Analysis | Assassin’s Creed Valhalla is the highlight of the series, but it is riddled with bugs.
Being a Nordic warrior, in an incessant quest for glory and a chance to die with your ax in hand to enter Valhalla, is one of the themes that has been used to exhaustion in the most diverse media. Assassin’s Creed Valhalla is Ubisoft Montreal’s – the same as Assassin’s Creed Origins – contribution to this theme and, in my opinion, instantly became the definitive experience of being a Viking in video games.
In control of Eivor, I spent more than 100 hours among the frozen peaks of Norway, invading England while developing my new village, also going to unexpected places, from Vinland to the mythical Asgard in my delusions. Unlike the two previous titles, which are also huge and even tiring RPGs, here I never needed to keep leveling up to complete missions, much less buy boosts from the Ubisoft store to speed up the process. The result, even with some issues, is that this has become my favorite game in the series so far.
Eivor and Sigurd
One of the great assets of Assassin’s Creed Valhalla is the way the narrative is well told and with a good pace from arc to arc. Even following the cliché of the search for glory and riches, there was a unique care in developing the characters and their connections with their clan, enemies and allies in a very believable way and with different nuances. At the end of the game, I cared about several of them, something rare in the Assassin’s Creed franchise for me, where the common thing is to connect, at most, with the protagonist and have fun with the historical references and the caricatured way that some real characters are represented .
Eivor, the protagonist, can once again be male or female, according to the player’s decision. There is even a mode where the animus can choose for you at certain times in the game which will be the gender of the protagonist. Although he is a warrior Viking, Eivor has other interesting facets. One of his skills, for example, is poetry. The way he recites verses about his triumphs and failures, participates in rhyming battles against other poets and sees the world, shows a sensitive and different side than usual for a Nordic warrior.
Its story is tragic and that was perhaps the catalyst for this more emotional side. He has the nickname “Wolf Mark”, due to nearly dying to one as a child. The even more cruel detail is that shortly before this fight against the wolf, the child Eivor was fleeing his village, attacked by another clan. The result was the death of his parents and friends. The only survivor, who even saves him from the wolf, is his stepbrother, Sigurd, with whom you will have a connection throughout the story.
Years later, Eivor is after revenge, but that is not the theme of the story. This first arc is resolved quickly and with the union of the clans of Norway, it remains for Eivor and Sigurd to either bow to the new king and avoid future battles, or leave for England in search of a new beginning. The decision, of course, will be to run after the glory and the chance to be chosen by the Valkyries to dine in the halls of Valhalla.
a new village
One of the great new features of Assassin’s Creed Valhalla is the possibility to build your new village as soon as you arrive in England. Rather than a passive agent, Eivor is responsible for deciding everything surrounding this new location for his clan, called the Clan of Ravens. With dozens of buildings to build, you’ll need to loot raw materials from monasteries and then go back to decide which building to build next.
Every new location built here impacts gameplay immediately. A new hunting lodge, for example, lets you trade parts of the animals you kill in the world for valuable items. It even opens up a new quest line to find and kill legendary animals across the world. There’s a house for a tattoo artist who mods Eivor’s appearance, a fishing house, one with daily quests, one to modify your boat, one to modify your fellow Vikings and create your own JormsViking and share it with other players . There are so many interesting things, that a good part of what you do will be to be able to go back to the village and see what you can change.
While I still think that more things could have been explored, like building upgrades and more interactions with villagers, it’s a novelty that brings a much-needed freshness. Between the comings and goings around the world and the inevitable base raids that Ubisoft is so fond of, the village serves as a respite, a place that makes it all worthwhile, putting to rest the standard repetition of open world games. This is something that the most recent Watch Dogs, for example, did not have.
Finally Assassin’s Creed
Origins and Odyssey, the last two chapters of the franchise, suffered criticism from a wing of the community that complained about the very sharp deviation from the origins of the series, which did not even look like an Assassin’s Creed anymore. In Valhalla that care has been taken and there is a return of much that was loved in the past.
Sigurd, Eivor’s foster brother, is already more traveled and has made several incursions around the world. Along the way, he met the Hidden Ones, an order that will become the assassins we know in the future. With the move to England, these friends of Sigurd take refuge in their newly created village, developing ties with the Vikings who live there, including Eivor himself.
Seeing our hero’s potential, members of this order present him with the classic Hidden Blade and teach him some of his techniques, such as the leap of faith and stealth kills. From there, you can do your adventure the way you want. Entering a city full of Saxons, you can invade Viking-style, open-hearted for combat, or take a more discreet approach, blending in with a hood, walking slowly so as not to be recognized by the guards and carry out your objective in the best Assassin style.
Who will also have an important role is the Order of the Elders, which is also the embryo for the Templars, classic enemies of the franchise. As in Origins and Odyssey, there are a lot of them to be killed, which ends up being a weak point of the game, since it extends it too much.
Being the end of the origin trilogy, the game connects with several others in the series, including the original classics of the franchise. For many moments, for a long-time fan, this title will feel like a throwback to past glories.
Best franchise world activities
Everyone already knows the nickname “Ubi Game”, which characterizes games in the same way as those from Ubisoft, with a massive open world and full of dots on the map to complete, like a tiresome and uninspired checklist. With Assassin’s Creed Valhalla they managed to make a good improvement in this aspect.
There are still dots on the map, but it’s not just repetitive activities that change little from region to region. Each dot hides interesting activities and interactions, most of the time unique and, best of all, short.
Instead of dozens of uninspired side quests, there’s always someone to exchange a quick idea with a surprising turn of events. It could be someone being attacked by a bear, trapped in a burning house, a woman who wants to kidnap a neighbor, or even a warrior who has an ax stuck in his head and is delirious. Resolutions are often hilarious and you don’t get tired because soon you’re making another one with a totally different proposal.
The recurring activities are also quite fun. The drinking squabbles, the rhyming combat, the dice games all add a lot to make the gameplay more varied and less reliant on combat.
Finally, there are still several hidden secrets, from armor to rare materials. These are usually located indoors or underground. How to get in usually involves a puzzle, like breaking a specific window to get the angle to aim at an explosive jar, which drops something to clear the passage.
Ubisoft Montreal’s handling of the open world is far smarter than any of Ubi’s other open worlds this generation and is certainly very welcome in a series that was becoming frayed by the tired formula.
Bugs hinder the experience
If on the one hand it looks like one of the best titles in the series, on the other hand, Assassin’s Creed Valhalla is by far one of the least polished. You have to give Ubisoft credit for the pandemic, which hit the game right in the final stage, where most of the polishing takes place, but there are too many bugs to pass up in a critical review like this.
They are countless and they are everywhere. Animations of NPCs that freeze in front of you, elements of the scenery flying without explanation, an attack that sends you miles away or high and much more. One of the ones that pissed me off the most is in a scene right after arriving in England. After it ended, all the characters that participated in it appeared glued together, including Eivor. It was not possible to move and I had to restart the game several times, since this always happened. I found out on a forum that it was necessary to set the game preset on the PC to High (or High) quality and wait for the entire cutscene to end without pressing anything on the controller. It worked, but I wonder how many didn’t find this solution I found.
On Xbox Series X, the complaint is Screen Tearing on all sides, when the image is cut and overlapped by the next frame due to problems with rendering frames per second. A problem that can only be solved at the moment using an HDMI 2.1, only present in the most expensive TVs on the market.
There are still defects in the sound, which constantly fails and is silent for a few seconds, which also interferes a lot in the most important moments of the story. In the end, the taste on this side is quite bitter and it looks like a less polished game than its predecessors. Hopefully everything will be fixed with updates soon.
Assassin’s Creed Valhalla closes the origin trilogy of the series with a golden key. Even with a deepening in the new RPG formula, the title still manages to bring elements from the golden age of the franchise that marry well in the structure of the game. The world created by Ubisoft Montreal is massive and beautiful, but the best part is that the side activities are interesting and less boring. The addition of the village and its constructions also make the game loop smoother and even with more than 60 hours of campaign and dozens of hours of exploration, the experience is not unbearable. A pity that bugs and lack of polish, most likely due to the pandemic, spoil much of the experience and make it look less grand than these Vikings deserved.
- Side activities are interesting and fun
- Return of classic series elements
- Narrative and characters are well handled
- village creation system
- Lots of bugs that undermine the experience
- Lower polish than previous games
- Very nice Vikings, not being able to kill monks in the raid as it causes desynchronization
A PC copy of the game was provided by Ubisoft for this review.