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Geek Review: Assassin’s Creed Valhalla

The only constant is change, and no other gaming franchise has come close to experiencing the transformation of the Assassin’s Creed series. While its roots were firmly entrenched in the world of stealth, the modern form is more akin to an open-world RPG that places the onus on action more than anything. Assassin’s Creed Valhalla is the zenith of that evolution, following in the legendary footsteps of Odyssey and Origins.

A stunning recreation of the England of old sets the stage for the latest conflict between the Assassins and the Templars, and it is definitely a breathtaking showcase. On the PlayStation 5, the 4K visuals and the reliable 60 frames per second creates an immersive experience unmatched for the series. When you can fast-travel across the map in five to six seconds, you are always in the thick of it.

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From the snowcapped mountains in Norway to the sprawling green plains that are littered around England, the places you will find yourself in be it day or night make for gorgeous vistas. There is always something eye catching to spot, a sense of peace and calm that pervades the countryside, only to be replaced by the roar and intensity of visceral combat. 

The day and night cycle of Assassin’s Creed Valhalla brings outs the best of what the game has to offer in terms of visuals. In conjunction with the weather and lighting effects, it is all presented as a tapestry of arresting elements that you would want to just stare at. Just find an idyllic spot and get to meditating, that short sequence is always a treat to marvel at.

At the centre of the storm lies Eivor, our main protagonist for Assassin’s Creed Valhalla. A peaceful life is not the fate of this Viking warrior. With vengeance on the mind and the strength to push all the way, you will eventually leave the wintery comforts and set your sights on England with your brother Sigurd. 

A land rife with turmoil and chaos, it will take raw determination, cunning, and plenty of killing to settle the country. While England has already seen the likes of Danish and Norse invasions, your arrival will set off the powder peg of events that has ramifications for the entire nation. The kingdoms of Mercia, East Anglia, Northumbria, and Wessex are in for a rude awakening.

It is certainly not a fairytale. The tale of Assassin’s Creed Valhalla is grounded in grit and struggles. Power is there to be grabbed, and how you proceed depends on your penchant for human relationships and lives. 

As much as one might appreciate clear cut conclusions to the many events that unfold throughout your adventures, it is this sense of uncertainty that lends weight to the many decisions you will make. 

In one instance, you are given the responsibility of investigating an act of treachery that resulted in a leader losing her beloved town. While she loves her lieutenants like family, one of them has chosen the path of betrayal. As you gather clues and chase down leads, you become the judge, jury, and executioner. Your judgment and choice are all yours to make, and the game never ever makes it clear if you were right. Just like in real life, living with the consequences is part and parcel of Assassin’s Creed Valhalla.

The confounding interests of the various factions in Assassin’s Creed Valhalla most definitely spices up the proceedings. Everyone, from the Danes, Norse, Saxon, Britons, Picts, and more have something at stake, and you will come across a bevvy of characters that mostly shine in their unique ways.

Of course, underneath it all lies the age-old conflict between the Assassins/Hidden Ones and the Templars/Order of the Ancients. While a majority of these players can be ignored as side content, some would make the presence loud and clear as you integrate yourself into the conflicts of England.

However, the Order of the Ancients is nothing but resourceful. In time, you would find that every obstacle and problem you have encountered have been touched by the shadowy organisation. That said, credit should go to Ubisoft for weaving these elements into the story without being overbearing or overshadowing your grand adventures as Eivor.

Assassin’s Creed Valhalla also suitably touches upon the Norse mythology. It is indeed a unique and interesting take on the pantheon of gods and figures that are somewhat familiar to us already. With the depths that the mythology can go into, it is great to see a take that brings something new and refreshing to the table. 

That sense of adventure and awesomeness also come across as you truly live the life of a Viking raider new to the lands. Eivor can sail the waters with her crew in their customisable longship, raid the religious settlements dotted around England for precious materials and supplies, or just explore the lands as you plot your next move.

Raiding is an integral part of Assassin’s Creed Valhalla, even if it is not always well implemented. Once you have spotted a suitable target, you can thin out the numbers as a one-person army before calling in reinforcements, or smash head-on with the defenders by blowing your raiding horn. 

Either way, it is always fun to see the mayhem unfold, and another opportunity for the game’s combat to shine. All the smaller raids will warm you up quite nicely for the bigger showpiece events that are sieges. Often a concluding battle to the game’s longer questlines, these are occasions when you lead your army against the defences of uncooperative leaders and lords.

Suitably, the battles are some of the more grand sequences players will enjoy in Assassin’s Creed Valhalla. Destroying gates with battering rams, breaching the keeps, and taking down a big bad in epic combat, the satisfying loop of the siege warfare retains its charm even if it is a tad too repetitive. 

Despite that, the combat is truly the star of the show in Assassin’s Creed Valhalla. It will feel heavier as compared to Odyssey, but it is a change that fits this particular game really well. With Eivor packing more heft, every blow, parry, or block feels distinctly solid and powerful. The slower combat also forces you to read situations better, especially with new enemy types that all have different behaviours and require a certain approach to best them.

The gear that you equip will also play a huge role in how you deal with combat. Gone are the days of miscellaneous weapons and armour that are considered junk. Assassin’s Creed Valhalla has trimmed the fat, leading to a list of equipment that has unique perks and fit nicely into every category you can think of.

If there is a particular axe, sword, or anything in between that you absolutely adore, you can always upgrade them to match your current level. As long as you have the required materials, you never have to lose a favourite of yours. This is the kind of attachment one can get used to.

Not only will higher quality gear have better stats, but their appearances might also change to reflect their new status. They can then be further augmented with runes for a fun twist on gameplay. 

In addition to the gear, the way Assassin’s Creed Valhalla deals with abilities has also changed. Levelling up grants you skills points, which can be invested into a branching skill tree to unlock passive bonuses and augmentation of existing moves. For those cooler abilities, you will need to hunt down books of knowledge around the world.

This can be frustrating for players who want to see the cool stuff earlier on in the game. Assassin’s Creed Valhalla is definitely designed to reward investment, and combat gets substantially better once you have a bevvy of skills to rely on. 

Even the skill tree can be frustrating, as the latter clusters of upgrades in the areas of combat, stealth, and ranged combat are covered by fog. Only when you have unlocked the linking node does it gets unveiled. Not being able to map out your progression with full details can be a hassle, but the game at least remedies this by allowing you to reset your skills at any time, with whichever areas you have uncovered staying visible. 

Dispatching enemies, settling the lands, and hoarding resources are great fun, but those resources have to be put to use somewhere, and that is where the settlement aspect of Assassin’s Creed Valhalla comes into play.

Designed as a home base of sorts, this is where Eivor can come back to rest and survey the tangible progress the Vikings have made in this new foreign land. 

Adding different buildings open up more opportunities for more adventures and convenience. The stables give you access to new mounts and training, while the blacksmith lets your upgrade your weapons and armour. Unlocking new capabilities and adding more visual flair to your town can be an intoxicating gameplay loop.

Unfortunately, the excitement will eventually subside as you trade new functions for statistical benefits instead. At least the many NPCs that flood to the settlement bring plenty of personality and sometimes interesting side stories to fill the gap. Ubisoft definitely has something good on their hands here, and it bodes well for the future.

Once you venture out of the safety of your town into the world, there is more than just combat awaiting the mighty Viking. Main story quests can take you across the world, while smaller sidequests are dotted around the different regions. Instead of overwhelming you with an exhaustive list of things to do, Assassin’s Creed Valhalla trades that for a more organic way of discovering potential points of interests.

Be it the mysteries, artifacts, or wealth, riding around England will clue you in on where these interesting content are. Whether you pursue them is entirely up to you. Mysteries can range from a mundane hide and seek game to truly bizarre circumstances, it is highly recommended that you enjoy the mysteries you find whenever you can. It is always nice to have a break from the realities of war with a descend into the unknown.

For a game as large as Assassin’s Creed Valhalla, it is likely that there will be hiccups here and there. Quest progression becomes an issue when important characters go missing, enemies can become invulnerable, while Eivor can get afflicted with an eternal arrow on her arm that appears in every scene. The list goes on.

The game is buggy, but none of it could not be fixed with a quick reload of an autosave. While that does not excuse the state of the game, it is important to note that they exist as minor inconveniences, rather than truly game-breaking annoyances.

As an entire experience, there is no doubt that Assassin’s Creed Valhalla is the culmination of everything awesome about the modern Assassin’s Creed series. It dares to aim high and go big, and largely succeeds in all fronts. 

Adding fresh dimensions to the loot and quest systems definitely helped, while the combat remains a stellar component that does not disappoint. Assassin’s Creed Valhalla looks amazing, plays great, and you cannot ask for more than that. Maybe fewer bugs and glitches, but you can blame the Animus for that.

Assassin’s Creed Valhalla is available on the PS5 via the PSN Store for $84.90.

GEEK REVIEW SCORE

Summary

A massive undertaking that takes full advantage of the new consoles, this is one adventure you won’t want to miss.

Overall
8.9/10
8.9/10
  • Gameplay - 9/10
    9/10
  • Story - 8.5/10
    8.5/10
  • Presentation - 9/10
    9/10
  • Value - 9/10
    9/10


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