We here at Prima Games were given the opportunity to play a few hours of hands-on time with Ubisoft's latest iteration of the Assassin's Creed games with Valhalla and with a world as massive as this, we have some thoughts about our time as a Viking. While Assassin's Creed Valhalla took many new progressive steps with the latest game, it also didn't abandon certain mechanic features from older titles in this franchise.
To preface this Assassin's Creed Valhalla hands-on preview, I do want to mention that I absolutely fell in love with Ubisoft did with Origins but even more so with Odyssey. I loved the bigger RPG elements provided with romance and dialogue options, even being able to choose the player's sex. I'm also a huge fan of the overall series, though there were some pretty hefty pitfalls that eventually led to the company making the decision to pull away from annual releases. With Odyssey not being that far away, did Valhalla keep up with the tradition of spending extra time to ensure quality?
With our hands-on time with the game, we only really saw a small portion of a much bigger picture, so we can't really speak to the overall story as much as we'd like. We can say, however, that the journey began with a bang as Eivor as we were immediately thrust into the story and taking on our first raid.
Raiding in-game was pretty fun and an excellent way to score some sweet loot. Taking the boat shoreside to absolutely demolish foes was deeply satisfying and played into the combat mechanics that offered a lot of playstyle freedom. Since Eivor is a warrior through and through, their combat style is a little heavier than players will be used to with Origins and earlier games, but no less impactful. Alternating between ranged with the bow and axes for melee, cutting through swaths of enemies wasn't easy but it was immersive. Pair that with the ability to special-attack numerous enemies at once and the raiding feature was one that immediately had massive appeal.
Where Origins and Odyssey saw a lot of blood, Eivor's fighting style is downright gory, which is what one would expect from a powerful Viking warrior. There are various weapon options players can choose from to customize that combat style a little more, especially through the skill upgrades, including the elusive Hidden Blade. Taking on different types of enemies also makes those options incredibly bountiful, because not all attacks are created equal when it comes to the different foes players will encounter in Valhalla.
The boss fights also felt incredibly similar to that of Odyssey, just do yourself a favor and avoid the bears. Just ... trust me.
Just like with previous games, players can unlock new skills and tailor their character to their specific playstyle. In Valhalla, there are three specific skill trees that players will need to familiarise themselves with:
The Bear skill is in-line with those that love to be in the thick of battle with melee, whereas Raven focuses more on stealth and Wolf focuses more on ranged attacks. Every tiny unlock goes towards these new skins, making it easier to control the flow of battle and look heckin' badass while doing it.
Yes, There Are Side Quests
There are a lot of stories out there from various sites that speak to "no side quests" in-game. This isn't true at all, far from it. Even with the small amount of time I had with the game, I saw a ton of side quests opportunities that offered a unique insight into the various NPCs of the game. Looking at some of the coverage, it looks like a lot of sites were splitting hairs a bit as to what to call them since they aren't labeled as "side quests" but this particular brand of side content works, progresses, and rewards just like any other side quest.
So yes, this massive open-world isn't just a wasteland of inactivity. There are sidequests, and there are a lot of them.
As mentioned, I didn't get enough time to really deep dive into the story, but from what I saw seemed very accurate when looking to depict Viking culture and dispel a few myths along the way. Rescuing dear 'ol Oswald was a bloody mess of murder and burning everything to the ground, but it also gave an inside look at the deep-set loyalty Eivor has to their beliefs and their background.
As with any Assassin's Creed game, there is the main quest and various side activities to go on but what's nice is that players can go off and do those side missions nad it doesn't impact the progress of the main storyline; just make sure to get those out of the way before progressing too far into the main narrative.
Overall, Valhalla seems to take the best of Odyssey and Assassin's Creed 2 (in terms of mechanics) and blends them into a Viking dream rooted in factual history and almost religious splendor. While utilizing the newer features introduced with Odyssey regarding the more RPG-like elements of conversation and choice, the progression and feel of Valhalla is very familiar to Assassin's Creed in its earlier days.
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I thoroughly enjoyed my time with Assassin's Creed Valhalla and can't wait to dive in more when it releases later this year for Xbox One, PlayStation 5, and PC on November 17th.