Time to talk about Assassins' Creed: Valhalla!
*NOTE: I am using male pronouns for the protagonist, Eivor because that's how I played. Like AC: Odyssey you have the choice of gender at the beginning of the game. On a historical note, Eivor is a feminine name and at one point Eivor, no matter which gender you pick as Eivor Varinsdottir which translates to Eivor, Daughter of Varin.
Valhalla takes us back to the 9th century during the closing days of the Great Heathen Army in England. The protagonist, Eivor, has come to England to help his clan start a new life away from the cold or Norway. As the story progresses Eivor becomes the guiding force in securing alliances for his newfound settlement and protect his people. He's also introduced to a pair of Hidden Ones, the Assassins. They set him on the track of eliminating the Order of the Ancients, the precursors to the Templars of the first games.
Additionally, there are more AC mainstays such as dealing with the Isu mythology. For the first time in AC history the Isu stories deal more with Norse legend rather than Grecko Roman and there are two arcs involving Asgard and Jotunheim.
I'm going to break this up into two segments. The England Invasion/Order of the Ancients story and the Isu Asgardian story.
The intertwined England/Order story is remarkable. It is a throwback to earlier Assassins' Creed games where you are living a part of real history. Real personalities, real history, real location (albeit fictionalized for the game) make this feel more grounded in reality. And a great, big lure for history nerds. Odyssey, in comparison was grounded more in Greek Myth as much as it was in the historical happenings of its time. And the Sci-Fi element was more pervasive. While many of the twists in Valhalla were telescoped so many more weren't and some were heart wrenching.
The other story revolving around the Isu and Asgard which I won't give too many spoilers on because well...they'd be spoilers, felt a little more out of place. While interesting in and of itself you always felt like maybe you should be back in England getting things done rather than floating around in the translation of an Isu memory. The Asgard story was vital to why things happen late in the England story but it could have been more to the point; some of its puzzles seemed tacked on and a pain in the ass rather than fun and advancing the action. I am very much looking forward to going to Ireland when the DLC comes out.
Gone are the side quests of Odyssey & Origins in the traditional sense. There's the main story and its immediate quests that affect it in some way, some special stories, and then the environmental quests. These take the form of finding wealth items, finding artifacts, and solving mysteries. Some are tedious, some are fun.
Top Notch. I started playing it on my aging and dying XBox One and it was beautiful there. It shit the bed about halfway through and I was able to get my hands (thanks to my wife!) on a Series X. Holy. Shit.
One of the best signs of graphics in a game is to pay attention to how they treat water. When you feel like you're looking at a running river or roiling ocean you know they've done a great job. The river long-boat component has a beautiful cinematic mode while riding on the river.
The environments and wilds of England are beautiful. Historic places and landmarks such as Stone Henge and the cliffs of Dover are a wonder to behold (and I'm really glad I got to see them in Series X.
The character depiction is very good. Not many graphical anomalies to take you out of the moment. The male Eivor will look very familiar and I, and a lot of other people, will happily put money on betting that Eivor is an ancestor to Edward Kenway.
The voice acting is top notch and the sound effects and music are right where you'd expect them to be. Sometimes though the music is too loud (even if you play with the volume) and some of the dialogue gets buried. Play with sub titles. You'll thank me.
As the third game of the reboot era it has a pretty good refinement on combat, travel, and Eaglevision, now called Odin Sight for this. edition.
Sure, you can try to be stealthy and with a great deal of patience it is possbile. its just not practical. At this stage the AC games have abandoned stealth.
Going deeper it has refined the adrenaline system from Origins & Odyssey and many of your special abilities are part of this. They are very easy to use and the only complaint I can offer is that you have to pick four melee abilities and four ranged abilities to be active adrenaline skills and there are so many more skills you want to use.
The skill system itself is massive. Its intimidating. Honestly, after getting the specific abilities I wanted I began to let "fate choose." It hasn't let me down yet.
The customization is through the roof. You can customize your weapons, hair, tattoos, and armor on your person. In the settlement of Ravensthorpe (a very real place, btw), you can customize decorations, build it up similar to the Davenport Homestead in AC III, and customize your longboat with all ends of cosmetics.
There are bugs. Oh boy are there bugs. HUGE bugs that for some people have outright broken the game. I was lucky; but its possible that at about 100 hours in that the story NPCs simply stop working and you have the choice of hoping to restore from a save much earlier in the game or restarting entirely.
Story: (England/Historical 5/5) (Isu/Asgard 3/5). Combined and shortened the Asgard story would have been a better fit. The historical feel and setting of the Assassins' Creed games has always been the primary draw for me. At the end, I won't give anything away, you'll meet "someone" and I want you to send me a private message on who you think it is. Its pretty damn obvious but don't cheat and look at IMDB.
Graphics: 5/5 Holy Shit level of graphics. I would say the environments make the graphical part of this game far more than other entries. Hell, it may be worth playing on the graphics alone.
Sound: 4/5 hen will game developers learn that while music is super important (and if you don't fall in love with the battle songs during the raids than you have no soul) but when it over does the important story dialogue you have an issue. Just turn it down a notch during cut scenes, that's all I'm asking.
Control: 4/5 for me; I always feel like it could be a little better and I still think the best combat was AC II. Great innovations though. Now others here, mileage may vary. I was very, very lucky and encountered only one major bug and I found a quick way around it.
One final note: In its inexorably march toward becoming an RPG over a stealth game, the AC series now includes that dreaded MMO staple of seasonal festivals. These are more than annoying and the Yule one produced fantastic bugs (the worst I encountered in the game). Well, I ignore festivals in my MMOs so you better believe I ignore them in my Assassins' Creed games.
LOOK WHO CAME: