From the year 793, Vikings and Danes raided the British Isles relentlessly for almost 300 years causing the destruction of ancient Roman structures and instilling fear into the hearts and minds of Anglo-Saxons. With the support of their Norse Gods, they claimed vast regions of Britain while playing a key role in not just the conquering of kingdoms but also in forging alliances. Assassin’s Creed Valhalla is the twelfth game in the main Assassin’s Creed series and ninth developed by Ubisoft Montreal, taking us on a journey to the late 9th century to play as Eivor the Wolf-Kissed Viking from Fornburg, Norway who’s taking his/her people to greener pastures to start a new life.
Beginning your adventure in Assassin’s Creed Valhalla, Ubisoft wanted to make sure that you have complete control over every setting. After choosing the usuals and adjusting your HDR and screen settings, you are then able to choose whether to play as the male or female version of Eivor, but what separates Valhalla from previous AC titles is that you can also choose an option that lets the game decide for you. This will mean your character will switch back and forth between genders throughout the game depending on which one is better suited for that part of the story, which was a pretty cool surprise for us.
Valhalla also has separate difficulty settings for combat, stealth and exploration, giving you the option to make the game as easy or difficult as you want depending on your style of gameplay. You can also switch off options like nudity, blood, assassination sequences and dismemberments, giving you total control over the type of gameplay you will face. All these options can be adjusted at any time too, including the gender adjustments, and the cut-scenes will simply amend accordingly. We’re also happy to report that we had next to no issues resuming the game from standby mode, allowing us to jump straight back into the action in seconds.
With every new Assassin’s Creed game comes new ways to play and interact with the world, and Valhalla is no exception. The combat system has been retained from Assassin’s Creed Odyssey (check out our review here) with the right bumper and trigger used for light and heavy melee attacks, but the types of abilities you can use are now a lot more diverse, and the way you unlock them even more so. Abilities must be found in Books of Knowledge located throughout the world and then bound to one of your action buttons. Each ability has two books to find, and if you locate and acquire both then the ability becomes even more powerful. While the Books of Knowledge are shown on your mini-map, the game doesn’t tell you what ability will be in it, meaning you don’t get to choose which abilities you’ll get first, or which abilities will get their upgraded versions first. This will lead to you using abilities that you might have otherwise ignored in the previous games, and we think it’s a great (and somewhat realistic) way to teach a character new abilities.
The skills system has also had a complete makeover and now takes the shape of a night sky with each star being a skill to unlock. Leveling up earns two skill points while completing other tasks in the game can give you extra points which allow you to work towards becoming a stronger character. While most of the skills are simply a +3% heavy attack or +2.6% stealth, occasionally there are skills that greatly increase a certain armour type, and each zodiac contains one special skill that clearly stands out from the rest, such as being able to perform a double assassination, or setting a trap on your fallen foe.
Speak of foes, Assassin’s Creed Valhalla is full of different types of enemies for you to face. Not only is there an abundance of wildlife in Ubisoft’s 9th century Britain including plenty of wolves and for some reason snakes, there are also a variety of warriors from standard melee and ranged soldiers to more specialised units like Yeomans and Standard-Bearers to named and famed bosses that you’ll face either through story missions or come across in the open-world. When raiding towns, we typically came across one or two of the specialised units and they tended to increase in difficulty as we progressed through the game. As with Origins and Odyssey, you need to be on your guard when traversing the open-world in Valhalla as the named enemies are quite formidable and can come out of nowhere.
Gone are the large-scale battlefields of Odyssey, there are no Spartans and Athenians here. Instead, Valhalla introduces raids which can be started by either blowing your horn or taking your ship full of soldiers up or downstream and crashing into the shores of a settlement. Raids show up on the map, but when you command a ship, they will become even more obvious, appearing in the UI even if they’re a fair distance away. A raid is basically exactly what you’d expect it to be: pillage through the settlement burning buildings, killing any that resist, and stealing their supplies. While raiding is somewhat optional, it goes a long way towards building your very own settlement: Ravensthorpe.
As mentioned earlier, Assassin’s Creed Valhalla brings back your home base and in a big way. Ravensthorpe starts off as a few tents with a longhouse that needs repairs. After gathering some supplies, you begin to build up your settlement which in turn attracts more people. There are six levels the settlement goes through, and each building can be upgraded once or twice giving you access to more rewards, stores, and missions. You can also customise parts of your settlement with unique statues and idols, creating your own unique part of the world. Unfortunately, this isn’t Age of Empires so Ravensthorpe never turns into a Mecca, but we think Ravensthorpe is a step in the right direction for the series and hope it stays in future games.
The main story in Assassin’s Creed Valhalla is long and covers the four kingdoms of England: Mercia, East Anglia, Northumbria and Wessex. If you’re reading this then chances are you’ve seen trailers and gameplay videos so we can talk about Norway too. The Norway map is larger than what we expected, spanning about the size of one of the four English kingdoms. While the story in Norway only takes 2-3 hours to complete, there is further content there and you can’t go back straight away, so completionists might want to check out everything Norway has to offer before traveling to England. Without revealing too much about the story, Eivor speaks to Odin and is almost guided by his judgment as the story progresses. There are other familiar characters such as King Alfred and some lesser known historical figures too. We found the story to be compelling and constantly changing despite the fact that it carries on for many hours, and we really enjoyed how some of the choices you make, such as when you choose whether someone lives or dies, create an immediate impact on your gameplay.
As you work your way through the story, different alliances become available on the Alliance Map. These are chapters which can be completed in any particular order, sending you out to a new shire or kingdom to discover what troubles them and how you may be able to assist. There are 15 parts of the Alliance Map, each with their own story that can take several hours to complete. The cities of Wincestre (Winchester), Lunden (London) and Jorvik (York) have their own chapters, and you’ll find the game feels more like a traditional Assassin’s Creed title when you’re sneaking around within the city walls. Completing each story on the Alliance Map provides you with rewards to help build your settlement, another feature returning from older Assassin’s Creed games.
Instead of question marks, the open-world map is now littered with different colour orbs that leads you to activities like side quests, games, mysteries and treasure. The mini-games this time around include an easy-to-learn dice game called ‘Orlog’, 9th century English rapping contests known as ‘Flyting’, a quick time event drinking game which will leave you a little tipsy, and yes, fishing. Some are betting games, and all are typically a good way to earn some quick extra silver. There are also flying tattoo design parchments which take you on a tour of the towns and villages as you attempt to grab them, just like the sea shanties in Black Flag. Mysteries are aplenty in Valhalla, with some taking you to large underground areas like burial sites that are filled with puzzles to solve. We felt like there were more puzzles in Valhalla than there have been in recent Assassin’s Creed games, but there still aren’t any as in-depth as what we got in the Assassin’s Creed 2 trilogy.
Valhalla uses the AnvilNext 2.0 Engine which has now been in use since 2014’s Assassin’s Creed Unity and continues to shine. While we can’t yet comment on how the game performs on the next generation of consoles, we were satisfied with visual improvements over Assassin’s Creed Odyssey, including a much more diverse weather system and impressive water flow and reflections. Character models have also improved, with facial features looking more defined and outfits on not just playable and named characters but also random NPC’s looking great. We’re excited to see how the game performs on the next generation of consoles and will have opinion/impression/comparison pieces up later this month.
November 10th is a big day for video games. The Xbox Series X|S is launching with a bunch of games, and the PlayStation 5 releases just two days after. Assassin’s Creed Valhalla is currently poised to be the biggest launch title by far, packed full of 100+ hours of content with more planned soon including traveling to Ireland and Paris. It’s hard to find flaws in Valhalla unless you’re a die-hard Assassin’s Creed fan. There really is something for every action RPG fan here, and we’d much rather a 100+ hour game that includes some non-assassin features than a strict 20-hour stealth story.
Rocket Chainsaw reviewed Assassins Creed Valhalla on Xbox One X with review code provided by the publisher. It is also available on PlayStation 4, PlayStation 5, Xbox Series X|S and Windows PC. Stay tuned to Rocket Chainsaw for our next-gen impressions in the coming days, and for more information head to the official website.
We also received an Assassin’s Creed Valhalla Collector’s Edition on PS4 from Ubisoft today and made a very amateur unboxing video which you can check out below! If you like and subscribe, we might even do it more often.
- One of the most beautiful realistic worlds ever created - A lengthy story that blends fact with fiction with decisions that impact your gameplay - Loads of side content, with both new and returning ideas.
- Some might just find this game too big - Minor screen tearing issues on Xbox One X - Horizon draw distance varied in quality.