If reviews are all about metrics, which let’s admit they are, then that number should sway you as much as the score given at the end. While I’m going to go on and elaborate about other things which made Assassin’s Creed Valhalla an entertaining romp for me, the other metric I’d like to add is Platinum. So enthralled by the game I was, that I pushed myself to get the fabled Platinum trophy to say “Yes. I have fully completed this game.” Because I did.
And I enjoyed the majority of it.
I haven’t been back to the world of Assassin’s Creed since 2013’s Black Flag. By that stage, I suspect I had some form of burnout from the franchise, even though I’d picked up Syndicate and had review copies for Origins and Odyssey. During that time, I had friends explain that Origins and it’s sequel, Odyssey, rebooted the franchise in new and exciting ways, but again, I was also experiencing “large, open world games” burnout. So what was it about Valhalla?
Honestly, I think it was the Viking story? But also maybe the ability to choose which Eivor I was and the general direction in which I took their life. An array of options and choices, with some minor payoff, allowed me to get immersed in the world and the journey Eivor took. It did come as a surprise to me, to find myself so wholly enjoying the franchise again. But maybe that’s because it’s not so much the same Creed any more, but sort of is.
Stealth over action. Action over stealth.
I saw someone break it down like that. The former games used to put stealth before action, though the action that broke out would be pretty fun. But now? It’s action over stealth. I feel Edward Kenway led the charge for this, but it was Origins which carried it home. I say that thanks to friends who said I needed to check the game out. And I also watched some vids on it. But like I said, the scope of it just freaked me out. But Valhalla had me charmed by it. Maybe it was England?
Or something like it. We begin in the frosted tundra of Norway, where I thought “Good god, we’re not spending it all in this frozen hellscape are we?”. And yes, I know that’s the antithesis of “hell”, but still. While beautiful, it is of course the sheer COLD of the place which leaves it uninviting. But do not fret! You escape from it relatively quickly to head toward England and greener pastures. Literally.
Stumbling out of the harrowed grounds of olden Norway, you find yourself in England with purpose. Something your brother Sigurd, will be sure to repeat many times over your adventure. Tasked with establishing a new settlement in England, and taking it over, you branch out from Sigurd’s destiny to find your own. As you follow your destiny, you make a lot of new friends who provide the emotional heft for the war at hand. Going about making Kings of people who will support your destiny, comes with the debate of Eivor’s own place within their tribe.
And this is all happening amongst 1000’s of side-quests and collectibles.
The debate here should start with the fact that yes Ubisoft, it is not a good idea to charge people for quick wins within the game through microtransactions. Especially when you make it so easy to find them all anyway! But I digress. Normally these bite-sized things would be part of the issues I have with the open-world genre. Yet there’s spectacle in getting to enjoy the environment developed for the game. It was truly stunning to traverse, with new points of interest to be found everywhere. Even more so after I figured out how to run it properly on my PS5.
The PS4 version of Valhalla includes a free download which basically upgrades it for the PS5. While I played the Norway section, I felt load-times and the graphics weren’t quite hitting the mark. Especially after Spider-Man: Miles Morales. I then discovered I had to tell my PS5 to run it that way. Once I did this, the difference was immediately noticeable. Load-times went by in seconds, rendering the Animus-loading zones useless, and the world had a new sharpness to it. I feel I noticed this through the light rays beckoning me through trees, making me think of the many examples of this used in “ray tracing”.
Controls are your classic Ubi-fare. Jump, dodge, interact and crouch are bound to the face, while attacks are appended to the shoulder buttons. The D-Pad manages inventory and your animal companions, because yes, birds are still a very big deal in the world of the Creed. All these combinations come together comfortably, which is much-needed for the time spent in the game; Or you know, 160 hours.
Between the taking of England, and searching for new treasures, it’s the perfect amount of time to be played. The world is littered with a delicious amount of work to be done, and wonderful stories to be experienced and enjoyed. While bugs come and go, and some moments can drag, it had enough to get me right toward that Platinum trophy. And if anything, the sheer joy of it all is enough to draw me back in once the DLC is released.
It’s not the same Creed.
But this is maybe why it worked for me. It’s something different now, telling a story which threatens to keep drawing out until it comes full circle. And as long as this keeps working, then the Creed will continue to find itself followed by old fans and new of the series.
I legitimately thought the love this game received must have been a trick, but it turns out the critics were right. Assassin's Creed Valhalla is a wonderful, new direction for the series, with a tonne of fun new things to do.
While some classically terrible Creed objectives return, it isn't enough to sully the overall journey taken throughout.
Now bring me some DLC Ubisoft! I'm waiting in anticipation!