The Assassin’s Creed franchise has gone through some major changes over the last few years. What was once a great franchise lost some of its glory before once again finding its feet. Both Odyssey and Origins proved far more successful than other outings. However, they strayed away from what most players consider the traditional Assassin’s Creed formula.
With Assassin’s Creed Valhalla, Ubisoft aims to go back to what made the franchise so great in the first place. That is something the developer has certainly achieved. Assassin’s Creed Valhalla is a welcome return to form and a great new direction for the series.
The first difference that players are likely to notice in Assassin’s Creed Valhalla is how the story is told. Taking place in the 9th century in a time of Vikings, you take control of Eivor. The warrior departs their homeland of Norway to travel to England to start anew. But the narrative does not unfold in a series of missions that simply come one after the other. Instead, the plot arrives in chapters, with entire arcs separated from each other. For example, the opening few hours all deal with Eivor trying to find a place in the world before leaving for England. This works well in establishing the story and weaving together a more effective narrative that you can follow.
That is not the only difference though. The storytelling in Assassin’s Creed Valhalla can also be quite fluid. The world around Eivor is built to be explored and doing so uncovers secrets and tales. Although England lacks some of the luster of ancient Egypt and Greece, it has a certain charm to it. The various environments just beg to be explored and doing so unfolds more of the plot. Ultimately, this feels like the best story in the franchise since Assassin’s Creed IV: Black Flag.
A lot of that is also down to the compelling cast of characters along the way. Each has their own unique backstory, with distinct motivations and quests that cohesively join with the main narrative. Eivor, in particular, is a likable individual who is very easy to get invested in. Unlike other open-world games, there’s very much a focus on the game’s story and the protagonist. It helps to create some interesting villains and heroes that you meet regularly throughout the narrative.
When it comes to the gameplay, Ubisoft seems to have thoughtfully struck a balance between different approaches. Assassin’s Creed Valhalla still contains many of the elements from recent titles like Origins and Odyssey. That means this is still very much an open-world game with all the trappings that are associated with the genre. Yet, this latest installment also has many traditional gameplay mechanics from earlier games. Fans will no doubt welcome the return of the hidden blade, allowing for stealthy assassinations once again. But there are also less obvious changes, such as the ability to hide your presence and blend in to avoid detection.
There are also a number of important changes to how things like leveling up work. In Assassin’s Creed Valhalla, a new system known as power is introduced. This awards skill points that boost abilities but don’t necessarily unlock new ones. This gives you access to most of the content straight away while also giving you a valuable reward. Players can also ransack settlements for power and wealth in raids, which are a great addition to the series.
One area that does feel less effective is the combat. It just does not have the same flow to it as its direct predecessors. Rather than focusing on dodging attacks and counter-attacking, combat in Assassin’s Creed Valhalla is more strategic. Battles with several enemies or bosses can take a long time. Players have to carefully plan their attacks and patiently wait for an opening. Fighting multiple opponents can also feel a bit clunky. The same is true of the free-running and climbing, which does not seem as natural this time around. That makes collecting codexes and other secrets a bit more difficult and time-consuming than it should be.
As you might expect from a game that is launching on next-gen consoles alongside current-gen systems, Assassin’s Creed Valhalla looks stunning. It is undoubtedly the best looking game in the series and successfully manages to capture 9th century England. The lighting is impressive and the environments are so inviting that you’ll want to explore every inch of the world. There’s also a satisfying soundtrack to accompany the action and some excellent voice acting.
While Assassin’s Creed Valhalla excels in terms of its presentation, it’s a different story technically. The game has quite a lot of bugs and glitches. While the frame rate is steady, visual issues are common throughout the campaign. These range from broken animations to textures that pop in and out of existence. All of the bugs are rather minor in scale but can quickly add up. So, although none of them are game-breaking, it can become frustrating after a few hours. Hopefully, this is an issue that Ubisoft will fix with subsequent updates.
Assassin’s Creed Valhalla effectively takes the best elements of previous games and combines them together. It streamlines some of the more frustrating and repetitive moments from Odyssey and Origins. However, it also brings back much-requested features such as the hidden blade and assignations. Despite being far from perfect it is easily the best entry in the series in more than half a decade. Throw in a compelling story and a complex set of characters, and it is not difficult to recommend this game.