So here we are with another Assassin’s Creed game from Ubisoft, with the much anticipated Assassin’s Creed: Valhalla. Just like Origins and Odyssey, the game continues the franchise’s trajectory towards being more of an open-world RPG. Before you even start the game, you’re given difficulty options for exploration, combat and stealth. As someone with all the stealth and subtlety of a brick through a window, I liked how I had the option to set the stealth to ‘easy’. It also allows the player to focus on what they enjoy the most. You are also given the option to play as a male or female character. Is it only a matter of time now until the characters are fully customisable in true RPG fashion?
In Valhalla, you travel from Norway to conquer and settle in England. In order to survive, Eivor and the clan must forge alliances with other Vikings and Anglo-Saxons alike. There is also the present-day story running alongside the historic, which has seemed quite empty since the departure of Desmond. However, there seems to be more focus on this again recently, which is pleasing! Throughout the world whilst playing as Eivor you will find anomalies, which are basically puzzles that you solve whilst playing as Layla. A bit like the glyphs from 2 if you remember those! Each of these contains a mysterious clip. Find them all to uncover the mystery. I love the inclusion of these so that’s a big thumbs up from me.
I did wonder how they planned on linking Assassins to Vikings, given the two share no similarities, but early on we are introduced to two travellers and suddenly I found myself wondering how this thought hadn’t occurred to me before. Vikings were well-known for their regular voyages to foreign lands. The game makes reference to the original Assassin’s Creed game, including the missing finger to allow the hidden blade to work. Something we haven’t seen in a long time. Historically, this game is also the closest to the original game, with Valhalla being set in 873 AD and the first game in 1193 AD. Although at this point the franchise doesn’t really follow a long story arc involving the Assassins, I still appreciated the link and their inclusion throughout the whole game. I also enjoyed how the game was able to link Eivor’s story to the Assassin’s quest to rid England of Templar influence.
The general mechanics of the game are pretty much the same as the previous 2 instalments. There’s loot to find, mysteries to uncover and side quests to complete. The map is enormous too, so you can easily lose hours just exploring. Some of this can feel a little repetitive, but the main story is engaging and satisfying. The skill tree is expertly designed too, touching on the spirituality of the Vikings. It is shown in the sky in the form of constellations, where Eivor can draw upon the strength of Odin to enhance his or her abilities. There are three lines that can be followed which basically put focus on Stealth, Melee or Ranged. It’s quite difficult to follow where each branch leads though, as it is shrouded in fog until you unlock more of it. You do have the ability to unassign and reassign skills though.
This game is brutal and graphic in it’s violence too, more so than I expected. Not that it’s a bad thing though, it’s very in keeping with the historical setting. The combat is what you’d expect although some changes have been made which took a little getting used to for me. I actually gave up on using keyboard and mouse too as I found it much more manageable with a controller. As you progress through the skill tree, you unlock new skills for Eivor to use in combat. Enemies are also pretty predictable, repeating the same moves. Same goes for boss fights. Once you’ve learnt the moves, they’re pretty easy to defeat. Some changes have been made, in that you now deal a nominal damage value, rather than a headshot guaranteeing a kill. This is another step more towards being an RPG, and the Norway scenes even resemble that of Skyrim. Apparently my ability to leap off synchronization points and smash my face into the ground is still intact. I found with some synchronization points there was no obvious place for me to leap from, as the scenes in Norway have no handy pile of hay to land in. Although this is before I was taught the leap of faith, so maybe that was the point?
I was actually having a few performance issues with this on PC which I wasn’t expecting. I kept experiencing regular dips in the frame rate, sometimes as low as 20 FPS. All the settings are automatically maxed out, so I just adjusted textures etc down to medium. But even so, I shouldn’t have needed to. Even after this, I did still experience the occasional dip in frame rate. The game did seem a little buggy at times too. There was one particular part of the game where I was following Hytham, one of the Assassin’s who accompanied us to England. I was instructed to follow him but he wasn’t going anywhere, I couldn’t seem to prompt him either and ended up having to restart the game. There were also a few occasions where I was traversing down the landscape and got stuck in the sliding animation whilst in mid-air.