Assassins Creed Valhalla Review (PC)
Drengr! Choose this day, what your destiny is worth and how you shall be remembered through the Skald’ tales of your battles. Will you claim personal glory at all cost or will you set aside all things, gamble your rightful place in Valhalla and show compassion to those who deserve to have an axe free their head from their neck? Your decision will not only shape the future of The Raven Clan and your song on the lips of all Vikingr to follow, but the future of all who freely roam the realms of not only Midgard, but Asgard and Jotunheim. Skal!
Whether by Thor’s Hammer or Odin’s Foresight, one thing is made clear to you in Norway (home of the Danes), and that is the certainty that today is a gift not to be wasted with idle hands as kindgoms can fall within an instant without thrusting the blade of an axe into the air. The tongue is often mightier than the sword and alliances are valued above all else, but it does not compare to the satisfaction and intoxicating rage experienced by raiding an Anglo-Saxon villiage, plundering hacksilver and whetting your blade with the lifeblood of those who only have the gall to face you while you rest your head after soaking your senses in honeymead.
13 November 2020 will mark 13 Years of our pledge to the Brotherhood, where we began our journey with *Altaïr (Desmond), leading us through many different era’s, introducing us to iconic characters like Ezio, Connor, Edward, Jacob, Evie, Bayek, Alexios, Kassandra and now, thrusting us into Norse Mythos with Eivor, who is “To the Eye”, a highly skilled Viking that leads an invasion along with his/her brother Sigurd into Britain in 873 AD.
Assassins’s Creed Valhalla is the 12th Main Title, as well as the 22nd Official Release in the Assassin’s Creed Series (10 were Spin-Off Titles), and as of the time that this review is/was written, I cannot stress enough how impressed I am with seeing how Ubisoft have managed to weave references to the “previous” (Game Release Chronology, not Era Chronology) Assassin’s, their Environments, their Beliefs and their familiar Characters as NPC’s (Non-Player Characters), both inside the Animus and outside the Animus. This has made me wonder whether, considering the boldness of this title, both in character-reference-crossover, decision “butterfly effect”, lore and world map scale, that this might become the new Flagship title of the series… should it not be the last one in the series. Did I just shock you? Good. Now that I have more than just your attention, let us delve into the world of Eivor (Viking Strain) and Layla (Animus Host) to explore early day Britainia.
* Assassin’s Creed (2007); Assassin’s Creed II (2009); Assassin’s Creed: Brotherhood (2010); Assassin’s Creed: Revelations (2011); Assassin’s Creed III (2012); Assassin’s Creed: Black Flag (2013); Assassin’s Creed: Syndicate (2015); Assassin’s Creed: Origins (2017); Assassin’s Creed: Odyssey (2018); Assassin’s Creed Valhalla (2020)
Norway, Myway Or The Highway
Your story begins through the eyes of young Eivor, who is tasked by his/her father (and clan leader), to secure an alliance between their clan and the reigning king of their homeland. During the festivities, tragedy strikes and Eivor earns the title “Wolf-Kissed” while clinging to life during the aftermath of what was meant to be a joyous occasion.
At this point, you get to decide whether you wish to play as the Male Eivor, Female Eivor or let the Animus decide on your behalf what your orientation will be. If you are wondering whether there is a story difference and whether it has an impact on your gameplay based on your selected in-game gender orientation, all I can safely say is that one of the orientations will give away your true identity a lot sooner in the game if you are observant, but the dialogue, cutscenes, interactions and missions will remain exactly the same. I can accurately confirm this, as I have spent 25 hours playing as Female Eivor and 25 hours playing as Male Eivor, and had no differences with either play-through, when making the exact same decisions and responding the same in cutscene dialogue sections.
Once you are happy with your choice, you sync up with a now adult Eivor who is a formiddible Viking Warrior (Drengr) living in Norway with their family, however, there is currently a war going on between the Danes (Vikings) which has been responsible for the loss of many lives over the past few years. In hopes of seeking out powerful allies, Eivor’s brother, Sigurd left their home, Fornburg two winters ago (1 year), entrusting you to protect your home from invasion while he is away, as Sigurd is the next rightful heir to the Fornburg throne.
Upon his successful return, with a ship full of raided plunder, you are introduced to two new friends that Sigurd made while he was away on his quest. These friends are very secretive and tend to stick to the shadows. During the celebrations of Sigurd’s return, he bestows gifts upon his kin, saving the best and most unique gift for his “right arm”, you. Sigurd leads you to the two strangers who then reveal their names, Hytham and his mentor, Basim, who then gives you the iconic Hidden Blade of the Brotherhood. Hytham however, does not approve of an outsider wielding the blade, especially since Eivor decides to wear the blade on his/her upper forearm instead of concealing it on the inside of their forearm.
Come Helheim Or Ragnarok
Almost immediately you put your newly acquired weapon and skills to good use, as you are woken by Fornburg being infiltrated by spies from a rival clan. This sets the pace of the game in motion, igniting the resolve for retribution within Eivor, as the leader of this rival clan is known to be the man who was responsible for their early childhood trauma. Having mentioned alliances earlier, King Styrbjorn of Fornburg had made a pledge with King Harald of the North to rid Norway of the rival clan’s influence over the region, which meant that Fornburg would gain additional soldiers as support in their final assualt, but it would come at a very hefty cost, unbeknownst to Eivor, Sigurd and Randvi (Sigurd’s Wife).
Once the assault on the rival clan has been completed, and it is time for King Harald to cash in on his end of the deal, Sigurd strongly disagrees with what has transpired and what King Styrbjorn had offered up in return, ultimately deciding to head to England where he intends to build a settlement and start a new life. You are given a choice to either stay in Norway or side with Sigurd, joining him in England as he pursues alliances with the native Saxon and Dane settlements to rebuild the strength of the Raven Clan from Fornburg. Determined to see Sigurd sit on the throne, I decided to pledge my alliance to him and we then make our way to England along with some members from the Raven Clan, as well as Hytham and Basim via Longboats.
At this point, you are finally greeted with the Title Screen, after roughly 2 and a half hours of gameplay, which right away tells you that it is going to be a really long and content filled playthrough, as this is only 1.5% of the game completion point! Yes please!
You then get pulled out of the Animus to current time, and meet your host, Layla, who is hauled up in a cabin along with her support team. After exploring and reading all the stored content on Layla’s laptop, you find so many references to past Abstergo delves, where you discover the names or regions mentioned that we have played before, including Altaïr, Ezio, Bayek and Kassandra. You then also see what the current state of the world is, finding out that there is a global crisis and phenomenon that has had negative influence on the environment, Layla even uses Covid-19 as an excuse to her relatives to justify why she has “vanished” and secluded herself from the world. Tasked with finding a way to restore the planet, Layla is in possession of a powerful artifact that we have seen previously, which seems to be influencing her, and armed with a decoded message that was discovered nearby, Layla heads back into Eivor’s world to seek answers.
England Is Ripe For The Picking
Once reaching the shores of England, you head to the last known settlement of the Sons of Ragnar, who also used to call Norway home, but also sought larger territory to establish their clan’s strength. You find it abandoned and claim it for yourself, realizing that it is right in the middle of the four Kingdoms of England, which should prove to be very beneficial for establishing alliances. Shortly after occupying the Longhouse (your main Townhall building),and naming your settlement “The Town of Ravensthorp”, Basim leaves on a secret mission and Sigurd also sets out to seek the Sons of Ragnar, charging Randvi with overseeing all tactical deployments to secure alliances in the region and Eivor with executing those pledges and expanding the settlement while he is away.
Very little time is wasted, as you need to secure Raw Meterials and Supplies to build your settlement structures, and these resources can only be gained by “going a-viking” and raiding Monasteries for their riches. These Monasteries are heavily guarded and could prove deadly if you are careless or dare to raid them without your Longboat Crew, however, if you thin out the guards before blowing your raider horn to call in your raiders, a successful and very lucrative haul is almost guaranteed. I found it necessary to spend my hard earned resources on my Blacksmith, Boatyard and Barracks first, and then my Assassin’s Bureau, which then unlocks the “Assassin’s Creed” core of the game. After securing the outpost from where Hytham can operate, he requests your assistance in hunting down targets who belong to The Order of the Ancients, who have seated themselves in very influential positions (Primarily in Lunden), enabling them to either run or overthrow any opposing factions standing against their faith.
You learn that the rival clan you dealt with in Norway, was (and could still be) part of this powerful group of individuals, adding fuel to your determination to see the Order of Ancients fall, making Lunden your location of choice as soon as you are powerful enough to take on the forces hiding in plain sight. The City of Lunden I found to be very reminiscent of Mesopotamia (Assassin’s Creed: Origins) and the architecture of the Greeks (Assassin’s Creed: Odyssey) as it has a very eroded Roman look to it, again, bringing in nostalgic ties to earlier titles of the series.
As you can by now gather, Assassin’s Creed Valhalla is crammed full of content and activities, because not only are you trying to establish a foothold of the Raven Clan, you are now also hunting down a large number of members on bahalf of Basim and Hytham to discover the identity of the Head of the Order of Ancients. Something I have yet to mention is that Eivor is plagued with visions. Visions that put him/her in direct contact with an ancient Norse god. These visions started off in Norway, when you visited the hut of Valka the Seer, who interpreted one of your more character defining visions that foretold your future and certain events that would lead to you needing to make some very tragic decisions before meeting your own end. It would be most beneficial to you to know your Norse Mythology to aid you in identifying the characters and potentially your own true identity.
The Core Of Valhalla Gameplay
Breaking down and segmenting Assassin’s Creed Valhalla is no simple task, as there are a plethora of ways to play the game, making it suitable to your personalized style of execution. Not only will you face many important gameplay narrative choices that will impact the game’s events and ending, but you also have the ability to build your own unique “Viking Assassin” by choosing the abilities you want to unlock for Eivor or by selecting the best gear to suit your needs and preferences based on the skills you equip through your extensive Talent Tree.
Aside from raiding, expanding your settlement, and pushing progression content, there is no shortage of additional bonus content that is offered through the Season Pass. One such example would be through the use of Eivor’ personal letterbox in his/her room, which activates a bonus story arch where you get to explore an interesting interpretation of the “Legend of Beowulf” in East Anglia. Furthermore, once you have built Valka’s Hut in Ravensthorpe, you can decide to focus a bit more intently on Eivor’s visions, leading you to the Asgard Story Arch, which sees you playing a role alongside the gods of Norse Mythos, including Jotunheim as mentioned above.
If Mythology excites you as much as it does me, then this is a section of the game, that not only lends to the core of your adventure but also pulls the plot together in such a unique and bold way, that you cannot help yourself from taking screenshots almost every few moments or shouting out “What just happened? I did not see that coming!”.
Bouncing between three worlds as the story unfolds, presenting new and perplexing challenges, plays out like something you would expect to see on the silver screen, with minimal notice between gameplay and cinematics, only seeing the cutaway when faced with narrative decisions, you will completely be immersed in this Viking Saga and easily lose track of time as your desire for the truth slingshots you into those iconic, “Just one more task/mission/event” situations.
Each region of England that you venture into has untold riches for you to locate and collect, often times through careful strategizing, and has many mysteries for you to solve in forms of riddles, puzzles or thoughtful activities. All of these optional scenarios reward you with progression toward Eivor’s Power Level and often times grants you very rare materials that you need to use to upgrade your weapons or armor. Yes, there is still the option to go hunting for leather, but you will also need to mine for metals or obtain refined ingots through the above optional achievements to truly become a powerful Vikingr.
Side Quests, World Events and Challenges
Although many of the Side Quests and World Events do not directly aid toward story progression, they do lend themselves toward character progression and can in certain instances unlock new Longboat Crewmembers or Jomsviking (Champions) that will call Ravensthorpe home. You can then switch out your Longboat Crewmembers that will accompany you on your travels and on Raids at the Barracks or have your Jomsviking go assist your allies for a fee, which becomes a passive income of silver for your coffers. Once your settlement reaches Rank 2, you will be met with Reda, the mysterious boy merchant that we first met in Assassin’s Creed: Origins, who will then give you access to “The Thousand Eyes” Contracts and Daily Rare Vendor Items.
One of my ultimate favorite moments in the game was doing a World Event in Essex, where a Band of Bards was being prevented from singing their songs by a disgruntled Bishop. To complete the World Event, you had to “encourage” the Bishop to leave, by challenging him to hand-to-hand combat, which was quite challenging I might add. Once beaten, the Bishop ran away, leaving you with some rare crafting materials and then the Bards started singing a song that the event inspired them to write, titled, “Smack my Bishop”! If you do not get the subtle reference, you’re too young, but this had me giggling for quite some time after, adding some much needed comedic relief to a title that is set in a very urgent and serious tone.
The difficulty of the game can be changed at any point, but when you start for the first time, you are given the opportunity to customize your game experience by setting the Exploration, Stealth and Combat difficulty. The Lunden Arch was very intricate, and the guards and challenges were at an all time high, not to mention the events that followed on from that, however, I do encourage hardcore fans of the franchise to play above the default settings for a truly unforgiving and unforgettable experience.
The World Without Borders
It goes without saying that the World Maps in Assassin’s Creed Valhalla are seamlessly Sanbox, and can be traveled on Foot, by Mount or Longboat without any partial loads or transition screens and are vast in distance. By the time I had reached the 25% game completion mark, I had already traveled over 130,000km, even though I had synced most of the high points for fast travel between zones, but the distances truly are not a hindrance as the graphic intensity of the environment, mixed with the absolutely awestriking soundtrack make you want to take the long way around or through the world.
I would often set my waypoint marker, choose my method of transport, activate “follow road” mode and then initialize the autopilot feature and sit back and take in the sights and sounds of the Anglo-Saxon Midgard, and often times I would also activate the Cinematic Camera which would pan around my character and auto-focus on points of interest to make the journey all the more enjoyable. I reviewed and played the game on Ultra High settings, while using an Ultra Wide Screen and there was absolutely no texture tearing or visual issues, as I was averaging 59FPS even during the most intensely particle effect rich scenes, which I monitored by pressing F1 during gameplay to see the current CPU and GPU load status, a feature that I really found useful in this stress test and review.
Alongside the already discussed content and story arch’s, be sure to also keep an eye out for the many Mini-Games found in each region, namely Orlog, Flyting and Hunting. Orlog is a Dice-Based Game, where you start off with 20 small stones, a “God Favor” and some Dice. The faces of each dice have different abilities, which either deal damage, prevent incoming damage or allow you to steal your opponents’ god favor tokens. The aim is to take all of your opponents’ stones by dealing more damage than they have defense, and often times that is done by having enough god favor tokens to invoke a god favor which could deal as much as 12 points of damage to your opponent.
Flyting is a verbal game of rhythm and rhyme that is taken in turns. Your opponent would say something to insult you, and based on their dialogue, you choose from a list of 3 possible responses, but to win the “dabate”, not only must you match their rhyme, but their context. As an example, if they insult your height in jest, you need to counter with a retort that is also in jest and non-threatening, and vice versa. Getting this wrong will not only cause you to lose the Flyting contest, but you will miss your chance to win silver and gain additional Charisma Points. Charisma Points will be added to your Charisma Level, which also benefits your gameplay, in all area’s of the game that present you with a narrative choice. It can often times lead to a mission ending a lot faster and favorably if you have a silver tongue, instead of needing to do investigations and puzzles to unlock dialogue options.
Lastly, Hunting can be in the form of either Fishing and Chasing Legendary or Mytical Creatures, for which you will be rewarded once you return to Ravensthorpe with your trophy and handing it in at the appropriate vendor. Often times, the Mythical Creatures will lead you to cross paths with powerful Druids who wield exceptionally devastating Seidr (Magic), and just like with the Zealots from the Order of the Ancients, they should not be faced unless your Power Level is the same or above theirs. Heed my warning and spare yourself countless deaths.
Without spoiling anything, remember I mentioned those, “What just happened?” moments earlier? The ending will leave you absolutely full of goosebumps from tip to toe, so be ready for an emotional ride that will leave you speechless! I streamed the first 2 hours of the game on Friday night, 6 November 2020 via Twitch, and without me saying a word, most of the viewers were armed with Norse Mythology knowledge and were able to spot a lot of nuggets, and without confirming or denying their validity, if you are so inclined, click here to see what transpired.
Assassin’s Creed Valhalla is part of the original Assassin’s Creedvideogame series and is rated PEGI 16 for graphic violence and strong language. Developed by Ubisoft Motreal, the game launches via Microsoft PC, Google Stadia, Xbox One, Xbox Series S & X as well as PlayStation 4 on 10 November 2020, with the PlayStation 5 release set for 19 November 2020 in South Africa. At the time of this review, you can pre-order your copy of the Drakkar Edition from BT-Games for R1,199.00, after which the post-launch price will be R1,299.00: PlayStation 4 | PlayStation 5 | Xbox One.
I hold Assassin’s Creed exceptionally close to my heart. I may be the world’s biggest self-proclaimed fan, with two large Assassin’s Creed Tattoos and some smaller ones as well, and as such, I do not take this review opportunity lightly. My absolute favorite title from the series was Assassin’s Creed: Origins, because I also have a very soft spot for Egyptian Mythos. I doubted that any new installment would ever sway my passion, as I have played, and replayed Origins more times than I care to remember, but Assassin’s Creed Valhalla truly lived up to the assassin style of pouncing at me from the shadows, hitting me with such a crippling blow that my defenses shattered, quickly shifting my “brain-play” into “heart-play”.
I managed to get two playthroughs done with Valhalla, as mentioned, both with Eivor as a male and then as a female to see if there were any notable differences. This only made me fall in love with this title even more, showing me the replay value it possesses. There is no bias, and I began my review with excessive skepticism, trying to judge is as harshly as possible due to it threatening my love for Origins. I am pleased and bold enough to say that irrespective of what other titles may release this year, Assassin’s Creed Valhalla is on the top of my list for “Game of the Year” and I would without hesitation advise old and new fans of the franchise to add this to their collection.