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But it has gripped me again.
They say you either favour the early Assassin’s titles, slower and stealthier and tighter in scope, or the more recent ones, starting with Origins, continuing with Odyssey and now Valhalla, in which combat and exploration have been massively overhauled and the playable world hugely expanded.
Me, I am firmly in the latter camp, and Valhalla is another epic experience in historical-based storytelling.
It transports you to 873AD, the time of the viking, and you play a warrior called Eivor who, after a tragic childhood, decides to abandon Norway and begin a new life of conquest in England.
It’s a gender-varied role, so you can choose to play as a male Eivor or a female Eivor, or indeed allow the game to choose when you play as which.
In green old England, Eivor and company set up a settlement called Ravensthorpe, and this becomes an important, upgradable part of the game, serving as both a launching pad for exploration and combat and as a base for resource management.
As with the previous two games in the series, you are then left with the choice of either following quest lines or simply wandering about, unlocking new areas and meeting all sorts of enemies and scrounging for resources and pillaging and plundering and generally getting your viking on, in style.
It strikes a nice balance between offering plenty of things to do and see, but never making you feel overwhelmed, or that it is a grind.
Valhalla is a bit slower-paced than the previous two titles, especially at the start. Everything feels a bit more deliberate, from the combat to the loot management.
The latter gets a significant overhaul. No longer do you collect hundreds of bits of gear (many duplicate); instead, the management of loot is streamlined so you tend to stick with one piece for longer, and need to source materials to upgrade it. It makes you think more about what to use and when to upgrade it.
A new feature is the era-appropriate system of raiding, where you and tour crew jump on your longboat, attack a settlement and fleece it of its various wealth and goods. It’s a bit chaotic, and is the one area of the game that can get slightly manic, but the rewards are great.
If you prefer action of a quieter sort, there are mini-games aplenty — poetry battles (yes, really) and drinking games and dice and the like — to provide a change of pace.
One major change on which I am not completely sold is a rejigged skill tree. It now has a random element as most of it is covered by ‘‘fog’’, leaving you to blindly head down one particular path without quite knowing what is at the end. Happily, you can reset your skill points at any stage and head off in a different direction.
Like previous Assassin’s games, it includes a modern-day element, but the messing around with the ‘‘animus’’ has always left me a bit cold. It’s the historic action that really counts.
Valhalla is a good game. Is it a great game? I’m not completely sold on that — Origins, for me, trumps it for sheer enjoyment — but it does very little wrong, and captures the spirit of the viking age quite beautifully.
Assassin’s Creed Valhalla
For: PS4, PS5, Xbox One, Xbox Series X, PC