GameByte Review – Assassin’s Creed: Valhalla (PS4)

Assassin’s Creed: Valhalla has docked its longship onto PS4, Xbox One, PC (and soon PS5, Xbox Series X|S) after what seems like a pretty short ride. Announced earlier this year, Valhalla has some pretty giant boots to fill as the next addition to the franchise following 2018’s iconic Assassin’s Creed: Odyssey, but can it improve on its predecessor’s greatness? Here’s our review of Assassin’s Creed: Valhalla.


NOTE: Just like Odyssey, Valhalla can be a 200-plus hour game if you aim for Platinum. This review saw us play over 15 hours of content, and though we did not complete the main storyline in that time, we feel our score would not change with more time.


Narrative

Image from Assassins Creed Valhalla
Credit: Ubisoft

Assassin’s Creed: Valhalla follows a pretty tried-and-tested narrative. Your hero Eivor (who can be male, female or randomised, and who can be swapped at any time) is a Viking warrior responsible for settling the Raven clan into their new home in England. As you’d expect, this is no simple task, with pillaging, politics and lots of mead to get through on your quest.

Just like in Odyssey, your character has some serious family issues, but Eivor is instantly less likeable than Alexios/Kassandra was. When I played Odyssey, I played as Kassandra, a character made loveable with her charm, wit and kindness – especially towards young Phoebe. With the 15 hours I played of Valhalla, I didn’t really warm to Eivor. She (yes, I played as a woman) was headstrong, sure, but she was also pretty dull and a little one-dimensional. Even in her moments of decision or sorrow, I just struggled to care about her in the same way I cared for Kassandra.

The story itself is a less exciting version of Odyssey, packed with similar quests, storylines and plot points. It’s fun, but it doesn’t really bring anything new or memorable to AC lore. Like with the older AC games, it does what you want from the franchise, but it doesn’t push the boat (sorry, longship) out.


Graphics/Style

Image from Assassins Creed Valhalla
Credit: Ubisoft

Assassin’s Creed: Valhalla is a good-looking game, but graphically it didn’t seem to improve too much over Odyssey. Admittedly, I did play on PS4, and this is a cross-gen game, so there’s probably more to be said for the next-gen and PC versions of the title. There were some missing textures, missing animations and other slight bugs which I assume will be patched out on release.

The huge world you can explore in the game is vast and exciting, but from its grassy plains to its grey seas and freezing mountainsides, the world gives us nothing we’ve not seen in an RPG before. The world of Valhalla fails to charm in the same way Odyssey did, and instead looks like a next-gen baby of Skyrim, The Witcher 3 and even God of War. It’s pretty, sure, but it didn’t excite me with the colours and fantasy of Odyssey. I reached for photomode exactly zero times, whereas I was snap-happy in Odyssey. Possibly this is because I live in the UK, but it’s more likely that I’m just a little weary of greys, greens and browns in my RPGs.

Gameplay

Image from Assassins Creed Valhalla
Credit: Ubisoft

Gameplay in Assassin’s Creed: Valhalla is exactly what you’d expect from an AC game. Branching quests, different choices, raids, battles and pillaging are all here, and all as excellently executed as in Odyssey. The new Raid mechanic is lots of fun, and allows you to invade villages and encampments to claim them for the Raven clan. From burning down homes to slaughtering the enemies, Raids are a lot of fun to take part in, and will give you supplies to help you improve your own encampment.

Combat is tight and polished, with the option to turn off the blood and gore if that’s not your jam. Causing havoc with an axe or stealthily going for a bow-and-arrow kill are both lots of fun. Weapons are upgraded using a combination of resources and runes, giving you the chance to tailor yourself the ideal set-up for your playstyle.

Similar to Odyssey, you’ll have Big Bads known as the Order of the Ancients. In the same vein as Odyssey’s Cultists, you’ll have the option to chop and slice your way through these mercenaries to become the strongest Assassin of all time. There’s a well-executed Order of the Ancients tree for you to work your way through, discovering and killing the people in people, and it’s nice to have the option to shy away from the main quests in order to bring on the slaughter.

Speaking of shying away from the main quests, although Valhalla feels smaller than Odyssey, you definitely won’t run out of things to keep your attention. Collect rations and upgrade your ration pouch to regenerate health on the battle field, earn XP to increase your Power, use runes to upgrade your equipment, customise your character with tattoos, take part in those Viking rap battles we all heard about, meet lots of cats, go to a brothel, get drunk in a drinking game, play dice and, if you have time, maybe complete some story quests. There’s a lot to keep you busy in Valhalla, and it definitely won’t be hard to sink 100 or more hours into this one.

Entertainment

AC Valhalla
Credit: Ubisoft

Assassin’s Creed: Valhalla is incredibly fun and addictive, and it feels a lot less daunting than Odyssey has been known to feel at times. Ubisoft has definitely taken onboard the feedback that Odyssey was just a little too overwhelming both in scope and in the sheer number of quests, and Valhalla definitely feels a lot more controlled, while still giving the player a lot to dive into.

With its cleaner mechanics and tighter controls, Valhalla definitely feels great to play, but it never quite charmed me in the way Odyssey did. Odyssey’s bright and vibrant world was truly a magical place to get lost within, and Valhalla – in comparison – feels darker, duller and flatter. I didn’t once have the urge to whip out the camera and play around in photomode because there was just nothing that grabbed my attention – even the huge buildings and historical monuments I know from living in the UK just failed to wow me in-game.

Accessibility

As you’d expect from a Ubisoft game, the Accessibility options in Valhalla are second to none (well, they’re second to The Last of Us Part 2, but let’s not go there). Valhalla allows for text narration and includes various colour options within its colourblind mode. You can also change the size of subtitles, icons and other elements within the game menu, with dozens of other ways in which you can tailor the game to suit your needs. We love to talk Accessibility when we review a game, and Assassin’s Creed: Valhalla makes a solid and impressive effort with its many options.

Summary

Image from Assassins Creed Valhalla
Credit: Ubisoft

Assassin’s Creed: Valhalla is a game definitely worthy of the Assassin’s Creed name. It’s fun, it’s vast and it continues to give players the freedom to do pretty much whatever they want to do in the game. It doesn’t quite improve on Odyssey in enough ways for me to say that it’s better, and I definitely think Odyssey is a lot more memorable than Valhalla, but it’s still a title that’s worth picking up, if only because it’s going to be one title that’s sure to keep you busy for the next few months!

Assassin’s Creed: Valhalla releases November 10. Available on Xbox Series X|S, Xbox One, PlayStation 4, Epic Games Store, Ubisoft Store on Windows PC, as well as on UPLAY+, and Stadia. Also coming to PlayStation 5.

Assassin’s Creed: Valhalla was provided for review by Ubisoft. This Assassin’s Creed: Valhalla review was conducted on PlayStation 4. 

Featured Image Credit: Ubisoft

8/10

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