I’ll be honest; I was never that big of an Assassin’s Creed fan. Sure, I knew about the series and how funky it was with its off-the-wall plot. However, it wasn’t until the last 4-5 years that I’ve paid more attention to the series, especially with Assassin’s Creed Origins and Odyssey, the latter that I absolutely adored. I literally couldn’t put Odyssey down, both the base and expansion. I LITERALLY JUMPED FROM MY CHAIR when I heard that Ubisoft was working on Assassin’s Creed Valhalla, with the focus being centered on Vikings and Norse lore. As a child, I’ve always been fascinated by Vikings, and now there was a game being developed that would let me live out my Viking fantasy.
Game Name: Assassin’s Creed Valhalla Platform(s): PC (reviewed), PS4, PS5, Xbox One, Xbox Series X|S Publisher(s): Ubisoft Developer(s): Ubisoft Release Date: November 10, 2020 Price: $59.99
Let’s go A-Vikinging
As the name suggests, Assassin’s Creed Valhalla is all about Vikings. Taking place in the ninth century, you’re placed into the role of Eivor (Ay-Vor), a character who can be played as both a male or a female protagonist. However, unlike Assassin’s Creed Odyssey, whoever you pick as the main character will be the only one throughout the game. You won’t encounter the other as canonically; they’re the same character. You’ll get to pick either character early on, and you can switch between them at any time, as the story plays out the same for both. For my playthrough, I played as the female Eivor as I enjoyed the voice acting a bit more.
Thoughout the game, you’ll encounter several notable Assassin’s Creed appearances and references. For that reason, I won’t mention how this story plays out. I’ll leave it at that; if you’ve enjoyed the past several entries, you’ll be right at home here.
During my time with the game, I’ve encountered all sorts of different missions needed to complete to progress the game and various other events. You’ll happen to come across World events, which will reward you if you complete them, to several interesting side quests, including one where I helped a couple rekindle their sex life by burning down their home to get the passion going. It was definitely an odd one, that’s for sure. There’s also the settlement building portion of the game. Here, you’re tasked with growing your own town by fulfilling requests, among other things. While it may seem like a waste of time, your settlement supplements you; stables for your horses, a blacksmith who’ll upgrade your weapons and various other pieces of gear, and more you’ll need to build it up as much as possible.
Interestingly enough, as the game takes place in our modern time, the game does name drop a certain pandemic as well. Yes, COVID-19 makes a mention in the game, with another character asking if anyone caught it. I suppose this is just a sign of the times, but I could have done without it.
As Vikings do, the main objective of the game is conquesting. The first few hours are about introducing you to the gameplay, politics among your people, and laying the groundwork. It’s not until about 5-6 hours that the game starts to open up, depending on how fast you go through the content. This is where we’ll see how Vikings do their deeds in Valhalla. We’ve all heard that Vikings we’re fond of combat, plundering, drinking, and feasting. All of which is present here, but I do want to speak on the plundering, or as it’s called Raiding. This is when you encounter a settlement or encampment and decide that you want their resources more than they do. You’ll bring up your in-game menu, select the raid option, and suddenly you’re knee-deep in smelly, rage-induced Vikings who are ready to burn everything to the ground. They’re effortless, quick, and they gain you a ton of resources that you’ll use toward crafting or using towards your settlement that I mentioned earlier.
One of the sore points of the previous Assassin’s Creed was the progression system, and I was happy to see that this was revamped for Valhalla. Gone is the leveling system, replace with a power level system. Every time you go up a level by doing various tasks or via combat, you’re provided skill points, which you’ll use on a huge skill tree. As long as you have the power level, you’ll be able to customize your character as you deem fit and access locations that are divided by power levels and events without being hindered. This removes the grinding that was such a pain in the butt for many in Odyssey. That said, during all the combat and tasks I completed, I felt that leveling in Valhalla was a better approach and more naturally. Before I knew it, I was this overpowered character that was nearly unstoppable.
I found that the combat in Valhalla is perhaps the best in the series to date, including that found in Odyssey. There are plenty of weapons to wield, single-handed, two-handed, and dual wield, which ended up being my preferred method of attacking. Combined with a few perks found in the skill tree, there’s lots of fun to be had. I have an affinity for attacking characters and forcing them to the ground, only to curb stomp them when they fell. It was glorious. Combat ranges from being tame, such as a skillful yet damaging headshot from a bow and arrow, or taking any blunt object and bashing someone over the head. To, “Holy Shit,” did I dismember that guy and “Where’s all this blood coming from?” Make no mistake, Vikings, and gore go hand in hand.
Being an Assassin’s Creed game, there are plenty of opportunities for stealth attacks, dragging or pulling an unsuspecting fool to an early death. Or, during combat, you can perform a stun attack, which is another word for a fatality. Here, Eivor will perform one of several well-animated attacks that feel like they were pulled directly from Mortal Kombat. The only complaint I have with the combat was when I swung certain weapons, they would overshoot the mark, causing me to move forward clumsily, and when the targeting system would occasionally glitch out on me and target someone. At the same time, I’m being smacked by the person who’s in my face.
Tossing out there, non-fans of dismemberment and bloodshed can head to the options and disable those.
A new health and stamina system was also implemented. No longer will your health regenerate outside of combat, and you’ll need to locate berries found growing throughout the game or meat from slain animals. Once you’ve healed up, you’ll be able to bank extra healing items that can be used in combat. Thankfully, the stamina system is much more forgiving this time. When you’re full of stamina, attacks, dodging, and parries are effortless, but once you’re out of stamina, you’re not crippled. Instead, you’re just slower… including your dodging.
The world presented to you is vast, with lots of various locales for you to encounter, from the snowy lands of Norway, where the game starts, to the lush forested areas of England where you’ll spend most of the game in. They’re teeming with wildlife, which is great for hunting (of becoming the hunted), veins of ore, or hidden rewards and encounters with named NPCs, to name a few. However, while having this vast land is great, I felt that perhaps it was too much as I found myself distracted by seeing how much was out there and not completing my actual objectives.
Vast and very beautiful. This is the best-looking game in the entire series. There’s no argument here; From the wonderfully crafted structures that scream Norse craftsmanship to the environments themselves. I’ve spent hours taking screenshots of the environments and spent an equal amount of time just exploring. Again, this game is simply beautiful. That extends to the ambiance, the musical score that hits the right tones and never felt out of place, down to the voice acting. That said, for this review, I’ve only used the English dub, so my options are only based on this.
This mini-game needs its own game.
Throughout Valhalla, there are many events and mini-games, ranging from Flyting, a hilarious Norse culture take on rap battles, drinking contests, and others. There’s also a mini-game called Orlog, a unique take on Rock-Paper-Scissors.
Ah, Orlog. A friendly, interesting, and addicting mini-game found in Assassin’s Creed Valhalla. Here, you and your opponent try to best each other by depleting a health pool. However, you don’t attack them with blunt objects but with wit and luck. In Orlog, the goal is to outsmart your opponent by predicting what they’ll do and taking advantage of defending. By rolling dice marked with symbols such as Arrows (ranged), Axes (Melee), Helmets (Melee defense), Shields (ranged defense), Hands (theft of resources), you’ll attack or defend. By doing so, you’ll earn tokens that can be used to earn favors of the gods, such as bonus damage, removing your opponent’s defense from the playing field and others. The first to deplete the other’s health is the victor. Sadly, the AI opponents aren’t much of a challenge, and I wish this was something we could play with others. Here’s to hoping this will happen.
The PC version is better than I thought it would be.
As far as PC ports go, I’m fairly impressed with what Ubisoft has done with Assassin’s Creed Valhalla. Even more so, given the last title that Ubisoft released for the PC, Watch Dogs: Legion was a mess performance-wise. With this title, things are better there, with many settings to tweak. There’s even an indicator that shows the various visual changes when you raise or lower the settings, which I wish all developers would implement in their games.
Let’s talk presets – they could be better. If you attempt to run the game with the provided presets, you’re going to be disappointed. It wasn’t until I started to change things that performance was much better manually.
Thanks to DirectX 12, the game doesn’t appear to be CPU bound, but it’s most definitely GPU bound, as indicated by the benchmark tests I’ve run. With a mixture of very high/high settings, my Ryzen 2700x + Nvidia RTX 2080 Super equipped PC could run the game at 4K (dynamic), at 60 frames per second, give or take a few drops that didn’t detract from the gameplay. This configuration was more than enough to play the game at both 1080p and 1440p with no issues. That said, there’s also a day one patch that will be released that will likely increase the optimization. With Adaptive Quality or AQ, you’ll be able to tell the game to guarantee that you’ll hit either 30/45/60 frames per second at the cost of a dynamic resolution when it gets GPU intensive. Yes, it does stink to lower settings to get the game to perform better, but I’d take that over a great-looking game that doesn’t run too well.
There’s a handy frame rate summary meter accessible at any point during the game. Just by pressing the F1 key (or whatever key you set yours), you’ll be able to see your average frame rate, as well as other useful info. This happens to be the same tool used with the built-in benchmarking tool.
And no, there’s no DLSS 2.0, Ray Tracing, or HDR to be found here.
If you’re planning to play the PC version, I recommend doing the following;
FPS Limit: Set this to 60
Adaptive Quality: 60 FPS
World Details: High
Shadows: High (No noticeable difference from very high)
Volumetric Clouds (High)
Screen Space Reflections: Off
Environmental Textures: Medium (not a huge difference from high)
Character Details: Medium or High (differences is a less shape image on medium)
Depth of Field: Low or Off (Not a fan of DoF here; it looks too saturated)
Disable Motion Blur
Granted, these are worked for me and allowed me to play at a higher resolution on my RTX 2080 Super. Your results will vary. The takeaway here is that Valhalla performs better than Odyssey did, but there’s definitely still room for improvement.
The game is fully playable with either the keyboard/mouse or a gamepad. I’ve tested both methods for this review; both worked just fine, though I eventually settled on using a gamepad. You’re also able to customize the mappings for keyboard/mouse and gamepad, as well as changing other options.
Yes, there are microtransactions.
Just like previous entries, Valhalla does indeed have microtransactions. Unlike Odyssey, you won’t find any boosters, and the microtransactions here extend to providing in-game resources, a fully fleshed out world map, and cosmetics. Nothing here that is either a must-have, unless you want to get a jump on building your settlement by paying for it in real money or if you must have those cosmetics. Which do look pretty damned slick.
The Best Game Thus Far?
Assassin’s Creed Valhalla is a great game. There’s no denying that. That said, a few sore points rubbed me the wrong way. I suffered through several glitches, ranging from being stuck after unlocking a door to objectives not showing up correctly. There’s less freedom here than in Odyssey, as the tasks are liner, and I felt that story suffered a bit due to this. Other than that, Valhalla is now my favorite game of the series. It is the culmination of taking what worked in Origins and Odyssey, improving it, packaging it all together. It’s not perfect, but what it does, it does well even if it does feel like it does take a backward step at times.
But seriously, Ubisoft, when can we expect Orlog to get its own game?
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Easily one of my favorite Assassin’s Creed entries, thanks to the improvements made to the combat, health, stamina, and progression systems. The story was enjoyable, the NPCs both plentiful, colorful, and rememberable, even if some were annoying at times. Ubisoft has taken everything that worked in Origins and Odyssey and improved them, thus making Valhalla easily the best game in the past few years. And I simply can not get enough of Orlog.
The gameplay is glorious
Amazingly crafted environments and structures
A better optimized experienced compared to past AC games on PC
Lots of tweakable options
You can pet the… cat?
I simply love Orlog
Encountered a number of glitches
Certain parts like a step back from Assassin’s Creed Odyssey