Assassin’s Creed Valhalla is the 12th (not looking at you Chronicles) and latest edition to join the ranks of the highly accredited franchise. Without leaning too heavily into the obvious, Assassin’s Creed Valhalla, from here on out just referred to as Valhalla, brings the Viking raids of England during the Middle Ages to life and throws you right into the axe-to-shield action with our protagonist, Eivor.
Much like Origins and Odyssey, Valhalla steps further into the realm of Open World gaming and further away from the two-button fighting that we all knew and loved (don’t lie to yourself now) from the first couple of Assassin’s Creed titles.
Valhalla drops you into the world of the Vikingr in 873 AD which, for you history boffins, is well into the Viking Age of England and all manner of Vikings (and other raiders) have been on the shores and in the four kingdoms of England for some time already. You pick up the story of Eivor as a tragic event mars the narrative of his (her? more on this later) life and sends him on a lifelong quest for vengeance. Jump ahead a few years and we pick up the story again with Eivor Wolf-Kissed of the Raven clan and his adoptive brother Sigurd as another surprise decision sends them packing from Norway and towards England to seize their own destinies and make a new life, and kingdom, for themselves in the land of the Christian god.
In this version of Assassin’s Creed, the usual Brotherhood vs Templar battle is, of course, raging in the shadows (cue the motto) with the Templar order being the undisputed stronger party in the start of the game as it’s wretched hand stretches across continents and its influence can be seen everywhere. In Valhalla, the names of the factions look a little different with the Brotherhood going by “The Hidden Ones” and the Templars going by “The Order of the Ancients.”
I like it.
Eivor is the playable character of Valhalla and, like Odyssey, you as the player can choose if you’d like Eivor to be male or female or let the game change between the two for you depending on the story. I originally chose male, as I am male and generally like to feel like it’s me parkouring to the top of buildings and leap-of-faith’ing it into a haystack, but I have also dabbled a little with the female version of Eivor to test it out for the sake of this review of course. For the remainder of the review, and as it has already happened, I will refer to Eivor as a male as that is what I mostly played him as.
Eivor is a devoted and skilled Viking warrior who takes on a lot of the responsibility of establishing a new home for the Raven clan in England. He also is not afraid of death as he can be heard many times in the game making statements about destiny and his death being woven into the fabric of time.
As a bonus, Eivor is almost fully customisable as you can choose from a variety of hairstyles, beard styles and tattoos to create your own personal look.
Valhalla is initially set in Norway and then in the four English kingdoms known as Wessex, Mercia, East Anglia and Northumbria, as well as one other location, but that would be telling now wouldn’t it?
Norway was an absolutely incredible start to the game with the snowy peaks and rocky outcrops making a near-perfect setting for the Norse town of Rygjafylke (no, that’s not a typo). At night the aurora lights up the sky in a spectacular way that almost makes you want to find the highest perch and then just be in the moment with it.
England is a stark contrast to the snowy expanse of Norway but has its own beauty in all of the well-designed areas. The land is as diverse as the people fighting over it, with green hills, swamps and forested areas being broken by small villages, stone walls and Roman ruins. The weather in England helps add to the effect with thick fog and bursts of rain making it all the more realistic.
One thing that needs to be commented on, with my playing this on the original Xbox One (here’s to hoping I get a Series S or X soon) the graphics, although not as great as they would be if experienced in all its 4K glory, are still incredible. The game does favour frame rate over graphic quality though and so I did notice that in times of “high-render” the quality of what I was seeing would drop ever so slightly so as to keep the game running silky smooth. Now some might not like this too much, but I don’t really have an issue with it.
Staying true to the Assassin’s Creed spirit, running up walls, leaping across rooftops and all other manners of parkour are prevalent in Valhalla. As they should be.
Feeling like a ninja is part of the DNA of the Assassin’s Creed franchise as much as the hood and hidden blade are and to have a game without them would not work.
The fighting in Valhalla is a far cry from the “counter and parry” type of gameplay that we all know from the start of the game series where you could take down a whole hoard of angry soldiers by just holding down one button and patiently waiting to launch your counter.
Valhalla takes it’s fighting to a new skills bracket and sits comfortably on the bench alongside Origins and Odyssey with your fight options being blocking, ranged, heavy attack and light attack. With this, some skills, careful timing and wise movement choices are needed to not be made to look silly and left looking at the loading screen of shame after some foe made quick work of you. Each type of foe you face also has a different way that you need to best them and so you need to be on your toes in your tactics against them as the “one size fits all” rule definitely does not apply here. Once you start to put together some formidable combos and dominate the battlefield, you really do start to feel like the Viking you’re playing as.
The gameplay focuses more on turning your foothold of a settlement in England into a stronghold of a homestead and securing allies in different territories than it does on taking down the members in the Order of the Ancients. You can, of course, focus in on the Hidden One’s missions and eliminate every Templar scum that you can, and you will get some cool perks for doing this, but if you choose to just go a vikingr then you will only eliminate those Templar that sit where the interests of the Hidden Ones and the interests of your settling in England align.
Along with this, Viking (to raid) is a massive part of the game as you storm monasteries, army camps and strongholds from your longboat, burning and pillaging as villagers and monks flee in terror, flailing arms included. All so that you can take the hard-earned resources back to Ravensthorpe and further build and establish your Viking Homestead in England.
As a die-hard Assassin’s Creed fan who has played, and owns, every Assassin’s Creed title to date (sit down Chronicles), I started my journey with my sceptic hat on to try and see the game as objectively as I could and not fangirl it as hard as I secretly have been since it was announced. This hat was quickly blown off as Valhalla rapidly became the best Assassin’s Creed title I have ever played. Sure, getting it before launch meant that it came with its share of bugs and glitches (most of which were fixed in the Day One patch – big up to the team at Ubisoft for that one), but all of that pales in comparison to the absolute masterpiece that I found in Valhalla. During my review process, I honestly found myself so immersed in the game that hours would pass by without my even realising it – a phenomenon that hasn’t happened since I was a kid. I also kept finding myself wanting to come back to play more and thinking about where to go next in the game while not playing it.
So, overall. I give the 12th, latest and best (in my opinion) Assassin’s Creed title a whopping 9 out of 10 stars.
A big thank you to Ubisoft and Prima Interactive for giving us the chance to review the game.
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