Assassin’s Creed fans will love Valhalla’s bloody, brutal viking action gameplay
Ubisoft seem to be in love with all things English this year.
First we had the excellent Watch Dogs Legion set in a near-future London and now we have the latest Assassin’s Creed, set in 9th century England.
This time around our assassin Eivor is a rampaging Viking.
A bloodthirsty hero all kinds of hell-bent on pillaging and revenge.
The storyline to this title in the series is tight and like a movie version of Game of Thrones.
It’s got all-powerful kings, underhand dealings, defiant heroes and family double-crosses.
The writing is strong and runs at breakneck speed, captivating the gamer with an excellent storyline that you want to play right through to the bloody end.
Eivor is a Thor-like norse warrior with an horrific background.
In the opening moments of the game we see his dad and mum slain by Viking rivals and that Batman-esque origin story foreshadows every other moment in this action hit.
He’s a driven, bloodthirsty brute of a man that you find yourself controlling, and when he’s handed the assassin’s gauntlet and stealth training, it takes his lethal no-nonsense approach to another level.
That drive in turn makes him a character to both love and loathe at the same time as you find yourself maiming and pillaging villages and towns across England, building your reputation and power base in horrific outbursts of violence.
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If you’ve played the last two Assassin’s games in Odyssey and Origins they’ll be a lot that feels similar here in the open-world gameplay.
But the makers have tried to bring a bit more of the classic Creed titles back too, so it can feel more at home with the likes of 2014’s French revolution-set Unity at points too.
The fighting mechanics are tight, with Eivor’s brutal swordplay and shield-baring defensive strokes fantastic to wield.
There’s a heft skills tree too, so over time you evolve as a warrior, especially when equipped with your assassin gear, learning new attacks and abilities and growing in strength and weaponry as the difficulty ramps up.
Your mission is simple, establish a new permanent home, no matter the cost in the rich lands of England’s broken kingdoms.
There’s a beautifully designed by broodingly violent open world that revels against the backdrop of England’s Dark Ages.
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And once you get into the swing of the story it’s all about raiding your enemies, growing your clan’s settlement and build your political power in the quest to earn a place among the gods in Valhalla.
I’d have liked to have seen better level design with regards to Assassin’s Creed’s famous stealth gameplay.
All too often it was far too easy for you to call in your viking brethren to help pillage a rival settlement with the touch of a D-pad when the going got tough.
And as a bloodthirsty viking warrior, it felt like the game really wants you to play in this anarchistic way, when really it’d probably be better with a stronger mix of stealth takedowns and more silent murdering.
The open world itself is probably the developer’s biggest achievement outside the excellent campaign writing.
England is alive with threats and characters and you’ll find lots of bite-size tales among the people of this land if you shy away from the main missions and take in the random events that pop up along the way.
For example, discovering wild children living in the forest or a woman pretending to be a damsel in distress, tricking you into stealing ‘my horse’ when it’s someone else's.
This all brings a sense of life to the game like never before and is really a lovely way to build out the era’s mythology.
It also gives you more choices than ever, with real world consequences. One example given is when you get the choice to spare or kill a conquered enemy, if you spare him he will escape prison and eventually take you on in a battle to the death. If you’d have killed him none of that storyline would’ve happened.
This boosts the replayability of Valahalla.
In this world, there are no easy answers, no black and white solutions. Honour is a matter of perspective and the decisions you make as a leader shape your destiny.
That makes this a must-play game in the coming months.
And because of the visual detail, the depth of this living and breathing England and the variety of gameplay mechanics, fans of the series will not be disappointed.
Assassin’s Creed Valhalla is another success in the series.
We love that it’s starting to look back at older, more classic elements of the franchise and finding ways to reimplement them in an ever-evolving, fresh feeling new game.
*This game was reviewed on PS4*
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