Is Assassin’s Creed Valhalla a bloated mess or a step in the right direction for Ubisoft? Reviewers can’t make up their minds, making it difficult for people to decide whether to purchase the new game. Gamers that prefer the old style, before Origins, may not like this game. Legacy fans call Valhalla a poor Assassin’s Creed game, but they admit that as a Viking game, Valhalla is excellent. On the other hand, fans of Origins and Odyssey are likely to enjoy the experience as Valhalla shares some similarities.
One of the main things that sets Assassin’s Creed Valhalla apart from the more recent Assassin’s Creed games is the blessed absence of side quests. The irritating fetch quests required to gain XP to continue the main storyline don’t make an appearance in Valhalla. Instead, optional World Events give you XP (and are a very efficient way to gain skill points, fast.) However, I surprised myself by seeking them out. Although some are slightly mundane, they’re quick to complete, and some have very entertaining content. One World Event gives you a white wolf that you can summon to attack your enemies while another gives you a cat that naps on your longboat. One World Event, “The Rekindling” in Alrekstad, seems to be everyone’s favorite as you set fire to a couple’s home and smash their belongings — at their request — in order to add a little spice to their nighttime activities.
The gameplay in Assassin’s Creed Valhalla is nearly identical to Odyssey in terms of fighting. You acquire special abilities that aid you in combat (my favorite being to summon my wolf), but unlike Odyssey, these are found in Books of Knowledge scattered around the world, a feature I enjoy.
Valhalla employs a skill tree, which allows you to re-assign all your skill points at any time for no cost, which is a bit overpowered, in my opinion. The amount of skill points you have determines your power level as your points mainly go into small perks like extra damage or health, but there are some skills that give you an extra adrenaline point, for example. You have to choose to put your points into range, stealth or melee but I don’t pay much heed to where I put my points as I don’t feel a visible difference.
One thing I will say about Assassin’s Creed Valhalla is that the parkour sucks. Because of this, I can see why people are calling it a poor Assassin’s Creed game. The parkour in Odyssey wasn’t great either to be fair. The best parkour in Valhalla I’ve found is in Lunden, where the rooftops are connected quite well, but it’s nothing compared to New York in Rogue. What happened Ubisoft? Parkour is a staple of the Assassin’s Creed franchise and makes wandering around the cities 100% more enjoyable. In older Assassin’s Creed games the parkour has sometimes been a bit dodgy, but when Ubisoft did it right, it was fun and made the player feel smart. There’s barely any parkour in Valhalla, and the little there is, is simple and boring, which is a significant drawback.
While the parkour sucks in the newer games, the story is better than ever. Odyssey’s story was the most engaging of the franchise. So how does Valhalla’s story hold up? (No spoilers, promise.)
The sibling bond between Sigurd and Eivor is great, and for the most part, it develops well. They begin with Eivor slightly idolizing Sigurd but both respecting each other with Eivor being Sigurd’s right hand. Once in England, Sigurd goes off in search of allies and Eivor is left in charge of developing the settlement and forging alliances when he can. This increased responsibility Eivor has aggravates Dag, who worships Sigurd and resents Eivor. Dag is a realistic character and playing Eivor I felt how Eivor would have felt toward him; it was very engaging. Sigurd and Eivor’s relationship does become increasingly strained, however. There is one point where Sigurd and Eivor disagree, and there is an option to punch Sigurd. This increase in tension seems to come out of nowhere. There are hints that the story is going in this direction, but the actual scene was a bit jumpy for my taste.
The story is slightly repetitive: Go to Randvi, pledge to get an alliance, travel to a new territory and settle some dispute or fight off an enemy to gain an alliance. This might get boring for some players after a while. The characters are great and distinctive, which has kept it interesting for me so far, though.
The romance in Assassin’s Creed Valhalla could be much better though. While an improvement from previous games, it’s still dull and limited. While one romance option does affect the story, I’m betting most players won’t choose this road. The romance options are there, but they aren’t plentiful. Players can choose to have a one-night stand or a long-term relationship. Still, the long-term relationship consists of “spending time together” (archery and drinking contests), kissing and sleeping together without much else. No marriage and no children. It would be more interesting if there was some variation. Perhaps if you don’t spend enough time with them, they break it off, or if there was conflict between exes or even other people in your settlement that dislike your choice of partner. Maybe as Sigurd’s sibling, you could have to marry for an alliance that would cause issues with your partner.
All in all, Ubisoft needs to stop straddling the fence and decide if Assassin’s Creed is an RPG or not; their indecisiveness is detracting from the series. In their journey to rework the series, they must not forget what makes a game an Assassin’s Creed game and lose their legacy players. The characters of Assassin’s Creed Valhalla are great, and the world is full of exciting events, but some people find it too bloated. It needs more parkour, and the structure of the alliances could be reworked, but the settlement works well as the center point of the world, and the storyline is engaging and shows some real development for the franchise.