First Impressions: Assassin's Creed Valhalla
Assassin’s Creed, like many long lasting franchises has experienced various forms of success including peaks and valleys as Ubisoft recently revolutionized the series in numerous ways. Valhalla’s predecessor admittedly burned me out on the franchise which induced a habit to reconsider purchasing this title once, twice, and even three times before I eventually caved. Ultimately, I couldn’t have been happier with the decision. The below impression comes with just about 20 hours of gameplay with little progress in the main storyline. Sit back and enjoy the quick read!
After stepping into the rolling snow capped hills of Norway, the first thought that comes to mind was 'pure awesome,' of which, was very different than the most recent installment. I expected this game to be a newer, traditional Assassin’s Creed experience much like Odyssey and Origins where you equip numerous weapons and gear to rein with terror. Many times, this resulted in doing so in monotonous and boring ways while being forced to use the best item despite your play style. To my delight, I could not have been more incorrect. Valhalla is something more. It’s complicated, yet it makes sense, and most importantly - Assassin’s Creed combat is great again. The renovated combat system is something that feels good and addicting to execute. Both the sound effects and rumble on the new Xbox Series X controller are out of this world and portray the feeling that your swings are physically clashing with the enemy. Furthermore, the addition of dual wield, a sprawling skill tree, and deadly abilities help round out character builds that really cement a deeper ARPG feel to the series. Better yet, Ubisoft delivers upon a balanced combat system making the user feel powerful against low level enemies while appropriately challenging you during higher level engagements. Overall, there's a sense of grit and nastiness to the combat that was lacking in previous entries which makes Valhalla stand out.
I am greatly refreshed with the shift in the gameplay direction yet it does not come without questions in its own right. Below are areas worth considering for the long haul:
How does combat scale over time?
Will my play style/abilities translate to end game content?
Is my current skill tree build viable for end game content?
When upgrading an ability, does the upgrade matter?
"The staggering detail provided by the next generation version has me drooling at times..."
Especially since Origins, the Assassin’s Creed franchise has provided sprawling, beautifully crafted open worlds with a plethora of nooks and crannies to explore. Valhalla is no different. The staggering detail provided by the next generation version has me drooling at times or plainly posing for pictures before or during conflicts. However, it is hard to ignore that the map feels smaller than previous installments to this point. More to come on this as the game unfolds but I cannot help but feel there is something I may be missing. Another critique comes in the form of environmental variation. Granted, I have explored just about half the map to this point, however, the north most and south most zones seem extremely similar. At times, I have felt little difference or reference point to distinguish a clear understanding of where I am on the map. Regardless, I remain intrigued to find out what the unexplored locations have in store such as:
Are there any large bustling cities with quest givers?
Will we revisit preserved portions of Rome?
What surprise locations are in store for DLC?
"...each moment you find a piece of gear to fit your build feels amazing"
The next standout portion surrounds gear drops and Ubisoft's important revision to the series. There is a staggeringly less amount of loot. Deep breaths. Don’t panic. This is by design and hear me out - I love it. Modern action RPGs have conditioned gamers to sift through loot requiring us to spend gobs of time at inventory screens taking away from playing the game itself. Ubisoft pivoted away from this by offering less loot while prioritizing a higher emphasis on upgrading your gear with materials found in the open world. While it may be an uncomfortable decision to make at first, just do it. You will reap the rewards and experience the benefits immediately. Furthermore, each moment you find a piece of gear to fit your build feels amazing. I cannot get over how a small change became so dynamic and noticeable during my play through so far. While I am happy with the overall structure, some remaining questions include:
Will the shiny new item feeling wear off when completing your build?
What is Ubisoft’s support plan for future gear
Again, I have only played about 20 hours but Assassin’s Creed Valhalla has taken my breath away to this point. The combat has refreshed my view on the series and the loot has been incredibly rewarding to uncover across the open world. As described above, there are questions in need of answers but I can certainly say the experience over these past 20 hours has been some of the best since Black Flag.
What are your thoughts? How are you liking it? Let us know if you plan on purchasing Assassin’s Creed Valhalla this holiday season!