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After 60 hours of going a-Viking, assassinating through the ranks of the Order of Ancients, and exploring the lands of Midgard which are filled with mysteries and beasts, I’ve come to the conclusion that Assassin’s Creed: Valhalla is perhaps the most unique, fulfilling, and thrilling experience in the franchise after a very long time. And here I am, finally, to take you through what makes Valhalla a serious step-up from Ubisoft’s last outing in ancient Greece.

The Wolf-Kissed

Eivor aka the Wolf-Kissed is, in my humble opinion, one of the most impactful characters in the series. Just like Edward in Black Flag, Eivor wasn’t already a part of the Assassin’s Order: they chose to be one. Their goal to work with the Hidden one was to create an alliance and work with mutual goals of eradicating templar order from England. While Eivor doesn’t seem to be an actual Assassin, they still play a vital role in the modern-day Assassin order. I’ve played for a fair amount of time with both the genders of Eivor and sincerely both are equally well done. The voice acting is very impressive, and facial expressions for Eivor are well done (not so sure about other characters) and the cutscenes are impactful (if a bit janky) as ever. So, the TLDR for choosing which gender to play is choosing the 3rd option – “Let the Animus Decide”. In this 3rd option, the game decides on its own, to chose which character is best suited for the current scene. You can also change Eivor’s gender at the go. This might seem a bit weird at first but it doesn’t hold back your gameplay experience in any way, contrary to what clickbait articles out there tell you.

Moving on, the skill tree seems to be unnecessarily huge, and it takes time to unlock major perks. Most of the perks are from the previous series, with few new additions. The skill tree could have included better and newer perks since only 2 of the newer perks were of importance to me, which were stomp – landing a devastating stomp on knocked enemies, and slow-motion effect after you perform a timely dodge. The rest of the perks were rarely used with the passive effects being the only useful thing to come out of this. Level Progression also seems to be lengthy and could have been faster, which would have allowed multiple approaches at the early stages of the game. Running into legendary beasts and Valkyrie fights at the beginning felt nothing but a waste of time because of the power level differences. However, the story will not require additional grinding, since you’ll receive enough XP every time you complete a part of a story to proceed on to the next one – a step-up from Odyssey in this regard. The RNG-infested loot system from the prior two games are also replaced by a more handcrafted weapon and armor system that works wonders for the game.

I do wish Ubisoft learns the lesson that bigger isn’t always better- much like Odyssey, Valhalla is also excruciatingly long. For people who like 100+ hour plus experiences, Valhalla seems like the perfect fit but I can predict that most players will either give up past the 50-hour mark or just rush the main story alone.

However, the actual trump card in terms of character progressions are the – ‘Abilities’. You can wield up to 8 of these abilities at once – 4 Ranged and 4 Melee. We’ve seen these in action in Odyssey as well, but it’s drastically improved in terms of the options offered. From rushing into enemies and smashing them into a wall, followed by an ax thrown to their jaw, Valhalla for sure has some brutal executions that look and feel badass. While all of the abilities are powerful in their own way, you need to choose them according to your playstyle. I prefer to go in an all-out, hence I usually equip the most aggressive and brutal abilities to take down any major threats in my way. Hence, Eivor can be any type of character you want them to be – a super aggressive Viking, a stealthy Assassin, or one of those rarely balanced Viking that some strive to be.

And lastly, Eivor can be customized as per the way you want them to be. I wanted Eivor to look less of a mad one, but still look rad. Hence, I got a military hairstyle, with a Viking beard, which exactly reflects the Eivor I want to play with. You will also have a huge variety of tattoos to put on all over your body, whenever you wish to and collect new designs, throughout the world. These are just cosmetic changes that have no impact on the gameplay. But since Ubisoft wants to go in the RPG route, these are a welcome addition.

Assassin or Viking?

Assassin’s Creed Valhalla starts off with a painful opening, where Eivor as a kid, witness the death of their parents. Soon, Eivor is seen taking revenge on the oath-breaker who took their life but doesn’t quite succeed. After a while, Eivor returns to the settlement where Sigurd, the brother to Eivor, returns with friends who are the Assassins. It is revealed later in the story why Sigurd and the Assassins are working together, and their gift for Eivor is none other than the Hidden Blade. From this point on, the stealth option in the game is in full effect, and you can play like an assassin just like the old days. But personally, I prefer to go for a full Viking styled approach that suits the game better.

Stealth is rarely a necessity, you will always have an option, to complete your missions either the quietest way or the loudest way. And by now you would have guessed, loud for the win was my oft-used playstyle. Going loud means more trouble, more trouble means more enemies: and this time around Valhalla has introduced a vast variety of enemies. From bandits to shielded knights in chain armor, you will have to spend some time learning the attack patterns of these powerful enemies. Apart from the heavy enemies, you’ll also encounter goons, who will break the rules of fair fights, and use dirty tricks. Some might even spit fire, or steal other fallen enemies’ weapon. While I spent more time fighting different enemies, it will be a good option to hone your parrying skills, since parrying will allow you to finish your enemies without having to deal with their HP. One particular enemy type which I came to loathe is the Pikemen or Spear Bearers. They can somehow parry your devastating burning axe, and take 25% of your hp away with one strike.

Lastly, you can play an Assassin, complete the missions in full stealth, even take down higher level enemies in one go, if you time your assassinations right (or turn-on one-hit hidden blade kills in the menu). Play this game as a Viking or an Assassin, it’s your call, but I would rather prefer a Viking with a slight touch of an Assassin.

The Lands and Waters of Valhalla

While you start your game in the beautiful snowcapped mountains of Norway, with jagged cliffs, icy waters, and auroras in the sky, you’ll be spending most of your time in the lush meadows and valleys of England. England is divided into 4 main territories: Mercia, East Anglia, Wessex, and Northumbria. And within these territories are kingdoms, with whom you’ll set out on a journey to create alliances. Each kingdom will have its own arc and will be the narrative center of Valhalla. Each arc has its own story, friendships, and mysteries to uncover. The word quests (or mini side quests) are some of the best additions to the game. There will be no objective marker for these mini-quests and you’ll have to assess the situation and figure out the solutions on your own. Plus, you’ll get to meet a roaster of weirdos and creeps this way.

Moreover, these quests are like encounters that you can deal with the way you want, which makes exploration more interesting and adds depth the to vast lands of Valhalla. The story missions will have critical choices, which will have an impact on the story at a later stage. You’ll be mostly put into a situation to choose between wisdom and glory.

Apart from the main story, side activities are also very interesting for the first time in Assassin’s Creed. You can take part in flyting, which is basically Viking rap battles, and doing flyting will also increase your Charisma that will open up more dialogue options in the narrative arcs. Similarly, you can play a board game called Orlog which is surprisingly a very interesting game, and I often find myself wrapped up in my quilt and playing Orlog while listening to lo-fi music.

Talking about the level design, environment, and visuals: Valhalla is simply breathtaking, relaxing, and fresh. It gives an invigorating feeling and rewards exploration. Beautiful waters, tall mountains, and lush grasslands collectively put together make the maps of Valhalla simply the best in the franchise. I often preferred walking at the slowest pace to my destination, noticing every detail, the surroundings, and of course how well Eivor reacts to the environment.

Each territory has its biome terrains, hence after spending a good amount of time, you can well differentiate, which territory you are currently in. This breaks down the barrier of how Assassins Creed was previously accused of having a repetitiveness in its environment. Not only the terrain, the post effects, the biomes, and most importantly the music of each territory sets it well apart. TLDR – You are going to enjoy the open world extensively.

However, as much as I enjoyed the visuals of the game, I do feel that the Anvil engine is starting to overstay its welcome. The combat is very floaty and lacks the impact you expect from a Viking game. There’s an overall lack of polish when it comes to the animations. This is especially apparent during combat where clipping is all over the place. More often than not, you’d perform a hidden blade takedown to see the blade go through the enemy’s testicles instead of his throat like it was originally meant to be. This is excluding the plethora of bugs and visual glitches where you can see the engine go apeshit. At least it’ll make for some funny YouTube montages.

As for the music, it’s nothing but simply magic. Maestro Jesper Kyd is back and has done an exemplary job composing the soundtrack of the game. Words can’t do it justice, so I suggest you grab a good pair of headphones and binge through it!

Odin’s with us.

Assassin’s Creed Valhalla is an action-packed adventure backed by an engaging narrative arc, an amazing character, rewarding exploration, varied combat. freedom of choice, and much more. For an Assassin’s Creed fan, Valhalla is a gift box packed with plenty of surprises they’ve been waiting for a long time. That being said, the game still carries with it some tried and tired Assassin’s Creed troops such as the unnecessary length of the campaign and the glitchy graphics engine which will once again turn away people who didn’t like the new approach Ubisoft took with Origins and Odyssey.

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