Northern Lights Impressions d’Assassin’s Creed Valhalla

Northern Lights Impressions d'Assassin's Creed Valhalla

Assassin’s creed valhalla

The place where the warriors go

The small ship moved slowly through the water. The men sat on the benches by the side and looked desperately into the darkness: behind the veil of the frosty night air they could see the steam of their own breath. The dim light of a country fire rattled in the distance. The ship turned to the shore, people froze. The horn sounded deafeningly and the crowd screamed ashore. It was soon over. The “barbarians” laughed in unison, overturned cups one after another and dived with their hands into chests overflowing with gold. Between these scenes – blood, screams, crackling of spears and clatter of shields, but all this will be forgotten, new victories lie ahead, even more treasures and glory.

If I were asked to describe Assassin’s Creed Valhalla in one paragraph, I would write that way. In the new game of its flagship series, Ubisoft took all the best that it had and tried to globally rethink the past experience. From searing sands and warm sea waves, Valhalla takes us to snow-capped peaks, wet meadows and misty rivers. The cunning Greeks and cunning gods were replaced by the people of the north – harsh and cruel, and with them came the Scandinavian deities with their amazing mythology.

Northern Lights Impressions d'Assassin's Creed Valhalla

Brother of the Wolf

In a small village on the northern shores of Norway, lived a child named Eyvor, the youngest in the family of the Jarl Varin. When the enemies came to the gate, the boy (or girl, of your choice) was feasting with the others. The cruel Vikings from a hostile clan killed many and demanded to surrender the territory, otherwise everyone will die. Varin laid down his arms and was executed by the hand of Kietvi the Cruel, the most dangerous warrior in these lands. Young Eyvor fled into the forest, survived the attack of a wolf and found salvation in the settlement of Jarl Storbjorn from the Raven clan. The man raised him as his own, and Sigurd, the son of a noble warrior, became his elder brother and best friend.

Vikings do not forgive or forget grievances. Many years later, by a miracle, the surviving boy grew up and turned into a strong and worthy warrior. Then came the hour of reckoning. Eyvor and Sigurd gathered an army and came to the walls of the house of Kyetvi the Cruel. The bloodthirsty but aged warrior had no chance. Justice was done, but Sigurd and Eyvor wanted more, more blood, more treasure and more power.

This moment in Assassin’s Creed Valhalla delighted me: the motivation of the heroes is simple and clear, I shared it with them. The opening clock is incredibly beautiful from the point of view of production and direction, I was imbued with the atmosphere, the events and the way a banal at first glance story of revenge is shown. Hungry for glory, the Vikings wanted not only to live well and beautifully, they aspired to become legends.

The brothers, against the wishes of their peaceful father, went to England for new victories. And before sailing, the Scandinavian sorceress whispered something important to Eyvor about the future. I will not retell it, she will tell you herself and you will understand why I watched the departure to Britain with a heavy heart.

It’s unusual to say this, but after thirty hours spent in Assassin’s Creed Valhalla, I will allow myself to write it down on paper: in terms of the quality of the script and the elaboration of the characters, the new part of the franchise has grown to the level of the third “Witcher” – memorable characters that I empathized with, beautiful stories that I wanted to retell to friends – all this is now. Any higher purpose and other pretentious dregs were removed from motivations. It worked great: the story about the men hungry for fame and money is much closer to me than the story about serving a higher goal.

I think I watched a very cool, expensive semi-historical series, in which I was shown how and what the Vikings live. In England, Eyvor and Sigurd met with the sons of the legendary Ragnar Lothbrok – Ivar and Ubbe. How different these two were! Ubbe is laconic and sensible, at first impression I liked him. This Viking reflects the image of a person with whom, even in the forest, even in the mountains. His half-brother Ivar initially seemed like a cruel and frivolous drunkard. Already in the first scene with him, you see how he tortures a man, then teases the young page. Maybe you like it, maybe not – it’s not so important. The main thing is that over time it will become clear how their relationship with Eyvor is developing, how Ivar’s actions give reason to think and rethink what is happening.

Northern Lights Impressions d'Assassin's Creed Valhalla

Compared to its predecessor, Valhalla is even more like an RPG, and the title Assassin’s Creed has faded even further into the background, but it has not been forgotten at all. At the beginning of the game, Sigurd returns from the campaign and with him two new comrades: Basim and Haisim. They are assassins, and as a sign of goodwill and goodwill, they give Eyvor a hidden blade. The Viking puts it on the outside of his hand – it is useless for a glorious warrior to attack on the sly.

As well as in “Odyssey”, “Valhalla” has a separate block of quests for finding and eliminating unwanted ones. Again we collect the tips scattered around the world, again we use the weapon. At first I was disappointed – exactly copied from past games. However, with the development of the plot, this moment was played well and showed that there is even some semblance of nonlinearity. The game occasionally throws up the opportunity to choose, to spare one of the secondary heroes or to kill. The developers cut the annoying system with mercenaries. In the Odyssey, when Alexios attacked a settlement, detachments of strong soldiers began to hunt him. Here, too, there is some semblance of this mechanics, but it works “by concepts,” so to speak. And teaches the player to be merciful. According to the plot, at a certain moment I spared the character and in gratitude he said that the local king, from whom we took the territory, ordered me to “jealous” (aka mercenaries). If I hasten to destroy the list with my name inside, I will be saved.

The history of the north: the best shooter and an ax in the head

I went on a long journey through the lands of Norway and Great Britain. Beyond the main plot, Assassin’s Creed Valhalla offers many engaging stories. Here they are called “World events”. For example, in the forest I met a group of children who were playing war games and called me along. Together with Eyvor, the boys staged an imaginary raid on an enemy village, defeated straw effigies and took treasure from an old rotten box. After that, one child happily informed me that the battle was glorious and we – warriors from the Kietvi the Cruel clan – defeated the hated Varin, killed his people and took the gold. Eyvor laughed awkwardly, let go of the children, and when they disappeared behind the trees aloud he expressed the hope of meeting them again someday, on a real battlefield.

The writers of “Valhalla” love to be ironic over the player and over themselves, do not hesitate to laugh. The side quests have turned into a varied (at the expense of context) and fun adventure. In an English village I came across a small house that smelled of shit. The boy in the yard explained everything. His father is a glorious warrior, archer Degolas. Before the battle, he smears arrows with shit in order to better defeat the enemy. And he keeps boxes of manure in the house, because there is nowhere else. The desperate wife of the asshole is unable to change anything and asks for help, it is simply impossible to live in such a smelly house. As a real gentleman, I cleansed the house of filth and even pushed the would-be warrior into the lake. Fairness and purity have been restored.

As part of the promotional campaign, Ubisoft actively promoted the ability to take an ax in each hand and this promise has been fulfilled. Maybe you can buy yourself a second one-handed ax from a merchant in the village, but I have this acquisition associated with a sad story.

In a camp by the road, I met a man with an ax sticking out of his head. To my question “Is everything all right?” the poor fellow gave a confused and awkward answer:

I returned from the campaign, there was a fight. I didn’t seem to hurt, only a scratch, itching. Look how it is there?

And here the game gives you a choice – to lie and calm the warrior, or to tell the truth. I chose the latter. Eyvor warned the Viking, take out the ax and you will die. The poor fellow smiled and said that he was ready to go to Valhalla. Eyvor pulled out an ax, the man fell dead. So my hero had a second one-handed weapon. Not a bad ax, I ran with it for the next five hours and felt myself in the shoes of a real berserker. But it’s okay, Assassin’s Creed Valhalla dilutes with such stories a long path in a dangerous world where the main character went with his brother in search of glory.

Forest and raven, Scandinavian rap and mushrooms

During the transition from “Origins” to “Odyssey” I did not leave the feeling that the developers simply took 90% of all the developments of their colleagues and slightly changed the color palette. Away from the hot yellow sand and gray rocky areas, I felt a breath of fresh air. Assassin’s Creed Valhalla met with frost, snow and long dark nights.

The setting of “Valhalla” did not evoke a sense of secondaryness, as it did with “Odyssey”. The first 6-10 hours I spent among the snowy peaks of Norway, making my way with difficulty through the blizzard. I was driven by a keen desire to get to Kyetvi the Cruel, that’s why the difficult road and difficulties in navigation did not seem such a heavy burden. A horse in Norway is almost useless, it is possible to move comfortably on it only on the road, and it is better to cut it through a snow-covered forest through snowdrifts on foot.

In these transitions, I caught a special thrill, remembering how beautiful footprints remain in the snow in Red Dead Redemption 2. Suddenly, in Assassin’s Creed Valhalla it looks just as cool. Very often I have compared Valhalla with a Rockstar game in a good way: the same slow pace of the storytelling, the same attention to detail. Of course, not so manic, but very solid. In the story of Arthur Morgan, the atmosphere and narrative of the game fully worked to make the player feel like a cowboy, here the hardships and privileges of a Viking life are also felt naturally.

Northern Lights Impressions d'Assassin's Creed Valhalla

After Norway there was England. The nature there is amazing: rolling rivers and morning fog above them, the sun’s rays gently break through the clouds. Around the forest with its paths and wild animals, a little to the south of the marshland. He went north, came across plains and fields covered with snow. Even further is the mountainous area. By that time, I had settled into a Viking’s skin and felt at home. At later stages, a journey to America (Vinland), mythical Asgard and Jotunchem – the home of the ice giants awaits.

Yes, the world of Assassin’s Creed Valhalla is again as big as it was in Origins and Odyssey, but in detail it works very differently. If you wish, you can spend 100 or 150 hours here, but the endless running around and collecting everything that is bad has faded into the background. In “Odyssey”, when attacking a fortress, they were forced to collect a pack of materials, open chests, kill key characters, and not forget about other collecting items. For the fifth time, everything turned into a routine. The developers tried to get rid of this. Happened? Yes and no.

Alexios of the Odyssey was the host of the Eagle and the tame bird showed all the necessary locations. Eyvor has a raven, but its functionality has been slightly cut. It does not show the exact location of the target, but it does indicate the boundaries of the area where it is worth looking. The rest of the crow is useless and if it weren’t for it at all, the game would not have lost anything. During my 30 hours in Valhalla, I hardly used the services of a bird.

There are fewer points of interest inside each location (camp, monastery, village), and after synchronization on the tower (yes, yes), almost all of them are visible in advance. Gold dots represent treasures and other loot, blue dots – quests, secrets and riddles. Now you know exactly what you can collect, armor and resources have different designations. This is good, but in search of a balance with the low pace of the game, the developers scattered the rake for the players. Some of the chests require a key that still needs to be found. Other loot boxes are in locked houses. Finding the entrance is not so easy – the vulnerabilities are barely visible. Over time, I got used to it, but without these “crutches” it would be better.

Northern Lights Impressions d'Assassin's Creed Valhalla

What else to do in Assassin’s Creed Valhalla territories? Play dice with village drunks, take part in the local analogue of the rap battle. In fact, this is rhyming phrases in time and rhythm, due to this mini-game, Eivor pumps charisma and each level obtained opens up new answer options in dialogues. Matyukov is not there, of course, but the Restaurateur would like it.

Roman artifacts are scattered around the world (homage to the previous parts of the series, although artifacts of Rome are still found in Britain) and small quests with riddles. In one of them, Eivor ate hallucinogenic mushrooms and walked through the imaginary gates of Midgard. Another free minute can be spent on hunting and fishing, merchants will pay generously for the caught prey. The economic system has undergone some changes and silver is constantly in short supply. If in the “Odyssey” the necessary amount of money could be collected while running around the world, then here it seems that it does not work. Thus, I was not able to accumulate significant amounts even in three dozen hours. Pick up a fishing rod and a bow. The latter will be useful in additional activities with sacrifice. You will be asked to put three rabbit legs or a wolf’s claw on the altar.

There are noticeably fewer icons on the map, but if you are the same as a perfectionist with an irresistible desire to clear the territory to zero, your journey will not be fast. It became much more interesting for me to play when I let go of the idea to collect everything that was bad. The life of a Viking in hostile territory cannot be easy by definition, and therefore I advise you not to get too carried away with grinding, have more fun.

Crackling spears and clattering shields

To survive on hostile territory, no matter how strange it may sound, Eivor is helped by war and robbery. Arriving in England, the Vikings built a village on the banks of the river and there is an opportunity to develop it. Has built a trading post – the merchant will bring goods that can be bought. People will buy skins at the hunting post, the kid in the fishing hut will give you fishing line, so you can go fishing. A separate room for the assassins – it will open up the ability to track down the enemies of the Order of the Invisible.

The construction of new buildings requires resources, they can only be obtained through raids. This is a new type of activity that is pre-marked on the map. He went there, blew a horn and, together with his brothers in arms, robbed and killed local residents – the hated Saxons. We opened all the chests and the raid was over. It looked spectacular and in general I like that the series turned in this direction, showed the life of the Vikings as it is. However, there is no variety within the raid itself. Here you either fight like a wolf side by side with your comrades until the last enemy falls, or you quickly run deep into the settlement and take the prey.

At the same time, the raids and sieges of the fortress, which are important for the plot, are made with a soul and do not look alike. I remember the bosses from the previous parts of the series as a set of thick-skinned opponents who had to remember the timings. “Valhalla” surprised already at the start – in the battle with Kietvi the Cruel, you first fall into a pit, then he still picks up the body of a fallen comrade from the ground and tries to hit it with it. The bottom line, of course, has not gone far – there is still a simple structure of the fight with several stages, but now they have a lot more production and work of the director. Everything is beautiful, spectacular and unhurried.

Northern Lights Impressions d'Assassin's Creed Valhalla

The slowdown affected not only world exploration and navigation, but also the battles themselves. In the last two parts, the battles are a little chaotic, there was always the opportunity to rush into the crowd and call everyone to death. Assassin’s Creed Valhalla punishes this behavior, especially at higher difficulty levels. When in the first skirmish I tried to cut the enemy with a swoop, he deftly dodged and tore off my face with an ax. Do not repeat my mistakes, from now on, the block and tactics are our everything.

The combat system has changed. To survive, you need to correctly assess your strength and understand who is better to beat first. Of course, the fattest, but it’s better to look at the situation. Artificial intelligence at high levels of difficulty gestures, the Saxons attack in a crowd, and you can die from a couple of heavy blows.

Northern Lights Impressions d'Assassin's Creed Valhalla

The variety of techniques grows as you explore the world. The developers have slightly modified the character leveling system and now, in order to unlock new abilities, you need to look for books of knowledge scattered around the world. Just like in “Odyssey” techniques are divided into ranged and melee combat, and I would advise you to download both branches. With the current form of game balance, some opponents are much easier to kill from afar. It all looks very impressive: with a filled rage scale, you can swoop down on the enemy and break his head with an ax, throw another at those who stand a little further, and finish off the survivors with a hail of arrows.

In addition, you can stun your opponent in battle. The defeated enemy will lie on the ground and by pressing the right stick, Eyvor will finish him off with a beautiful and cruel reception. There is enough variety: trample underfoot, pierce with a sword, chop with an ax, pierce with a spear, nailing to the ground. This is not to say that Assassin’s Creed Valhalla cultivates cruelty, past games also did not spare particularly impressionable ones. However, the Viking lifestyle shown in the game, their manners and customs are much better in tune with war and blood than a similar performance from the Greek hedonists.

Northern Lights Impressions d'Assassin's Creed Valhalla

Do not expect that the Saxons or the inhabitants of the American lands will be happy with the northern barbarians. Until, according to the plot, the territory is taken over by the Vikings, the indigenous people will try to kill the hero. In villages and towns, Eyvor is wary, the soldiers, barely seeing, attack. Here, following the mechanical wrist blade, the developers added another homage to the old Assassin’s Creed – you can hide from the guards by throwing a hood over your head. When attacking an English monastery, you can hide in a crowd of monks (there is a separate trophy for this), but all these are conventions, added rather for show. Stealth in the game still doesn’t work 100%, as it was in Origins, continued in Odyssey and remains in Valhalla.

Yes, you can still hide in the bushes and kill opponents by jumping from above, the game even has a separate storyline where Hasim teaches Eyvor this technique. The problem is different – you don’t want to use these tricks at all, you can easily do without them and most often it will even come out faster and easier. In my opinion, this is due to the inappropriate setting in all games since the “Syndicate”. In those days, Assassin’s Creed was all about social stealth and crowd movement on a crowded street. Alleyways were replaced by meadows and swamps, but the developers continue to pull the legacy of the “urban” parts of the series.

Total – stealth in Assassin’s Creed Valhalla is not needed from the word “at all”, although it is moved to a separate branch in the leveling tree. However, “branch” is a strong word. The character development scheme in the new game is branchy and not always obvious. As you level up, you get two points that can be invested in three conditional specializations: stealth, melee, and ranged. The catch is this – only a few points for pumping are visible and accessible at the same time, the rest open as you invest points in this particular specialty. For myself, I rocked the most explicit and tough Viking-swordsman. Plus 2 to damage resistance, plus 2 to damage from a powerful attack, additional health points. And then, inside this branch, you have to invest points in the attack with a hidden blade in order to gain access to the improvement of a normal blow. Thanks, but that’s not cool. Fortunately,

Northern Lights Impressions d'Assassin's Creed Valhalla

Another way to make Eyvor stronger is to improve armor and weapons. You can improve the quality and characteristics at the blacksmith or on your own, paying for it with resources: silver, iron and leather. With pumping, the class of weapons and armor increases, from ordinary to legendary. The latter, by the way, can be bought from a rare goods dealer. Ubisoft did not miss the opportunity to play around here too. The merchant comes to the village as a guest and decides to stay. In the process of communication, Eivor finds out that it is not a man in a skullcap that owns the goods, but his companion, a boy whom the Viking mistook for a little helper.

You can buy legendary armor and weapons for precious stones, opals – an analogue of the Orichalcum from the Odyssey. They give out such currency for special tasks that are updated daily. The developers have remained true to themselves and are trying to retain the audience in the same way that they used before. I tried several, there is no variety in the daily list yet: kill, find, steal. Who knows, maybe over time something more interesting will appear there, but while we are doing this, it is very difficult to get really cool equipment in other ways.

In the quantitative and qualitative aspect, “Valhalla” is approximately equal to its predecessors. There are several types of weapons: an ax for one or two hands, spears, chains, swords, shields of various shapes and weights. You can even take two shields in your hands. At the same time, I noticed that the gameplay with two one-handed axes radically changes the balance of power. Eyvor becomes a kind of desperate grunt, whose best defense is attack. Blocks are replaced by evasion, the battle process invigorates. With the balance everything is fine, from time to time you have to change weapons and adjust to the tactics of the battle. One of the bosses in England turned out to be so agile that it was generally impossible to get him with a short hatchet, so we had to take a long spear and pick from afar.

Live like a Viking

After spending thirty hours with Eyvor and his brothers, I was pleasantly impressed. Assassin’s Creed Valhalla looks like a kind of conclusion to a trilogy. “Origins” laid new ideas, “Odyssey” developed, “Valhalla” tried to bring to mind. Much has turned out, but not all.

The most important thing that Ubisoft managed in the new game is to make it different from the previous parts at the level of sensations. Valhalla stopped closer to Red Dead Redemption 2 in terms of the pace of the narrative and the elaboration of the surrounding world, and the quality of the story, that part of it that I saw, reminded me of The Witcher. As soon as the embargo falls, I will definitely tell my friends the story about the archer and his arrows with shit, I will describe the story arc with the sons of Ragnar. The last time I was just as impressed by the quests with Mister Mirror from “Hearts of Stone” and comic stories from the witch’s add-on “Blood and Wine” .. This was badly lacking in all other games in the series, they had bright moments and cause for praise, but right now I felt a burning desire to quickly find out what will happen to Eyvor and Sigurd next. Will America submit to them? Will other worlds fall under the onslaught of brave warriors? What else will the stories of the people they meet in the vast world be? This is interesting to me.

Northern Lights Impressions d'Assassin's Creed Valhalla

The developers of Assassin’s Creed Valhalla tried to work on the bugs and remove from the game everything that was so annoying in the previous parts. Even the notorious grind was cut, but the attempt cannot be considered successful: it is still long, not very convenient and almost obligatory. However, among us there will definitely be those who will like it. At the same time, the entertainment and convenience of the combat system is now just right. Heavy swings with an ax and blows to the flesh feel better than the plastic combat of the Odyssey; at high difficulty levels, a fight even with one or two opponents turns into a dance of death. It just failed to tidy up stealth and make it a really important part of the gameplay. Ironically, in the end, what the series began with today has almost no practical use in the game and will certainly remain fun for the most hardcore perfectionists.

Assassin’s Creed Valhalla found itself in a unique position altogether. Within the franchise, this is the third game in a row that uses previously worked ideas and mechanics. She has practically no room for error, but sometimes she has a place to be. Where Ubisoft missed points, it catches up with unexpected discoveries – an almost cinematic plot and very cool additional stories. At the same time, the series has gone infinitely far from the original – the name Assassin’s Creed is pulled into the title automatically.

The developers of Assassin's Creed Valhalla

At the same time, “Valhalla” is at the junction of generations. I played it on my PS4 Pro and it looks very good there: soft light, as if painted with paints (I bet it was also spied on by RDR2), fantastically beautiful water. The only thing that struck me in the eyes was a horrible fire. Usually I’m not picky about the graphics, but even then I felt uneasy – it just shouldn’t look like this in 2020. It is important to understand that we have not yet seen the version for new consoles. On PS5 and Xbox Series X, the game will surely reveal itself in all its glory. Most of all, I would like a tangible increase in download speed. On the current generation, you have to wait for several minutes, and when you start some side missions, the game also goes into a black screen and loads the dialogue, which feels like 30 seconds, if not longer. This is tiring.

“Valhalla” will definitely appeal to those who once enjoyed “Origins” and “Odyssey”. For everyone else, I would also recommend looking in her direction, especially if you like good action games with RPG elements, the historical context and the Viking era in general. The game has great potential and it is likely that the developers made it with the expectation that you and I will stay in the northern latitudes for a long time.

In the meantime, the gaming heart squeezes in anticipation of a great glorious battle. Drakkar glides along the water surface, cutting through the night air. The bugle is about to sound and Eivor, together with his comrades, will rush into the attack. Vikings cannot do otherwise, this is the way.

We will update the text and give a grade after complete passage.

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