It is but a short month away before the world gets its collective hands on the latest in the Assassin’s Creed series. While Ubisoft continues to create open-world playgrounds, the team seems to have struck gold with Origins first, followed by the stellar Odyssey. Now, with the time we spent with the latest build of Assassin’s Creed Valhalla, the developers have managed to retweak the idea of an Assassin’s Creed game for a more refined experience than before.
The few hours we spent in this final preview does not necessarily give us ground-breaking revelations, it is a significant improvement from our last hands-on with the game. The environments looked better, the gameplay was much smoother, and the characters definitely look like they are primed for next-gen goodness.
Armed with the main story quest of liberating the region of Ledecestrescire from King Burgred, we take our final steps in the life of a Viking in merry old Anglia. It also happens to be the first time we get a close look at what will likely take up most the player’s time.
Conquering the many territories will require a significant investment of time and effort, as you prepare Eivor in the war room. A map of the world is laid bare before you, and you get to decide which region to go after next, with its own line of quests awaiting. Marking our next stop of conquest, we arrive in the settlement of Ravensthorpe, our new home.
Assassin’s Creed Valhalla pushes the narrative of founding a new home hard, and this is where you will bear witness to your progress. Resources gained can be poured back into Ravensthorpe, opening up new buildings and upgrades that will improve your gameplay experience in a multitude of ways. Trading, upgrades, even mini-games can all be found in this bustling hub waiting to grow.
With such a big world, it would be a shame to be overwhelmed by the sheer amount of content. Thankfully, Assassin’s Creed Valhalla takes a much more measured approach, without necessarily sacrificing scope or scale. There are still plenty of side activities to get up to, but they are by no means essential or signposted in an overbearing way.
Synchronising a new area will see several coloured dots that you can pursue. They represent the different content that might pique your interest. There can be loot to find, fortresses to bring down, or Artifacts to unearth.
There are also the World Events, which are more in line with the traditional side quests you would expect in the genre. Surprisingly, Ubisoft has seemingly injected plenty of variety into such events, often leading to short and sweet sequences, and plenty of challenge and laughs along the way.
Assassin’s Creed Valhalla has been set up in a way that makes exploration organic but not less rewarding. It is entirely up to the player to experience what is on offer at their own pace. This also meant that the team had more bandwidth to beef up the main quests, which is evident based on what we played through.
The narrative arc of the conquering of Ledecestrescire saw moments of character development that is on par with the best that Odyssey could offer, and that is a high bar to match. The acting has been top-notch thus far, and if it is the same throughout the entire game, we are in for a treat.
Combat has also been tightened up, allowing you the freedom to engage how you want to. Fight on the defensive and rely on counters, building up your foe’s stun meter for a devastating blow. Or embrace your inner Viking and go all out with dual axes, giving your enemies no room to breathe. Better yet, thin out the numbers with the returning Hidden Blade, or pick them off at a distance with your bow, the possibilities are there to be explored.
This is where your gear and abilities come into play as well. Assassin’s Creed Valhalla eschews the idea of constantly giving you new loot, instead, it is focusing on quality, where you can invest and upgrade your gear to suit your playstyle. The abilities will augment your approach, giving you new ways of overcoming your opponents.
A strong narrative focus, excellent gameplay mechanics, and quality distractions meant to reward you at every turn, this final preview of Assassin’s Creed Valhalla does more so than impress. It gives us hope that Ubisoft has found a winning variant of a successful formula, and that is certainly something to savour come this November 10.