Valhalla fields

Assassin’s Creed: Valhalla, is the 12th major chapter and the latest release in the long running Assassin’s Creed series. The game is a refinement of Ubisoft’s AnvilNext 2.0 engine, and a wonderful take on the ‘Viking’ time period.

For Starters, I am not a huge fan of the Assassin’s Creed series as a whole.  I played the first two games, and lost interest in the series during its third main iteration.

Valhalla England
At times, Assassin’s Creed: Valhalla can dazzle with its stunning vistas.

The series started as Sci-Fi/Fantasy tale chronicling the struggle of two major players, the Knights of the Templars, and the Assassins. These two ancient societies have shaped human history throughout the centuries. The early games featured a protagonist that had DNA connections to members of the Assassins. The protagonist could travel to the past, and relieve his ancestor’s memories through the use of a machine called the Animus.

The only reason that the protagonist had access to the device, is that a rich company (created by the Templars) utilized him and others to find artefacts of ancient alien civilization. These missing artefacts are called the “Pieces of Eden”. These ancient ‘pieces’ would allow the Templars to control the ‘free will’ of humanity if said order were to take control of them.

The plot is really a battle between good (Assassins), and evil (Templars). The main thing to keep in mind here is that quickly after the first installments, the over all “Sci-Fi” plot falls of the rails, and Ubisoft Montereal has been well aware of this. Consequently, the latest two installments in the series, Odyssey, and Valhalla, are standalone, full blown open world action role playing games.

Assassin’s Creed: Valhalla is one of the largest open world games ever made

Assassin's Creed Valhalla
This image conveys both, the glorious skies, and epic scale of Assassin’s Creed: Valhalla. The scary – and good – part is that the world stretches out much farther than this picturesque horizon.

With 22 overall installments on the series, one would be forgiven for thinking of the Assassin’s Creed series as the Call of Duty of open world games. Perhaps, this was true before Assassin’s Creed Odyssey, but having played that title, and now Valhalla, I must admit that the series has transformed into something better.

Assassin’s Creed: Valhalla is easily the biggest open world game that I have played over the last decade. Its only rival in the scale department is Red Dead Redemption 2.

The implications of the above paragraph are particularly telling, as RDR2 had a near decade long development cycle, and Valhalla, at most, only had a two year turn around from Odyssey.

So yes, there are bugs, many of them. I saw horses statically skate across roads when staring into the distance in both actual game play, and in cut scenes. There are some sound hiccups here and there. Some PlayStation 4 owners reported broken main quests (before Ubisoft ‘hot fixed’ the issues). Finally, gamers on Xbox platforms will experience frequent and notable screen tearing as of this review.

Eivor Assassin's Creed Valhalla
Eivor (pictured) is played by Magnus Bruun of “The Last Kingdom” fame (Netflix TV Series).

Assassins Creed: Valhalla‘s game world (coupled with the things to do and discover) is too vast for there not to be an equally large amount of bugs and glitches.

All that said, I would be lying if I said that I didn’t have the time of my life while exploring the game’s beautiful rendition of Norway, and England.

Assasin’s Creed Valhalla, at times, is a magical looking game. In fact, running through England’s grassy fields and lush forests made me wonder how awesome Zelda would look running on the Anvil Next engine. Obviously, Valhalla shoots for realism, but this is how I would picture The Legend of Zelda looking on current gen consoles.

The game is beautiful to look at, and while it doesn’t look as good RDR2 (especially at the micro detail level), it comes close and even out does it in a few key areas. Water rendering, like in Assassin’s Creed: Odyssey, is just stellar. Perhaps the best seen in an open world game, and only second to The Last of Us: Part II (which is the best looking game of the generation).

Waves move, and roll realistically into the shores. The water also behaves realistically while on a longboat, and while exploring the vast underwater scenery (which many times led me to rich rewards).

The other impressive aspect of Assassin’s Creed: Valhalla is quite simply its global illumination solution. Again, only Red Dead Redemption 2 can compete with Valhalla in this aspect.  The moon light reflecting on water bodies is always a sight to behold, as are the morning sunrays peering through the forest trees.

In snow covered areas, a pleasing snow tessellation effect makes an appearance. In short almost everything in the world looks fantastic, and as a whole, Assassin’s Creed: Valhalla only falls short to Red Dead Redemption 2‘s visual perfection.

The attention to detail in terms of character design, clothing, and world materials is also formidable for the most part. Some low res textures remain within the game (probably carried over from previous entries), while the draw distance is good, it is not nearly as cleverly concealed as it was in Red Dead Redemption 2. The character models, while great for an open world game, fall short of other current gen open world efforts.

It is hard for me to fault the game in its character models though. I just finished playing NieR: Automata before entering Valhalla’s nordic landscapes, and it is evident in this game how far behind most Japanese teams are of western developers in terms of visual fidelity. Yes, Valhalla’s character models are way below the standard set by the Last of Us: Part II, and fall short of Red Dead Redemption 2‘s own models, and yet, they are impressive when compared to other current RPG efforts.

Valhalla’s Fauna, also takes a hit when paired against Rockstar’s latest effort. Animals in the game look good, .but not eerily realistic. Compare the horses here to RDR2’s and you will see that Valhalla’s stallions are generic looking, and less ‘lifelike’ in their detail and animation.

Long ship Valhalla
Water rendering is gorgeous in Assassin’s Creed: Valhalla

Assassin’s Creed: Valhalla is one of the most eye pleasing open world games yet. In fact, this is how I always envisioned a true Skyrim remaster looking. However, there some pesky technical issues on Xbox consoles that undermine the game’s visual splendor.

Screen tearing is nearly a consistent event that happens every few seconds in the game while in motion. The game’s latest update, patch 1.0.4 promised to fix these issues, but sadly, it did not.

Assassin’s Creed: Odyssey ran on the same engine that Valhalla is using and it had no screen tearing issues. All this tells me is that Ubisoft has not allocated the proper resources to optimize the Xbox Consoles versions of the game.

There is no reason for the PlayStation 4, and the PlayStation 4 Pro versions of the game to run at higher frame rates, and with no screen tearing, when the much more powerful Xbox One X has issues on both areas.

Assassin's Creed Valhalla resolutions
It must be pointed out, that after patch 1.0.4 the Xbox Series X version of Assassin’s Creed: Valahalla’s 60fps performance is as stable as the PlayStation 5’s, but with the caveat that resolution can now drop as low as 1188p. Clearly, further patching is needed.

Resolution on the Xbox One X is far and ahead better than on all consoles except the PlayStation 5 and the Xbox Series X. The once infallible 1080p machine in the form of the base PS4 now plummets at times to 810p. The Xbox One S, scores the lowest at times dropping to 675p. Thankfully, the new generation of consoles is here, as it is clear that modern games are beginning to struggle (badly) on the 2013 machines.

Always Something Interesting to See

Valhalla Water fall

Open world role playing games can easily fall prey to repetitive gameplay, and empty real state. Even the best of them; Skyrim, The Witcher 3, Red Dead Redemption 2, Breath of the Wild, etc.  All reach a point where things get repetitive after playing for a certain amount of hours.

Assassin’s Creed: Valhalla doesn’t escape this fate, but it does a better job than the Witcher 3, RDR2, and Breath of the Wild in presenting new things and scenarios to the player. Valhalla achieves this, mainly by taking some of the better elements of the former three games and implementing them into its own world.

An example is Valhalla’s “Mystery” quests, which are all spread throughout the different regions of Norway, and England. These “Mysteries”, for all intents and purposes, are side quests.

Assassin’s Creed: Valhalla features some of the most creative side quests that I have seen in a awhile. Unlike Breath of the Wild, and even The Witcher 3, fetch questing is nearly eliminated. Side Quests in AC: Valhalla always feel fresh.

Exhibit A:  In one of my travels I ran into an old Norse Warrior with an Axe stuck on his head. The Warrior had been impaled during combat, but the Ax got stuck in some funny (brain) nerves – that’s what I guessed, as I am not medical professional – and the Warrior was alive, lucid, and needed someone to pull the Axe out so that he could finally go to Valhalla.

Man with Axe on head Valhalla AC
Assassin’s Creed: Valhalla has some of the best – and more imaginative – side quests available in an open world game.

This entire side quest required Eivor (our protagonist) to talk to the man, listen to his interesting plight, and just pull the weapon out of his skull. Once this was done, I got a good amount of EXP and the mission was over.

Not all the side quests are this easy.

Exhibit B: In one such quest, I had to help a Berserker storm a fort in order to avenge said Berserker’s wife, and consequently – by aiding him – have that Berserker warrior join my clan out of gratitude.  It was an elaborate quest that had a lot of fighting and some travelling. This quest was more akin to what you would find in games like the Witcher 3 and Skyrim.

Exhibit C: Some of these quest just require you to do odd things, like burning a shack so a pair of dumb brothers could pretend that they were raiding a…hut. Others, had me feeding snake eggs to a woman seemly confined to a dungeon cell, so that she could launch a massive fart.

Another quest had me helping a man kill a bear, so that he could boast to his friends that he downed a bear by himself and earn a fearsome warrior reputation in the process.

I could go on, and on about the countless of sidequests that I took part in during my time with AC: Valhalla. The most important thing to know here, is that very few games have ever hooked me up with side questing as much as Valhalla has, and that is a commendable thing.

I am having the time of my life just running around the world looking for sidequests to pursue. Because many of these quests are short – though very engaging – Valhalla’s absurd number of side quests or “Mysteries” never seems to lose its appeal.

Dark Souls…

Side quests in Valhalla, or  more correctly put, the “Mystery” blue icon on the map screen doesn’t necessarily lead to an NPC quest for our Eivor. Seeking out these markers will sometimes actually thrust you into Dark Soul’s like boss battles which are extremely tough early in the game. By early, I mean 30 hours into the game.

These fights can range from battling legendary Viking warriors, to engaging Zealots (though they have their own special “Cross Shield” icon), fighting/hunting legendary animals, and fighting undead spirits. Reflexes, timing, and a properly leveled Eivor are the keys to succeeding in these battles…so yeah, Dark Souls.

The reward for downing these foes is always handsome. As such, I made it a point to hunt down as many as I could during my play through. Many times, I got my arse handed to me (like in Dark Souls) by these enemies, but after a few hours of leveling up and gear upgrades I would come back and win ( again, like in Dark Souls).

Final Fantasy X…

Assassin’s Creed: Valhalla is an action RPG, through and through. Its progression system, however, is most similar to the one found in Final Fantasy’s 10th entry.

The Sphere Grid…makes a spiritual return here. Gaining a level yields two skill points which can be allocated in different skill trees with “Spheres”. Anything, from a boost to HP, Melee Attack, Long Range Attack, Melee Resistance, etc. Can be boosted here. New combat skills can be learned as well depending which branch the player chooses to follow.

Combat Skills and Abilities are also learned by reading skill books, which are hidden throughout the world.

Some players have complained about the progression system found here, but I find myself enjoying it. It provided enough customization options to develop my Eivor the way that I wanted to.

The world is populated by enemies which are over leveled, this is especially true in the first dozen of  hours. However, with the proper weaponry, and customized build, it is possible for a skilled player to topple some of these powerful enemies in Dark Souls fashion.

So, unlike Odyssey, which had some areas that were impossible early if your character didn’t have the proper level, Valhalla provides a bit more freedom to tackle some of these scenarios.

Assassin’s Creed Valhalla Takes From Every Open World Game Before it…

And uses the gameplay and design elements that it stole in creative, and fun ways. Breath of the Wild had the “climb everywhere” gameplay mechanic. AC: Valhalla features the same ability for our protagonist (so did Odyssey), but it gets rid of Breath of the Wild’s tedious stamina meter.

The Witcher 3 had some of the best side quests around, Valhalla makes a conscious effort to match it, and in some cases surpass it by simply having more stuff to see, and do. AC: Valhalla has a lot of verticality to its world (underground caves, ruins, underwater exploration, massive peaks, and mountain ranges), which is something that the Witcher 3 lacked for some reason, but Skyrim excelled at.

In other words, Assassin’s Creed: Valhalla, in terms of gameplay, combines the best elements of every big time open world game released over the last 10 years. In some instances it is not as consistently great at certain elements as the former games, but in others it surpasses them.

A Dramatic Story Main Story Line…

I am a Vikings, and The Last Kingdom TV Series fan. Assassin’s Creed: Valhalla, has a story worthy of the aforementioned shows. It is full of political intrigue, war, raids, and in some cases it even allows the player to make a few impactful choices.

Walk into AC: Valhalla looking for an epic Viking tale, and the game will satisfy. However, walk in as an old Assassin’s Creed fan expecting Valhalla to right the ship on the series’ overall plot, and you will be disappointed.

I am in the former camp. I lost interest in the AC series after its third entry. As a gamer, I stopped caring about its story a long time ago, and it seems that the development team is aware of this. Assassin’s Creed Odyssey, and now, Valhalla are best played as single entities.

You want to enjoy an awesome open world experience set in Ancient Greece? Play Odyssey. Want to do the same in the Viking golden age? Play Valhalla. Like the Final Fantasy series, Assassin’s Creed is best enjoyed when you take its recent games, as standalone experiences.

For the most part, I was completely hooked on both the main story, and the side questing. As Eivor, you can make different choices in order to steer him/her towards a more evil nature, but the character is tailored as a ‘good’ Viking, and as such, it doesn’t really offer customization on the level of something like The Knights of the Old Republic. Then again, neither did The Witcher 3.

Valhalla’s interpretation of the Viking-Anglo Saxon conflict of the late 8th century is excellent. Getting to meet, and interact with Ragnar Lothbrok’s sons is an unforgettable experience.

The game also follows the usual Assassin’s Creed “modern day” plot line, but that is a rather forgettable nuisance in the story, and I wanted those scenes to end whenever they popped up in order to get back to my Viking ways.

Excellent Sound

Valhalla Combat

If you enjoy the music in Vikings (the TV show), then you will be right at home here. The score is Hollywood quality, and so is the acting for the most part. At the very least the male Eivor voice actor is excellent.

The world is filled with sound effects, and its ambient music is magnificent. It is was a pleasure to traverse the lands and listen to animals, and NPCs while galloping on my horse.

The cinematic in game engine scenes all have the proper sounds, and excellent acting.  Assassin’s Creed: Valhalla is truly a AAA experience in this department.

The Sum of All Parts

Assassin’s Creed: Valhalla is the most fun that I have had with an open world game since Skyrim back in 2011. There is a lack of polish in certain areas, as the puzzles aren’t as well thought out as BotW’s, the combat isn’t as perfect as Dark Soul’s, and even its more elaborate side quests aren’t quite as intricate as The Witcher 3’s.

That said, the combination of all of those elements within one single, beautiful and cohesive world, makes Assassin’s Creed: Valhalla a more engrossing experience (despite some glaring bugs) than the former titles.

I never thought that I would say this, but I had – and I am still having – a much more fun time exploring this fictional rendition of Norway and England, than I did exploring Breath of the Wild’s Hyrule, and The Witcher 3’s Continent. For that alone Assassin’s Creed: Valhalla is worthy of  a purchase.

Gameplay: 9.0-

Valhalla is an action RPG in the vein of The Witcher 3. However, the combat is better, and defeating certain over world enemies yields better returns in terms of EXP. Still, the preferred method of gaining EXP is to tackle all of its Mysteries, Wealth, and Artifacts.

Easily, Assassin’s Creed Valhalla is a game that will take up 100+ hours to finish up, and perhaps you will miss a lot stuff. Not since Skyrim (a game that I have sunk about 500+ hours in ) have I spent so much time just running around looking to uncover the game’s world secrets.

Character progression offers a nice a degree of customization, and weapons can be upgraded at a blacksmith, and on your own if you have the empty upgrade slots. The addition of puzzle solving elements, and the game of  “Poetic rhyme battling” called ‘Flyting’ among other extracurricular ventures really adds to the experience.

Assassin’s Creed: Valhalla is a well made game in terms of gameplay.  The point deduction comes in the form of some performance drops on the Xbox One X, drops that do not occur on the PlayStation 4 Pro which is inexcusable as the One X is much more powerful in every which way.

Also, many times I found myself jumping from ledges and into my death when I just wanted to drop down a few feet down, the controls can be mastered, but they aren’t as polished as Breath of Wild’s.

Graphics: 9.0-

At times, when over looking a glorious sunset in the horizon, Assassin’s Creed: Valhalla can easily be a 10/10 game visually. However, a full half point deduction has been applied here because Ubisoft has yet to fix the screen tearing issue that plagues the Xbox One consoles.

The character models aren’t quite as good as those seen in Red Dead Redemption 2, and the attention to detail, including snow tessellation isn’t as realistic, and as detailed when you zoom into its textures.

All open world games feature a large degree of pop up, especially in foliage. Yet,  RDR2 cleverly disguised it, to the point where I had to strain hard in order to notice it. Valhalla’s pop up of foliage is more noticeable, which is in line with most open world games, but again, it is something that should be considered when grading the game.

There are numerous visual bugs, some which have been fixed by the latest patch, and some which haven’t.

Still, water and cloud rendering is some of the best, if not the best that you will see in a current generation open world. The lighting, and global illumination is top notch as well. The world can be magical at times, and it truly makes me yearn for a ‘realistic’ looking Zelda at some point in the near future once the Switch 2/Pro arrives.

Sound: 9.5

A magnificent soundtrack, accompanied by mostly excellent – and mostly consistent – voice acting.

Story: 9.5

A Story rich in Viking lore, and politics. The story allows for some subtle decision making at times. The showstopper here, however, are the sidequests. Many of these sidequests, called ‘Mysteries’ in the game, are unique, funny, and original. You never know what kind of situation you will run into, and every quest leads to substantial EXP gains. The main plot isn’t Horzion Zero Dawn good, but it is up there with other top open world games.

Assassin’s Creed is no longer about “Assassin’s Creed” though that plot line continues here too. If you ever wanted an open world RPG based on the Viking era, Assassin’s Creed Valhalla provides the best rendition of such a world yet.

Replay: 10-

It is easy to lose 30 hours of playtime just walking around Assassin’s Creed: Valhalla exploring its world and accomplishing side quests and treasure hunts.  All of this time can pass in the blink of an eye without even scratching the main plot’s surface.  Assassin’s Creed: Valhalla is impossibly big, and incredibly engrossing.

I foresee myself spending over 200 hours at the very least in this world (without the upcoming expansions), and that’s more time than I spent on RDR2  (75-80 hours) and Breath of the Wild (110-120 hours) …combined.

Overall: 9.5

If games were judged on fun, Assassin’s Creed Valhalla would score a 10/10 in my book. But I can’t hand out a perfect score to a game with persistent screen tearing when there is no reason for it happening on a 2017 premium console. Aside from that, Valhalla is a fitting end to both the Assassin Creed’s series, and the open world genre on the current console generation. A gigantic, and beautiful game filled with secrets and ton of stories to find. A must own for those seeking for the ultimate epic adventure.

Metacritic rated Assassin’s Creed: Valhalla an 84.

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By Samuel Rivera

An avid video game player and book reader, Samuel has been playing video games for the last 31 years. He has played nearly every PS1 JRPG known to man, and loves Ocarina of Time more than any other game.