Assassin's Creed Valhalla Review

Richard Walker

The name given to the afterlife in Norse mythology, Valhalla is a place reserved for fallen heroes. And while in Assassin's Creed Valhalla, battle-hardened protagonist Eivor may not start out as a hero worthy of a place among the pantheon of the mighty, you'll soon find yourself forging a path towards greatness. Strangely, Valhalla (the game) seems somewhat pared back compared to its predecessor, although it's no less epic in terms of sheer scope and dizzying scale. From the snowy, intimate climes of Norway, Valhalla soon opens out into a vast expanse of eastern 9th Century England, and takes you on a journey that never fails to enthral.

While Assassin's Creed Valhalla reins in some of Odyssey's excesses in lieu of a more focused experience, it was the previous game's wealth of loot and breadth of content that made it feel like such an all-encompassing experience. By comparison, Valhalla zeroes in on the essentials, dispensing with the masses of weapons and gear in favour of a far tinier portion, while offering new activities like settlement building and raids, as you, your raven, Synin, and your Raven clan beat a bloody path across England's four kingdoms, starting with Mercia, at the heart of the country.


In order to build a viable home safe from invaders, you'll set out alongside brother Sigurd to forge alliances with influential leaders in each of England's counties, from relatively humble beginnings in Grantebridgescire, to the more complex machinations and political workings of places like East Anglia, and Oxenefordscire. Carrying out raids enable you to plunder abbeys for their riches, giving you resources to use on upgrading your settlement of Raventhorpe, building stables for your mounts, a barracks for your Jomsvikings, a shipyard for your longships, a forge to upgrade weapons and gear, and a tattoo hut so you can adorn your body with fearsome scrawlings. So raids are entirely necessary. In no time your burgeoning home will become an established borough, with its own trading post, port, bakery, farms, and brewery.

Build the Assassin's Bureau, and you'll receive priceless skills from the brotherhood, and once again be set on a path to take down the Order of the Ancients. Again, finding clues to the whereabouts and identities of every target in the Order's hierarchy proves deeply involving, and Valhalla presents you with the largest network of underground villains to locate and kill yet. Folding in what were previously known as Phylakes or Mercenaries, the Order now encompasses Zealots that will hunt you down, when you're not off raiding and plying your Viking trade.

Raids and castle assaults unfold as spectacular large-scale battles, with limbs and heads flying in spurts of arterial red, and you and your clansmen set about torching the surrounding village, pillaging loot from each antechamber of the abbey. Alongside the central narrative and the Order of the Ancients, they're among the most enjoyable activity in Valhalla, complementing a collection of story arcs connected to each allegiance you pledge that sees Eivor (be they male, female, or the gender decided by the Animus) and clan making their mark across Dark Ages England. Beyond the brutal raids, simply exploring Valhalla's rich world is its own reward, enticing dots on your compass pointing to potential mysteries to uncover, feeding your wanderlust.

Like Origins and Odyssey before it, this is a lovingly handcrafted place, steeped in historical detail – all mossy flagstone walls, crumbling castles, pagan monuments, and towering church spires. You can almost smell the whiff of arcane superstition in the air; even the frequent presence of screen tearing in the last-gen version of the game can't detract from the game's jaw-dropping vistas, although it's hard to shake the feeling that this is a game really pushing the old consoles to their limit. Stick it on a next-gen platform, meanwhile, and Valhalla really sings – it looks truly gorgeous.

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Combat, too, remains incredibly gratifying, picking up where Origins and Odyssey left off, albeit with a few adjustments, like placing a greater emphasis on the parry and stamina gauge. The result is something slightly more challenging, but no less intuitive and flexible. Axes, swords, shields, daggers, hammers, and spears can be wielded in whichever combination you like, while the expanded skill tree makes Valhalla feel even more like an RPG. The relative dearth of weapons and gear manage to render them more rarefied, so investing in upgrading and enhancing each piece doesn't seem like a waste of time and hard-earned materials. That axe is your axe.

Ostensibly, Valhalla might seem like more of the same for a third time, but there are enough changes and new features here to keep you engaged, and England's rolling green hills and autumnal copses harbour all manner of dark secrets. There are pagan witches to confront, alpha creatures to hunt, and various strains of mushroom to imbibe that will take you on an inward journey. In fact, a lot of your time is spent tripping balls, having eaten some sort of magic fungus, hallucinating a big talking white elk or a bunch of beached seals, as you do.

On that front, Valhalla leans even further into mythology, taking you off on fantastical flights of fancy, when you're not working towards settling in your own little corner of England. Without veering into spoiler territory, these segments see the game temporarily taken off the leash, giving developer Ubisoft Montreal carte blanche to whisk you away to the realms of Norse myth. Back in England, meanwhile, the more refined scope provides some astonishing depth. At times, you feel there's an embarrassment of riches in Valhalla – even its mini-games are worth putting time into; its drinking matches, dice game 'Orlog', and rap battle-style flyting contests succeeding in being much more than easily ignorable diversions.


Everything you do in Assassin's Creed Valhalla grants XP towards levelling up and receiving two skill points at a time, so progression is fairly constant, ensuring you get a palpable sense that Eivor is gradually developing and growing stronger. For every skill acquired, your power level increases, allowing you to boldly barrel towards increasingly hostile resistance in regions beyond Mercia, facing off against Saxon soldiers or ragged forest-dwelling rogues. Indiscriminate killing can cause random strangers to seek revenge in ambushes, so as was the case in Odyssey, there are consequences to your actions, especially when presented with some of the game's more impactful decisions.

Incidental world events flesh out Valhalla even further, imbuing England with life outside of your own path, like brothers bickering over barley or kids fleecing naïve locals – this is one of those open worlds where you feel like things would carry on without you if you weren't there. Fishing villages bustle with life, while townships, with their monasteries and muddy streets, provide opportunities for social stealth (which returns us to classic Assassin's Creed for the first time in ages), as you lure drunks to distract enemies, blend in with monks and other citizens, cowl raised to avoid suspicion.

There's an awful lot to Assassin's Creed Valhalla, making it every bit as comprehensive and all-encompassing as Ubisoft Montreal's previous two efforts. It might fall short of raising the bar that Assassin's Creed Odyssey set for the series, but it certainly has a fair old go at equalling what's gone before. That it also brings some meaningful additions to the table means Valhalla doesn't feel like a retread – it's yet another immersive and hugely accomplished series entry that proves there's more than ample life in Assassin's Creed yet. Onward, Wolf-Kissed!

Assassin's Creed Valhalla

Assassin's Creed Valhalla is yet another impressive entry in Ubi's unstoppable franchise. The hidden blade is back and as lethal as it should be, combat remains a joy, and Eivor proves an immensely likeable lead in a glorious world of dizzying scope.

Form widget
90%
Audio
90%

Jesper Kyd, Sarah Schachner, and Einar Selvik's soundtrack is stunning, never failing to amaze with beautiful cues deployed at all of the right moments. Eivor's voice actors are both excellent, too. Simply wonderful.

Visuals
80%

A great-looking game brimming with detail and life – Norway and England both look incredible, while character models look great, save for the ever-present clipping on certain items of clothing. Silly quibbles aside, Valhalla is a thing of beauty.

Playability
90%

Instantly familiar with some nice tweaks to the formula, ensuring the experience feels a little different to the previous games. Combat has real heft to it, while traversal and exploration remains hugely rewarding.

Delivery
90%

Usually, the prospect of an even larger game world than the last game makes our heart sink. Seriously, how much bigger can they get? Thankfully, Valhalla is massive, but it doesn't feel like anything is extraneous or unwarranted.

Achievements
85%

A great list that rewards in the short term, then offers achievements for sinking time into all of the more long term goals, like settlement building, beating every Orlog opponent, and mastering Eivor's ludicrously expansive skill tree.

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