To try and keep on top of the reviews, here is the first entry in a mini-review style for video games. This game will take me a while, I’m sure, so instead of waiting a month here are my early thoughts on… Assassin’s Creed Valhalla.
- This game starts slow. Like, a frustratingly slow, on-rails segment with no meaningful engagement from the player before a long and clunky cinematic. I could rant about this for days, but instead I’ll just make an open statement: game developers, stop doing this.
- Why do games lately start in the snow? It ties into starting so slow, because it’s a bleak colour palette, and it certainly doesn’t lend itself to the free movement this game series in particular is known for. It went a long way to ruining Red Dead Redemption II for me, but this game gets the benefit of the doubt because it’s Vikings.
- There are a lot of glitches and bugs. I’ve had the game freeze on a black screen twice now in approximately four hours of playtime, and a few cutscenes where the animations didn’t play. In fact, in that boring opening segment, young Eivor T-posed through a closed door. Twice now I flew horizontally above a downward slope, only to snap back to gravity and take fall damage.
- I really like the soundtrack. I’m a big fan of Wardruna, especially their song “Algir – Tognatale” (yes, from Vikings) and there is lots of similar stuff here. Even the ambient noises are soothing, and playing with proper surround sound headphones is incredibly immersive. I nearly deafened myself by blowing Eivor’s war horn, though (that’s what she said).
- I chose to play as male Eivor. I played through all of Odyssey as Kassandra, because I was told that the stories would be different (see: Mass Effect series, Dragon Age series – hey wait, they’re both Bioware) but that was not the case. Kassandra is considered the canon character, so at least I got that right, but I prefer my vikings hairy and built like a brick shithouse.
- The combat feels different. Its the same light/heavy melee from Odyssey, with very similar ranged options too. But holy smokes is it brutal, more like Shadow of War than anything in the Assassin’s Creed series. My motto has always been, “bigger sword, bigger reward” but I’ve had to modify it for this game: “bigger axe, better attacks.” Frankly, I can’t work out the range for melee attacks; I feel like I whiff on every second swing.
- The parkour is a real let down. Tying into the point about starting in snow, Eivor has not been able to show his speed and agility through trees or across conveniently placed rock formations, and I don’t know if I’m just playing it wrong, or the game just wants me to use a horse on the main roads.
- Raids are a lot of fun. I hope they don’t all end up as same as the handful I’ve done have been, but I guess that will depend how I want to play them. Maybe once I have some more skills or armour styles things will change.
- PHOTO MODE. Hell yeah, hook this directly to my veins. The new Share function on the Xbox Series X is so fast. I love it, and I expect to spend a lot of time on it in the coming hundred hours.
Overall, I can’t say I am blown away just yet. This feels more like The Witcher meets Dark Souls, but I’m optimistic things will open up once I get somewhere with more verticality. So far so good, but some things will need to change if this is going to end up on a list of my favourite games.