Assassin’s Creed Valhalla Review – Sharpen Your Axe

Developer Ubisoft Montreal has unleashed their epic saga Assassin’s Creed Valhalla upon the world. Is the game worthy of a Vikings journey, or should it be left in the wilderness of Norway?

Read on to find out

 

The Assassin’s Creed franchise has been around since 2007 and has now covered almost every major time frame in world history. From Ancient Egypt all the way up to the Revolutionary War, the series depicts a fictional millennia-old struggle between the Assassins, who fight for peace with free will, and the Templars, who desire peace through order and control. While the two organizations may go by different names, the struggle remains the same.

From the Frozen Lands of Norway

The last installment of the franchise, Assassin’s Creed Odyssey, placed us in Ancient Greece. Assassin’s Creed Valhalla fast forwards to 873AD to Norway, and eventually England, where we find our young protagonist and their brother fighting in a crowded land that is perpetually at war. A new King arises and unites the lands, but Eivor’s brother Sigurd, who was next in line to the throne, refuses to bend the knee to a new King, and the Raven Clan takes off for England ready to start anew.

While Assassin’s Creed Valhalla is a fictional game, it is steeped in a rich history that intertwines with the ongoing story and richly created world. Characters from our history books come to life as kingdom names such as Mercia, Wessex, and East Anglia are visited and explored. There is truth to the story of King Alfred and Valhalla brings some of it to life, albeit fictionalized and scattered with embellishments. The story telling is superb and even a cinematic experience at times. Cut scenes become must-see events that give you a knowledge and understanding of not just what’s going on, but depth of characters as well. Skipping a cut scene is not recommended. Regions on the world map can be visited at any point in the game (you can even return to Norway if you wish) but keep in mind of your current Vikings power level, as each region has a different recommended level and stronger enemies to fight.

Upgrading You Viking

As you play through the game you’ll earn skill points from completing quests and side missions, as well as by earning XP by doing different things. These skill points are then spent on your skill starmap however you wish, and can be refunded completely if you have buyer’s remorse. The skill starmap uses the night sky and starmap to track your progression, and is separated into three distinct paths: Stealth, Ranged Attacks, and Melee. You can go in any direction you wish, and can even mix and match. You can reset skill points at any time, so if one wanted too, you could use the skill system strategically based on the current task at hand. We found ourselves using a mix of stealth and head bashing quite often, so our skill star map reflects that path. Also hidden around the game world are Books of Knowledge that unlock special skills that require adrenaline to use. These focus on Ranged and Melee abilities and are very useful in a variety of situations.

The weapon system in Assassin’s Creed Valhalla also can reflect your play style, much like the skill system. If you are a basher, a nice bearded axe and heavy shield will likely come in handy, along with the appropriate heavier armor, but if you are wanting to play a little sneakier, wearing dark colored and light weight attire, coupled with a cool sword, light bow, and light shield might be a better option for you. Having a full matching set of armor increases its effectiveness and adds extra perks, so keep that in mind as you are trying out different builds. The weapons themselves are each unique and can be upgraded through items and by taking them to your blacksmith. Same goes for your armor. As you upgrade them, rune slots are unlocked which allow runes to be inserted and can give boosts in a variety of things. The skill, weapon, and armor system has some great improvements that take the game to an even higher level of RPGs.

There’s No Place Like a New Home

Once you’ve landed in England and cleared out a new place to live, you’ll need to start building your settlement. When you first start out, you’ll have a long house for you and your brother, but everyone else is living in tents. It is up to you to gather the necessary supplies and raw materials to build these folks houses and places to live, work, and trade. Once these separate buildings are built, you’ll have access to a trading post, a blacksmith, a stable, and other things. Can’t do any building without supplies, though, so you’ll need to get busy commandeering them. It’s time sharpen your axe ‘cuz it’s time to go a raiding.

Unlike sim games where you need to chop down trees and build things like saw mills to create items needed, Vikings are well known for just taking what they needed from weaker folks. In Assassin’s Creed Valhalla those weaker folks are generally found at monasteries and they tend to keep a lot of good stuff lying around in chests just ready for the taking. You’ll have to jump in your longboat where your raiding crew is ready and raring to go, which is always a horn blow away when you are near the water, then you can approach the main beach of a monastery, launch a raid and start bashing. It is possible to go in quietly in advance of a raid and take out everyone, but where’s the fun in that? Your raiding crew can upgraded as well once you build a barracks, and you’ll even get a lieutenant called a Jomsviking that you can add your armor to who can also be used by other real life players to earn you rewards.

A Huge New Land Ready for the Taking

Assassin’s Creed Valhalla has a massive map but luckily the developers know how to help you get around. You can use your boat, ride a horse, or unlock fast travel points like ports and the series staple synchronization points. When you sync a point on the map, items of interest are revealed to you and your raven, so be sure to sync any nearby points when you find them. We decided to go around and unlock a few of these and wandered into an area where the recommended power level was 260 while we were a lowly 45. While we did get the snyc point unlocked and did a quick manual game save, we were spotted on our way out of town and subsequently beat to death. That power level disparity is no joke. Some big fat guy knocked us 50 feet and killed us in one blow. OUCH! Keep that in mind if you are wanting to go exploring.

Assassin’s Creed Valhalla has a bunch of collectibles and treasures for you to find. Each region has a specific number of wealth items to collect, Roman artifacts to find, the aforementioned Books of Knowledge to locate, and other relics and mysteries to find and solve. This game isn’t designed to be a 10-12 hour march through a linear story, but more of a 50-60 hour adventure that will have you on the edge of your seat, all the while toying with your emotions.

From love to hate to traitorous actions, the game does an incredible job of not just telling a story, but having you live in it and through it. Developer Ubisoft Montreal has created a masterpiece of a game in Assassin’s Creed Valhalla and it’s one you need to play.

10


Assassin’s Creed Valhalla review code provided by publisher. For more information on scoring, please read: What our review scores really mean.