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Assassins and Vikings, you may think, are two opposing forces and natures. After all, there’s seldom a sneaky way to burn down and pillage a church effectively with all the screaming going on. With this empirical truth thrown to the wind, Ubisoft Montreal have taken some creative liberties to marry the two together, making your murderous romp across England in Assassin’s Creed Valhalla a whole lot stabbier.
You may expect the life of a viking to be a high octane ruthless raiding bonanza. However, upon starting Assassin’s Creed Valhalla, that couldn’t be further from the truth. After a healthy dose of introductory cutscene patricide, you’re left to slog through the snails’s pace of an opening that shows you the ropes with naught much else to do. Thankfully, this lore filled opening is wholly unrepresnetitive of the actual game to come.
Upon reaching England’s shores and setting up your clan’s new domain, the real game finally begins, as one might expect following a prologue. The drab opening mercifully makes way for not only improved and additional mechanics that faltered their potential at the start, but also a strong incentive to light your adventuring flame.
Free from the icy isles of Norway, the beauty of Assassin’s Creed Valhalla is on full display across the rolling hills of England. The world and characters of Valhalla are phenomenally detailed, with high resolution textures galore to show off wispy hair and pore mottled faces. Even without the ray tracing feats we saw the Series S perform on Watch Dogs Legion recently, Assassin’s Creed Valhalla looks undeniably next gen with its own powerful lighting and looks.
With the verdant hills of England for you to conquer, there’s plenty of space for activities, which Assassin’s Creed Valhalla has in droves. With a bevy of side quests and mysteries to have you gallivanting around the countryside, you’re never far from something to get up to. The majority of available distractions and diversions are thankfully worthwhile, either netting you useful gear or sweet sweet experience points for the all important RPG character progression tree.
Despite the lack of tightly packed industrious cities, the pastures of England are a welcome change to the formula, with each county feeling distinct and tightly designed. Akin to Watch Dogs Legion, there’re plenty of ways to automate travel across roads and rivers thanks to horsepower and burly vikingur longboat power, however they’re rarely the default. With plenty to do and a smorgasbord of fast travel locations, you’re never stuck without something to do.
Try as you might, running through fields of wheat, it’s remarkably hard to parkour in them. Far from an ideal when parkouring is a staple of the Assassin’s Creed series. The smattering of quaint English and Nordic towns and settlements however, make a perfect place to parkour around, with missions often being set around them to facilitate.
Even in the wilds parkouring turns into a go anywhere button, which while reductive of the former skill it commanded in platforming, is awfully handy when scaling a bloody great hill blocking your way.
It’s not just the allure of sweet XP and RPG progression to keep you raiding, pillagining and being an upstanding member of society in questing, as It’s solely up to you to upgrade the clan’s town of Ravensthorpe. With a concrete slowly progressing goal fixed in your sights to go from raiders first hamlet to sprawling township, everything from raid to side objective is given meaning and context. No matter how off-piste you manage to go on a questing spree, building materials or new weapons to get them are never far behind, always keeping you on track.
As history has taught us, there is an awful lot of raiding to get up to, and Assassin’s Creed Valhalla sticks true to form. While in your longboat, nearly every coastline settlement is one stern look away from getting raided for the precious settlement upgrading resources. Even inland, all it takes is a toot of the old war horn for your clan to come running for a good old people bonfire. Even while random raids won’t get you the best home improvement loot, it is always a hoot to make the statement.
It’s not just all raiding either in Assassin’s Creed Valhalla as that’s only half of the title! You’ve also got plenty of assassinating to do as you work your way through the Order of the Ancients, the 873AD version of Templars.
This can be done though some nifty sleuthing with clues being unveiled about potential targets for prime assassining gameplay, however in practice, mercilessly murdering your way through an entire county proves equally un and effective.
Whether assassining or adventuring, it’s all wrapped neatly alongside any number of the game’s chaptered stories. Rather than just having one central thread, Assassin’s Creed Valhalla weaves as many as it dare spin with multiple storylines always vying for your attention. Even the central goal of building Ravensthorpe can feel ambiguous when the overarching story only comes into focus upon hitting settlement levels, leaving it otherwise threadbare on dialogue and charm.
Regardless of what mission of ambiguous importance you’re doing, it is at least a lot of fun to do it. Alongside the character progression and equipment hoarding that allows for combat styles and flare, there are also adrenaline fuelled abilities to be discovered and used for endless murder. With a set of eight abilities across melee and ranged, not only is combat varied with these distinct and powerful attacks, but they’re also incredible to use. Being suitably overpowered on the recommended medium difficulty, each ability has you feeling like a true viking lord, tearing through the battlefield as an unstoppable Norse invader.
The open world progression with stories sprinkled throughout and atop makes Assassin’s Creed Valhalla a delight to play. As a new highlight of the long running series, and as a downright good game on it’s own merit, it’s a satisfying open world romp that’s well worth your time. Even its confused misgivings and lackluster opening do little to impede just how fun and fulfilling Assassin’s Creed Valhalla is.