It took two years following the excellent Assassin's Creed Odyssey for Ubisoft to fashion the next expansive standalone entry, but that extra time seemed to be well worth keeping the game in the oven a bit longer.
Jumping from the Peloponnesian War between Athens and Sparta to the Viking invasion of Britain felt a bit like historical whiplash, but it was all for the better, as the newest Assassin's Creed game ended up being capable of so much more than its predecessors, in terms of emotional range, depth, and storytelling.
In many ways, it's the best Assassin's Creed since we were introduced to Ezio in the second instalment, and the first to make its debut on next-gen hardware.
Eivor is impressively customisable
Assassin's Creed Valhalla finds players taking on the role of Eivor, a Viking warrior who can be customized to each individual's liking, down to gender, hair, tattoos, voice, and a variety of other stats. Having travelled from Norway to England, Eivor is working toward settling this new land for the Vikings as well as bring the fractured kingdoms together. That’s a lofty goal by all measurements, but if anyone can do it, it truly feels like Eivor is capable.
Of course, this isn't a Disney movie, and that means very little diplomacy is in order. Eivor's goal can only truly be accomplished with a show of violence and bloodshed.
That includes a heaping helping of looting, raids, and completing a variety of optional missions and objectives along the way. That much is par for the course when it comes to Assassin's Creed, but Valhalla elevates the combat and storytelling to adopt the rawest, most brutal, and engaging tale we've seen since Black Flag.
If Looks Could Kill
This is the most gorgeous entry since Black Flag, too. You're immediately surrounded by lush foliage, crisp fall air, and the roar of Viking warriors at all sides.
Eivor is a believable and sympathetic protagonist despite at times rallying for violence with his brethren, and Valhalla gives you plenty of reasons to go adventuring with your Viking brothers and sisters.
The main story quest, which is actually rooted in the Vikings' history, is exciting in that you actually learn a thing or two while completing it, even though the game does take certain liberties to get its point across.
Shields are your best friend, and can be dual-wielded, too
While this Assassin's Creed retains most of the elements that have its predecessors sticking to the status quo, such as earning abilities and completing objectives to become a more powerful Viking, Valhalla isn't afraid to add a few fresh complications into the mix that gives the game more than a few reasons to feel fresh and unique.
Hand-to-hand combat is satisfying and meaty, whether you choose weapons from swords to Viking axes, but a new stamina bar helps govern your actions. If you completely drain it while in the midst of battle, you'll find yourself meeting a quick end.
You have to learn to temper your sword swings with guarding with a shield to block attacks as well as remain on your feet with the stamina gauge. It takes some getting used to, but it's well worth getting acquainted with.
You must also eat food to regenerate health and store rations to do so when it counts. There's also a focus squarely on collecting and upgrading gear and weapons that makes it feel like you're accomplishing something with every battle that passes. Plus, you get to make this vision of the Vikings' settlement your own with the new settlement management system that's been enhanced since its introduction in Assassin's Creed 3.
From Viking rap battles (flyting) to emergent tasks that unfold believably and organically throughout your quest to make your Viking home by any means necessary, Assassin's Creed Valhalla is a worthy successor to the series that innovates in all the right ways.
If you’ve become disenchanted with the game over the years, this might be the best and easiest way for you to settle back in, especially with the meaningful changes to combat and the massive amount of content at your fingertips.
Reviewed on PS5