There’s always been an issue with finding Vikings and Norse mythology cool; at least, ever since a few bad eggs went and ruined it for everyone. Symbols corrupted, myths manipulated, and even now Gods are consistently reduced to one dimensional caricatures or pop culture himbos.
Assassin’s Creed is the best series to deal with this subject matter without veering into dodgy territory. And, luckily, it’s come out well; we have a Norse Assassin’s Creed game.
Valhallelujah, Eivor is boss
Our protagonist Eivor is a freakin’ legend. She fights well, fucks better, and is an oddly temperate voice in an otherwise bloodthirsty world. Not that she’s a pushover; again, she can be an absolute beast when she wants to.
Storywise, AC has Yggdrastill got it. Family murdered in front of you, quest for vengeance resolved fast but leads into wider conspiracy, meeting some cool history friends along the way; it’s ll par for the course, but if it ain’t brokedon’t fix it right?
This time, we don’t have a Piece of Eden in our back pocket, so Eivor is a much more grounded protagonist. Unfortunately, she’s also not as interesting as Odyssey’s Kassandra. That’s a high bar, granted, and in terms of AC Eivor is definitely more interesting than Altair or Bayek. Just that the Greeks are a hard act to follow, ya know?
As a side note, the mini story inserted via partaking in some recreational herbs is also pretty damn entertaining. Incongrous and ridiculous, yes, but still fun. Seems Ubisoft has taken the more outlandish elemnts from older games to heart, and that’s always nice.
Fighting like a Viking
In contract, combat doesn’t feel quite so fantastic this time around. Eivor is, for all intents and purposes, just a human, and as a result the rough and tumble is a lot more, well, rough. Even the fastest weapons feel sluggish, while the enemy timing windows for parry and dodge are razor sharp. Admittedly I was fiddling around in the difficulty settings (which allow fine tuning of various aspects of difficulty independently), so mileage may indeed vary.
The pacing also leaves something to be desired. Level scaling has been removed, for some reason, so engaging in the sidequests that litter England can make your character a little overpowered. Not enough to be gamebreaking, mind, but enough that the challenge gets dwindled a bit below what you were aiming for with those nice sliders.
Furthermore naval combat is gone, even though the game still wants you to spend a lot of time in a boat. After a while, there’s no real reason to get on the water, except to see your cat.
I got a boat cat. She is vicious and chonky. I love her.
Njord a bad looking game
But hey, onto the techy stuff. Assassin’s Creed Valhalla makes England actually look like a green and pleasant land; the water especially is pretty damn nice, seeing all the little fishies flapping their flappers in the rivers and lakes. The soundtrack is also mostly Ragnarockin’, fusing drums and chanting with church bells and some good old AC indecipherable vocals. I like it, but then again, I’ve never disliked an Assassin’s Creed soundtrack. So, ya know, hope you like cool junk like this.
As an aside, there’s a shameful joy in invading a country that spend a millenia invading others. Yeah, the Vikings weren’t exactly nice to the Irish either, but damned if it isn’t satisfying to be the one setting torch to someone rather than the other way around. 800 years, friends. And although the DLC promises I’ll get to invade my own homeland in early 2021, I’m still enjoying a bit of turnabout and fair play.
(No, obviously I’m being facetious, but c’mon let me have this).
Asgard as it gets
All in all, Assassin’s Creed Valhalla is a huge, unwieldy, but very enjoyable experience. You may not like what happens (pour some out for best pupper Fenrir), but the whole package is a Helheim of a good time.