Released on: November 10 2020
Available Platforms: Playstation 4, Playstation 5, Xbox One, Xbox Series X/S, PC, Stadia, Luna
Price: $79.99 CAD ($59.99 US) (Has Microtransactions)
I don’t have anywhere as much time to allocate to open-world games anymore. When one gets older and the responsibilities start piling on, one appreciates the shorter yet finely crafted experiences. That said, I often do dip my toes into open-world games now and again. The allure of exploring different regions, meeting weird and wonderful creatures, and going wherever and doing whatever I want is hard to resist. I was talking to my coworker one day, and he told me his game of choice at the time was Assassin’s Creed Valhalla.
I played the first game way back in the day, but I didn’t take to the slow storytelling and the sluggish combat. He told me the same thing until he tried Assassin’s Creed Valhalla. The Vikings aspect and the gripping story, along with fun combat, are what drew him in, and what sold me on the game, so I bit the bullet and bought the gold edition of the game. Is the story of Assassin’s Creed Valhalla worthy of songs of praise?
In the age of Vikings, there were many wars fought and places pillaged amongst Vikings. One fateful night, young Eivor was celebrating the crowning of their new king. Suddenly, the town is under attack by a group led by the vile Kjotve the Cruel. He manages to execute most of the town. Styrbjorn, Eivor’s childhood friend, helps him escape. Unfortunately, Eivor falls onto a thin icy platform. To add insult to injury, a wolf comes out of nowhere and goes to maul Eivor. Suddenly, it stops, leaving Eivor for dead.
Fast forward to a few decades later, where we see Eivor (who, at this point, the player chose Eivor’s gender) captured by Kjotve. Not wanting to spend his life as a slave, he escapes the clutches of Kjotve and vows revenge for the death of his family and the sacking of his hometown.
Writing the story out like this makes Assassin’s Creed Valhalla look like it follows the typical Japanese Role-Playing Game (JRPG) formula. While it is a little romanticized, the intro does get the job done. However, the story picks up quickly as the player has to make decisions that affect how different clans view Eivor. One choice might offend one group but ultimately favor another in the process. It makes the world more personal, which does wonders for Assassin’s Creed Valhalla.
Assassin’s Creed Valhalla is a treat for the eyes. Those who played other Assassin’s Creed games might think it looks a little similar to other games of the series. While I can see that, it still manages to impress me with its lush forests, cool forts, and incredible landscapes. The developers nailed the ambiance of the more mystical scenes of the game. The only thing I will nitpick is the animation of some of the in-game cutscenes. The character’s movements are a little stiff, but it isn’t enough to distract from the story.
In terms of gameplay, the closest comparison I can think of would be to Ghost of Tsushima. Eivor can dodge, block, parry, use a light attack, heavy attack, and shoot arrows to get rid of their opposition. Players can find various weapons, armor, and shields to use in combat, each having unique strengths and weaknesses. Great Swords, for example, are powerful and surprisingly swift but have a tighter parry window than a shield. When the player acquires runes, they can use them to add special effects to their weapons or armor. The player can also upgrade their gear at the blacksmith.
Eivor also has access to a horse when traveling the open world. I’m not used to having a horse be so fast and reliable, but the one in Assassin’s Creed Valhalla pleasantly caught me by surprise. Eivor can also climb anything, be it rocks or the side of a tall building. Exploring the world will reward the player with experience points and goodies. Leveling up will grant Eivor skill points that unlock more moves and upgrades that make combat more intuitive and more rewarding in some cases.
Gameplay is pretty much what I expected out of Assassin’s Creed Valhalla, and I mean that in the best way possible. I read a lot of comments that say that the combat had grown stale. Had I played any of the other games of the series except for the first one, I might be more inclined to agree. As this is my first real dive into the series, I thoroughly enjoyed it.
I would be hardpressed to hear anyone complain about Assassin’s Creed Valhalla content because there is a lot of it. Those who decide to get the Gold Edition will have access to all of the many currently available expansions. What’s more, the game keeps getting content added to it, despite its age. The level of dedication that the developers have for Assassin’s Creed Valhalla is out of this world.
While playing Assassin’s Creed Valhalla, I learned that some characters are based on actual Vikings from the ninth century. The fact that the game achieves a balance of historical accuracy and creative freedom in its game design made me research where it takes place. That research ended up igniting an interest in world history that I might not have ever explored if it were not for Assassin’s Creed Valhalla.
Despite the game having a fantastic story set in the Age of the Vikings, Assassin’s Creed always had a sub-story about an organization experimenting on specific individuals to make them relive the life of a historical character. I am not too fond of this subplot, and Valhalla is no different. I know it wouldn’t be Assassin’s Creed without it, but I always forget it exists. It is by far the lamest part of the game. Thankfully, it is easily ignored for the most part.
I also have to point out that the game’s standard edition is full retail price, while the Gold Edition is even steeper. I find it a little pricey, but the amount of content it provides pays for itself. Now its microtransactions, on the other hand, could be removed entirely, and no tears would be shed. I’m not sure why they are even in the game in the first place, as it isn’t nearly difficult enough to get the player to spend money on them.
My last gripe is more of a warning for PC players. The game is on the glitchy side, especially when it comes to using downloaded content. I’ve heard reports of players’ opening their inventory to find all their gear is back to level one without refunding the items needed to regain the lost levels. While it seems like that bug is patched out, it would be wise to exercise caution when deciding what gear to upgrade.
Assassin’s Creed Valhalla is a phenomenal game. With a fantastic story, intuitive combat, a myriad of content, and so much gear to upgrade and collect, it’s worth its steep price of admission, so long as the player is warry of the bugs and the non-sensical microtransactions.