It’s one thing for games to play in a rain-drenched, dystopian version of London, however Assassin’s Creed Valhalla is an unprecedented chance to pillage some of England’s worst cities.
My epic adventure begins near Irr … Coventry – which will have the fourth-fastest internet connection speed of any British city about 1,100 years later – in which new protagonist Eivor and his group of happy Vikings plan their conquest of England from the clan stronghold of Ravensthorpe.
The invasion is going well, and from the war table in the parish longhouse, I promise to help my fellow soldiers conquer a prosperous northward settlement, the seat of King Burgred of Ledecestershire: Tamworth.
Without the convenience of the M6 toll to make my journey north easier, I go to the Ravensthorpe dock and sail upriver past a riverside monastery that I immediately scoured for raw materials.
Valhalla returns closer to the sword and board combat we saw in Assassin’s Creed Origins, but Eivor is also able to equip different weapons independently in each hand. Cautious gamers can crouch behind a shield and wear down the enemy’s stamina to unleash a bloody stun attack, or you can just channel one of those hipster ax throwing poles and slap like the bearded guy of Accounts after one too many IPAs on Goose Island.
It feels more like For Honor than Assassin’s Creed Odyssey, with a more in-depth quality for the early game special moves that I had access to. You are more likely to attack an attacking pikeman than summon the spirit of a bull to knock it down.
With the last of the monk defenders impaled on his own spears, I notice one of the map markers that have been optimized for Valhalla.
Rather than adding more symbols than one letter of the zodiac killer to the map, undiscovered locations have been grouped into just a few symbols – white for mini-quests and POIs, and gold for things you can steal.
This time the white marker is a woman trapped on top of a tower and begging a noble passer-by to send the scornful black guard to lock the door.
“Sod that,” he says after I bleed his nose with the knob of my ax and tore it into the sunset. It all turned out to be a game; Until I brought a knife to a game match. Then I go along for a while and beat up some real idiots who show up to cause trouble, but it doesn’t take long before I hit the riverside in search of another diversion.
One of the most surprising things about Assassin’s Creed Valhalla is his dedication to being goofy at every opportunity – especially on the side quests that have side stories.
At some point I mock some mushrooms and am guided through a ghost journey by a seal. Towards the end of my demo, I am collecting some viper eggs for a woman lurking in the sewers below Tamworth. When she cleans away a dozen, she rips out a huge fart, which brings green gas into the city. A heartwarming retelling of how today’s Tamworth got its signature scent.
The silliness spills over into the main story as well, giving the game a slightly strange tone overall. One minute you’re shoving a poleaxe down the throat of someone, the next you’re trading rhyming insults with a stranger in a flying match, or helping some would-be attackers set their own home on fire with practice looting.
It’s even in the cutscenes. For example, when I finally reach the Viking siege camp in front of Tamworth Fortress, I meet Ivarr, another Viking leader known for his brutality.
He tortures prisoners: whips them, blinds them and forces some to do the same to their comrades.
It’s dark stuff.
But his dialogue is full of naughty sides and it quickly becomes clear that you should be friends. It’ll be interesting to see if Valhalla brings Eivor’s character closer to the typical altruistic, down-to-earth doer or the all-out Viking bastard – but that doesn’t mean the dissonant parts aren’t isolated.
It could be that the setting felt like a better home for wall antics than the last two Assassin’s Creed games. The cold, mottled hills of England give the traversing a somber tone that works well with the mud and smoky rudeness of the fierce battle.
Assassin’s Creed Valhalla’s world is undoubtedly beautiful, but very different from the desert views of Origins and the sun-drenched Peloponnese Islands Odyssey.
It’s a brilliant example of how much global lighting has emerged in the past few years, and you don’t have to stretch your mind too far to imagine how a sober tone could be felt to be something po-esque in such a cool setting. faced and joyless.
Exploring Valhalla, starting from the vast, open seas of Odyssey, feels a bit constrained by the surroundings, however. England has only so many rivers, and they can really only flow in a single stream, so you often gallop long distances on horseback.
And while I like the change in map markings, the low 9th century architecture means the development team made the wise decision to build networks of underground tunnels in many locations.
However, it does mean that you move on to something shiny that you want to look at and find that it is under your feet with no apparent direction to continue your search. While the fragile boards and secret passages are undoubtedly easier to spot the more you play, it means that you will be spending a lot more time walking around in circles than you would like.
But outside of the standard Assassin’s Creed tier, there are tons to keep you occupied in Valhalla. Adding new shops and services to your Ravensthorpe home is a welcome return and expansion of the Villa Auditore and homesteads from previous games in the series.
As the dice game Orlog appears like Ubisoft Montreal’s best approach to Gwent from The Witcher 3, with special totems of the Godpower to collect and diversify your strategies.
Assassin’s Creed Valhalla is torn between the grossest and silliest entry on the series. But I’m not sure it would work any other way.