NEXT-GEN PREVIEW: Assassin’s Creed: Valhalla

Beware of Norses

When Ubisoft first announced Assassin’s Creed: Valhalla for next-gen consoles, I was pretty disinterested. Perhaps it was franchise fatigue, or maybe I was just overwhelmed with all of the other next-gen titles in the news cycle at the same time, but either way, Valhalla just didn’t grab my attention. I stopped keeping up with the constant trickle of new details being revealed, and it virtually fell out of my next-gen discussions. 

However, in the last few weeks, during research for our next episodes of the podcast (keep an ear out for that!), I decided to catch up on all the news I was sleeping on – and Great Odin’s raven was I blown away! The latest Deep Dive Trailer from Ubisoft, in particular, has convinced me that Eivor’s adventure is one I want to be a part of. Now that I am fully across what Ubisoft has to offer with Assassin’s Creed: Valhalla, it will be the first next-gen title I play next week when I pick up my Xbox Series X.

Let’s have a look at a few of the points that have really turned me around on Ubisoft’s upcoming nordic adventure.

Everyone Do The Chop-Chop

With past Assassin’s Creed games, I would take my sweet time using my bird-buddy and its Superman-style x-ray vision to thoroughly scope out an enemy encampment before launching a precision strike on every unsuspecting guard. Valhalla is taking away this superpower, encouraging players to embrace the barbarian lifestyle and get up close and personal. Eivor’s raven will still be able to scope enemy locations from above, as well as hidden areas and entrance points; however, Eivor will need to get involved directly to actually tag the enemies. By utilising Odin Sight, Valhalla‘s take on Eagle Vision, close to suspected enemy locations, enemies will be tagged, becoming visible on the map – and that’s when the fun begins.

Though Ubisoft has taken away the “press this button to win” style of scouting, the introduction of dual-wielded weapons more than makes up for it. Almost every weapon in Valhalla – including shields – can be dual-wielded in any combination, turning Eivor into a devastating berserker in battle. Enemies will now have a standard health-bar and a stun-bar, which can be targeted separately depending on playstyle. Slowly wearing down an enemy’s stun-bar can result in a gruesome finishing move (including decapitations, cos why not!), or you can play it similarly to previous Assassin’s Creed games and target the health-bar with some persistent hacking and slashing. With a varied amount of enemy and weapon types (not all of this world, possibly), each combat situation can be approached differently, encouraging experimentation. Valhalla will also bring back the legendary wrist-mounted blade, synonymous with the Assassin’s Creed franchise. England won’t know what hit it. 

Side Quests Have Been Given The Boot

I absolutely adored Assassin’s Creed: Odyssey, but never got close to finishing it. The gigantic map was littered with dozens of half-finished side-quests that quickly got to the point of feeling overwhelming, pushing me away from the main quest, and eventually the game itself. With Assassin’s Creed: Valhalla, Ubisoft is looking to avoid the side-quest exhaustion players felt with previous titles, basically doing away with side-quests completely. 

Eivor and their Viking clan are an invading force in England, so it no longer makes narrative sense for local farmers to ask you to complete pissy little side quests. Catch your own farting boar, idiots! The Vikings are seeking alliances in England, not vice-versa, so it will be up to Eivor to gain the trust of the local populace, not for them to offer tasks. Additional content will still exist, now in the form of “world events”, but the focus will be on the main story arcs that are now longer and more intricate – think the winding narrative of the “Family Matters” quest-line in The Witcher 3. Having a majority of the gameplay meld with the core narrative path will help give you a constant sense of story progression, free of too many distractions, hopefully avoiding a common pitfall in the Assassin’s Creed franchise and open-world games as a whole. 

Settle Down

Though not exactly Animal Crossing (though I wouldn’t be surprised if a judgemental tanuki is eyeing me off from the tree-line), Assassin’s Creed: Valhalla will offer a level of village customisation. As the story revolves around a Viking clan attempting to lay down its roots in England, it only makes sense that a growing settlement will mark your progress. As Eivor’s legend grows, so will your clan’s footprint. Having a place for Eivor to call home also makes things feel a lot more personal.

Similar to the camp in Red Dead Redemptions 2, your settlement will act as your central hub, a place where you can talk to key characters and upgrade gear and perks. Services within the settlement can also be upgraded using resources gathered during raids, resulting in greater player benefits. An upgraded blacksmith may offer additional armour upgrades while shipyard upgrades will increase your crew size and boat speed. Having everything centralised and not having to traverse the map back-and-forth to upgrade different character attributes is sure going to be a hassle off of the player’s shoulders.

Assassin’s Creed: Valhalla releases on November 10 for Xbox One, Xbox Series X/S, PlayStation 4, and PC, and November 12 on PlayStation 5.

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