Assassin’s Creed Valhalla review: breathtaking and atmospheric

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They think we are barbarians... do not disappoint them!

Well Assassin’s Creed Valhalla certainly does not disappoint.

Valhalla fully embraces the AC heritage but feels new in a way many of the 12 major releases in the series haven’t.

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There is a level of satisfaction you experience during Valhalla that takes things to a new level. Fanboys and girls will be thrilled at the added sense of reward in this now well-trodden - but heavily expanded - format. But those new to the series can play without being restricted by a lack of knowledge and experience of previous AC games.

A familiar structure

Set in 873 AD, the Valhalla tells a fictional story set during the Viking invasion of Britain. You are put in control of Eivor, a Viking raider (who can be a man or a woman at your choosing) who becomes embroiled in the conflict between the Brotherhood of Assassins and the Templar Order.

Valhalla does have a familiar structure of main story missions and a number of optional side-missions. While the main storyline in past Assassin's Creed games typically moved linearly through the main sections of the game world, Valhalla has the player often returning back to the main settlement or previous areas as information about the new areas of England are learned by the Vikings through reconnaissance or from contacts.

The tagline for the game at the top of this article and violent nature of the Vikings would suggest little room for one of the big elements of all AC games - stealth. While it is true combat plays probably its biggest role to date in AC, not all missions dictate a violent conclusion. Some can be resolved diplomatically through conversation or gameplay options which impact the characters and their political alliances with other non-player characters.

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I also carried out several successful raids on areas and islands entirely using stealth. There is less reliance on the traditional AC levelling system here. The focus is instead on the selection of skills through skill trees.

In previous AC titles I have become quickly frustrated with the often clumsy camera, controls and parkour system in and out of combat. But issues that have bugged me in the past are smoothed out sufficiently and combat no longer feels the grind it has in previous iterations in the series.

Long-time questions for the Assassin's Creed franchise are finally answered, giving the series a clear direction for what feels - for me at least - long overdue.

A slow start

Eivor is a brilliant protagonist who has you onside from the very outset as the game sets the story out with him/her as a young child watching traumatic events unfold which shape our hero.

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Exploration is not everyone’s cup of tea. Time is precious for many gamers, so while going off exploring for hours on end is amazing and rewarding, sometimes you just want to pick up and play and take on the missions.

The beauty of exploration, though, is a bounty of weapons and abilities which make you more powerful. Strategy is key in combat and you will feel the benefit of a carefully planned battle using the best and most powerful weapons at your disposal.

Some have complained the main story takes too long to get going and becomes a touch tedious. I can see where that criticism comes from and it does ring true in many ways. But put the time in and eventually the pace picks up to a more satisfactory speed at a time when you will be mastering combat and reaching a level of skill and weaponry that makes progression quicker and easier.

There are a quite simply staggering number of things to do in AC Valhalla as you explore Dark Age England by boat and on land.

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Breathtaking and atmospheric

I was one of many Assassin’s Creed fans who started to tire of the cut and paste nature of the series from one instalment to the next. Same stuff, different setting.

But as far as I’m concerned this is comfortably the best, most engrossing, engaging, fluid and enjoyable Assassin’s yet as the franchise pushes the openworld RPG boundaries further still.

The Dark Ages are brought to life in breathtaking and atmospheric style in a wonderfully well-woven storyline, particularly for the main characters.

The awesome level of detail and sheer expanse coupled with the fact Valhalla runs in 4k at 60fps on PS5 and Xbox Series X makes just watching someone else play an enthralling spectacle on its own.

Rating: 8.5/10

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