Welcome to the great hall, Vikingr. Sit yourself down with a horn of mead. Drink, Feast, Raid!
This viking tale goes further than Odyssey, not in scale but in story and mechanics. What I love is the viking setting (off course), the deep norse mythology and how it is incorporated in the story and that they don’t go out of their way to show gore. An axe stuck in a skulll? It is here. It would be a dishonor to the Vikings if there weren’t such images.
At the start of the game you get to set 3 difficulties, which tailor your personal experience: Exploration difficulty, Stealth difficulty and combat difficulty. Exploration controls your hud display and how much it gets cluttered, the same goes for your map. Stealth difficulty tailors your stealth experience and how fast enemies notice you and combat difficulty is what most people think of when they set difficulty. What I love is that they give you this choice and this freedom to set up your game how you want to play. Together with the disability settings, I might point out, is this tailored extremely well for those that want to experience the story but not want dark souls level difficulty or can not handle that difficulty due to disabilities. It is fun to see that more and more titles are embracing the disabled gamers more and more.
You start in Norway and through circumstances see yourself emigrating to England, where you have to build your own settlement. The settlement, although not that different from rebuilding the town in Assassins Creed 2, gives new options that are not before seen in the series. I love that you can build up your settlement in what order you want, but that you unlock certain gameplay elements by your choices. You can make the game harder, or easier by your choice of play. Speaking of difficulty, at the beginning of the game you get the choice to completely set the difficulty to how you want to play the game. You are in command of your experience and I think that is awesome how far they have taken this. For example, by building the Fishing hut you get the fishing rod (duh!) and you get extra side-quests to catch certain fish the settlement needs and you can go on and try to catch those! The mechanics of fishing are simplistic but fun, I can attest, but during my playthrough I didn’t get to upgrade my complete settlement yet.
Also: no more loot for loots sake. Gone are the million axes and swords and shields, but you only find significant pieces of loot at certain rare points in the game, because believe me, they are rare. You can go the whole game without swapping weapons once and sticking with the gear you collect at the beginning, but you do upgrade your gear. You can unlock runeslots and make your gear look nicer by going to the blacksmith and spending resources to upgrade your gear.
Exploration is done differently now. You get those gold and silver dots on your map that indicate loot and mysteries to uncover and never get boring or are cumbersome, although some take some time to think through and to find a way to get inside where you need to be. The mysteries are fun encounters or side-quests that range from finding a comb for your mistres or fighting a drengr so he can have an honourable death. I highly recommend looking for these as there are some meaningful moments and also pretty funny ones.
I love the skill tree as well as it goes with a power level now, and believe me when I say that power does feel like power here. Not like other Ubisoft games where a number is just a number. If you have powerlevel 43 and you go up against a powerlevel 90, believe you me that it will be a tough to impossible fight (I tried).
You get significant choices that do feel like significant choices and not choices that are negated (although they are also there, but let’s go with the positive for now, the negative points will be in the next paragraph).
Not everything is rosy in Viking Norway. In my playsessions with Valhalla, I encountered bugs, something Odyssey had as well, but not as gamebreaking as in this case. Chests dissapearing. Boss fights not triggering after a restart (told you fights were hard). Stuff like that, which I trust Ubisoft and the team working on Valhalla will patch away in the future. Don’t let this ruin your decision to buy the game.
The game feels like another assassins creed and goes back to its roots at certain points and in certain ways, for example: social stealth is back. You can sit on benches to blend in, do certain tasks, use your hood.
Another thing that I really, really like is the fact that you have to find active skills. You have 2 skill trees. The one you unlock with skillpoints and the active skills that you can trigger during combat and such that you have to find through books of knowledge. This gives you an incentive to explore as you will have to find those skills to unlock them. Not finding them and you don’t have that particular skill. I skipped through Norway to get to England for example and I don’t have the axe-throwing ability, which I am hunting for now.
I have played the game both on Xbox one and on xbox series S and I can attest to the power of the series S that the game runs much smoother and much faster on the series S. I encountered also a lot less bugs and hick-ups in the series s version of the game, or I might imagine things. I love how fast it loads and how the environment looks in the series S version, although the xbox one version isn’t ugly either. Both are comparable but you don’t notice the upgrade if you haven’t played it. I am happy I have and I can hardly the FREE upgrade you get with the game.
Overall, if you like assassins creed, you will absolutely enjoy this game. It is still buggy at launch, but the story is solid and you will enjoy, during your exploration the occassional funny or heartfelt moment. If you are a fan of the series, you will love it. Newcomer, give it a try. If you didn’t like origins or Odyssey, stay away from this one as well.