In the meantime, the "Assassin's" in Assassin's Creed is actually only part of it pro forma. Sure, the war between the Assassins and Templars or their predecessor organizations is still raging. However, it is little more than a sideline in a series that, after numerous ideas introduced and then discarded in the previous games, turned into an open-world action role-playing game with Origins.
Table of Contents
- page 1Assassin's Creed Valhalla in the test, page 1: story, setting, world map, missions and side quests, fights and more
- 1.1Eivor and the strong men
- 1.2New Norway (n) dare
- 1.3Between the chairs
- 1.4Freebooting can wait
- 1.5That was not what "sneaking" meant
- 1.6I come from the village
- 1.7The world skill tree
- 1.8Are all northerners gone?
- Page 2Assassin's Creed Valhalla in the test, page 2: forays, stealth, technical quirks, opinion and rating
- 2.1That was what "sneaking" meant!
- 2.2It jerks, it twitches, it spins
- 2.3Strong assassin announcement
- Page 3Image gallery for "Assassin's Creed Valhalla: Assassin's festival full of variety"
Assassin's Creed Valhalla continues on this path. Again, instead of cities or regions, entire countries have to be explored. Again the focus is on an extensive story, enriched by countless side quests. However, at the same time the adventure relies surprisingly heavily on old ideas from almost all previous series offshoots, optimizes elements from Origins and Odyssey and also has some fresh ideas in its luggage.
That actually sounds like a disaster with an announcement when a game wants to be everything, but ultimately doesn't implement any of its many projects really well. Surprisingly, Valhalla manages the balancing act well, damn well in fact. The result is perhaps the best series part in a long time that celebrates its roots without sacrificing newly acquired qualities.
Eivor and the strong men
Source: PC Games
After Egypt in Origins and Greece Odyssey, this time we are drawn to two places: Norway and Northern England. It is the year 873 AD, all of Norway is occupied by King Harald and his men. All of Norway? Yes – but only after the tutorial, in which we freely explore the surprisingly large, snow-covered area and familiarize ourselves with the different mechanics of the game. But then it's "off to England!", Where the disempowered heir to the throne Sigurd, we (in the form of his optionally male or female quasi-sibling Eivor) and our loyal followers want to build a new empire in the best Viking fashion. We do this by happily pillaging and forging alliances with the local rulers.
The premise is simple, what is narrative made of it, but surprisingly exciting. On the one hand because of the little stories that are told in each area. We meet insane rulers, jealous relatives and unwilling heirs to the throne and actively influence their fate. On the other hand, because of the overarching plot, which holds the individual parts together and is later directed in an exciting, emotional direction. The writers allow themselves enough time to build up the central characters and the resulting conflict, which we don't want to spoil at this point, is not only thrilling in the sense of "for a Ubisoft game", but was generally implemented really well . Sure, you can't get around the Assassin Templar Schmonzes completely, but it is used subtly and sensibly. From a narrative point of view, Assassin's Creed hadn't been that successful in a long time.
The present sections outside of the animus simulation, in which we experience the genetic memories of our Viking ancestors, are also included again. But they are no longer as present as they were in Odyssey. It remains to be seen whether this is good or bad, at least we weren't disappointed if this was the case.
Source: PC Games
Regardless of whether it's Northern England or Norway (which we can always return to from the map to explore further), the game's maps are again great. Not quite as expansive as the map in Odyssey, but with less idle time, it is a pleasure in itself to just travel it, be it on foot, in a longboat on the rivers or on the back of our horse, which can be called at any time. Snow areas alternate with dense, green forests, wide fields, misty swamps and lively villages. Standing on the battlements of a ruin and looking out over the open country is a great feeling. As part of a secondary task, besides Norway and Northern England, you will find other areas to explore; We don't want to reveal which ones at this point.
As is typical for Ubisoft, the world is very lively and the characters all follow routines, even if the poor artificial intelligence of the NPCs gnaws at the immersion. Figures run into each other, get stuck, have massive problems finding their way or spin around – this is not a catastrophe, but it shows a certain sloppiness on the part of the developers on a technical level, which we will get to later.
Source: PC Games
Speaking of technology: Valhalla is graphically pretty, but you can also tell from the fact that it is a cross-gen game. We played the version of the adventure for the new Xbox Series X – the graphics may have made a step forward compared to Odyssey, but they shouldn't knock anyone off their feet. The next series part will probably only offer the right next-gen look. Technically, Valhalla is convincing with the significantly shorter loading times compared to its predecessors. Unlike in Spider-Man: Miles Morales on the PS5, they are definitely still there, but you never have to wait longer than ten seconds, usually much shorter.
When it comes to sound, there is no nakedness, beautiful melodies that match the setting meet cracking sound effects and professional speakers. So far we have only been able to listen to them in English, as the German voice output will only be added via Day-One patch. Based on the good snychro of the last games, we expect decent quality.
Freebooting can wait
Source: PC Games
What is there to do in Northern England and Co.? In a word: a lot! In three words: very, very much. The main quests alone have occupied you for dozens of hours. Per area (there are over ten) you can calculate a good five hours for completing all primary missions on site, after which you can continue with the side stuff. Unlike in Origins, where we only discovered new tasks when we were in their vicinity, which often led to annoying searches, we can now uncover parts of the map including icons again, as in early Assassin's Creed games, if we have special synchronization points activate. We therefore know how many missions and collecting tasks await us per area.
As a compromise, however, it is only roughly indicated what is hidden behind the colored dots; In the case of white spots, we are dealing with an artifact search. These could be new tattoos for Eivor, Roman artifacts or scattered codex pages. Treasures are hidden under yellow dots, but we do not know whether it is a new weapon, gold or something else of value. So-called world events are behind blue dots, and they form the heart of the exploration experience: Most of them are short quests in which we have to help the inhabitants of the world. None of the tasks take longer than a few minutes, but they are really very varied and often written in a funny way. Then, for example, a drunk has to be brought home, the children have to play hide and seek or help out in some other way. In addition, there are other tasks among the world events, many of them surprising and exciting.
Since these mini-missions replace the sprawling, multi-part side quest threads from Odyssey, the question of course remains whether they represent a worthy substitute. Well, not really, which is not meant negatively per se. It's just a completely different approach to exploration gameplay. Incidentally, there are also "classic" side tasks, but no longer as extensive and as widely ramified as before. The main story is also a good bit longer than in the last two games. Either way, this time we receive valuable, meaningful rewards for everything we do, and those who really want to do everything can plan their next vacation.
That was not what "sneaking" meant
Source: PC Games
The great strength of Valhalla, which is more evident in the secondary tasks than anywhere else, is the really impressive variety. Sure, types of tasks are repeated, but not even remotely as often as you might think. If you approach an icon, there is a good chance that a challenge awaits you behind it that you have not experienced before. Then you don't just fight, but try your hand at being a detective, for example, realigning ancient runes, stacking stones and listening to childhood memories, examining glitches in the animus structure, exploring old caves and, and, and. A lot of things were taken from old Assassin's Creeds, but they also work well in the new framework. The countless other game elements that are gradually unlocked underline the enormous variety of the adventure even more. Ubisoft, for whom copy & paste design is really anything but alien, can be praised for this.
There is less praise for what initiates many missions, especially the story tasks: we constantly have to slowly run or ride alongside other NPCs, often over long stretches, and we have no choice but to move around at the excruciatingly annoying snail's pace to trot. Why it was decided that we have to adapt to the NPC pace and not the other way around is a mystery to us. In addition, for our taste, treasure hunts in particular are a little too often tasks that require us to find keys for or alternative routes to locked areas. It's funny now and then, but sometimes it turns into exhausting searches.
Source: PC Games
Much of what we experience in the world emanates from our village. We build this up little by little by collecting resources during forays and thereby building tattoo shops, blacksmiths, fishing shops or even simple resident houses. This not only unlocks side missions, but also enables completely new gameplay elements. The aforementioned hunt for the hidden ones, for example, opens up as soon as the assassin's office is set up. In general, it is always fun to see your own community grow and prosper in a game, even if the general structure in Valhalla is fixed apart from some decorative elements. Thankfully, the flood of resources from Odyssey has been reduced, to improve it only needs two different consumables, of which you know exactly where to get them.
This two-resource rule also applies to our equipment, with other raw materials, but just as clearly structured. In addition, the flood of loot from Odyssey is history. There are still a lot of weapons, shields and armor pieces to be found, but each part is unique and can only be improved to a certain extent. After that, the equipment can only be upgraded with special runes. It's all in the mix, and the reduced amount of equipment combined with sufficient customization options makes upgrades easier to understand and more satisfying than before.
The world skill tree
Source: PC Games
Speaking of upgrades: The experience point system from the two predecessors has been completely overhauled. We still get XP for almost all actions, but they are used differently. You no longer wander into an agonizingly slowly increasing overall level and unlock one skill point for a mini skill tree for each level. Instead, this time there is a truly huge, extremely branching skill tree in which each activation requires exactly one point. Instead of increasing our normal level, there is always an ascent for the same amount of experience points, which gives us new points. And we get not just one, but two points to distribute. Points are earned extremely quickly, which ensures that you can look forward to new upgrades almost continuously, in addition to classic improvements such as more melee strength and vitality, as well as special goodies such as a particularly powerful stealth attack or the extremely practical power, with well-timed evasion to temporarily slow down the time. With every point that we invest, our so-called combat level increases by the value one.
The skill tree is huge and many areas have to be discovered first. What at first seems like a strange design decision makes perfect sense, because there is always something new and surprising to discover, depending on the direction in which you follow the widely ramified ramifications. So a new skill can be added late in the game and sometimes drastically change our approach. It shows: Players are able to pour out endorphins even without stupid loot boxes! The annoying XP grinding from side quests in Odyssey that was necessary to advance in the main story is largely history. Due to the new system plus the fact that enemies no longer level up, but have a fixed level depending on the area and / or task, firstly you progress much faster, secondly you have a chance against stronger enemies with a little skill, and thirdly, just completing a handful of sidequests in addition to the main campaign is enough to progress the story.
Source: PC Games
The combat talents that can be assigned to the buttons, which can also be unlocked in the Skill Tree in Origins and Odyssey, have been outsourced; they can now be found in the game world in the form of books as collectible objects. Here, too, the ignorance of what new goodies to expect feels good and, along with the other, well-designed tasks and the constant feeling of progression, it helps to make exploring Valhalla more successful than in any other Assassin's Creed before.
Are all northerners gone?
The fighting talents are of course only one aspect of the confrontations. In essence, these feel very similar to those in the two predecessors, but they have been changed and improved in detail. With the right shoulder buttons we attack with light and heavy attacks with our main weapon. New: In addition, we can now equip a second weapon, for example an ax, spear, hammer, but also a shield. Depending on the combination, there are different attack variants, including brutal animations, when we kill an enemy. We can also block, evade, use the aforementioned equipped special maneuvers and use bows and arrows.
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