Assassin's Creed: Valhalla Review (Spoiler Free)
Written By Bradley O'Neill (Played on PlayStation 5)
Assassin's Creed has always been a series I've played on and off. AC2 to AC4: Black Flag are some of my favourite games of all time. When we got to Unity and Syndicate I started to feel bored of the series. I felt like change needed to happen as the series always played it safe and I wanted something new. Assassin's Creed: Origins was the last AC game I played, they really changed things up with this game and in my opinion, I didn't agree with all the changes. Call me nitpicky but I never wanted Assassin's Creed to turn into an Action RPG, it just didn't make sense to me and after 10 hours of play, I never went back to Origins.
Then AC: Odyssey released and to be honest, I completely skipped it. I had no interest in this new era of Assassin's Creed. Going forward, the next generation of consoles were on the horizon and for the first time in a while, an Assassin's Creed game caught my eye. This being AC: Valhalla. After taking a break from the series for a couple years, I thought I would take a gamble and see if I would enjoy this one. It was worth it.
So, to get this out of the way first. This review will be primarily focusing on the game itself rather than the story. However, I just want to give a quick summary on my thoughts on the story. Without giving too much away, I can safely say that this is a major step up and I really enjoyed the main story thread of the game. Fans of the Modern Day storyline will also be happy with what is packed into this game. The game has an overarching narrative which is split into different Arcs or Chapters, each with their own characters and stories to tell. This way of storytelling works really well although it really did drag on to much around the 40 hour mark. It did keep me hooked through the whole game so I feel that this is a step in the right direction. Overall, the story is great and veteran Assassin's Creed fans will find much to enjoy here.
Valhalla plays very similarly to the previous two AC games. They are sticking to the Action RPG elements but what I like about Valhalla is they really focus in again on the Stealth gameplay that the series is known for. The gameplay is a good balance of new and old, a solid compromise as I longed for the old style to return but its still adds in enough new elements for it to feel fresh but also for it to feel like an Assassin's Creed game. Something I felt Origins lacked.
The combat is pretty good but can feel rough at times with some situations where it can feel awkward when there is a big group enemies on the screen at once. It's not too overwhelming though and its easy to get grips with. Your progression is done via the armor you have selected and your skill tree. After most missions and also from doing general stuff in the game world, you gain XP. Everytime you level up you get 2 skill points to spend. One of my big issues with Origins was the grinding nature of the game but here, you are always progressing your level and it feels rewarding and gets addictive. Areas and events this time are not locked off from you if you are not a certain level. You can tackle any part of the world regardless of your level, however the game will warn you that this is a foolish move but in the end, if you have the skill then go ahead and do what you want!
This game gives plenty of freedom that the old Assassin's Creed game also offered, the ability to explore where you want and to not be blocked because you are not a certain level. In terms of difficulty, the game never really gave me too much trouble, there was challenge if you wanted it with optional bosses to take on but even then, if you are at the right level then even these are not too challenging. To be honest, considering the scale of this game, I'm glad it wasn't tough as for me personally, when there is 100+ hours of content I don't want to keep getting stuck on certain sections of gameplay with forced difficulty such as harder enemies and obstacles. If the game is too easy for you though there is always the stealth approach to combat which can really change the way you tackle enemy camps and castles.
I won't lie, this game is huge. I would go as far to say that this is the biggest Assassin's Creed game ever. I won't spoil anything here but this game has a habit of making you think the story is about to conclude but then adds more and more. However this is not always a good thing. It took me 66 Hours before I saw the end credits, by the 40 hour mark I started to feel tired of the games structure. While at the start of the game, the structure was fresh and it was pretty great, but when you get to later chapters, you start to see the cracks where they are clearly copy and pasting the same structure and it really shows. Each Story Arc for the most part start and end in the same way.It got really old near the end and I just wanted the story to end.
The same goes with the side content and collectables. For each region in the game (and there are a lot of them!) You have around 30+ different collectables, mysteries and artifacts to collect. Consider the way you collect these doesn't really change throughout the whole game, this too also gets old and quite frankly, I don't think its worth my time to go out my way and collect and do everything. The burn out is real and once I finished that story, I put the game down and didn't come back. I think just because you can add more to your game, doesn't really mean you should. I would take a 20 hour story with a smaller amount of quality side content over this any day. The game was fantastic until I started to feel the burnout, if it were me, i would never add this much content in my game unless it was interesting and worth the players time. Not just the same copy and pasted material.
The game is really buggy in parts as well. No where close to how Cyberpunk 2077 is at the time of me writing this but still, there are multiple annoying issues I ran into. The big consistent bug I always ran into was the missions not working as intended. Sometimes I had to restart because an event didn't start or a mission would never finish. Besides that however I only ran into a few small graphical glitches which didn't really ruin the experience.
Graphically this is not only the best looking Assassin's Creed games but one of the best looking games on Next Gen right now. While on PS5 it doesn't scream "Next Gen", it looks like an incredible PS4 game with that super solid 60FPS which makes a huge difference. You can change the performance settings as well so if you want a more higher quality image, you can select this but sacrifice the 60FPS for 30! It's nice to have these options. Overall, the performance and art direction of this game is outright incredible and it was a joy to run through the stunning map.
Assassin's Creed: Valhalla is a game that suprised me. I never went into this expecting that I would put 60+ hours into this. The last time I finished an AC game was Assassin's Creed: Unity. This kept me hooked from start to finish. The game just has to much content, you can always have too much of a good thing and at times the game felt overwhelming which put me off at times. It felt like a was never going to finish this, I think this is one of the longest stories I've played in a video game. If it was around 30-40 hours then I would be able to call this one of the best Assassin's Creed games ever made. The fact is drags on for so long really lets it down in the end. Overall though, this is a good step forward for the series and it makes me excited for what comes next. While the gameplay isn't perfect, it sparks enough of the old and new that they actually work together well. The story is also hands down one of the best for a long time with characters you can get attached to and stories that really help to build the world around you.
8/10 - A solid entry in the series which drags on for just too long, but there is plenty to enjoy here for new and old Assassin's Creed fans alike.