Assassin’s Creed Valhalla (PS5) Review: Best in the series?
With Assassin’s Creed Valhalla, Ubisoft takes the chance to give us an Assassin’s Creed that feels new and fresh, but still retains the framework from the older games. It’s set in the late 9th century, and with its Viking characters, it feels more like a conventional RPG – along the lines of, say, The Witcher 3 – than Assassin’s Creed games usually do.
However, it doesn’t lack the franchise’s unique identity and while it may have a God of War vibe to it, it’s still packed with parkour, stealth and assassinations – just as we learned to love the last years.
You’ll play as Eivor. This character has a male and female version, but in terms of story it doesn’t really matter which variant you choose. Plus, you can switch at any time when you’re tired of your gender. As a Nordic citizen however, I must point out the funny thing about Ubisoft choosing an old lady’s name for their fierce viking protagonist.
Anyway. After a pretty overwhelming start, you sail from Norway with your clan to find a better life in England. As Eivor, you’ll soon find your new home town – Ravensthorpe. It’s your job to develop it; that means collecting supplies to expand facilities and put the town on the map. It’s only a small part of the bigger picture of Assassin’s Creed Valhalla, but it provides a central focus; Ravensthorpe acts as your anchor throughout this journey, and you’ll be grateful for its comforting familiarity.
From Ravensthorpe it’s possible to take a sail your boat to various fortresses and monasteries. Not like a field trip, but to plunder with your Viking army. You use the loot and treasures you find in the process to improve your village. You also build alliances to help you grow bigger and stronger.
Narrative-wise, Assassin’s Creed Valhalla also tries a new approach which its writers describe as “episodic” – each county’s storyline contains lashings of intrigue, interesting characters and soap opera-style elements, and generally ends in a siege and a boss-battle.
That innovative narrative structure works great since, as you forge alliances in a growing number of counties, it builds a feeling of an overarching thread, without giving the impression that anything has been shoehorned in simply to advance the story.
Gameplay-wise, Assassin’s Creed Valhalla is pretty impeccable. Its fighting system builds on those of previous Assassin’s Creed games, and feels finely honed and responsive (dual-wielding shields anyone?)
Collecting XP from various tasks earns you Skill points, which you spend in a giant skill tree, on improvements to your base stats, as well as new skills which prove very handy. As you progress that skill tree, your overall power rating increases, giving you an idea of which missions you can successfully take on. On top of that, you can earn Abilities – by finding Books of Knowledge. They’ll provide special melee and ranged attacks powered by adrenaline that can be triggered in combat, a process that generally involves a certain amount of puzzle-solving.
Exploring high mountains and deep valleys in Valhalla never gets boring. It feels like there is always some adventure to embark on. It’s simply huge, containing in the region of 80 hours’ gameplay, with loads of potential for post-launch expansions.
Graphics and audio
The game is sometimes adorably beautiful and really looks next-gen, while it sometimes becomes clear that this is a game that began its development to the older generation of consoles. Worth noticing is that this game will run better on the Playstation 5 than Xbox Series X.
A number of reports have said that the game have serious issues with audio glitching out, I have also encountered this and hopefully it is something Ubisoft is working on and can patch away as soon as possible.
Assassin’s Creed Valhalla is a pleasure from start to finish. Though overwhelming in its early hours, once you settle into Eivor’s shoes, exploring England is an exhilarating journey like no other. Try as you might to focus on the main missions, the lure of exploration is too strong, and you’ll find pleasure in every tiny discovery. Is this the best Assassin’s Creed game yet? That’s difficult to say – but it might just be.
Assassin’s Creed Valhalla is available on PC, Xbox One, Xbox Series X/S, PS4, PS5 and Stadia. I reviewed the game on Playstation 5 with a code provided by the publisher.