We tested a demo for more than 5 hours and completed one of the main story arcs of the video game.
Norway, 9th century. Hunger consumes the people, worn down by war and death. Years of battle and glory, of loot and severed heads. But in Odin’s house, things are not going well, so the Viking clan led by Eivor decides to set sail for other horizons. Their ships reach the shores of England, a territory already known to the Viking people, as it has been the target of invasions in the past and in the present. The goal now is to find a new home, a permanent settlement in hostile territory. Assassin’s Creed Valhalla, the new production from Ubisoft Montreal, introduces us as Eivor, the leader of his clan. Ax in hand he will make his way through the Christian world, always with his eyes fixed on Valhalla, death in battle, what every Viking wishes to walk among their gods.
The fall of the Roman Empire added its former provinces into the Dark Years, a time when some classical knowledge was destroyed, although historians converge on the idea that the gloom was not as unfathomable as it might seem at first glance. However, in the England of that era, the different kingdoms did not coexist in peace. In fact, the kings fought for the throne and the different branches of nobles conspired in the name of God. That the pagans touched sacred ground received an answer, the war, but the Christians did not conform a unit and soon alliances with the invaders were produced, in order to satisfy the ambitions of both.
The character, customization and settlement
As soon as the demo starts, the game asks us to choose between the male or female Eivor. The decision is not final, since you can switch between one and the other at any time. The solution of creating two antagonistic brothers, as in Assassin’s Creed Odyssey, has not been explored in this title, since the protagonist shares the same name, so that Eivor is canonical for the story regardless of their gender.
One of the novelties that we find and that we can already explore in this version is the possibility of customizing the protagonist as it has never been done in a product of the saga. As in previous video games, there is the option to choose equipment and weapons, but this time other additional features are added: in the settlement, the character has the option of tattooing himself on different parts of the body, choosing the hairstyle, hair color and even beard style. It is not a deep character editor, in that only certain aspects can be modified, but the option to unlock new styles allows the user to choose what their version of Eivor will look like and how it will be reflected on the screen.
As soon as we took the controls, we traveled to the England of yesteryear, a map that does not seem small precisely. Although the final game will take place between the British Isles and frigid Norway, this demo is focused on the Leidecestshire part. The change of atmosphere is perceived almost immediately. The tone is more somber than that of Assassin’s Creed Odyssey, with beautiful settings, but with a dark look, which enhances its dark side when the rain patters on the ground. In the background you can see snow-capped mountains, a stamp that we have not seen in the most recent titles of the brand.
The settlement is one of the main pillars of Assassin’s Creed: Valhalla, which functions in a similar way to the camps in Red Dead Redemption 2. It is a kind of base of operations where the Viking people develop their activities, construct new buildings and establish the strategy to follow. The blacksmith will only be available in this area, as well as some shops or the establishment that allows us to customize Eivor and its beloved raven. We did not have time to do all the activities, but many narrative parts will take place in this location. Over time, the settlement will prosper and we will build new buildings that will provide us with more options. Creating regiments of soldiers to accompany us in the assaults (the raids) is something that is also developed in this area, and succeeding in this activity will nourish us with resources to invest in the settlement.
Meeting the sons of Ragnar
In the first minutes of the game we feel that the formula is very familiar to us, that it certainly follows in the footsteps of Origins and Odyssey. There are changes to the button mapping that are hard to get used to at first, but like everything else, in the end it is a matter of time. Leaving behind the problems with the controller, we decided to try our luck with the main plot. On this occasion, Ubisoft Montreal has changed the narrative structure of the video game, which has been organized into sagas (like the old Nordic volumes). From the French company they assure that each one of them will be different, although in the demo we can live a particularly violent story arc.
Years after Ragnar starred in his forays into England, Eivor teams up with two of his sons, Ubba Ragnarsson and Ivarr The Boneless. These legendary Vikings conspire to depose the current king of Mercia and replace him with another of their liking. The main plot shows the wild nature of this town, at least the one that has been portrayed in other works of fiction, which as such do not have to be a true reflection of reality. In any case, Assassin’s Creed Valhalla takes advantage of the story to offer the other side of the coin. Not everything is solved with the ax or the sword (although we see Ivarr torturing a prisoner with relish), but diplomacy has a preponderant role. A role that is not directly transferred to the game mechanics, but is threaded directly in the story. His system of dialogues will reopen different paths marked by decisions, but it is still too early to determine to what extent the plot threads bifurcate.
The main missions lead us to further develop Eivor’s relationship with its Viking brothers and Christians, all within a network of relationships that will lead us to dialogue and fight in numerous battles, some of which will be quite massive. In a fortress siege, we break down the gates with a battering ram, advance alongside other combatants, and defend ourselves with shields when the barrage of arrows falls in our direction. Later, the rain of bolts intensifies and we throw ourselves against the door to smash it, although it takes several attempts for the gate to explode between wood chips.
Vikings, fierce warriors: battles, progression and stealth
The battle system is embedded in the mold of its more recent predecessors, although it has some changes. Personalization is not only aesthetic, since it also gives us the possibility to adapt the battles to our liking. Eivor can fight with a combination of two weapons, shield and weapon, two-handed edge or two shields, not forgetting the bow. Timing, parries and dodging movements are combined with the use of special abilities, which use an adrenaline rush to unleash their devastating effects. As if that weren’t enough, and as we mentioned in our previous preview, brutal executions are implemented, which we can carry out by pressing a button when the signal appears on the enemy. The animations in those moments are varied, but a scene in which the protagonist separates the enemy’s head with his weapon has stuck in our minds. Ubisoft also promises multiple archetypes of soldiers, each with their strengths and weaknesses.
Automatic health regeneration has been removed, so the character must seek resources to make a concoction that can be used as a potion during or outside combat. Eating mushrooms helps you regenerate life and restore your adrenaline bar. All this is linked to a renewed progression system. In previous video games in the series, Ubisoft opted for a level system, something that forced the user to perform secondary tasks to increase their power. This created barriers to progression, as it was not possible to advance through the main story unless you had reached a certain level.
The developer has listened to the complaints and has rethought the ideas. Progression is no longer based on levels, but focuses your attention on three specific aspects: a skill tree that unfolds in three different branches and increases the level of power, that is, defense, attack, etc. Second, a series of assignable and passive skills that are achieved through Knowledge Books. This includes our animal ally. If Kassandra had Icarus on her shoulders, Eivor has the help of a very insightful raven, whose potential is gradually developing. For example, we can fly over the territory, but at first we will not have the ability for the animal to set the enemies as a target. Finally, weapon and equipment upgrades are established as the third pillar of this system.
Throughout these years, more than a few have complained that Assassin’s Creed has lost something of its essence. At Ubisoft they have taken good note of this. The return of social stealth, parkour and hidden blade murders mark a kind of fusion between today’s formula and yesterday’s. Sitting on a bench to disguise or posing as monks are two options to go unnoticed. Eivor dons his hood and can walk crouched. Similarly, previous features such as whistles are implemented to attract enemies or different types of killings.
Side missions? These are the contents
The Vikings land as conquerors. Therefore, according to its narrative manager, Darby McDevitt, a secondary mission system like in Assassin’s Creed Odyssey does not make sense. “One of the first things we asked ourselves when making Assassin’s Creed Valhalla was, ‘Does the traditional main quest / side quest format work for a Viking invading a hostile country?’ The answer was emphatically no. The traditional secondary missions, which you find in almost any RPG, do not make sense for our character ”, because it does not fit that an invader helps citizens just because of his good heart.
Instead, what Ubisoft has called World Events has been outlined, which are nothing more than small secondary missions that offer stories about the day-to-day lives of the different characters that make up this universe. During our gaming session, we overheard the conversation between two brothers who call themselves bastard sons of the legendary Ragnar. Eivor will help them burn down the farm and obtain his mother’s hatchet. The second World Event we tested takes us to a dirty dungeon, where there is a crazy woman looking for snake eggs. We give them to her after finishing off a few vermin, but the lady, neither short nor lazy, undoes her stomach in a festival of winds that come out through the sewers and leave the people around with the suffered smell in the environment. Will they be deep or will they stay on fun missions? Will they contribute to the character and his world? We will not be able to answer this question until the Reviews, when we will experience all these stories.
We were able to take a look at some of the mini-games. Rap battles are curious, because it is necessary to find the rhyme that fits with the previous phrase. The drinking game works with quick times events, so we assume that it will get progressively more complicated. As for the puzzles and mysteries, we were able to make one in which you had to play with the lights and with the jumps between platforms. We then had time to build a stone tower, which brings us a little closer to the gods.
The powerful Zealot warriors are like the mercenaries of Odyssey, bosses who will chase us and that we must defeat if they cross our path. In the demo the Nemesis-style system from the previous installment was not present. As Ubisoft has declared to FreeGameTips, “the mercenaries in Odyssey were part of a reward system, while in Assassin’s Creed Valhalla, the Zealots knights are protectors of the Order of the Ancients and as such, they react to your actions in the world; they will persecute you if they consider you a threat ”.
Does Assassin’s Creed Valhalla take another step in the right direction? Can you feel fresh despite sharing formula with two other huge video games? These are important questions that we will answer in the Reviews. There is no doubt that the basics are the same and that there are many familiar systems. But in such a huge production, 6 hours is not enough to render a final verdict. We anticipate that yes, Valhalla feels similar to the previous ones, but it has the necessary ingredients to advance and continue improving the formula. Time will tell if enough. For now, we are fully immersed in the Viking world. Sköll!