Version tested: PlayStation 4
Assassin's Creed Valhalla is the latest iteration in chronological order dedicated to the historical saga of the Assassins, created by the guys from Ubisoft 13 years ago. The current title continues the new vision of the series that started with Bayek in Origins and continued by Alexios / Kassandra in Odyssey.
This new and intense adventure is in fact a cross-gen experience, in fact, it comes out at the turn of a period of renewal also for the current gaming platforms. Furthermore, although Microsoft has dedicated a fair amount of attention to the title, through unpublished trailers and more, the video game will also land on PlayStation 5.
Unfortunately, at present we cannot try it on the new consoles, as it is not in our possession, but we promise that as soon as possible we will tell you our impression also on the new generation platforms through a dedicated special.
Norse mythology what a passion!
Let's retrace the history of the development of Assassin's Creed Valhalla for a moment, the title at the time of the announcement, which took place last April 29, had already been in development for over two years. Everything was entrusted to the skilled developers of the Canadian division, the same ones who made Origins, the progenitor of the rebirth of the series.
Before the official reveal, a series of clues and indiscretions led us to think that the next chapter of the series would have had as its focal point the Norse mythology. The latter is particularly fashionable in recent years, thanks to God of War, the film transpositions of the adventures of the God of Thunder made by Marvel and the well-known TV series. Vikings.
In any case, the most interesting clue relating to the future setting of the game (later defined by Ubisoft as a randomness) was found within The Division 2. In fact, a peculiar poster showed a fighter holding a spherical object similar to the Apple of Eden, all dominated by the inscription Valhalla. Coincidence? We like to see it as a pleasant anticipation.
Finally, it must be remembered that the guys of Ubisoft Montreal to launch the twelfth chapter of the series, have made the wise decision to postpone the release of a year, a choice already made with Syndicate and Origins, all in order to develop an accurate and definitely innovative.
Valhalla will catapult us into the world of Viking warriors, a population according to the great European nations barbaric and able to understand only war and death. During this new adventure, we will drive Eivor aka Wolf Bite, an intrepid Norwegian fighter who took part in the invasion of England during the XNUMXth century AD. At the time it was divided into four different states: Northumbria, East Anglia, Mercia and Wessex.
The latter state was ruled by King Alfred the Great, known for having waged a long and intense war against the Great Danish Army, an army made up of several powerful Norse warriors.
During his wanderings between Scandinavia and England, our protagonist will meet the Sect of the Occult, a sort of secret organization that plots in the shadows to pursue a greater purpose, and will join them in the fight against the Order of the Ancients. As you may have understood, we are talking respectively of Assassins and Templars, who, in ancient times, used different names, just as seen in Origins and Odyssey.
And just like the two aforementioned chapters, we will follow the events and deeds of the neo-assassin Layla Hassan in the modern world, who through real game sequences will allow us to better understand the world of the Isu, the ancient technologically advanced civilization that he created humanity and the Pieces of Eden and that for thirteen years has seen some of its members plotting who knows what dark conspiracies in the shadows.
More action or more RPGs?
The new Ubisoft title will not stray far from the style that we have already had the opportunity to appreciate with Assassin's Creed Odyssey. The RPG imprint that the developers wanted to bring through this new trilogy is very strong, just think of the choice of equipment and the enhancement of the same, the growth of the character through a system of levels up to the decision of the gender of the protagonists. However, the developer listened to the audience and tried to give the title that action essence that in the past made fans of the series fall in love with.
Let's start from the beginning, even in this case you can choose whether to use a powerful Berserkr or a fearsome Skjaldmaer, or a male or female protagonist. In case the choice causes you problems, you can leave the difficult decision to the Animus. In any case, we remind you that at any time you can change the gender of your character. For this review we preferred the male version of Eivor, let's say that his Viking bum immediately fascinated us.
After a brief introduction, which will see you attend a typical Viking banquet and discover the protagonist's past. The game will throw you right in the middle of the action, letting you discover the world around you, the combat system, the healing dynamics and the Eyes of Odin, (an interesting name for the good old Eagle Vision).
Pay attention to health
Why do we talk about the dynamics of healing? It is quite simple, so far the protagonists of the titles of the saga have always benefited from an honor treatment, in fact, it was enough to escape to some lost place and recover health and then return to face the enemies as if nothing had happened.
So the development team decided to propose a new healing system for Assassin's Creed Valhalla, and much closer to human reality. On the other hand, our protagonist is a Viking warrior of great skill, but he is only a man, contrary to Alexios / Kassandra who had a more noble birth. Therefore, you will have to pay attention to your actions and collect as much food as possible; in fact, the powerful protagonist will have a supply of food at his disposal in order to increase the available health.
Tiered system? No thanks!
As for the RPG mechanics that in Odyssey had not met the hoped-for success, Ubisoft has preferred a decisive change of course by eliminating the hated tiered system in the first instance. This forced the player to a series of fruitless and frustrating missions to level in order to fight certain bosses or frequent new areas. A character power calculator was introduced in its place. This new system will allow you to face any type of enemy, without the psychological step of the level. Obviously, to take down fighters stronger than you you will have to work harder and often resort to strategy.
Staying on the RPG theme, Assassin's Creed Valhalla also hosts a decidedly vast and varied skill tree. Initially, the skill tree is divided into "only" three areas, but once you unlock the different skills present, you can discover new areas and unlock more and more skills. In order to get these perks, you will have to accumulate talents (definitely more inspired name than Skill Points), to do so you just need to complete missions, complete Raids, discover treasures and kill enemies.
Let the slaughter begin
The combat system that Ubisoft has designed for this new iteration of the series deserves a separate chapter. In fact, the development team thoroughly studied the history of the mythical Viking warriors, which was heavily based on honor. To confirm this, the hidden blade, which has always distinguished the Order of the Assassins or the Occult, in this case, is held by the protagonist "on the contrary" in order to let others know with which weapon he has cut the threads of fate. of Moire and sent a new fighter to Valhalla.
By going beyond the Viking moral norms, Valhalla brought about a radical change to the combat system. In fact, these powerful warriors were not only known for the aforementioned sense of honor, but also for being real machines, far from the ancient European conception of struggle. Precisely for this reason, the developers have decided to resume the excellent Odyssey system and enrich it with some precautions, in order to make everything more dynamic.
The biggest novelty introduced concerns the Dual Wielding, that is the possibility of holding two weapons at the same time, even of different types. The entire Eivor Bite di Lupo moveset will adapt to your choices, always offering you a high dynamism and a truly surprising series of animations. In fact, the protagonist is able to use both strength and agility at the same time, smashing skulls and gutting stunned enemies. It will be up to the player to decide how to deal with future threats and have the warmths (Nordic bards) write and sing sagas of his heroic deeds.
This happens in the open field, while if you prefer stealth and the typical modus operandi of the Creed, you will immediately find yourself at ease. In fact, it combines the foreknowledge of the players with a well-oiled and always satisfying animation system. Although we tell you, with a little presumption, that after a while you will prefer the chaos of the Viking horde to the friendly silence of the Assassins.
Unfortunately, not all that glitters is gold, in fact, although it is extremely fun to master, the combat system of Assassin's Creed Valhalla lends its side to hitboxes that are still a little rough and to animations that are occasionally dancers. All accompanied by a not particularly awake AI.
The importance of the settlements
As we said above, ACV is a title that is divided between two worlds, that of the cold and dark tundra of Norway and the “sunny” and rich in vegetation of England. This aspect offers you a surprising feeling, in fact, despite the breathtaking landscapes of Greece and Egypt, the lack of variety of alternatives in the long run gave the player a strong sense of boredom.
Our protagonist and the Ravens Clan will leave the icy waters of northern Europe to conquer new lands, and this work of conquest starts from England. At the time, however, it was not as united as today under the power of the Crown, in fact, it was in turn divided into kingdoms. Your aim will be to conquer the four kingdoms with great difficulty and give your people a place to live.
To do this, Eivor will have to build and develop a series of settlements, one of the main novelties of this new iteration. The dynamics relating to these places remind us of the Villa of Monteriggioni owned by Ezio Auditore, even if more extensive and complex. In fact, from these places you can begin to erect a series of new buildings / structures in order to earn different rewards.
You can customize each settlement to your liking, enriching it with commemorative statues to the Gods and patches of vegetation. Obviously, not only the aesthetic aspect will be taken care of, in fact, you can create stables useful for the purchase of horses or build a forge to upgrade and buy new armor, on the other hand it is known, the Viking blacksmiths have always been the best in the world. .
Here's how I customize the protagonist for you
Weapons and mounts are important, but so is the appearance of the protagonist. In fact it will be the first and last thing that your enemies will see, they might as well have a good memory of you. Precisely for this reason, the tattoo artists' premises will also be present inside the camps. By contacting these professionals you will be able to decorate your body as you see fit and manage your look, from hair to beard.
This "hub" acts as a safe place for your clan. Obviously, to build your dream settlement you will need to have large quantities of materials. In case you don't have any available, dedicate yourself to Raids and Sieges at enemy monasteries and outposts. You will see that in a short time you will be able to accumulate what you need.
In case all of this is not enough, the settlements in Assassin's Creed Valhalla will allow us to recruit and customize a series of new warriors, who although they cannot be commanded directly, will be extremely useful in battle by slaughtering your enemies for you.
Draki, raids and insults
During our test, we had the opportunity to discover that the world created by the guys at Ubisoft is rich and varied. In addition to the adventures aboard your Draki (yes, the boats are not called Drakkar), Eivor can spend his time dedicating himself to raids and sieges, in order to obtain more or less rare materials.
But even the Viking axes occasionally require rest, for this reason, the team offered a number of interesting and fun side activities: from gambling with dice to intense drinking competitions. The activity that struck us most, however, is known as "mocking" it is a question of replying in rhyme to jokes and insults, it goes without saying that it reminded us of the historical duels based on insults of Monkey Island.
Assassin's Creed Valhalla, as per tradition, is able to offer an astonishing glance, although we can't wait to bring Eivor to next-gen and find out what the new consoles are made of. However, all of this is made possible by the usual high quality artistic direction to which Ubisoft has accustomed us. Obviously, the title at present contains that series of elements that characterize all the other open-worlds, from polygonal interpenetrations to pop-ups, but nothing that undermines the gaming experience.
Among other things, it must be admitted that as interesting as the views offered by Valhalla are, the dreamy atmosphere of Egypt and the epic charm of Greece are still hard to beat. Despite this, we assure you that you will observe the incredible Norwegian Northern Lights for hours, for us on the other hand it is a sight so far away.
Sound sector from 10 and praise
That said, it is a must to devote our attention to sound compartment. In fact, an excellent job was done by the team represented by the talented Jesper Kyd e Sarah Schachner, which have long accompanied the series. It adds to their innate skill Einar Selvik, composer that many of us have known thanks to the television series Vikings. The proposed songs are extremely immersive. The wonderful Viking songs that accompany the long sea voyages will be able to send you an unparalleled charge of adrenaline.
The credit must also be shared with those who dealt with the dubbing. The voice of the young Eivor and the main characters is able to make you identify in an impressive way. The only sore point is represented by the fact that in some situations we have encountered some problems with sync, but we are sure that this will be fixed.
Assassin's Creed Valhalla does not dramatically revolutionize the mechanics introduced through the "new course" of the series, but it is not a mere copy and paste. In fact, Ubisoft has streamlined some of the RPG dynamics that had not met the success of the fans and has studied in depth everything related to the world of the Vikings. The target? Offer an interesting and at the same time convincing experience on screen.
Unfortunately, the game lends itself to some problems, from underdeveloped AI to not too convincing collision management. Fortunately, the management of the narrative sector and the world created by the Ubisoft guys has earned the young Eivor a place of honor in Valhalla.