The last two Assassin’s Creed games have been huge in both scope and ambition, and after playing four or so hours of Assassin’s Creed Valhalla, I can tell you that it’s no different. After choosing male Eivor (you can change back and forth throughout the game this time around), jumping into the demo in the East Anglia region, the demo starts out with me on horse, showing off just one of the vast landscapes that I’ll come across in my time with the game.
The initial locations aren’t as instantly recognisable as the first time you set your eyes on Egypt or Greece from the previous games. The colours are a lot more neutral and there aren’t as many in your face grand structures and landmarks. Everything feels a little bit more restrained, yet the world looks more gorgeous than ever. The sun glistening through the trees is a beauty that I’ve not seen in a game before.
My first task was to set off with my crew and raid a small village nearby. Pressing down on the D-Pad now results in a wheel of actions including the ability to call your longship, grabbing your torch, meditating, cloaking, calling your horse, playing a tune or pulling out your fishing line to leisurely catch some fish.
Setting off on my longboat is extremely reminiscent of sailing around in God of War. You can either have your crew members tell stories or have them sing a merry jig. These journeys aren’t like the large ocean treks that you’ve undertaken in previous games, but rather short trips through quite dense areas.
The combat in Assassin’s Creed Valhalla feels extremely familiar. It’s a little bit more heavier than it was in Odyssey. It’s also a lot more brutal than I remember it. There’s a lot more blood after killing soldiers and there’s some epic finishers which wouldn’t look out of place in a Mortal Kombat game. You can scope out the area using Odin’s Sight which will tag nearby enemies and also treasure/mysteries that might be in nearby areas.
As with previous games, you can perform light and heavy attacks and also have access to your bow. This time around, you can equip absolutely anything to both hands (I opted to go with my axe in one hand and flail in the other). There’s no level gate on weapons and equipment this time around, so you’re free to equip anything as soon as you get your hands on it.
Eivor has both ranged and melee abilities that will be familiar to some. How you obtain them is different this time around. You’ll need to find Books of Knowledge that will teach you new abilities. You can find the book a second time around in order to upgrade that ability again. One of my favourite abilities is the ‘Throwing Axe Fury’ which essentially sees Eivor throwing multiple axes at enemies around, and got me out of sticky situations on multiple occasions.
Eivor can also perform stomp attacks, which deal significant damage when your enemies are on the ground and stun attacks which are fairly brutal finishers that will almost always end your opponent.
Another big change is health which doesn’t regenerate. Eivor will need to use berries that you pick up to heal or rations that you have stored and will work through fairly quickly in battle. The skill tree in Valhalla is also quite different. Each time you level up, you get a skill point which can be put into the skill tree, and there are lots of minor skills that form the paths to major skills, with Bear/Raven/Wolf power levels (which affects how powerful your equipment is), being upgraded along the way.
Origin and Valhalla’s maps saw lots of questions marks all over the place. Valhalla handles things a little bit differently. In each area, you’ve got Wealth, Mysteries, and Secrets which are identified using different colours dots on the map. This particular raid that I’m undertaking is a wealth opportunity, with the main goal being to get a piece of treasure at the end of it.
After completing the raid, I get on my horse, and the horse has seen quite a few upgrades in Valhalla too. It can now trek through smaller rivers/lakes, which means you don’t have to get off it to swim, and you can upgrade things like stamina and speed, which makes horse treks feel like less of a chore.
The next part of the demo transported me to an Assault, which will happen at key moments in the game. Assault saw me get behind a battering ram, taking down two to three walls of a castle in order to find my target. It was a constant battle of taking out fire shooting archers, soldiers, and getting behind the battering ram. At the end of this mission, I got to choose whether to let the boss live or kill him. I chose to take him out, which I’m told will affect certain things in the story later on.
At the end of this major mission, I took some time to wander around, taking down wolves and exploring areas around where I was located. I can already tell that loads of time in Valhalla is going to be spent fishing, or performing activities around the world. The world feels much denser and packed filled with things to do than Odyssey and Origins did.
The next portion of the demo saw me attend a wedding, which didn’t mean a whole lot to me given I hadn’t spent much time with these characters, but it was pretty incredible to see how much there was to do in this open area of the game. I could enter into a drinking contest mini-game (which saw me stumble around afterward), complete a rock stacking mini-game, solving a mysterious puzzle, enter a target shooting content, and I even had a sexual encounter with one of the male wedding guests.
I can already tell that the best parts of Valhalla are going to be just wandering around, discovering unexplored areas. I spent a lot of my demo time taking down wolves and fishing, the latter being extremely peaceful. The world just feels to be better realised than in Origins and Odyssey.
Not wanting to leave any stone unturned, I ventured towards two sculpting on my map, which led me to two mystical undead bosses by the names of Regan and Cordelia. One used the power of lightning against me whilst the other used the power of the undead. Both of these boss battles were incredibly tough and had me excited to see what else could be lying around the world.
When all was said and done with my demo time, I was left wanting more. I had just found myself sucked into the world and didn’t want to put the controller down. Assassin’s Creed Valhalla felt familiar and definitely doesn’t reinvent what the two previous games in the franchise had done, but if you found enjoyment in those two games, I’d be incredibly surprised to find you not enjoying what’s on offer here.
Assassin’s Creed Valhalla launches on November 17th for Playstation 4, Xbox One and PC. It will also launch on Playstation 5 and Xbox Series X later in 2020.