Ubisoft started the generation with a little disappointment even if their end products were fantastic. They are culminating it on a high note with some great games that are releasing on current-generation and next-generation platforms. Assassin’s Creed Valhalla is another excellent entry in the series that might have lost its core identity, but across the years, it has evolved into something of its own. While the focus is now no longer on Assassinations, they remain the heart of the series with the shift to an open-world design with RPG mechanics.
I really enjoyed both Origins and Odyssey and thought that they were fantastic. The series has continued to evolve throughout this generation with some games going to the more old-school design like Unity while others settling on offering a more engaging experience, which in this case is Assassin’s Creed Valhalla. After taking the players through a journey in Ancient Egypt and Greece, Assassin’s Creed series goes back to history by focusing on ancient Norse Vikings. The main protagonist is a Norse Viking, either a male or a female, referred to as Eivor in the game. The opening cinematic lays out the backstory putting Eivor on a path of vengeance in a journey that takes place across the four different Kingdoms of England.
Valhalla builds on the foundation set by Odyssey and Origins. Just like the past games, there is a raven but with some changes made to better fit it to the theme of the Vikings. It can be used to scout around areas before proceeding in them. The world is massive enough but it starts small with different landmarks gradually opening up along with the progression of the story. There are plenty of synchronization points to locate in these maps if you miss them from the previous games, however, just like too much of something is bad, the open-world can end up feeling barren at times, or too cluttered with quests that you essentially come to a stop in the story. To give some positive points, each of the regions that you unlock will feel distinct so that you are encouraged to explore and discover more of the world.
Stealth is now an important part of the game. It comes in handy when you are traveling the world and planning to take down an outpost by yourself. On the other side, raids are massive sprawling battles where the focus is on dishing damage to a large group of enemies. Since Eivor is a Viking, raids were bound to happen in the game and most of them are exciting to complete with a mix of strategy and action. The combat now feels smoother with a weighty feel to attacks which helps overcome the janky feel of older Assassin’s Creed games. There is a certain depth to the battles with weapons. Deciding on your main weapon can make or break some of the difficult raids.
The upgrade system feels smoother and an improvement over Odyssey. There are different node-points on a grid that can unlock leading to Eivor learning new skills. It feels similar in structure to the Sphere Grid that was featured in Final Fantasy X, so if you have played it, you might get a familiar feeling doing the same in Valhalla. In the start, it is a slightly confusing upgrade system because each node you unlock will lead to adjoining hidden nodes appearing on the grid, but once you carve out a path in the grid, it is easier to understand which skills to unlock first. Ultimately, it doesn’t matter once you have unlocked enough, because you will eventually end up averaging out with stats and skills that cover all aspects of the combat.
One of the fan-favorites that has returned in the game is the Hidden Blade. It is not quite as powerful as it was in the previous games but it feels like a welcome addition. It can be improved by unlocking certain skills that focus on stealth, which can lead to a minigame and a choice to kill powerful enemies. Even though most of the game is focused on getting the player out and in front of enemies, stealth remains a useful tool in combat if you have the agility and patience to remain hidden during missions.
The narrative of the game offers plenty of branching choices with key decisions that determine the outcome of the story. It is an expansion of Odyssey in this regard, with the quality of the writing improving for the sequel. The characters are livelier this time around, and there is a good mix of humor and seriousness that often leads to memorable events. Most of the villains and side characters are well developed but the same can’t be said for the main character. Eivor’s personality is more open-ended by design which is something that I am not that fond of in the first place.
The game unfortunately is not perfect on a technical level. It feels like Ubisoft had a limited time with the development due to the game launching in the middle of the pandemic. This time around, I found more bugs in Assassin’s Creed Valhalla than I remember facing in Odyssey or Origins. While these can be ironed out with patches, it is disappointing to see that they exist in the first place. Regardless, the technical performance this time is much better on the PS5 where I was able to check it out for a limited time.
Assassin’s Creed Valhalla runs at 60 FPS on the PS5 but there is an occasional tearing that can be distracting. I played through most of the game on a PS4 Pro where it runs at 30 FPS, so it was a big upgrade to jump to the PS5. Although the visuals are not really that jaw-dropping, the scale of the game itself is rather impressive.
Assassin’s Creed Valhalla Review (PS4)
Game Reviewed on: PS4
Game description: Become a legendary Viking warrior raised on tales of battle and glory. Raid your enemies, grow your settlement, and build your political power in the quest to earn a place among the gods in Valhalla.
Final Score - 8.5/108.5/10
Assassin's Creed Valhalla feels like it is the culmination of a new Assassin's Creed Trilogy that started with Origins and followed with Odyssey. Everything that made these games great has been improved in Valhalla making it one of the best games in the series that released this generation.