Assassin’s Creed Valhalla is the culmination of what Ubisoft has been trying to do with the series since they launched Origins. It takes the series all the way from it’s more linear roots in the form of the early games, bypasses the complicated middle where all the games felt the same, and transitions into an open world assassination game starring two warring clans. If you fell off the bandwagon with Origins, and missed out on Odyssey, make sure you come back for this one.
A Magical World
I’m not going to talk about the story in this review, because I feel like I’ll spoil everything. What I will say is that it leans more on the Assassins and Templars than the last two games have, and that’s what makes it great.
The world is the real star of the show in this game though. Norway and England have been breathtakingly recreated, and they look better than any Assassin’s Creed game’s world to date on next-gen consoles. I played through mostly on an Xbox Series X, and was blown away by the 4K visuals and the game’s overall performance.
Ubisoft has created yet another massive open world here, but that’s only good if it’s full of stuff to do. Thankfully this one is. The map is populated with a range of three collectibles, as well as hundreds of icons to explore for a wealth of lore. I spent an unhealthy amount of time in Norway, the game’s opening area, just collecting these. The world is so easy to look at and explore that you can play for hours without realising that you’re accomplishing nothing story-related.
Ubisoft has taken world-filling to the next level here. Yes, there are collectibles, weapons, armour, and lore to get for the sake of it. However, there are also locations that are worth exploring for no other reason other than they’re interesting. One example I’ll give is an outcropping and island in Norway. It’s occupied by outlaws, which are explained through lore dotted around the area. There are also various treasures to uncover through trial and error, shooting things with your arrow, or just falling through the ice.
What I want to get across is how organic the world feels. You can explore for hours and see the usual gameplay tropes playing out, sure. But you can also explore and find things that you never thought you would without even thinking about it.
I’ll admit it, I hate the combat in Origins and Odyssey. With Valhalla though, Ubisoft has hit their stride with Assassin’s Creed combat. It all comes together easily, with dodges and light or heavy attacks, and links up with the ranged weaponry you have seamlessly. New healing and ability mechanics blend into the mix as you progress, making you feel like a true Viking warrior.
Something else that’s new are raids. While floating about on your longship, you can choose to raid a settlement if you fancy it. This sees your band of Vikings storm the beach and start ripping people apart. It’s another organic way that the story and exploration blend, making you feel like no matter what you’re doing, you’re making progress in some shape or form.
The assassination screens are also back. These are the scenes that saw you chat to the target you’d just killed and understand their motives. This time The Ones That Came Before are involved as well, and it helps bring everything back to that core Assassin’s Creed feel that hasn’t been present in the past two games.
The sounds of Assassin’s Creed Valhalla are great. I will say that the accents don’t feel as though they all fit, but given the scope of the game I think that can be allowed. The game’s atmosphere peaks when the soundtrack soars, and hearing people singing or chatting away makes it feel full of life. For the first time since Assassin’s Creed Origins, it feels like playing this series is dipping into history and experiencing what was happening during the time period.
Overall, Assassin’s Creed Valhall is the best game in the series to date. While I adore the older style of Assassin’s Creed games, this style is far more accessible. The fact that it blends with the Assassin’s Creed franchise is something that I love, because for years it looked like Ubisoft would move away from it. It would be much easier to do away with the Assassins and Templars, and instead, opt for a self-contained story. That’s easy though, and taking the hard route here has paid off in spades for the developer.