Initial release date: November 10, 2020
Series: Assassin's Creed
Developer: Ubisoft Montreal
Engine: AnvilNext 2.0
Platforms: PlayStation 4, Xbox One, Google Stadia, PlayStation 5, Xbox Series X and Series S, Microsoft Windows
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"Review Copy Provided by Ubisoft"
There was a time when the Assassins Creed franchise was an annual release back with the release of Assassins Creed back in 2007 which continued all the way up until the 2015 release of Assassins Creed Syndicate which released with a lot of issues such as graphical issues, unnumerable glitches, and constant crashing (all of which were patched out of the game over time). Due to that, Ubisoft decided to trend away from the yearly release cycle of the franchises mainline console entries to take more time make sure their games are polished and with the release of 2017’s of Assassin’s Creed Origins which completely changed the formula of how the game played and making the series an action-adventure RPG set in an open-world sandbox environment. 2020 saw the release of Assassin’s Creed Valhalla that took the franchise into the world of Vikings and the first release of the series on the next generation of consoles being the PlayStation 5 and the Xbox Series X|S. Does the latest entry perfect the formula started in Origins and expand on that, or does it tread the same tried and true formula and not bringing anything new to the table? Let’s find out!
The year is 873 AD during the Viking invasion of Britain, the Wold-Kissed raider known as Eivor Varinsdottir of the Raven Clan sets out to get revenge against Kjotve the cruel for the death of their parents. Eventually, Eivor becomes entangled in the timeless conflict of the Templar Order and the Brotherhood of Assassins.
Upon starting the game and passing the beginning area you are given the choice of selecting which memory of whether you play as a the female or male Eivor or can select a memory files that shifts to being either version of Eivor based on conditions. Canonically, female Eivor is the true version of the character. You can then select the hair style, tattoos, and more.
The game controls exceptionally well with your attack being mapped to the right shoulder button along with the parry or reposte being mapped to the left shoulder button. You have a button dedicated to dodging and sprinting as well as crouching and using items.
There’s various approaches that this game gives you access to such as do you approach enemies stealthily and just assassinate every enemy you see using the hidden blade in combination of whistling to draw enemies to you location for the kill or you can dive off a structure to perform death from above. You can also utilize your bow and arrow for picking them off from afar. If you take out enemies then you are able to pick up their bodies and hide them in the environment such as tall grass or snow or even dump them into the great ocean.
Say you don’t want to go into encounters using stealth and just want to attack outright. Well you can most definitely do that by just going in weapons a-swinging. In combat you have the ability to perform combos based on the weapons you are using from swords to axes to flails and more. You can set up Eivor to use a shield in one hand and a weapon in the other or have Eivor equipped with two weapons at once allowing you to dish out even more damage while still giving you the ability to parry. Parrying enemy attacks allows you to not only interrupt the enemies attack but also put them into a stunned state allowing you to press in the right analog stick so that you can do a devastating move such as a curb stomp Seth Rollins style or an instant kill attack. Enemies give you tell tales to let you know if their attack is blockable/parryable or if it’s an incoming unblockable attack they glow red letting you know you need to evade to not get hurt.
Every swing of your attacks and dodging and running will deplete your stamina bar so plan out what you do as carefully as you can.
You can upgrade your stats and abilities with the skill tree which will have you spend points that you can allocate to buffing your strength and defenses or gaining better ability to remain undetected by enemies.
Outside of the above, you also will be sailing on your Raven Clan boat filled with your fellow raiders allowing you to sail the seas and find locations to explore or enemy camps to raid allowing you to plunder and ramsack these areas. While at sea, you can select to either to have your crewmates sing a shanty song or to tell of one of their many adventures that they have been on.
The vistas in this game look incredible with the attention to details in the environment just dripping with atmosphere and ambience. Being fully honest here; I’ve never seen water look this good in a game ever, like it looks so realistic that I touched my monitor wanting to get a cup of water to drink. The snowy areas all look exceptional too with some of the most realistic snow in a game I’ve seen since Horizon 0 Dawn.
What about character models? They are….serviceable. I’m honestly not that impressed with how the characters look in this game as there are moments when they look good and then the next they will look like and early PS4 and Xbox One title which was essentially a late PS3 and Xbox 360 title with few graphical buffs. You can tell the difference in how the level of detail there is shown in Eivor and literally everyone else and its……jarring. Then there’s the jank in the walking animations with almost everyone walking the same way with little to no individual strides.
On PC this game is absolutely brilliant looking with characters and the environment looking leagues better than the console versions.
Other than that this game is pretty good looking.
I don’t really have a lot to say about the audio in this game other than the fact that the voice acting is exceptional and really draws you into the world both in the Viking era and the modern era. Eivor in both the male and female form is voiced with such attention to detail and nuance that you’d think the voice actor was not even reading off a script. Every character is fully realized here.
There isn’t much in the way of music in this game but when you hear the Raven Clan singing songs while you’re out at sea then you’ll feel like you’re right there with them literally and that’s a good thing.
Not much else to say here
There aren’t many issues that I ran into while playing this on the Xbox Series X other than one incredibly random crash that happened and some animation jank that occurs when you perform several actions. Parkour actions don’t always activate when or as they should with you needing to run at very specific angles perpendicular to what you are trying to do parkour on. This is something that’s always been some jank in the franchise and has not been fully fixed.
The other downside is often times the graphics as while they do look good on next generation consoles with the ability to change between resolution and performance settings; the problem lies with how it doesn’t look as good in comparison to games like Spider-Man Miles Morales and Demon’s Souls with some shockingly outdated textures on not only characters you run into both for the story segments and NPCs but also in the environments that look straight out of the early generation of games on the PS3 and Xbox 360.
If you haven’t ever played an AC title before and are wondering if this is worth jumping into as a first game; then I’d say you’re in good hands here as Assassin’s Creed Valhalla is a great launching point for the franchise for newbies even if the story in the modern day expects you to know what has happened previously and name drops a lot of key characters to the franchise. With solid gameplay, phenomenal audio direction, one of the strongest narratives in the series, and decent graphics; Assassin’s Creed Valhalla is definitely a game you’ll enjoy no matter what you play it on and has me looking forward to the next entry in the series to see where the story goes next!