Assassin’s Creed Valhalla’s new Vikings don’t change up the formula much :
It’s been nearly two years, but Ubisoft is finally gearing up to release a replacement Assassin’s Creed game. Assassin’s Creed Valhalla is billed as “the ultimate viking fantasy,” set not within the fjords of Scandinavia but within the fields and rivers of England during the ninth century Viking invasion. Players are put within the role of Eivor, a Viking from Norway, as they plan to lead their people to determine a settlement in England.
It may have new Norse trappings and a few refreshed gameplay modes and features, but after spending three hours running around Valhalla’s open world, it feels tons more like an iteration of 2018’s Assassin’s Creed Odyssey than a drastically different experience.
“The game’s recreation of England could be the simplest the series has ever looked”
I was ready to try an early version of Valhalla, playing both a piece of the game’s story and exploring the open world. The demo I played was streamed over Parsec, because the ongoing pandemic made a traditional in-person hands-on impossible. Despite those limitations, Valhalla looks absolutely gorgeous; while Odyssey had already set a horizontal bar in bringing Ancient Greece to life, Valhalla’s recreation of England could be the simplest the series has ever looked, with rolling fields, misty forests, and lovely sunsets.
If you’ve played either Origins or Odyssey — the preceding two “modern” Assassin’s Creed titles — then much of Valhalla are going to be familiar, despite the new map. The weapon, gear, and skill tree system introduced in Origins makes a return in Valhalla, continuing the customization and RPG trends that the series has been following for the past few years, albeit with a couple of new wrinkles. rather than Orion (bows), warrior (melee), and assassin skill trees, Valhalla has “wolf,” “bear,” and “raven” trees that correspond loosely to those categories, although they’re less strictly defined in previous games.
Different weapons and armor sets also synergize with those categories, so “raven” armor sets will get a lift if you’ve invested heavily in stealth-based skills, while a pair of wolf axes will get a bonus if you focused more on the corresponding skills.
“‘Valhalla’ is additionally less obviously focused on being an RPG”
Valhalla is additionally less obviously focused on being an RPG — for instance , there’s less emphasis on damage indicators for weapons or percentile perks for items (although every blow does still have a damage number pop-up overhead). More importantly, there’s also no leveling system anymore. Instead, players have a “global power” level that’s supported the amount of skills they’ve unlocked. The skill tree also features a lot more nodes to unlock, with more incremental upgrades like increases to melee or ranged attacks intermixed with larger new skills, to permit for a more customizable and continual rate of progression than tying all new abilities to leveling up.
Combat is additionally virtually just like previous AC titles. Players have the selection of heavier, two-handed weapons also as quicker single-hand axes and flails, and therefore the added choice to dual-wield smaller weapons (I quickly embraced a pair of axes that felt fitting to the setting). Like in previous games, there’s an enormous emphasis on mixing up your light and heavy attacks with parries and blocks to dispatch your enemies.
Odyssey’s special abilities system — sure to the face buttons when holding down the left trigger (for ranged weapons) or right trigger (for melee) — is additionally back. Old favorites just like the Spartan Kick or Multi-shot have returned for Valhalla (albeit with new, Norse-inspired names), although there are some new options, too, just like the incredibly satisfying rapid-fire throwing axes.
Also virtually just like the previous two games is that the exploration loop call at the open world. Some series mainstays will never leave: there’s still the “go to the highest of the building / pillar / tall object” to “synchronize” and reveal points of interest within the surrounding map before diving into an impossibly soft bale of hay. The compass wheel from Origins remains present, gently guiding players toward new objectives, as is your bird companion (this time, a raven named Sýnin), which players can use to scout out new areas and mark enemies.
Players even have a Viking longship, which may be wont to navigate the streams of England, complete with the now-requisite Assassin’s Creed boat shanties, and a second option for God of War-style recounting of epic tales and battles while you travel. Unlike previous games, though, the longship is usually meant for traversal — and bringing your crew to raid settlements to realize resources for your own base.
Like Odyssey, Valhalla offers interactive dialogue that lets players make key choices about how they progress, like whether to kill a rival leader, recruit an ally, or romance a companion. (And also like in Odyssey, all romanceable characters are available partners for both the male and feminine versions of Eivor.) In a stimulating improvement, not only can players choose from male and feminine versions of the most character, Eivor, at the beginning of the sport , they will also freely switch between genders at any point in gameplay.
“There are some new and interesting features in ‘Valhalla’”
Even with all those core elements largely an equivalent , there are some new and interesting features in Valhalla. the sport takes a couple of steps back toward the franchise’s roots, with the return of the classic hidden blade for assassinations. and in contrast to Odyssey, players have the power to insta-kill nearly any enemy — including some bosses — with one blow, although there’s an additional timing element to successfully accomplish the task that I wasn’t ready to nail down in my attempts.
One of the more interesting changes in Valhalla is that the scale of some battles. While previous Assassin’s Creed games have focused on the thought of the player as a one-man smaller army, Valhalla is emphasizing larger battles with NPC companions. “Raids” are a key new element here; i used to be ready to unleash my longship filled with viking warriors against a fortified church or base, fighting side by side with my crew against a battalion of soldiers (who you’ll need to keep an eye fixed on and revive as necessary). Raids aren’t required: stealthy players can still infiltrate, parkour, and stab their way through their goals. But they’re a stimulating new option.
A longer “Assault” level built thereon concept during a story mission. There, I led a full-scale invasion of a castle, dodging sheets of flaming arrows from the defenders as I led a fleet of longboats, before fighting my way through successive gates that had to every be breached by a ram (which is in a position to be controlled by your troops, together with your direction). the entire mission culminated during a final boss fight against a rival Viking leader, who I could have optionally assassinated by sneaking round the back of the castle.
There also are some smaller changes. The health system has been revamped in Valhalla: passive regeneration while out of combat was replaced by a group number of “rations” that allow players to revive a piece of their life bar at will. Those rations get replenished by harvesting the plentiful edible items (like berries or mushrooms) round the game world, but it adds a further dimension to combat by giving players a replacement system to manage. within the practical sense, giving players access to more health means combat encounters are often longer and enemies more deadly.
Valhalla also features overt in-game reminders toward the present-day frame narrative (where players are technically playing because the series’s modern-day protagonist Layla Hassan, who is experiencing these memories of the past employing a machine called an “Animus”). In Valhalla, players can now encounter an intentionally glitched-out area where frames will stutter and objects will blink in and out of existence, where you’ll activate an “Animus Anomaly” challenge. It’s effectively a rather harder parkour run that puts players responsible of Hassan (instead of Eivor) and offers more information on the present-date plot.
There’s also a spread of other puzzles and mini-games scattered round the massive world, including world bosses, legendary animals, and elite “Drengr” warriors for players trying to find even tougher combat challenges. Viking drinking contests and “flyting” insult battle mini-games allow you to test rhythm skills. There’s even a replacement fishing mode.
“‘Valhalla’ feels extremely almost like the titles that came before it”
Obviously, Valhalla promises to be a huge game, and it’s hard to form any real judgements from the comparatively brief snippet I played. (One of Valhalla’s biggest new features — a customizable Viking settlement that also is the most customization hub for Eivor — wasn’t available during this demo to check out.)
But at its core, Valhalla feels extremely almost like the titles that came before it, which isn’t a nasty thing: both Odyssey and Origins were fresh and deeper takes on the classic Assassin’s Creed style. If what you’re trying to find is more of that, then Valhalla will absolutely provide.