One of the last big releases of 2020, here is our review of Assassin's Creed Valhalla.
There was a time when Assassin's Creed got incredibly stale, with players complaining that despite the change of setting and characters, it just felt like they were playing "another Assassin's Creed".
Developers Ubisoft successfully mixed it up with the Egypt-set Assassin's Creed Origins, and refined that mix-up with the Greece-set Assassin's Creed Odyssey. However, with the arrival of Viking-era Valhalla, there is that creeping sense of "another Assassin's Creed" returning, but thankfully there are is enough to keep that mostly at bay.
First of all, this is unarguably the best-looking Assassin's Creed game in the series to date, and while that is obviously going to be helped by the improved visuals available on the XBox Series X and PS5, even on the Xbox One and PS4, this game will blow you away. From the freezing Norway tundras to the massively-detailed English towns and villages, it is never less than absolutely gorgeous to look at.
That is matched by a much-darker story than what we've come to expect, as you control a pair of brother and sister Viking warriors as they pillage their way through England and set up and break down alliances along the way. The setting of the Vikings makes it feel much more brutal than previous entries, which is fitting, and it never feels like we're getting a watered down version of what this story might have been. It is also a huge game, with Ubisoft pushing more in a direction of open-world than ever before, and side missions not feeling like a shopping list of things to do, but more naturally discovered and flowing more easily into the overall story.
Valhalla does learn lessons from Odyssey, which felt bloated due to repetition of missions and settings, as things never get too same'y here. The main campaign alone will likely take over forty hours to finish, but for completists, there are at least 100 hours of gameplay to get through. (And that is before the extra missions which will take players to Ireland.)
But then there are some changes that have been made that seem to once again prove that the Assassin's Creed franchise is a "two steps forward, one step back" kind of mentality. With a series that has been running this long, it is important to try new things to see if they work, and sometimes they do, and sometimes they don't.
The new progression tree in Valhalla is slightly infuriating to use, as you're never 100% sure what you're progressing towards until you've already committed to that direction, and if it something that you didn't want - and you could've used your hard-earned skill points elsewhere - then that can be a kick to the teeth.
Ditto with the new combat system, which scales back your abilities at the beginning to just a handful of moves, making it a bit of a chore to get through until you learn the extra moves. And most of those extra moves aren't unlocked via the progression tree, but by discovering them via ancient texts hidden throughout the game. So if you haven't been doing your side missions, you'll be left with a very basic fighting system for longer than you might like.
These issues are things that will either go away or you'll just get used to after the ten hour mark, and by then you'll be too engrossed in the story and the beauty to be too bothered by them, so overall, Valhalla is another win for the Assassin's Creed series. But they'll need to inject some vitality for the next one to make sure they don't fall deeper into that trap of "another Assassin's Creed".
Assassin's Creed Valhalla will be available on Xbox Series X/S, PS4, Xbox One, PC, and Stadia from Tuesday, November 10, and will be available on PS5 in Ireland when the new console launches on Thursday, November 19.
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