Assassin's Creed Valhalla (XBOX Series X) Review
Game Name: Assassin's Creed Valhalla
Developer: Ubisoft Montreal
Release Date: November 10th (World Wide) to November 19th, 2020 (North America, Australia, Europe)
Platforms: Microsoft Windows, PlayStation 4, PlayStation 5, Xbox One, Xbox Series X/S, Stadia and Luna
I must admit, I was not super excited to play this title. However, I needed to play something new on my XBOX Series X. At this point in time, Cyberpunk 2077 was pushed until December and this was really the only true option that I had on the Series X.
The story though did look interesting. This was the story that took place when Vikings were a big part of the world. Being part of that world seemed cool, so I was excited to play it.
Let us see if I made the right decision in playing this game or not.
Note: At the end of this review, you can watch my CG Mini Reviews that I did just after I played the game.
Assassin's Creed Valhalla Trailer
This time around the game takes place in 873 AD (Anno Domini). You play the character is Eivor. You can either play the character of Eivor as male or female. I played him as male but it seems the real way to play it, is by playing as the female character. There are hints in the game here and there that show this as being the case.
Having said that, your brother and Jarl (Leader) of your Raven Clan go to England to conquer and discover its riches. Most of the game you are trying to make new Alliances with both Anglo-Saxons and fellow Norse. There are roughly 16 areas of England where you will need to build a relationship with in order to continue on your path of conquering England.
Outside the Animus, you play once again the character of Layla. A year after the events of the last game, seems there is something wrong with the magnetic field of the earth and they must find a way to stabilize it. At this point there is this ancient staff which is giving Layla a hard time. At the same time, she is still dealing with the loss of Victoria Bibeau which she feels responsible for killing.
The biggest change that every player will notice pretty quickly is level up system. Unlike previous games where you gained XP and then levelled up and upgraded your abilities, this time they modified the formula a little. Now, every time you reach a certain amount of XP, you are awarded Skill Points, where you can then distribute these on a skill tree. Basically the main difference here, is that the skill tree is a lot bigger than in previous games. These Power Points or Skill Points will determine what areas that you can go on the map to complete. I believe the maximum level that you can reach is 400.
The more traditional abilities that you are used to in previous games can be found in the abilities tab. However, instead of distributing skill points to unlock, you need to find either Books of Knowledge in the world or kill members of the Order of the Ancients. As you progress in the game, you will see that you will rely on these abilities, more and more.
The way that quests are outlined has also changed. In previous games, the main story was more linear in a sense. In your menu you knew exactly what was a main story arc and what was a side quest. One segment lead to another. Here, Ubisoft tried to make the development of the story feel more organic and natural. So, side quests are never really listed in your Hub or menus like in older games. These are now marked on your map and you can return to them at any time. As for the main story, it can sometimes be confusing as you are not sure what the next steps are. However, it does feel more natural, just that some game design choices were questionable. I will go into more detail later on.
As for the controls, they are very similar to what you were used to in Odyssey. You have your light attacks, heavy attacks and Bow and Arrow. You also have your special abilities. You can upgrade each part of your clothing and weapons. However, this time, you need to find Iron Ore, Leather and other materials to upgrade weapons and gear. These can be found in the world or while raiding certain villages. In addition, in order to fully upgrade your weapons and gear, you need to get some Ingots. There are 3 types, Carbon, Nickel and Tungsten (Gold). With these you can upgrade your gear up to legendary. The idea here, once you have your weapon of choice, you can keep that until the end of the game. This if course is true as long as you upgrade these things as the game progresses.
They did bring back some old aspects from the older games (before the soft reboot). They brought back pages. This is when you get to a place and there are papers flying around. You need to chase them, in order to obtain them. I believe this is from Assassin"s Creed III.
Another aspect that they brought back was the data puzzles. There are points on the map (10 in all), where the Animus destabilizes or has an anomaly and you turn from Eivor to Layla within the Animus. At the same time a data puzzle appears. In order to solve it, you need to do some platforming and get to the top. The good news about this is that you can never really die. Even if you fall, you are just returned to where you were before you died.
Assassin's Creed Valhalla - Sample Gameplay
After playing the game for about 84 hours, what do I think about it? I was slightly disappointed and I did not have as much fun playing as I thought I would.
When starting the game, it took me a while to get into it. I would say a good 10 to 15 hours. The reason being that at that time, I was not sure what the main quests were and i did not know how to advance the story. It is true, that this was probably my fault and not paying attention to details, but it took me a while to get used to the new story line mechanics. Once I got used to it, it got a lot better.
The one thing that did not take a long time to get used to was how gorgeous the game is. I played this on my XBOX Series X at 60 frames per second (fps) and it was stunning. I know that I say this for every game but the Synchronization points are still the best part of the game. I am always in awe of the views of the vistas. It is truly breathtaking. The level of detail on the main characters is also very well done. Eivor looks spectacular and also the other main characters such as Sigurd and Randvi. However, secondary characters clearly did not get the same treatment. It is not that they look horrible but they just do not look as polished. However, this is not a Valhalla thing. This was also noted in Odyssey and Origins.
The one thing that I will criticize will be the design choices for the game. Some of the game design is left to be desired. An example of this is at one point I was at Level 60. I thought that I had enough to move forward in the main story. So, I decided to do the Asgard quests. Since this was labelled as being a level 20 in my menu, I figured I was well above the threshold needed. So, I finally go to Asgard to learn that I needed to be a level 90. There was no indication of the actual level that was needed for this stretch of the game. That to be is a big oversight that could have easily ruined the game for me.
In addition, the side quests (mysteries) are also approached differently. Let's say that you find a mystery point (side quest). However, you end your game there for the night. The next time, that you play you do something else. However, a few nights after that, you want to do only side quests. These are only labeled on your map and not your hub. So that means that if you forgot what that mystery was, you need to travel to it again and ask people to re-explain it to you. This mechanic, discouraged me to do most of the side quests. I must have done about only 40% of them, if even that. I was not a fan of this approach. They could have listed them on your quest menu with a brief description.
Another aspect that I was not a fan of, was the difficulty of the Zealots. For some reason they are very difficult to beat. Even towards the end of the game I was at a 285 and i had trouble beating a Zealot that was a level 90. Now the issue could have been me but the difficulty level did not match the level that they were supposed to be at. I did not find this fair. I can understand that people might like this as it adds a level of challenge to the game. However, I personally did not feel this way and ended up not beating them. In fact this is not needed to complete the game.
That comes to the next point. It is not super clear what the path of the game is. Again, I know why this did this and on paper it seems great. However, in practicality it was not great. It never advises as to how many arcs are needed to complete the game. You kind of have to discover as you go along. It would have been nice for them to give some indication. Also, the arcs have a certain level that Eivor needs to be at to complete. At least that is supposed to be the idea. If I go based on the levels, you need to be at level 340 to complete the game. I was way below that at 290 and I did not have any issues with the last stretch of the game. This to me, could have been clearer to the player.
Speaking of the ending of the game. I think in the last 3 or 4 hours of the game, half of these are cinematic cut scenes. I understand that Assassin's Creed games are known for their cut scenes. However, I did not feel like I played most of the end of the game with the exception of a few boss fights and easy quests.
I know I seem to be overly negative and you might think that I absolutely hated the game. You would be wrong. I think there is a lot to like here and fun is to be had. However, loving Odyssey so much, I had high hopes for this and for me personally the story fell flat. They tried to add some touching moments in the game but I just did not care of them. This felt more like a paint by numbers story, more than a story written with love for the series. May be I am getting Assassin's Creed fatigue, who knows? There was a lot of potential to do something great and I feel that it fell flat most of the time. This is especially true of Asgard. They could have written something so much better, but in the end, it just felt more annoying than an accomplishment.
If you are a fan of the series, I would recommend it as I think most players would enjoy it. However, for those that want to get into the series, I would say they start with Assassin's Creed Odyssey as it is still the best game in the new reboot series.
CG Mini Review - Assassin's Creed Valhalla
What did you think? Let us know.