Over the years Assassin’s Creed has changed a lot. We’ve seen a variety of different characters, settings, and versions of the same game, leading to a wide variety of opinions. Following the earlier success, the series hit a slump, one that Origin turned around. Assassin’s Creed Valhalla continues this approach in the snowy lands of Norway, with a strong focus on gods, revenge, and more. With new consoles, years of trial and error, and plenty of snow, is it a landslide victory, or is it hard to tell it’s even there?
Right off the bat, it’s clear Assassin’s Creed Valhalla is looking to tell a story. Eivor’s story starts with a union of clans being broken up by an attack from Kjotve the Cruel. After witnessing the death of your parents at his hand, Eivor wants vengeance, but a wolf attack threatens to cut that short. With a glitch making the data corrupted, players have the choice of either playing a male or female Eivor and start their adventure well into the future.
From this point forward it’s more of a standard Assassin’s Creed experience. Eivor wants to kill Kjotve, but in doing brings the potential for war. This might not be a desirable outcome, but on Eivor’s quest to bring an end to this monster, they discover that there might be more than meets the eye.
In typical Assassin’s Creed fashion, it’s a bit of a slow burn, one that merely uses the main story as a way to fill time between the real story centered around the future, gods, Order of the Ancients, and other long-standing storylines. That make up most of the interesting aspects and well worth the adventure, especially if you’re familiar with the franchise. That said, the same can’t be said about the gameplay.
It doesn’t take long for things to feel like Assassin’s Creed Valhalla is just another game in the franchise. Huge expanses of land, mountains to climb and little buildings to explore make things feel needless and empty. Sure, they look great and the snow effects are fantastic on Xbox Series X, it just doesn’t really feel like much is going on besides missions telling you where to go.
Similar things can be said about combat. There are the usual stealth tactics or you can fight. Both of these elements are rather hollow. Wait for enemies to get in position and take them down or shoot an arrow in their face and repeat. Thankfully, the world is constructed rather deliberately to allow for different play styles. Those interested can fight endlessly or play methodically and precisely to avoid as much conflict as possible. The only limit is how much time you want to invest.
At certain points, you’ll need to fight and it’s a rather rudimentary system. With a basic stamina gauge, dodge, and lackluster attacks, it’s far from engaging. Most of the time enemies are extremely predictable and your actions are just as easy to make in response. To make up for that, certain enemies are building more for punishing mistakes, over encouraging different play styles or certain tactics. Sure, you can parry, but in a lot of cases, you’re better off dodging and playing things safe.
In a lot of ways that is the core problem with Assassin’s Creed Valhalla. It’s a title that feels like everything you’d expect from the franchise, without offering anything new or exciting. Yeah, it advances the story, visuals were improved, certain things got a fresh coat of paint but it almost feels forgettable. A base protected by a couple of guys or having an unstoppable force comprised of four dudes with shields that do little more than block until you break through their defenses makes for a lackluster experience. This is a shame because there is a lot of good, it’s just held behind what is essentially a safe version of Assassin’s Creed. Weapon upgrades, different weapon arrangements, gear sets, and more build out the idea further, but it all comes down to the same fundamental question, are you playing for the story or gameplay.
Visually, Assassin’s Creed Valhalla looks stunning. When played on the Xbox Series X, the game loads very fast, and there are very few pop-in textures unlike in the previous entry. There is two graphics mode that players can choose from, quality and performance mode. For those who rather play in sixty frames per second, performance mode is the way to go but that goes without its visual fidelity. But for those who don’t care about the game running at a fast frame rate, then definitely go for quality as it will give you the best image possible.
Assassin’s Creed Valhalla Review – Verdict
If the answer to that question is a story, it really is a wild ride. The new arc has been interesting and the latest addition continues things in a way that makes me excited for the next release. However, if you want to stealth kill some enemies, scale buildings, and more, this really isn’t for you. Norway is a largely bland world with mountain ranges and other less interesting things to deal with. It really isn’t a bad experience, it’s just when push comes to shove, it’s essentially what you’d expect given the previous entries.
[Editor’s Note: Assassin’s Creed Valhalla was reviewed on Xbox Series X and a copy was provided to us from the publisher for review purposes]