Go on raids with beautiful braids as a fiercely fearsome Viking in Assassin’s Creed Valhalla
The Vikings were one of the most fascinating historical populations, comprising fierce warriors and resourceful explorers, with an enigmatic pantheon of Norse gods such as Odin, Thor and Loki that have inspired Marvel and several other works of modern popular culture — so it is exciting that the latest Assassin’s Creed game, Valhalla (named for the vast hall located in Norse mythology’s Asgard), is set in AD 873. However, does the game do the Vikings justice?
Assassin’s Creed Valhalla
- Developer: Ubisoft Montreal
- Publisher: Ubisoft
- Price: ₹3,999 on Playstation 4, Xbox One, PC ; Coming soon on Playstation 5, Xbox Series X/S
The protagonist of Valhalla is Eivor, a warrior who survived being mauled by a wolf as a child. Growing up with his brother Sigurd, Eivor — who rocks some impressive braids — and his merry band of Vikings set out to raid ninth Century Anglo-Saxon England. Eivor and his troops have to hold their own against the bloodthirsty sons of Viking king Ragnar Lothbrock and Saxon, as well as against a hidden war between secret orders that operate from the shadows.
You can choose between a female or male Eivor, and switch between them at will. Assassin’s Creed games have always had excellent hero characters, but Eivor, on the surface, pales in comparison to Bayek, Ezio or the cunning Edward Kenway. He is, however, likeable in his own intense way, ever-ready to jump into the fray or into drinking mini-games with folks in the settlement.
Ever since its retooled mechanics in Origins, inspired by the Witcher 3, Valhalla has refined upon those and added more, including a small Gwent-like franken-game. The combat is inspired from Dark Souls. The exploration is similar to Skyrim’s. And, the most noticeable modification is the removal of the trigger button to free-run — a jarring change that takes getting used to, especially for longtime Assassin’s Creed players.
For all battle cries
Vikings are all about the fight. The battle system is appropriately brutal. The attacks feel less feathery than in Origins and hits now connect with grisly effect. The dual wielding multitudes of historically accurate weapons are fun and fresh to experiment with, but what dulls the experience is the healing factor, as you have to constantly search for berry bushes to replenish your health. One minute the game feels real in its world, the next minute, you are running around looking at bushes while a large bunch of people are trying to kill you. The glitches do not help, as too often city names appear in between boss fights hindering vision.
The 200-plus hour experience offers quite the rabbit hole gameplay. You can explore the seas and raid in your longboat, and strike fear in the hearts of men, allowing you to raid in the form of conquests as seen in Odyssey. I spent a lot of time developing my settlement, a welcome feature that is seen in games such as Far Cry. This time, exploration and side quests are well-brainstormed, many of them revealing the lighter side of the god-fearing culture and their fatal beliefs. What I loved most is the Flyting mini-game, which is a sort of rap-battle of verse between Vikings; travelling the lands out-versing people for coin is ‘literally’ fun.
Next-gen in mind
While we played the game on a PS4 Pro, Valhalla was built with next-gen consoles in mind. The game looks beautiful, capturing the Viking Age architecture, the Aurora Borelis-illuminated lands, to the sun-kissed landscapes of England in the Dark Ages — all scenes are crafted with love by a team led by the game’s creative director Ashraf Ismail. Though playable, on current-gen consoles the game takes its time in loading.
Valhalla is not a perfect game, yet it does its setting justice and is a special addition to the Assassin’s Creed universe. While it is plagued by annoying bugs — and a few cuts that will send you scrambling into the bushes for berries — it is a solid game, and is the perfect guide to let you experience first-hand that slice of history. We recommend you play it on next-gen consoles or on a beefy PC to experience its true glory.
The writer is a tech and gaming enthusiast who hopes to one day finish his sci-fi novel