I was determined to dislike Assassin’s Creed Valhalla even before its release. An RPG-fied version of a stealth game that we all love? No thank you. Ravens instead of Eagles? What is this, Game of Thrones? Unacceptable. Apart from these irredeemable shortcomings, Valhalla is actually quite ok (I say, after completing over 40 hours of gameplay).
The Story: The game starts with the tragic incident in Eivor’s childhood. It seals the adventurous and revenge-seeking nature of his/her future, as well as their hatred for wolves. The story takes us from wintery Norway, to green hamlets in an England in turmoil, and even Asgard (through Eivor’s hallucinations). The link to the story outside the Animus is now stronger, with more frequent visits to the outside world and associates discussions. The chronology inside the Animus moving closer to civilisation as we know it, the Assassin’s Guild is not established, and the Templar order gains more structure. This brings several throwback moments into the older games in the series, upping the nostalgia feature.
Exploration: To compensate for the lack of obvious side missions, the lands force us to explore them to uncover mysteries and collect wealth to level up our settlement. The mysteries hold delightful small story sequences within them, giving us an insight into the game’s universe and lives of the NPCs. It is easy to get diverted by the glowing indicators on the map, and ride towards them, abandoning our core objectives. I personally loved the boardgame Orlog introduced in Valhalla.
Gameplay: The gameplay of Valhalla is as convoluted as we’ve ever seen in the series. The skill tree that we were familiar with in Odyssey and Origins had evolved into something of a skill forest. Each tree is a separate constellation, unlocking minor skill-ups and one major power. Considering it’s complexity, the game allows us to modify ours skills at will at any point. Instead of levels, we have powers — and the climb is not as steep as the previous games. It makes the reward system more gratifying. The combat starts out quite tame, but as we move up in powers, the finishers and unique abilities come into play, and grow more nuanced based on enemy archetype. The game has made face-to-face engagement more entertaining, and we might surprise ourselves by choosing to upgrade melee abilities over stealth.
While these are amazing updates, Valhalla does not redress the complaints that everyone had of the last few games — the grind. A consequence of the longevity of the gameplay is that the quests get repetitive over time. We will find ourselves skilling cutscenes often. But the game overall is still enjoyable, and buying it would not involve the risk of a leap of faith. Skal!
(This economics graduate spends her leisure time preparing for the zombie apocalypse)