Another year, another Assassin’s Creed game. Having said that, Valhalla could be the one we’ve actually been waiting for…

This time around Ubisoft are getting their hands dirty with the Viking themed Assassin’s Creed: Valhalla. A brutishly fresh coat of paint for the never-ending whistle-stop tour of polished historic settings those Canadians are so fond of.

Imagine, just for a moment, that Ubisoft ditched the majestic backdrops of ancient history and gave us Assassin’s Creed: Council Estate – play as a hardened assassin on the mean streets of Slough, circa. 1995. I’d buy that! But anyway, back to what they actually are doing…

I have a love/hate relationship with the Assassin’s Creed games

I love the basic concept – hardened Assassin working for shadowy organisation infiltrates key moments throughout history in order to influence events for the greater good – and even the basic mechanics of slick movement, tracking targets, sneak and character progression are all well thought out.

It’s the execution that I tend to hate – how many of these games do Ubisoft have to make before they fix the basics problems with traversal? And then there’s the AI inconsistencies, goofy characters, the pointless grind of a lot of mission types and the even more pointless ‘bigger picture’ Abstergo story set in the present day.

Still, the games tend to look lovely, even though Ubisoft try to block your view of it at every opportunity with their over-the-top HUD overlays.

But anyway, as far as the latest instalment is concerned the Viking theme brings a welcome Norse passion to the series. The pre-rendered AI in the trailer looks tremendous, and the intense combat is presented with heart-thumping brutality.

The game is set in the days of Alfred The Great and, perhaps sorely for us Brits, you’re character (Eivor) will be tasked with rampaging across the British Isles. The lousy foreigner, come here with your pointy hats and girly skirts why don’t-cha!

As far as actual gameplay goes there’s nothing to go on yet. What we do know is the game will continue to build upon the RPG elements that have seeped into the series in the most recent instalments. for the first time, you’ll have a home village that acts as a hub for your raiding activities, which shows that Assassin’s Creed: Valhalla will explore the cultural side of Viking life in addition to the brutal conquest we are all familiar with.

On the development front, Ubisoft seems to have thrown the kitchen sink at this one.

Personally I love the idea of a homestead for the player, as it adds a greater richness and variety to the experience. After all, when playing as the Vikings you don’t want to just be concerned with pillaging lands, you want to be concerned with protecting your own too! Decisions made throughout the game will influence the fate of your settlement, with multiple arcs involving relationships with other Clans, as well as personal relationships, playing out with a variety of consequences. This approach makes the Vikings more three dimensional, and ultimately relatable, as we get to see their lives and culture develop away from the thrust of battle.

Sailing will still be a component, but more as a means of travel and less as a means of battle. There were no Viking longships with massive cannons after all. And for those who are wondering, there won’t be a return to any kind of co-op play. It’s still a highly-scripted story-driven single-player adventure.

Sadly, we are going to get more in the grand and boring arc that is the present-day storyline. Yawn. Hopefully, the studio will find a way to maker this stuff more interesting this time around.

On the development front, Ubisoft seems to have thrown the kitchen sink at it. Two and half years in development with input from 14 studios worldwide, and under the leadership of Ashraf Ismail (the man behind my favourite instalment Assassin’s Creed: Black Flag) makes the omens highly favourable this time around.

Summing up

Yes, it’s another Assassin’s Creed game. That sentence may fill you with giddy excitement or groaning dread – I hear you on both fronts. But given the refreshing focus the Viking theme brings along with the expansion of RPG elements including the homestead, I’m looking forward to trying this out come Christmas time.

I just pray they’ve fixed those bloody traversal issues…still, there weren’t that many tall buildings in medieval Britain, were there?

Assassin’s Creed: Valhalla will be released worldwide holiday 2020 on PC, Xbox One, Xbox Series X, PlayStation 4, PlayStation 5, and Google Stadia.

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