met everyone. Instead of just kind of teetering on the cliff of “Everyone is just likable,” which most games push hard, this game shows a very positive side to characters, alongside a negative one that makes you question if they ever were who they came across as in the first place.
The main campaign is solid, nothing TOO spectacular, but definitely entertaining and attention holding. They’ve created such a unique story to tell around this era that really does keep you playing IT among the other things you can do. The story of this game is the actual focus, and the secondary items are amazing world builders. I feel as though that’s how most games SHOULD be, but just fail miserably as they get carried away by how most players don’t have an attention span to go through an entire campaign so just give em a bunch of side quests to play before they just quit.
The World and Questing
The world in Assassin’s Creed Valhalla is hands down one of the best maps (if not THEE best map out of any in the series). There’s something about the variety, architecture, and the beyond amazing scenic views that makes exploring anything BUT a chore, unlike some other open world games. In Valhalla, you WANT to climb to the highest points so you can see even further into regions you couldn’t originally. You ride your mount as far as you can to make sure no ground is left unchecked. But I believe there’s one key element that really ties this all together. The Questing.
This game has completely changed how questing works, educating players that they will not rack up literal dozens of stupid useless journal quests like in previous title, rather, everything is ON THE SPOT questing. What that means, is that if you want to complete a quest (which is always discovered either by exploration or synchronizing with a region) you will see small markers that signify SOMETHING is there. So now, instead of going to town, having John the blacksmith LOAD you up with quests, you “discover” them via exploring the map. This, in my opinion, is the absolute PEAK of open world exploration value. It doesn’t force you to explore, it makes you want to.
Not only that, the questing is worth it. I found that in previous titles, even other games, that questing ended up feeling useless or boring. There weren’t many engaging characters or stories, and most of the time I was just an overpowered mail man. That sucked. Valhalla has flipped that around, and literally made each and every discovery worth your while, whether it be for weaponry, armor, artifacts, ancient knowledge (which is how you learn your abilities, by the way), or some people who need help, there’s reason and rhyme. I haven’t done a SINGLE quest for a person that I’ve not enjoyed, each one tells a great story, can be beyond ridiculous, or just gives you more knowledge on England at the time. No more copy paste missions, each of these is important, fun to complete, and doesn’t pressure you.
The Combat and Gameplay
Valhalla is a build up of what Origins and Odyssey laid the foundation for, then some. I felt like I was playing Ghost of Tsushima, mixed with a pinch of dark souls, and finally for honor. The combat is definitely fun, but at times I felt it could be a little… bland. Not intense, might be a better way to put it. Being the absolute GAMER that I am, I am playing on the hardest difficulty possible (both in combat and stealth), yet it’s not unforgiving. Take Tsushima for example, in that game even the most BASIC of enemies can absolutely kick your teeth in if you’re not paying attention, because it’s a game driven on combat as the main focus. Valhalla is as well, but maybe just went a bit too simple. Some of the enemies can hit me a solid 5-10 times before I drop (or more if I pop in a consumable to heal up), and even the “above your level” bosses STILL can’t kill you in one hit, unless you didn’t bother to level up at all.
Now, this isn’t to say it’s not fun, it’s VERY fun, in fact, some of the combat moments are so action packed that it creates this insanely brutal Viking cinematic, you might say. Just a heap of Vikings against a bunch of English folks, and man are they bloody battles. Limbs flying off, blood splatters litter the battlefield, the “finisher” abilities are above and beyond what they needed to be, but epic all the same. You can use WHATEVER weapons you want, and even in combos! Most people playing are going to use the Dual Shield tactic, where you just bash everyone around with shields. You can have massive two handed weaponry, sword and shield, dual wield, and then a variety of specific weapons types! Flails, maces, swords, daggers, and of course axes. I’m sure there’s more, but those are the ones that I have been playing around with the most.
The gameplay alongside the combat is so fluid and natural. I recently replayed Assassin’s Creed 3, and MAN was that a difficult time to drag through. Although fun parkour, it was like handling a stick shift car but using your hand OPPOSITE of the stick to change gears. In short, annoying and frustrating mechanics. Valhalla, on the other hand, is obviously just a continuation of the enhanced parkour and free running mechanics they’ve been developing, and although still buggy or lame in certain areas (One time I leap of faith’d into a cement floor… right NEXT to the hay stack), it’s got charm in this game. As a big hulking Viking, it feels more… clunky? But still fluid. The game needs to give that Viking vibe of being a behemoth of a human, yet still someone who’s able to manage all that body and be agile as an assassin.
Abilities and Skills
I feel like this part rightly fits after talking about combat and gameplay. I won’t go into crazy specifics with this part, but I DID want to mention it’s absolute fantastic system.
First off, the abilities. They are no longer just THERE for you to build up to, rather, you must explore the world, typically ancient crypts, to find the “knowledge” of these abilities. Once you claim the knowledge, you know the ability. This alternative way to learn abilities is, I believe, a great way to allow for the player to build up the SECOND thing we’ll talk about, the skill tree.
This skill tree is crazy massive, yet intricately detailed in a way that SLIGHTLY improves your character with each ranking (Similar to the badass tokens in Borderlands 2), yet the game rewards the players with MANY skill points if you’re out exploring and getting stuff done. This tree continues to expand into foggy areas on the screen as you place your points, and then THOSE trees break off into MORE, and so on. I’ve put a ton of time in the game already, and still haven’t found where they all end, but right now, I’m happy knowing that I’m no where NEAR close to being the mightiest warrior, and that’s at 30 hours in.
I’ve already dragged on for WAYYY longer than I expected to with this review, but with Valhalla, it’s kinda worth spending the time explaining the positives of the game in a community that tends to be a little more…. critical.
I have only played for 30 or so hours, but have absolutely loved my time. The exploration and questing is a step above what I hoped for, and really impressed me with how engaged I was in the open world for once. I wasn’t bored of exploring, heck, most of the time I DID most of the stuff I came across without just “discovering” it and saving it for a rainy day.
Assassin’s Creed Valhalla is a brutal yet beautiful open world game, featuring some of the most stunning scenery and amazingly graphic combat I’ve seen. It’s definitely a game you could sink a hundred hours into, if you wanted to, with some of the most expansive skill trees I’ve ever seen in a game.
For those not really wanting a review of the game, but rather a content advisory, I got you covered.
Assassin’s Creed is not particularly for those queasy at the sight of intense violence and gore. Although you CAN turn off dismemberment and blood, it really doesn’t help tone down the absolute brutality of the abilities you can use against your foes. You’ll still be impaling with poles, shoving daggers threw throats, and my personal favorite, ramming an axe into a chin, and then stomping on their head when they go down. They is incredibly graphic violence in the game.
The game DOES include nudity, but can be toggled off for those that want to avoid those sometimes awkward situations.
Language is at it’s peak, and you will hear a ton of colorful and graphic language being used, constantly, whether in battle or just talking to folks in the game.
There’s QUITE a bit of verbal sexual content, just lots of coarse joking or innuendo’s throughout the game, and most of tied heavily into the story, so unless you want to just skip most of the dialogue (which you CAN), you’ll hear a lot of that kind of stuff.
Drinking is HUGE in this game, I mean, you’re Vikings. There’s plenty of drinking games to partake in, mushrooms to get high on, and you can abuse them all to the point of hallucinations or just an incredibly blurry and wobbly screen (and character).