Assassin’s Creed Valhalla is about finding unity across bloody battlegrounds | Review

Sound the horn and sharpen your axe as Assassin’s Creed Valhalla is hitting consoles and PC. As the third entry in the latest trilogy, Assassin’s Creed Valhalla continues to refine the RPG mechanics laid out by Assassin’s Creed Origins, while staying close to its deep roots.

Assassin’s Creed Valhalla is baked in Norse history, and portrays a stunning rendering of Anglo-Saxon England. Fiery raids and brutish battles scorn the lands as you chart a course through as a Viking warrior. What lies on the horizon is an enrapturing narrative, filled with bloodshed, political intrigue, and mythology. While Assassin’s Creed has often revolved around solitary action, Assassin’s Creed Valhalla is about unification: brothers and sisters take arms in their quest to find peace within themselves and establish a new homestead.

Assassin’s Creed Valhalla tells its story through Eivor (who can be played as either male or female), a level-headed Viking warrior. Eivor and their brother Sigurd, the Jarl of the Raven Clan, venture across the seas to England to start a new life. Loaded on narrow longboats, the Raven Clan begin a new settlement dubbed Ravensthorpe. Establishing this settlement is one facet of building their new life. Eivor and Sigurd vow to gain the allegiances of the many kings and leaders of Mercia.

Though, haunted by mysterious visions, Eivor’s quest isn’t as clear as it may seem.

Home is where the heart is

Ravensthorpe acts as Assassin’s Creed Valhalla’s main hub. It’s a communal living space for all members of the Ravens Clan. Seeing as though Vikings are not exactly welcomed with open arms in England, a lot of business must be conducted through the settlement.

By gaining valuable resources through Viking raids, Eivor can build and upgrade various establishments within Ravensthorpe. The fishing hut, for instance, rewards Eivor with a fishing pole to catch and sell different species of fish throughout the story.

Two incredibly important buildings to establish off the bat are the Hidden Ones Bureau and Seer’s Hut. The Hidden Ones, known as the precursor to the Assassin Order, indoctrinate Eivor into some of their beliefs. Establishing their base in Ravensthorpe will open up the Order of the Ancients, a system closely resembling the Cultist bounties in Assassin’s Creed Odyssey. For its part, the Seer will help Eivor tap into the visions, unlocking a new element to the game. Both of these aspects intertwine as Viking beliefs dictate that one’s destiny is predetermined by the Fates.

Upgrading Ravensthorpe to its true potential is an important aspect of the game. Much needed buffs and perks are given when building the Barracks, Cartographer, Hunters Hut, and Barkey. Opening the Stable, Eivor can train steeds and the raven to be better supported while out in the open world of Mercia. It’s a multilayered component of the game. The more you raid and invest in Ravensthorpe, the better the rewards.

Unite and conquer

Eivor and Sigurd’s unwavering plan for dominance finds them branching out of Ravensthorpe. In order to gain allegiances across the various regions, Eivor must assist the powers at be to win their trust. Although it’s slow to start, the narrative in Valhalla is exceptionally strong. It is especially true when it comes to the cast of characters. Like many Assassin’s Creed games, the political game of chess flourishes in Valhalla. This often leads to bloody battles.

The Raven Clan often conducts raids on Anglo-Saxon occupied villages and castles. This leads to some of the largest battles in the game. Rolling up on a longboat, the Raven Clan begins burning buildings and pillaging treasures. Valhalla maintains this feeling of brutality throughout. This is the bloodiest and most violent game in the series.

Unsurprisingly, Eivor is a well-trained warrior. There’s an emphasis on parrying in the game’s combat. Although I wish the timing on the mechanic was a little better, it’s a satisfying feeling when you pull it off. While raids are a spectacle to be seen, it does take away some of the urgency in the combat. With the Raven Clan by your side, the focus is more on pillaging chests for new gear and supplies, rather than fighting.

Work in the dark to serve the light

Eivor is rarely ever working alone, meeting other Danes through the main questline. While Eivor does rep the Hidden Blade and don the cloak to avert unwanted attention, the character is not an assassin by trade. It’s a strange departure, as Eivor does not inherently abide by the stealthy code of the Hidden Ones. However, the order plays the most prominent role it has in this trilogy.

From many perspectives, this is the most Assassin’s Creed game we’ve gotten in years. Though, at the same time, it’s hard to justify hiding in the shadows when you’re dual-wielding two giant axes. However, the deep skill tree, which enables you to unlock soft perks and buffs that helps craft your own combat experience. If you do want to take a silent approach, you can invest in skills and abilities that serve that playstyle. Otherwise, you can focus your skill points on fierce combat with abilities that are, let’s say, a bit more in your face.

A day in the life of a Viking

Assassin’s Creed Valhalla improves a lot of the in-game systems. The map is smaller and denser than the map in Assassin’s Creed Odyssey. Rather than fill the map out with fetch quests and forgettable side quests, Mercia’s map is covered in World Events. These World Events is where the game gets to have a little funwith players, through humor and off-the-wall puzzles. They’re small in scope; for example, helping two knucklehead farmers stage their own raid by burning their home down.

Additionally, there are small puzzle encounters, like destroying cursed objects or stacking standing stones. Venturing into most settlements, Eivor can take part in drinking challenges or flyting. This is quite honestly one of my favourite pieces of side content. Flyting is essentially a Viking rap battle, where you choose a dialogue option that meets the rhythm and tone of your opponent. There’s a lot of enjoyment to gain from completing all the side activities, as no single one is much of a commitment, so they blend seamlessly into the flow of the game.

Those that found the loot system in Assassin’s Creed Odyssey to be cumbersome will likely enjoy the more refined systems for armor and weapons. Gear can now be brought to the blacksmith in Ravensthorpe to be upgraded to increase its stats, and to give it a new look in the process as well. There’s a lot less time spent in menus obsessing over stats. Like a weapon? Focus on upgrading that one to unlock its full potential.

For glory

I’m a sucker for photo mode in games. I’ve been spamming the Share button while playing Assassin’s Creed Valhalla on my Xbox Series S as every bit of this game is glorious. The environments and lighting across Mercia beg to be captured and shared. Assassin’s Creed Valhalla is Ubisoft’s best-looking game. Period.

Thanks to Xbox’s Smart Delivery, Assassin’s Creed Valhalla has seen a significant upgrade in performance and optimization. Loading times have been cut down from 30 seconds down to a clean 5 seconds. Many will remember those long load times of the character stuck in Animus void. Those are no longer so arduous.

There was a moment during my review period where I experienced screen tearing during cutscenes. However, those have appeared to have been patched out. Though overall, the Xbox Velocity Architecture has been able to really showcase the stunning art direction in a very clean manner.

Final thoughts

Assassin’s Creed Valhalla is a step in the right direction for moving the franchise forward. The new entry fixes minor complaints players experienced in Assassin’s Creed  Odyssey while bringing the game back to its assassin roots. Though there are contrasting systems at play,  the deep skill tree available lets players dictate how Eivor does on the battlefield, and who they are outside it.

Exploration is reeled in slightly, with more meaningful activities to complete outside of the compelling narrative. Assassin’s Creed Valhalla continues to intrigue with its alternative history focal point and puts an interesting spin on the present-day component.   Command and conquer as part of the Raven Clan, and ready yourself for a bloody venture to Valhalla.

Assassin’s Creed Valhalla is available now on PlayStation 4, PC, Xbox One and Xbox Series X/S. It will be available on PlayStation 5 on Nov 12.

A code for Assassin’s Creed Valhalla was provided for review purposes.

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Steve Vegvari

Steve is based in Toronto, Ontario. His adoration for everything gaming began very early on in the SNES-era. He’s gone on to write honest content around the web. While not writing about games, Steve is often looking for the next big narrative-driven title. Something with an impactful story, regardless of genre or platform. Bonus points if it has an appealing achievement/trophy list!
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