A year after my last post on Assassins Creed I have “finished” Valhalla. It didn’t take an entire year because I took a huge break after playing the first couple of hours.
Why the break? Going straight from endgame Odyssey, Eivor feels so sluggish. Valhalla’s combat feels much more brutal and parry focused than the way I built Kassandra in Odyssey. Kassandra would cut about care free slashing everyone into ribbons but Eivor stands waiting to parry and do stun attacks. I no longer had fall damage mitigation and the crouched movement buff so traversal felt slow. Secondly, Eivor starts out so boring in comparison to Kassandra. Remember the Vikings TV show that started in 2013? Eivor would fit right in there. The tone feels overdone in 2023. This resulted in me never leaving Norway.
Then one day someone on Twitter posted something that made me realise I was 10min away from leaving for England. I figured I’d give it a go. The game picks up when you get there and there’s a bit more variety in the landscape than the endless snowy hills. Here I’ve got to say it’s bloody beautiful. The density of terrain & foliage is excellent. It’s mostly cosmetic apart from the sneakable shrubs which is a shame but it was a “Look how far graphic have come” moment.
Then it hits you. The best bits in AC are cutting about places that have iconic architecture. The problem with Valhalla is the architecture is either that a wooden longhouse or a big stone church. Neither are tremendously inspiring. Maybe I’m biased living in the place with all these churches and historic town centres, being dragged around them as a kid did not endear them to me. Do Italians feel the same about AC2?
The story in Valhalla is also just a bit boring. Eivor and her brother Sigurd come to England for glory and such. Build a settlement. Sigurd farts off with Basim the Assassin. You pick up the slack solving everyone’s problems. Eventually I’m supposed to care about Sigurd and his whole Isu artifact chasing nonsense.
I just wanted the finale between Basim, Sigurd, and Eivor to end quickly. The meta present-day stuff is a light dusting this time. Some of the implications of the finale could be interesting in whatever comes next. It’s your classic rote pulp sci-fi designed to keep you consuming and buying the products. It’s Assassins Creed.
It’s also the ultimate Ubisoft game. There are so many things on the map to clear. Artifacts to find, treasure to find, mini quests, bosses to bash. I spent 80 hours getting to the end and I’d say I’ve maybe done 15% of the map icons. I find it exhausting. This was one of my complaints about Odyssey and it’s not changed.
My other complaint with Odyssey was that the levelling system was naff. Ubisoft has improved it with this iteration. Now you level through a tech tree gaining skill points. Your enemies no long rubber band so hard. Your gear doesn’t get outlevelled. Returning to low level areas gives you the thrill of a shonen arc. Grand. The problem is you’re spending those points on incremental stat boosts like +1.4 Stun, +0.5 Light Attack, 10% Fire Resist, etc. Which is deeply boring and feels the same as every live service game, especially with the character armour screen and the slow circular cursor.
One last quibble is that the parkour hasn’t felt this bad in ages. Pretty much everything is climbable, just press forward and go up any obstacle. There are a few enjoyable jumping puzzles but they’re few and far between.
There are also some interactions like jumping through windows which are incredibly fiddly. It feels like the game is blurring my inputs to avoid breaking the simulation/illusion. Trying to climb up through a window would frequently see me shuffling left or right instead. It feels like the switch to more simulated limbs that happened in football games many moons ago. I don’t recall Odyssey or Origins feeling like this.
All in all I don’t rate Valhalla very highly. I doubt I’ll look back on it fondly. Will I play the next one? Obviously. I’m a big idiot.