Assassin's Creed Valhalla Xbox Series X Review

Assassin's Creed Valhalla takes you on a bloody Norse-filled adventure full of death, gloom, and glory in hopes of finally reaching Odin's hall.

By Grayshadow, Posted 02 Dec 2020

Assassin's Creed Valhalla takes a lot of the elements established by Assassin's Creed Origins and Assassin's Creed Odyssey and builds on them in very positive ways. Offering a much more diverse selection of optional content and a richly engaging story within this Viking filled adventure. Things such as collecting equipment and resources have been altered to make them rarer and less tedious, providing unique puzzle sequences to gather these paramount items. The technical issues definitely hamper the experience and the new leveling system won't appeal to everyone. Regardless this is a large adventure full of stories and events that combine for one comprehensive experience. Assassin's Creed Valhalla takes you on a bloody Norse-filled adventure full of death, gloom, and glory in hopes of finally reaching Odin's hall.

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Assassin's Creed Valhalla stars Eivor, a young Viking seeking to prove him or herself. After a devasting betrayal, Eivor is left in the care of his brother Sigurd. Now grown Eivor does whatever he can to secure his vengeance against his father's killer but eventually must leave his home of Norway and settle in the new world of England with his brother Sigurd and those who wished to follow him. Hence begins a large adventure as Eivor and Sigurd attempt to secure alliances with the surrounding settlements while also getting roped into the Templar Assassin war.

Eivor is entirely customizable with unique cosmetics and the ability to swap gender at any time. This is significantly different from Assassin's Creed Odyssey's direction where picking Alexios or Kassandra played a huge role in the narrative's direction. The player can choose how Eivor responds to questions and choose optional romances. Most of the dialogue is plain as they offer options that have the same outcomes but some decisions alter the story. These are important and presented in such a way that the player is aware of the significance of these decisions. Some consequences are immediate and others take time but you never know which is what. This keeps the player on their toes as some choices may seem pointless at first but end up have drastic outcomes later.

The supporting cast is strong with a dense array of complex characters. Sigurd and Randvi are some of the most influential cast that Eivor will interact with constantly. With Sigurd trying to act in his communities best interest since he's the Jarl but at the same time showing more interest in his own personal glories. Randvi is a warrior at heart but her strong mind makes her a better strategist, which is more important when trying to gain alliances in a foreign land. Eivor will constantly interact with characters who have conflicting issues that will either aid or hinder their new home's progression.

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Eivor is tasked with taking over different regions of England by creating bonds with the local leaders. Either through helping them or killing them and appointing someone else to the position. The entire land is in conflict either through outside interferences or local politics and King Aelfred is loosely holding things together with force. While the stories seem separated at first they eventually come together in critical moments, seeing the allies you've developed come together to aid Eivor and his community.

The modern era has Layla attempting to solve another end of the world situation. The planet's magnetic field has shifted causing polar lights to appear around the planet. This has led to constant earthquakes and other calamities, such as COVID-19 that also exist in this world. Eivor holds the key to stopping this and Layla must dive into the memories of the Viking to find out how his memories can stop another end of the world.

Much of Assassin's Creed Valhalla plays like Assassin's Creed Odyssey but Ubisoft brought back the shield. Parrying still plays a huge role in combat, with players having to create openings for counter-attacks. Enemies have weak points players can exploit to drain opposing enemy's stamina and when fully drained can inflict a fatal killing blow. For boss encounters, this is changed to large damage. You're constantly encouraged to keep the offensive by controlling the tide of battle through parrying and attacking as to charge your Aderenline Meter to perform powerful attacks. The enemy variety is limited but the constant stream of unique encounters against deadly enemies provides something worth looking forward to. There's no bounty system but the unique targets make a return as Eivor hunts down members of the Order by locating clues or through story progression.

You can choose dialogue during specific situations but most offer the same answer in different ways. Sometimes you'll get unique dialogue linked to charisma or choosing to be violent but often you'll get 3 choices that say the same thing in different ways. 

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You can link 4 ranged and 4 melee special attacks. Unlike Assassin's Creed Odyssey where these were earned through a skill tree, Eivor must locate special books to learn these skills, each of which has 2 levels. Leveling has been altered and resembles Final Fantasy X's sphere grid where you navigate a series of points to increase Eivor's base stats and unlock passive skills. You can reset your points at any time but the grid is designed so you're constantly earning points in everything instead of dedicating to a specific set of skills. You can go in heavy melee skills but still earn points for long-range damage, armor, health, and more.

Thankfully grinding has been reduced from Assassin's Creed Odyssey. Earning points for skills is very easy and there's plenty of side objectives to take part in. Skill points are provided at a regular rate and you can find resources easily. It's an equal balance where you'll have to dedicate time to earning silver and resources but not a large amount of time. I did wish you didn't have to break iron ore veins as it slows down the gameplay as opposed to just picking it up.

Assassin's Creed Valhalla has reduced the amount of equipment Eivor can collect. This makes gathering a new piece of armor or weapon an exciting treat. Each piece can be found from specific enemies or hidden throughout the environment. Because of this new direction, every piece of armor and weapon can be upgraded to a powerful item but does require a large set of resources. So you can find something you like and stick with it throughout the game but each item comes with unique bonuses that work better in certain situations. You can slot in Runes for added benefits, these are more common and easier to find. Since you don't have an exhaust of items money becomes more important and you'll need to manage this resource as well.

Fighting is mostly unchanged. The more grounded combat traction definitely adds to the experience, unlike the previous games you don't feel like you're floating and foot movement looks and feel more life-like. The impact made by your weapons is incredible and the finishing animations are bloody even if they don't line up every time. The musical score from the fights is one of the best in the franchise and makes every encounter feel like a cinematic experience.

Boss encounters are numerous and well-crafted. Some are better than others but often bosses use unique attacks that complement their style of fighting. Some encounters can be a true test of fortitude given their multiple stages but they never felt unfair. It's up to you to maintain control of the field base on your style of combat and regardless of which you choose you can defeat the foe presented to you.

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Sneaking is adequate with much of the game's systems working like Assassin's Creed Odyssey. There's not much change in the way Eivor sneaks but he does take longer to perform assassinations. If you're struggling in either active combat or stealth Assassin's Creed Valhalla does include a large array of accessibility options to tailor the experience. There are also ample options to make the game easier or harder depending on your preference.

Assassin's Creed Valhalla is a large world but smaller in comparison to Assassin's Creed Odyssey. To compensate, Ubisoft included denser content areas with each location having an array of side objectives and resources. To combat the tedium that Ubisoft games are notorious for each unique objective has a small puzzle associated with it. You cannot just get the loot chest in the area but must solve an environmental puzzle to get to it. Sometimes these can be fun and other times very vexing such as when trying to figure out how to get below ground but gathering these valuables this way makes it more rewarding.

Navigation is hit or miss. On one hand, the environments are beautifully decorated but you'll get caught in the game's geometry a lot. This can incredibly annoying when traveling large distances only to stop because your horse refuses to leap a few feet. Climbing up slopes is another issue as it decreases your speed significantly and can be incredibly vexing when exploration. And why does your horse so slow down when inside towns and refuses to sprint? Even Eivor reduces his speed when inside towns for some reason. This annoyance has been present in so many Assassin's Creed games and needs to stop, allow us to sprint through towns! You can customize your horse and train it to increase its stamina or even swim which is a welcome addition. Navigating the environment was perfect in Odyssey due to the fast speed provided but here it has been reduced noticeably.

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This is an Assassin's Creed game which means climbing to synchronization points and scanning the area for fast travel points. Complementing them are docks that the player can automatically unlock and the ability to instantly travel to your boat. I did notice that a lot of these synchronization points were placed in areas outside the main objective. It's always just outside the area you need to be. Unfortunately, Ubisoft has yet to implement a modern system to quickly head up tall areas like in Assassin's Creed Syndicate's grappling hook. 

Ship travel is here but no ship combat. Instead, Raids take the place of ship combat where Eivor and his Viking allies charge settlements to take their supplies. Raids house infinitely spawning enemies and the player must gather all the supplies in the area to end the Raid. The supplies being used to build up Eivor settlement which boasts Eivor's stats and offer access to things such as horses, a market, and more. Raids can be fun but eventually becomes you waiting for your allies to help break down doors and push open chests.

Assassin's Creed Valhalla does include elements of Norse mythology within the game. Like Assassin's Creed Odyssey with Greek myth, players can find things relating to Norse mythology in very cool ways. I cannot talk about these without spoilers but these moments were incredible in both gameplay and narrative. Those who loved the DLC campaigns in Assassin's Creed Odyssey that explored Greek myths will find more of that here with Norse mythology, and it's incredible.

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If you didn't pick on it Assassin's Creed Valhalla is big, even after 70 hours I'm still finding new things to do. You can plow through the single-player but you'll be missing out on a treasure trove of incredible side missions. These missions are numerous and short but offer eventful missions with unique characters. Not all are isolated and some do complement certain stories but overall a lot of focus went on making these mysteries short memorable stories that provide smiles and somber moments. There's so much to do that those seeking to 100% this game will have to dedicate themselves to this game for weeks.

Assassin's Creed Valhalla has had problems is the technical stability. The game is full of audio issues, animation errors, clipping, and occasionally crashing. Open world games having issues is nothing new but Assassin's Creed Valhalla has its share of vexing problems. My Xbox Series X completely shut down several times over the course of my 70 hours with this game over the course of weeks since its launch. Characters sometimes repeat their lines, clothing clipping through character models is common, and the list goes on. However, recently those major problems have been resolved with patches. While my first dive into Eivor's adventure was riddled with problems the game now functions well.

Visually the game looks amazing, sometimes. The lighting, weather effects, and particles in the air all look amazing. Then you see the detailed character model clipping through its clothes, major lip-syncing issues, and everyone keeps defaulting to the power pose. This was so overdone in Odyssey but Valhalla takes it further with even the NPCs doing it every time.

Like many modern games, there's a microtransaction store that provides performance benefits. This includes resources, money, weapons, cosmetics, and powerful gear. I've been vocal about these time-saver features and my opinion has not changed. As far as I can tell you cannot get these items in-game which is just insulting seeing that the gear advertised looks amazing both in performance and look. It's just dreadful to see that someone can just pay their way to get ahead.

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As someone who has experienced every major Assassin's Creed title Assassin's Creed Valhalla has surpassed my expectations. The story, incredible side content, focus on adventure, and changes to the side resource system have all been beneficial to the entire experience. Assassin's Creed Valhalla has you traveling through this vast world in search of secrets but always challenges you before you're rewarded. Assassin's Creed Valhalla does require a great deal of dedication to obtain the best gear and experience the best stories but it's all worth it. This is a Viking adventure that burns slowly and benefits for it. Assassin's Creed Valhalla is exactly what this franchise needed and takes vast leaps forward for this franchise.
 

Adam Siddiqui,
Managing Editor, NoobFeed
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General Information

Platform(s): Xbox One, PS4, PC
Publisher(s): Ubisoft
Developer(s): Ubisoft
Genres: Action-Adventure
Themes: History
Release Date: 2020-11-10

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