I remember the first time I played Assassin's Creed. In fact, I got involved with the first part, but not when it was released, but a few years later. My girlfriend gave me the first, Assassin's Creed 2, Brotherhood and Revelations together for my birthday. After the first adventure left me rather disillusioned, the direct sequel immediately cast a spell over me and the following games succeeded in a similarly consistent manner.

No preview video?
Yes, our preview video is coming! However, only after a bit of delay. Due to technical problems at Ubisoft, the material we played and recorded was only made available to us shortly before. We may deliver our impressions in video form in the course of the evening, no later than Thursday noon.
Only a few months later, it was 2012, I bought Assassin's Creed 3, played it, was left quite disappointed and thought to myself "this is no longer the Assassin's Creed that I have come to appreciate so much".

Well, many years and at least as many Assassin's Creed games later, I can hardly believe that I was already criticizing the series' departure from its roots. The open-world action RPGs Origins and especially Odyssey had little in common with the first few titles. However, I really like both – have I changed or have the games acquired a different, high-quality identity? I don't know for sure, given the huge success of both adventures mentioned, the developers definitely seem to be doing something right.

Little by little, you build your home community in the game using resources.

Little by little, you build your home community in the game using resources.

Source: PC Games

Now comes Valhalla, and after all that is planned, he seems to be in danger of slipping into an identity crisis like Part 3 one day: It should offer the newly established elements from Origins and Odyssey, as well as numerous features of the old games, ideally fresh ones Bringing ideas with it – a wild hodgepodge, predestined to ultimately not satisfy anyone as Hans Dampf in any alley.

After my second play-off session with Valhalla, however, in which I was allowed to lose a whopping eight hours as a Viking in the north of England, I was again very entertained and in a positive mood. I am not deviating from my theory that Assassin's Creed is suffering from an identity crisis, as I discussed in my column some time ago. Contrary to all logic, the wild mix of old and new works, however, and the overall structure feels coherent.

Did you just assume my Vikings?

You can customize the look of Eivor with clothes, tattoos, your hairstyle and other things and of course you can also determine the gender.

You can customize the look of Eivor with clothes, tattoos, hairstyle and other things and, of course, determine the gender.

Source: PC Games

I actually approached my play-out session with threefold skepticism: First, because I sunk 195 hours into Odyssey and fell in love with the gameplay loop and, above all, the Greece setting. The thought of being out and about with a new figure on a different map was against me subjectively. Second, because of the concerns just expressed. And third, because the last time I played for my first preview I was irritated to find that stealth was far less important than action.

But what is it actually about? This time we end up in the year 873 in the form of the Viking clan leader Eivor to northern England. The player decides whether Eivor is female or male. In fact, the gender can even be changed at any time by selecting from the menu

This is explained in the accompanying text by the fact that two strands were found in the data of the animus, the machine with which the genetic memories of the Assassin's Creed heroes are brought to life, which are stronger or weaker at different times. Alternatively, you can let the game decide the gender, then it obviously changes every now and then. Sounds stupid, but that's what you're used to from the Assassin's Creed stories!

Some stealth elements from the old series parts are returning, such as the ability to immerse yourself between other people.

Some stealth elements from the old series parts are returning, such as the ability to immerse yourself between other people.

Source: PC Games

Coming from Norway, Eivor and her husbands had to flee – for the sake of simplicity, I will stick to the female address from now on – and are now looking for land in northern England to start a new life. In fact, there will also be a playable area in Norway, but this is primarily used as a tutorial. There we will get to know the different game mechanics, do the first missions and try out the combat system. Here I am referring to the explanations of the developers, I was not allowed to research the Norway section myself. Instead, the area of ​​Mercien was available to me in the demo after the last time I explored East Anglia. In addition to the entire main quest line of this area, which is located a few hours after the start of the game, I also completed a large part of the side missions and mini-games.

I was pleased to see that my impression from the first demo was apparently due to a somewhat clumsily selected part of the adventure, or that many elements were obviously deliberately not shown at the time: Stealth is still an important factor and feels satisfactory. While I was roaming the country, opportunities arose in various camps and in other places to fulfill my tasks unseen and murky. Balancing on house roofs and scaffolding, hidden in the tall grass or otherwise hidden, I just walked past adversaries or silently killed them with my hidden assassin's blade. Whistling to lure enemies is also possible, of course, and the bad guys can be eliminated from a distance with a bow and arrow before they can call for help.

They are not 1.5 meters away

Eivor's raven is used to scout the area and to mark objects and enemies.

Eivor's raven is used to scout the area and to mark objects and enemies.

Source: PC Games

So far, so well known, so beautiful that action-packed battles are not always the means to an end. But I found it even more exciting that I was finally able to try out the "Social Stealth" feature. Touted as a big innovation, it's really just a return of elements from the very early Assassin's Creed pieces. If Eivor is out and about in communities full of NPCs, in which there are also guards who do not speak well to them, there are various possibilities to disappear inconspicuously between the people. To do this, Eivor puts on a coat and walks unnoticed by guards in the midst of a bunch of people, sits on a bench so that enemies stop looking for her, or disguises himself as a blacksmith who is lost in thought at his metal works. In addition, we can call beggars by our side who will attract attention and give us time to leave.

As nice as I find these additional methods, I'm not yet sure how useful they will really be in the context of the adventure. There is no wanted ad like in some early series parts and in case of doubt, fighting is always an adequate means of moving forward. So social stealth has yet to prove that it is an integral part of the gaming experience and not just a goodie for those who have been crying out for such a system for years.

You have my ax, and a hammer

Are we really the good guys? As Vikings, Eivor and Co. are primarily targeting hostile takeovers.

Are we really the good guys? As Vikings, Eivor and Co. are primarily targeting hostile takeovers.

Source: PC Games

Fascinatingly, the often touted raids, i.e. the takeover of positions that are hostile to our Viking nature, are actually optional. If you want, you can just as easily remove these camps quietly and secretly. Or you kick the horn, whereupon the Viking journeymen come rushing and you fight aggressively for supremacy. In the particularly large, mostly story-bound battles of conquest, you don't have this choice, but with a battering ram, several areas that have to be occupied and generally a fine, action-packed staging, work is even more impressive.

Fighting is similar to that of the two previous versions: You attack with the shoulder buttons, but now you can go into battles not only with one but even with two hands and with different weapons per hand or with a shield. Then you use a sword or a small ax for quick attacks, while with the hammer in the other hand you distribute slow but devastating blows.

In addition, the various special attacks also return, of which you can always equip four at once, plus four more for the bow. Then you throw axes at the opponents in the immediate vicinity, perform a jump attack or briefly attack with a poisoned blade.

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