Review: Assassin’s Creed Valhalla
It's finally time to talk about Assassin's Creed: Valhalla. Ubisoft 's latest open-world Assassin's Creed game. After the great success of Odyssey, among others, we could hardly wait to discover this new world.
In Assassin's Creed Valhalla, we leave ancient Egypt and ancient Greece and travel to England. Curious, yet scared, I started my adventure in this new Assassin's Creed. Afraid that I would find it less fat than Odyssey. Assassin's Creed Odyssey was an incredibly good game and I couldn't imagine Ubisoft surpassing it. But wow. She succeeded.
After 50 hours of Origins and over 90 hours for platinum in Odyssey, it's time for a new adventure.
A false start
Assassin's Creed Valhalla starts off with a fairly long opening, a lot longer than its predecessor. Soon you make the choice to play as either the male or female Eivor. Don't worry, either choice is fine. Where in Odyssey it was the best choice to choose Kassandra, it makes no difference here for the overarching story.
The story does not start in England, but in Scandinavia. For the first few hours of the game, the story starts up slowly and you become familiar with many of the new elements in Valhalla. The game really starts when you cross the sea and explore the green pastures of England. Despite Valhalla's strong reliance on its predecessors, it innovates and improves on almost all fronts, which necessitated some getting used to and adjusting expectations. In the end, all for the best.
The Open World
One of the first things you notice while playing the game is the world map. There are no more infamous Ubisoft question marks. Luminous dots appear on the map instead of question marks. These can have three different colors. Golden yellow, light blue and white.
The color indicates what kind of activity it represents. Golden yellow means that there is loot. This can range from equipment to boost your gear, new abilities, new gear and more. Light blue means there is mystery. These are open-world activities. You'll find them in the form of puzzles, challenges, special battles, unique experiences and very short, but carefully crafted side-quests. We'll go into this a little deeper in a moment.
Finally, there are white dots. These are artifacts. Collectibles such as Roman masks and new tattoo designs. The tattoo designs are collected in the same way as new songs for your crew in Assassin's Creed: Black Flag. While running over roofs, trees and objects you try to get hold of the piece of paper.
Storylines in Assassin's Creed Valhalla
Stories and quests are told in a completely different way in this new Assassin's Creed. First, only main storylines appear in your quest menu. Side quests are found in the open world as mysteries and they do not appear in your quest menu. As a result, the time of following markers on the map is a thing of the past. You are forced to listen to the people and take the logical steps that are expected of you. These can be very different and are not part of your traditional fetch quests. Each side-quest is a fun activity in its own right.
For example, I came across a person who was standing almost naked on a mountain ridge. He made me steal the laundry basket full of clothes from another group of people so that everyone in that group would no longer have clothes to put on. In another quest, I had to resolve a neighbor's quarrel by destroying their entire farm so they couldn't argue with each other about their farm's yields.
Because you can no longer simply rely on a marker on your map to point out your next step, you are always invested in the world around you and you are attentively exploring and playing. In a sense, this also applies to the major storylines that you follow.
A real Assassin's Creed RPG
Choices you make in Valhalla affect the turn of the story. Quite early in the story you have to point out a bad apple in the group and for that you have to conduct research. You can ask bystanders, but you can also look for clues in the region that can help you. It is the intention here to pay close attention because eventually you judge someone, and there is no turning back.
The game does not force you to do certain things. If you don't feel like doing extensive research, but want to make a blind judgment, you can. Assassin's Creed Valhalla has tremendous respect for your own will. That is expressed in the open world, the story, its execution and the play styles that you can adopt in this part.
You play a Viking and an Assassin at the same time. With the return of the Hidden Blade, as well as a wide arsenal of other weapons and special attacks, you're freer than ever to get to work. Even during narrative missions, your choice is free. If you are going to storm a fortress with a warband of Vikings you have the option to first enter yourself via a shortcut to thin out the herd, but you can also storm the fort together immediately.
It plays unbelievably nice
The implementation of this freedom manifests itself in truly brilliant and agile gameplay. Combat is wonderfully fluid and enemies are set up slightly differently than in previous parts. Once you're seen by one person and he doesn't ring all the alarm bells, no one else will know about your presence. It's more realistic than ever, so you can really play the silent killer this time. All the elements you might have missed from Origins and Valhalla are back. A cloak, the ability to hide in bales, and mingle in crowds to sneak past guards or escape.
So it plays like a real open-world Assassin's game, with the Assassin part not being a backwards game like the previous two titles. Even the stronger enemies can be eliminated in one go with the right skills. That while the playstyle from the previous two parts still works very well, if not much better! You have a wide arsenal of different weapons and equipment and here you are also completely free to fill it in your way.
If you've played Origins and Odyssey, you may be familiar with juggling weapons and armor to always get the best gear. Those days are over in Valhalla. There is no longer an abundance of weapons and equipment. Weapons and gear are now rare finds, each unique with its own stats and appearance. Armor and weapons you like can then be upgraded to provide them with higher stats and slots for runes.
You also no longer have a level in Assassin's Creed Valhalla. You do get XP for pretty much everything you do in the world. Each 'level' gives you two skill points to use in the very extensive skill tree. Where you previously became stronger with new weapons, this is now via the skill tree. It is split into three branches. Melee, stealth and ranged.
You are completely free to fill these in in your own way and you continuously unlock new branches in the skill tree with new passive and active skills. Passive skills mainly consist of increases in stats such as more damage, more defense and more lives. Active skills are marked as a larger node and will expand your skillset with new ways to attack, or additional ability bars.
Take your time in Assassin's Creed Valhalla
Something I especially had to learn while playing is to take my time. Where I used to skip through all the content in previous Assassin's Creed titles because it all felt like list work, it now feels more in-depth. There are no more stupid camps with "kill the captain and loot two chests" objectives. Everything you do and see has to do in one way or another with the world and the setting that is being built in this game.
It also looks breathtaking, except for many facial expressions. The world around you and all the details are a picture to see. It's the first time in an Assassin's Creed game that I've taken the time to dwell on the view and used the photo mode.
There is so much to see and so much to do in the world of Valhalla that you don't want to rush through it, but just let it wash over you. From new activities like fishing, to puzzles, interesting and very challenging boss fights and upgrading your own settlement.
Assassin's Creed Valhalla improves on almost all fronts compared to Odyssey, while that game was already very strong. The game has a lot of respect for your free will and your playing style and gives you as much space as possible to do everything your way. It is not only the best of the three, looking at Origins, Odyssey and Valhalla, but also the best traditional Assassin's Creed game with the way the traditional gameplay is incorporated in this game. Far beyond expectations, Assassin's Creed Valhalla managed to keep me captivated every moment by the world, the story and the mysteries around me. I was constantly invested in the story both in and out of the Animus and I haven't been able to say that in a long time. Assassin's Creed Valhalla is a technical and narrative masterpiece.
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