The Assassin’s Creed franchise is turning 13 this year and, as every parent knows, this is when things start getting a little scary. Is your little baby going to continue on the right path and blossom into a beautiful butterfly, or are they going to decide that they’re are sick and tired of doing what is expected of them and then decide it’s now their time to forge their own path in this world?
When it comes to video games the same decision is inevitable: Should the developer keep making the same game with slight changes and polish to please their existing audience, or is it time to branch out and rewrite the script so that new path is forged reaches a new audience?
It should come as no surprise that after 11 main games and 17 spin-offs that have has netted Ubisoft over 140 million sales, that this year’s incarnation is sticking to the battle-tested Assassin’s Creed formula that games such as Origins and Odyssey have pioneered.
However, this time you are not leaping over Venetian buildings or climbing the sails of ships on the high sea. Now you’re in jolly old England, in the time of the Viking invasion and occupation. If you’ve ever watched the TV series Vikings then you will know that the Vikings managed to land in England in 793 AD and that their presence lasted until 1066 AD, so for nearly 300 years the English and Vikings lived together and were not always enemies.
This is where we join the story as Eivor, leader of a clan of Norsemen who are working with their friends to bring peace, happiness and a safe future for everyone in the region. As is usual with Assassin’s Creed games, the lore and stories are well fleshed out and engaging.
For my hands-on I started with an assault in East Anglia. The objective was to take my longboat and my clan upriver to a fort that had been overrun. If we were able to take control of the fort and blow the horn on top of the highest tower, then the local villagers would know we were on their side and they would join our quest to rid the land of the forces of Wessex, thus aiding us in returning the rightful heir of East Anglia to the throne.
The combat controls in Assassin’s Creed: Valhalla have been updated to enable a more detailed fighting experience along with the options of two-handed weapons and even the dual-wielding of axes and the like. If you’ve played Origins or Odyssey, you’ll be more than familiar with this system by now. You have your standard attacks along with the ability to launch heavy and ranged attacks using the bumpers as before.
Unfortunately, as this hands-on was being done remotely and the fighting controls of Assassin’s Creed are so intricate, it did become very difficult to truly get to grips with the speed required to shield and respond quickly to multiple enemies, as I was experiencing pretty bad lag at times. This made the more difficult, and fun, sections of the hands-on virtually impossible to complete.
This is by no means a fault of the game itself but it did make me wonder how, and if, the games would ever work on streaming platforms like Google Stadia where the lag isn’t bad but is impossible to remove completely.
Watching my hands-on helper take control and quickly swap between shielding, attacking and then using range attacks to utilise the environment in a multitude of ways to turn the tide of the battle was exhilarating and frustrating in equal measures. The thrill of being able to turn what are very large battles in your favour by using deep gameplay controls is something I wished I could experience but I just couldn’t chain the same sort of moves together with the lag that we were experiencing.
However after completing the assault and a subsequent raid, which is similar to the assaults but on a much larger scale with a much bigger variety of enemies, I moved onto the standard open-world experience of Assassin’s Creed and this is where I really started to enjoy the game more.
Riding around the massive open world and interacting with the hundreds of NPC’s dotted around really immersed me within the experience. From following the main story plot which led me down into an underground abandoned maze dotted with occult ornaments and letters, all this detail gave me an insight into the horrific things that had gone on. Helping out random strangers such as the little girl who was practicing to become a horse whisperer, who actually just turned out to be a thief, also reminded me how treacherous these lands could be.
I found the open world to be alive with possibilities and lore and while I only had a few hours with the game you can quickly pick up that it’s a timesink of note with its various side-quests and mysteries that await players.
Generally when thinking of 50+ hour games, you don’t really worry too much about replayability but in my short time in Assassin’s Creed Valhalla I got some insight into how you approach the game and that does really change how the story plays out. In the large raid I played through at the end, I was given a choice of whether to kill or arrest the boss at the end of the battle. At the request of the rightful heir to the throne, I showed mercy (against my better judgement), and he was arrested and held for trial.
Then a little while later whilst attending a wedding, he broke free and started attacking the guests and I had to protect the new King and Queen by taking him out. Which left me wondering: What would have happened if I had executed him on top of the castle earlier?
From my short experience with Assassin’s Creed: Valhalla, and excluding our technical struggles, I can quite confidently say that if you’re a fan of the Assassin’s Creed franchise and are looking forward to jumping back into a familiar game with new lore and environments, then you’re going to love Valhalla. Ubisoft has taken a successful formula and polished it further, adding some new things to the pot. You will instantly know that this is an Assassin’s Creed game, even if Vikings are not the first thing I think of when I think of assassins.
Last Updated: July 12, 2020