‘Assassin’s Creed Valhalla’ is a game that is more grounded and immersive than 2018’s ‘Assassin’s Creed Odyssey’, however in making these changes, the game also sacrifices some of the best elements that made the last entry so enjoyable.
For starters, the world design of ‘Valhalla’ is really solid. There are some great atmospheric textures and uses of lighting which make the environments of England, Norway and other locations a spectacle to look at. Unlike ‘Odyssey’ which felt very copied and pasted in some of its map and building design’s, ‘Valhalla’ does a much better job at creating variation in its location. The game also provides a couple of interesting decisions in its dialogue which can cause for some nice progressions to certain plotlines within the story.
Unfortunately, the other parts that make up ‘Valhalla’ fall short of what I expected. One of the game’s biggest flaws is its narrative. It opens with a very muddled and poorly paced introduction to Eivor and the world around them. The characters in this opening section are not super interesting, and the conflict that underpins this section of the story lack substance. This is made even more problematic by the totally unnecessary modern-day timeline which adds nothing to the story at all. Thankfully, once Eivor reaches England, the game does pick up a bit and hints at the possibility of a more well-developed narrative line; once again, however, this does not happen. For some reason, ‘Valhalla’ decides to divide its story into regions based on areas you need to ally with to expand the Raven Clan influence over England. The problem with this approach to storytelling is that it never allows ‘Valhalla’s’ characters to grow, and instead, leaves the player with one to two hour-long bite-sized narrative arcs that start and end over and over again. Ubisoft has attempted this approach to storytelling before in ‘Tom Clancy’s Ghost Recon Wildlands’, whilst that game is much shorter in its length and because of that, works a little better in following that style of narrative. To ‘Valhalla’s’ credit, some of its narrative arcs are well thought out. In particular, the story of King Oswald in his journey from being an indecisive leader to a leader who rules with certainty is a well put together story within ‘Valhalla’. Nonetheless, this approach to storytelling does falter repeatedly, especially after you come to realise as a player that this style of storytelling will continue for the entirety of the game. It really does offer the game no growth whatsoever, which is odd, considering that one of ‘Odyssey’s’ strong points were its fantastic last fifteen hours.
Furthermore, the length of ‘Valhalla’ is shockingly long. At the time of writing this review, I have played just over thirty-five hours of the game with most of my playtime being directed at the main story. I know that if I were to finish the story I would need to invest at least another twenty to thirty hours as I can see clearly by the regions I still need to cover on the map. ‘Valhalla’ really offers no incentive for me to continue forward and invest any more time into its huge open-world than I already have. One reason for this was because of the game’s combat, which admittedly was enjoyable to begin with, whilst it never grows or develops to make it worth investing any more time into the game. The lack of items and loot to collect is one of the main driving force behind the game’s poor combat, which is a shame as ‘Odyssey’ offered such an abundance of items to collect, whilst ‘Valhalla’ really limits what you can collect and equipt when playing as Eivor. Likewise, one other area which lets the combat down in ‘Valhalla’ is its lack of fantastic epic boss fights that were scattered throughout most of ‘Odyssey’.
Ultimately, the flaws of ‘Assassin’s Creed Valhalla’ really do bring the entire game down substantially. It is sad that this is the case, as the game offered the potential for it to be much more enjoyable if it was packaged into a much more tightly written narrative like its earlier titles once were. I can only hope that Ubisoft will learn from these mistakes and will use them to create better games in the future.| Score: 3.0/5