Assassin’s Creed Valhalla In-Progress Review

The fascination with Vikings has been on the rise thanks to series like History’s Vikings and The Last Kingdom. Ragnar Lothbrok is now a name known to many, and who can forget about the Viking’s Norse religion featuring Odin, Thor, Loki, and Freya? Ubisoft had many fans of Vikings excited with the announcement of Assassin’s Creed Valhalla, a new adventure taking place during the Viking age. Players would get to play as a Viking as they raid monasteries, grow their settlement, and ally with other Dane and Saxon rulers.

I have played over 46 hours of Assassin’s Creed Valhalla, and from the story I’ve experienced so far, it has me really hooked with seeing the main protagonist, Eivor, navigate this new world of war and power. The world is smaller than Assassin’s Creed Odyssey, but you get to visit different countries including Norway and England. (There’s another country which I won’t name here.) These worlds are all gorgeous in their own way, and it feels like a great entry for next-gen gaming. Fans of Norse mythology will really enjoy visiting the magical world of Asgard and Jotunheim.

You level up via powers, and as of this writing, I have the Power of 214. On the map, the highest level is 280, so I’m almost there. There’s still a lot more to do, and I have around three more districts to finish before the story’s ending. This doesn’t even include eliminating the many targets for the Order of the Ancients, the evil group that manipulated events in Assassin’s Creed Origins and Odyssey. If you have played the previous Assassin’s Creed Origins and Odyssey, then the gameplay will feel right out home.

The Story So Far

King Harold has made claim to Norway, and instead of serving under him, Eivor and the Raven Clan decide to set sail to England to carve a piece of the pie. To grow their settlement and ensure a bright future, Eivor helps different rulers lay claim to their respective thrones. Foul play is at work behind the scenes thanks to the Order of the Ancient, but Eivor will have help from the Hidden Ones, the precursor to the Assassin Order.

Fans of the older games will appreciate the transition to the Assassin Order with the inclusion of Basim and Hytham. The two will teach Eivor the ways of the assassin, but Viking shenanigans will be a major element for the most part.

Worlds and Countries

NVIDIA RTX 3080 FE on Ultra Settings

Assassin’s Creed Origins and Odyssey have intriguing settings that allow you to visit the Giza Pyramids, Alexandria, and historic Greek structures. Although England doesn’t have these grand wonders, Assassin’s Creed Valhalla makes up for it with the detailed buildings, lush forest and jaw-dropping visuals. Also, there are other countries with different biomes that change things up including the cold weather from Norway. To turn things up a bit, the game also introduces the magical world of Asgard and Jotunheim. The first time experiencing Asgard had me gleeful.

Gameplay

Assassin’s Creed Origins and Odyssey diverted from the previous games with its new combat, huge open world, and RPG elements. Assassin’s Creed Valhalla follows in that footstep but with some improvements. As Eivor, you will still need to level up to gain more power and skills, and that means fighting enemies above your power level will be harder. Traversing is made easy with boats, longboats and mounts, and players can parkour and climb almost anything.

With combat, Light Attack is assigned to R1/Right Bumper and Heavy Attack is R2/Right Trigger. If you Dodge and/or use Heavy Attacks, your stamina will lower. To gain stamina, you will need to wait for it to reset or strike with the Light Attack. If an enemy’s stamina is low and you are able to parry their attacks, you’ll be granted a counter that will instantly kill them. Depending on the weapons used, there will be a quick and deadly death sequence including decapitations, impalements and dismemberment.

As you level up, you can use your points to unlock skills. These include setting traps, fighting in slow motion after a successful dodge, bashing through breakable objects, advanced assassinations, chain assassinations and more. Abilities can also be unlocked by searching for Books of Knowledge, which includes raven attacks, wolf attacks, and igniting your weapons with flame or pouring poison on them.

Although enemies in different areas will have different power levels, they aren’t as obvious as Origins and Odyssey. Gone are the numbers above their heads, and they are replaced by either a simple line to represent an enemy on your level or a skull to represent a tougher enemy. It’s possible to kill the tougher enemies, so level gating has been toned down by a lot.

NVIDIA RTX 3080 FE on Ultra Settings

Stealth is back, and you’ll be able to crouch in bushes and use many tools to help you go unnoticed. Returning is the ability to blend in with the crowd and using NPCs to distract guards. Cloaking yourself in a town will make it harder for enemies to find you, but only if you have the proper distance and aren’t drawing a lot of attention to yourself. You can whistle to attract enemies closer to you when sneaking around.

Assassinations

As a fan of stealth, I wasn’t too happy with the changes in recent Assassin’s Creed games. The reward for successfully inching in closer to an enemy should be a satisfying assassination and not chipping away a little bit of health because the enemy is at a higher level. Ubisoft has done away with this, and you can assassinate most tougher enemies. You’ll need to unlock the Advanced Assassination to pull off the harder assassinations, and these will be time-based inputs.

I wanted to test to see if I could assassinate a boss from a hidden spot, and I was surprised to see that the boss was killed instantly. There are a few bosses I have encountered that didn’t allow for this, but Ubisoft gives cues to which characters can’t be assassinated by their huge armor. I also tried going into an area that is at a higher power level than me and assassinated guards with skulls on their heads with great success.

Customization

NVIDIA RTX 3080 FE on Ultra Settings

There are players who like to customize their characters, and this game will allow you to change your hairstyle, beard, and tattoos. It’s not robust, but there are options, and you can get more tattoos by collecting tattoo designs around the map.

At the beginning of the game after playing as young Eivor, you will be able to choose between male or female Eivor. You can also let the Animus randomly choose the gender for you. Assassin’s Creed allows players to switch between Male Eivor and Female Eivor on the fly during the game. Simply go to your character screen and select Animus, then switch the gender, and it will instantly switch to the character. It’s that simple.

You will be able to acquire different gear. Since Ubisoft has toned down on the number of gears you can get, the gear you do have feels more special. You can upgrade them, and each upgrade will change the look. You can also hide the gear so that they don’t show up in cutscenes or gameplay while still benefiting from their perks. You can even hide your weapons from gameplay and cutscenes, but they will pop up when you actually use them in combat.

In addition, before playing Assassin’s Creed Valhalla, there is the gameplay and controls menu where you can choose to turn on or off Blood FX, Dismemberbent, and nudity. For nudity, the game gives examples that you can turn on nudity throughout the game, such as topless female characters, etc. I haven’t finished the game yet, but I haven’t seen nudity in my 46 hours of playing the game. (I did some side quests and focused on the main missions.)

Graphics

NVIDIA RTX 3080 FE on Ultra Settings

I’ve played Assassin’s Creed Valhalla on Ultra Settings on the PC, and it is beautiful and a sight to behold. Watching streams and online videos won’t cut it, and seeing it firsthand is a must.

Although England can look plain with its trees and terrain, the world still feels rich including the highly detailed textures of the land and character models, God rays from the sun, and dynamic overcast weather. Even meditating to transition from daytime to nighttime looks gorgeous as we see the day and night cycle change in realtime and how the lighting affects Eivor’s face up close.

Performance

I’ve played Assassin’s Creed Valhalla on a PC with 32gb RAM, Ryzen 9 3900x and Nvidia RTX 3080 FE. The game would run smoothly at an average of 80fps in 1440p on Ultra settings, but after a few hours, it would suffer noticeable frame rate drops. Restarting the game would fix the issue, but I’m hoping that Ubisoft will be releasing an update on launch to fix it.

Aside from the frame rate drops, I have encountered two noticeable bugs. One had my character flying away from the screen towards to top and then reappearing again near my mount. Another had me stuck inside a rock, but I was able to move out of it by trial and error. With that said, there were no pop-ins with this build, and the game felt very optimized for short periods of gameplay.

Final Reaction

Assassin’s Creed Valhalla is an absolutely gorgeous game that improves on the new gameplay mechanics from its predecessors. The removal of the assassination level gate is a welcome addition for fans of stealth, and the Viking story is intriguing and filled with drama, violence, betrayals, and hope. There are many worlds to visit in the game, which makes the game feel fresh. From my 46 hours into the game, there’s still more to be discovered including beating the main mission, uncovering the Animus Anomalies, side quests and hidden objects, and finding the Order of the Ancients.

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John Nguyen
John Nguyen 10464 posts

Assassin, scoundrel, head honcho.