Assassin's Creed Valhalla (PlayStation 4) Review

By Drew Hurley 09.11.2020 1

Review for Assassin

Fans of the Assassin's Creed series have long requested certain historical settings to be the basis for new instalments. Times and places that the developers have seemingly revelled in denying to their loyalist fans, possibly out of some sadistic pleasure. Two of the most prominent repeated requests have been more about the inhabitants of the setting rather than the location and the period; these being Vikings and Ninja. While Japan still eludes (hopefully, first iteration of next-gen!), Ubisoft has finally brought the bearded raiders to focus. From Norway to 9th Century England, this tale sees a band of Vikings, known as the Raven Clan, on a quest to find a new home in pastures greener, where they can be free, outside of the rule of King Harald. True to history, the Saxons are rather against these new neighbours, and, behind this conflict, the continual war between Assassin and Templar rages on.

Warning, there are spoilers within for previous instalments in the Assassin's Creed series.

Starting off in Rygjafylke, Norway, the stark reality of the life of Vikings, a nine-year-old Eivor is looking to celebrate with their family, their people, and their king within the longhouse, with a plan to offer a grand gift of tribute to the king. Things don't quite go to plan, though, as a rival clan tears into town on a raid. Blood and thunder cut through the night and Eivor is left orphaned, scarred, and very, very angry. Jumping ahead 17 winters, Eivor has been adopted by her king, and is hellbent on her revenge against the man who took her family from her, Kjotve the Cruel. This dispute between clans, though, is nothing compared to the huge changes going on in Norway. King Harald is uniting all of the people of Norway under one banner - a banner Eivor and her brother Sigurd have no intention of serving beneath.

The two decide to follow a path many of their people have already embarked on, heading to the greener pastures of England, taking with them not only a hardened crew of Raiders but also some of Sigurd's new friends. During Sigurd's Viking excursions, he encountered a pair of men who happen to be missing their third finger and have a penchant for talking about their "Brotherhood" and "Creed".

Screenshot for Assassin's Creed Valhalla on PlayStation 4

Following the initial introduction to the game, the story jumps to the present-day. For those who played through Assassin's Creed Odyssey, along with all of the DLC, including the Atlantis, the story of Layla continues here. After the disastrous conclusion to the trials and Layla's use of the Staff of Hermes, Layla's team was torn apart and her mind left in a questionable state. Now, she's got some new friends, bringing long-time elements of the present-day series together, in the hope of saving the planet before it slips off its axis.

The modern-day aspects, however, are nothing compared to the historic story, and following Layla re-entering the Animus, it's time for the Vikings to start building their new home. As in real life, there isn't a warm welcome awaiting the Raven clan. The Saxons want nothing of these Dane invaders, and they are going to have to fight tooth and claw for every inch of England.

The Vikings need a suitable home in wee ol' England and, at first, that home is little more than a few shanties and huts on the riverbank. Over the course of the game, though, that simple settlement can develop into a teeming township. Key individuals in the town have sets of very special skills that can benefit the town and adding new gameplay elements in doing so. Some set up shop - quite literally - giving Eivor access to purchasing new items and upgrading equipment. A stable gives a set of horses to purchase, along with horse training to power up riding abilities. A fishing hut unlocks a fishing minigame that can be used across the entirety of the fens, lakes, and seas. All pretty standard stuff, but some of the buildings open up much bigger gameplay aspects.

Screenshot for Assassin's Creed Valhalla on PlayStation 4

One of the Brotherhood who settles in town, for example, opens up the Assassin's Bureau. This opens up the same "Order of the Ancients" familiar to players of previous instalments. This is a system of tracking down the members of the Templars throughout England. The true identity of each is hidden away, but by taking on side-quests and following clues, their true identity can be revealed and, subsequently, hunted down. Hunting isn't limited to just Templars. In the wilds of England's forests, there are plenty of creatures to track down, from squirrels and rabbits to wolves and bears, but they are nothing compared to some of the Legendary creatures lurking in the shadows.

Best of all, though, when Valka the Seer re-joins her people, she aids Eivor in understanding the visions she's been having, linking her to the Norse gods. This opens up a world of mythical proportions. In fact, it opens up two - Asgard and Jotenheim - as Eivor's visions actually place her in the shoes of the gods. Previous entries have touched more on fantastical and mythical elements of history and they proved to be some of the best elements, so it's wonderful to see that return again here. The Norse mythology and mythical beasts of medieval England both make an appearance.

All of these elements add up to an absolutely mammoth number of things to do out in the world - even by Assassin's Creed standards. On top of all this, there are plenty of little side activities within the towns and villages, too, such as the opportunity to take part in classic Viking activities, like drinking contests and rap battles… Yes, really. Known as Flyting, this was a real thing, a classic type of verbal duel where individuals sparred with words. Here, Eivor has to choose from a selection of rhyming retorts to their opponents' insults. Best of all, though, is a dice game known as Orlog. Competitors take turns rolling dice, with each different face dealing damage, blocking attacks, or stealing energy. Each player takes it in turn to roll three times, with any amount of dice rolled able to be locked, and the remaining then rolled in the subsequent throws. It's a simple enough game but works surprisingly well - taking into account what the enemy is locking and deciding which to focus on. The enemy keeps choosing all melee-defence? Then select some ranged attacks. There's also an added feature, like a TCG, where special god icons can be won and used in subsequent battles, each with a unique special ability to unleash mid-game.

Screenshot for Assassin's Creed Valhalla on PlayStation 4

While exploring the lands of England and taking part in all of this extra content, Eivor also has a main story to experience. Most players will likely be off taking on every side-quest, finding every collectible, and grabbing every trophy before coming back to it… massively over-levelled and slaughtering everything that moves. The main story sees Eivor having to lead her merry band on raids through England, gathering allies, taking territory, and becoming embroiled in the Assassin vs. Templar war that runs in the background. There are sieges to take part in, where battering rams slam through gates, whilst Eivor slips through the army to remove the head of the snake. There are raids on small villages, where buildings are set ablaze as raiders loot materials to build up the settlement more. There's also boating through rivers and on seas as the Vikings sing out songs or tell grand tales.

Plenty of things to do out there, then! However, in doing so, things feel quite rough, at first. There are many bugs that Ubisoft has sadly become well-known for; graphical glitches, NPCs glitching out, quests not completing and requiring a restart, and so on. Loading times are also particularly annoying, something hopefully remedied in the free upgrade to the next-gen version when the consoles land very soon. Another issue that stands out, at first, is the combat, as at the beginning of the game it feels slapdash - mashy and messy. Thankfully, it improves as the game and Eivor develop. Eivor starts with an axe and a shield, but a whole host of medieval tools of destruction are unlockable. Eivor also has a gargantuan and expansive skill tree to traverse, unlocking stat increases along with special skills. Eivor learns how to curb-stomp fallen enemies, to survive falls from great heights, to dual-wield heavy weapons, and more. There are also hidden texts scattered throughout the world that unlock equippable special moves. After a heavy amount of game time, the combat experience is much improved. Everything gets so much better about halfway through and just continues to improve from there.

Screenshot for Assassin's Creed Valhalla on PlayStation 4

Cubed3 Rating

8/10
Rated 8 out of 10

Great - Silver Award

Rated 8 out of 10

Fans of the series are going to adore Assassin's Creed Valhalla. Origins and Odyssey felt like Ubisoft trying something new, stretching out and seeing what worked, and Valhalla takes what was learned there and expands upon it. Some things, like the combat, don't feel quite there yet, still, but other elements absolutely have evolved for the better. There's a lot to love here, and not just in the frankly absurd amount of content available. The story is fantastically enjoyable, with Eivor really shining throughout (play Female for what feels the canon story!) - they are truly deserving of standing alongside the icons of this long-running series. This is a legendary tale and an addition to the franchise that is good enough for the gods.

Developer

Ubisoft Montreal

Publisher

Ubisoft

Genre

Action Adventure

Players

1

C3 Score

Rated $score out of 10  8/10

Reader Score

Rated $score out of 10  0 (0 Votes)

European release date Out now   North America release date Out now   Japan release date Out now   Australian release date Out now   

Comments

Sounds pretty darn amazing to me! I wonder if Ubi will stump up the resource to make a Cloud version on Switch...

Adam Riley [ Director :: Cubed3 ]

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