Assassin’s Creed Valhalla premiered in November 2020. It’s the most ambitious game the Montreal developer has ever created. At the same time, Ubisoft’s latest entry on the stealth-RPG saga becomes a full-blown action game with a few RPG elements.
It’s a cross-generation title that’s supposed to showcase the power of the newer consoles. Running on a massive, open-world on the shores of England, the tale of the Viking king stretch for over 60 hours of grind. There’re different plotlines and plenty of sword-play.
However, there’re little to no new elements compared to prior entries.
Does it have enough, though, to make you go through the end? Our in-depth review of Assassin’s Creed Valhalla is here to answer (no spoilers ahead).
Because perhaps you haven’t had the chance to try it out yet. We know, getting your hands on a new console or a new GPU can be challenging.
Graphics & Visuals
We’ll start the review with the easiest part, which is the graphical section of the title.
There’s prowess here to enjoy, most definitely. The game is lustrous, huge, and definitely takes you to 9th Century England with its visuals and music. The thrill of having a drinking festival and raw meat becomes real with the amount of detail.
Landscapes are plentiful. You get to see frozen mountains and lakes, shores, and forests. There’re cities to behold, brimming with life and bricks. And there’s your own settlement to grow, full of people who interact with you.
There’re also castles to raid and longboats to travel. Most importantly, there’s an otherworldly scenario that calls your character to greater adventure.
Something is missing, though, something crucial. That’s character expression and, similarly, enemy AI. Expressions feel out of place on most cut scenes and conversations.
That said, Assassin’s Creed Valhalla runs identically on either the PS5 or the Xbox Series X. Both consoles can run the game at 60fps with an upscaled 4K resolution.
Older consoles take longer to load textures, but we can’t ask for more 8-year old devices.
You do need, at least, a GTX 1070, or a GTX 2060 to play the game comfortably, though. It seems playing the game on older PCs and laptops is harder than need be.
Overall, Valhalla is rich, colorful, and beautiful. It’s perhaps one of the best-looking games there is. At the same time, the game looks good on old-gen consoles, but it’s far from perfect.
Assassin’s Creed Valhalla Storyline & Characters
Some people can easily enjoy an action title without much to tell, simply because the action is superb. However, a game as long as Assassin’s Creed: Valhalla, needs to attach users further to keep them playing for longer.
It’s a massive sprawl, you see. A riveting storyline of family, faith, conquest, and survival. And the characters pushing forward the narrative are surrounded by mystery and myth.
These are the elements that create Valhalla’s storyline. But for every great moment, there’s an equal amount of uninspired features.
Let me explain, though.
You play as Eivor, the Viking chieftain of the Raven clan. An in-game mechanic changes the character’s genre at various points in the game. Either way, you can choose your genre at the start of the game.
Eivor leads his people into the unknown lands of 9th Century England. Eivor and his brother Sigurd must make a new home for those who follow, where various Northern kings are already fighting for control.
These two take the protagonist, and their relationship features are engaging and well-written. I can say the same about the most prominent characters and companions.
As the story goes on, myth and reality blend to highlight the importance of the afterlife, the Valhalla. Dying with an ax in hand, in a glorious battle, is the life Viking warriors aim to fulfill.
Thus, the action comes into place, although it quickly becomes stagnant and repetitive. Eivor is eager to test himself against the Anglo-Saxons that control the area to increase Ravensthorpe’s power and influence. There’s also lush wildlife and even mythical creatures to defeat.
There’re moments of greatness during your conquest of Ravensthorpe. But whenever you’re not doing the main quest, the game becomes silly. Side content revolves around helping townsfolk, retrieving gear, gathering resources, exploring the world, and solving mysteries.
These missions get old fast. Clunky AI meets you at every jump to make things worse. Moreover, the side-story represents the largest portion of the game. And you need to do some, at least, to advance the main plot.
Create a Home for Ravensthorpe
The main story, though, it’s much better. It’s where Ubisoft delivers the best within gorgeous action set-pieces, rewarding plot points, and epic nordic music.
Here’s also where you follow the most significant quests to create a home for the Raven clan. It’s the part where you deal with the kings of the land, some of which make for remarkable antagonists.
Eivor’s story takes care of his relationship with his people, his father, and his brother. The narrative goes forward with visions of the past with the Animus, the saga’s time-witness machine.
There’re strong concepts and decisive moments to play. Every time you return to the main quests, you know you’re getting the best the game has to offer.
These missions follow Eivor as he creates a new home for the Raven clan. Driven out of Norway, the Raven clan needs to find alliances in England to survive.
Assassin’s Creed Valhalla brings the narrative in parts. Each part is about gaining control of a specific region. The episodic nature of the Territory Arcs storyline feels like Animus memory sequences.
There’re also city missions, a game’s highlight. This questline is about eliminating the Order of Ancients, mysterious proto-templars.
Aside from Power, you also need alliances and information to find Order of the Ancients members. That’s how almost everything you do becomes important.
Thus, the elements that enhance prior entries of the franchise are here as well, and they shine. Even the scenes occurring in the present day make sense and drive the plot forward while using elements we learned in other games.
As for the dialogue, it’s a hit-and-miss situation: most of the facial expressions are dull, but the scenes can still be somehow engaging. These decisions may or may not have a long-term impact on your game. However, no matter what you do, the ending remains fairly the same.
There’s enough story to go along. However, you need to engage with the filler content to complete the game, which is, oftentimes, mediocre. In other words, you need to earn Power by completing side quests to engage with the main storyline.
Action & Gameplay
Valhalla launched as a game full of bugs and broken mechanics. Although Ubisoft has done a great job at fixing what it did wrong, there are still some issues on its pillars.
Until the day, the game is still prone to crashes, silly bugs, and game-breaking bugs. Even with healing patches, the first impressions of the game delivered a broken feeling that’s hard to forget.
More importantly, the gameplay has the same engine present on Odyssey and Origins. Other than a few changes (like on the Stamina bar), there’s nothing new in terms of challenge, gameplay, and mechanics. It’s the same old Assassin’s Creed experience, for better or worse.
If you’ve seen gameplay trailers, you’ve probably noticed the action is clunky. And although it feels a bit nicer to play on a 1 v 1 scenario, it quickly becomes a mess when there’re various enemies in the area.
The challenge comes from mechanical issues rather than innovative strategies or creative action set-pieces. For example, targetting a skill towards a specific enemy is a hassle. Other times, the challenge comes from enemies with too much HP. And, when there’re various enemies fighting, the enemies don’t even know what to do.
You can also upgrade your gear. For example, there’s the possibility of adding runes to your weapons to add specific buffs.
Upgrading gear is just as easy. It requires a fair amount of materials, which you can quickly find during your explorations.
In specific, gear improves both quality and statistics, on top of runes. Leveling your gear includes resources, which becomes harder to find the higher you go on the gear level.
Also, all gear is unique. This means you won’t be throwing away your old weapons and armor during the gameplay. Instead, you’ll want to upgrade the ones you like the most.
Advancing the Story
There are various ways to approach combat other than dodges, parries, and slashes. You can approach any scenario with stealth, other than a few bosses. Otherwise, you can fall back with your bow or change between dual-wield, axes, swords, maces, daggers, shields, and two-handed weapons.
Advancing the story also grants points to develop your character in different ways. For example, you can improve your stealth assassinations or make yourself a better bowman.
There’s no grind regarding advancing levels. You level up quickly, and you can also re-arrange your skill points at any time.
Learning new perks works interestingly. You gain XP on combat, side quests, main quests, and some specific activities. Once you level up, you earn two skill points. Putting your skill points on the three grants you Power levels.
Then, each area of the map requires a Power level to explore. That also side quests and primary quests of each area require a specific Power Level. If you’ve played Dragon Age: Inquisition, you’ll understand the mechanic quickly.
Skills work differently. You need to find knowledge books during your explorations to unlock new combat moves. These may be ranged or close-combat skills.
Elsewhere, Assassin’s Creed Vallhalla looks like the regular Ubisoft game. There’s a world map full of markers with things do to. Simply exploring an area reveals tons of side content. Experiencing the main plot also reveals all of the side content of each particular area.
The side content is sometimes silly, sometimes good, but never outstanding or worthwhile. For example, one side quest makes you take an angry chicken back to its owner.
Regardless, these are little stories that don’t interfere with the main plot. They simply try to be fun, immersive, mysterious, or mythical.
Grind & Ravensthorpe
Achievements are easy and friendly within Assassin’s Creed Valhalla. There’s never a moment in the game where it feels like an endless chore.
Getting skill points, finding new gear, and improving your equipment it’s also simple. The game only asks for minor explorations and loot.
Easy is not perfect, though, not even great. And that’s why the game is far from stellar, even if it has interesting features.
Speaking of which, the main grind revolves around evolving your settlement. It’s time-consuming with equal potential for fun and boresome.
When you arrive to your new home, it’s nothing more than a longhouse and tumbledown shacks. From this point upwards, you must build it up. That means constructing buildings, unlocking services, and gathering resources to upgrade your settlement.
You gather resources by raiding other settlements, and then you can use it as currency in your town. For example, you can train Viking warriors to go with you on raids.
These raids and fetch quests become repetitive. Get in the longbow with your companions, jump into enemy walls, cut down the warriors, and open the chest. It’s a tried-tested but tired formula Ubisoft has been using for years.
Although raids give you the sense of terrorizing the shores as a Viking, the execution is messy and rarely satisfying.
See, the AI is not capable of defending with strategy or decency. Most of the time, they go down easily while, at the same time, the game tries to make you feel like a badass.
Overall, raids make the experience feel disjointed. It feels as if your enemies are not even trying to survive. You’re only left with cool-looking finishing animations…Sure, whenever the camera doesn’t get caught in the environment.
The Settlement Is a Core Part of the Game
You need to develop your settlement in order to advance the main story. Developing Ravensthorpe brings new characters, story arcs, wealth, and things to do.
That means the grind is crucial and makes sense within the context of the game. Some of the activities you unlock as you grow the settlement are fun as useful as well.
For example, you can develop farms to increase the amount of food available at your Viking parties, the feasts. Also, the extra food gives you and your soldiers a buff before sailing out for a raid.
Other activities you unlock include a shipyard to customize your longboat; a museum that restores old ruins; and a cartography room that grants information about the map.
Another nice detail is how the townsfolk interact with you. Your clan often has an opinion on what you do, new conversations to enjoy, and new quests to play.
Overall, the side content is somehow bland, but other Ubisoft titles are more offensive with the filler (like the Watch Dogs saga).
That said, the upcoming Wrath of the Druids expansions seems like it’ll bring a new settlement.
Is Assassin’s Creed Valhalla better than Odyssey?
Assassin’s Creed: Valhalla is an Assassin’s Creed game. Yes, it seems obvious, but hear me out. If you already like the saga and you want to play the new entry, you’re going to like it. It follows in the footsteps of Odyssey while improving the bits it can without changing too much. That means making the game easier to follow, easier to play, and easier to progress.
Is it better than Odyssey? I mean, yes and no. The game is gorgeous and follows a great story, but the same dull side quests and underdeveloped AI make a disservice to the game.
There’re things Valhalla does better than Odyssey and Origins. Whereas the three games follow the formulas presented by The Witcher 3, Valhalla is a much shorter game. That means it’s not bloated with side content, filler, and quests that have nothing to do with the urgency of the main plot.
Ubisoft also abandoned Odyssey’s most offensive feature. There’re no XP boosters on the micro-transaction store. That’s because progress is easier and, moreover, side quests are easy to find and complete.
As many have said before me, Assassin’s Creed Valhalla needed more time in development. I’m glad the game tries to make things better and different, and I know many people are going to like it. However, it doesn’t break any barriers or do anything too special.
As far as expectations go, I wouldn’t say there’re were too many expectations here. It’s a Ubisoft game, at the end of the day, and there have been many Ubisoft disappointments.
Because of this, I do believe the game behaves exactly as people expected. It’s a good Ubisoft game and a good RPG title, and a good Viking simulator.
It has issues and bugs Ubisoft can solve in time. However, core mechanics, side quests, and similar core issues can’t change.
As my final conclusion, Ubisoft can do better. They can do better than before, as they proved on Assassin’s Creed Valhalla. But they also could do better next time by allowing longer developing times for their titles.
Do You Need to Play Odyssey Before Valhalla?
Valhalla is a game everyone can enjoy, even those who have never played the saga before. That said, it does have some callbacks to Odyssey and Origins, so if you’ve played those games, you might have some exciting moments.
How Does It Run on Ps4 and Xbox One?
Assassin’s Creed Valhalla runs just okay on PS4 and Xbox One. It has a resolution of around 1600 x 900 and between 24fps – 30fps.