Reviewed in Australia on 10 November 2020
I have had to wait 4 days to write this review, my copy arrived on Friday the 6th (Praise Frigga!), 4 days out from release. So I have had plenty of time to sink my teeth into this game before the review option was available on Amazon. The third Open World RPG in the long running Assassin's Creed series finally blares it horn! The Viking Age!! I am obsessed with it! Finally A period in history that I have wanted to explore is finally here to delve into! (God of War was more on the Norse Myth so I can't really count that)
The game has had 2 small patches released since I got it, the only really issue has been some sound clipping in cutscenes, characters will continue the conversation before the other has already finished the first sentence, a touch jarring but it has only happened twice. Other than that, the game launched in a good playable condition. As games have been release now, patch later for a decade.
While it has it's issues, it is a mark step up from Odyssey. The less is more approach that has been taken with Assassin's Creed: Valhalla, this game was made by the same Team at Ubi who worked on my two favorite AC games in Black Flag and Origins and this is another good title.
As I said, this game has a less is more, where Odyssey just wanted to keep throwing loot at you ad nauseam, dozens of constraint (granted optional) fetch/ eliminate timed quests. Those things are gone, and for the better. Loot is now more meaningful. Exploring more immersive as I am not hopping here and there to complete quests for easy XP.
I am 24 hours in and I have only got one set of armour and 3 different type's of weapons. Sounds low right? Well, it is, but the upgrading system makes it up for it. Gear can be both Upgraded --with Leather and Ore-- and Refined-- with Ingots --that give you more levels to upgrade that piece of gear or weapon.
I am not constantly checking my inventory for that new epic that just dropped right after I just got a new one like in Odyssey. Armour and weapons are out in the world to discover in locations and are not junk to fall from fallen foes like candy wrappers.
Combat has the weight and oomph back to it that was in Origins. you feel every blow from your Dane axe or sword. Timing for parrying is a lot smaller than Odyssey where you could just spam counter over and over (I did enjoy Odyssey, for all my negative comparisons, for reference!) You can hit enemies in a weak point and finish them off by pressing R3, or deal major damage to a Brute or other stronger foe.
The Raiding is fun but with no way to give commands to your warriors makes it feel mindless as well, pity, giving orders to take the Towers, storm X gate would of made it more strategic
World Events replace those timed quests at Hermes Statues. Most are... well, strange to be honest. The half dozen I have done have had basically people on the edge of madness. I guess its aim was to add some lighter moments amongst the seriousness of the Age we are exploring.
The Power system, I didn't like the sound of it when I first heard it but after playing it it is a good system. Basically every XP Threshold you receive two points to put into your Power skill tree. So at Power Level 30, you are technically Level 15, if you like. While the skills you can unlock are hidden until you hit the end of a branch, you can always either refund a single point, or your entire progression if you do not like the path you have chosen. Bear - Combat, Wolf - Ranged and Raven - stealth.
Crowd stealth, blending in has returned to the series as well. Send a drunkard to distract some Saxons, or hide among a pack of cowering monks as guards slip by in typical AC fashion.
The main highlight for me is the music, more so the music that Einar from Wardruna (And Vikings) worked on. Hearing his vocals as I am raiding really puts you in the moment. I just wish he was hired to do the entire soundtrack, as you can tell when there is a piece he did not work on as it is not up to the same standard.
Now the longship. I love it, Yet find one feature infuriating. The design. You only sit at one end of the ship, when the Norse Longship was designed to be either ended with its double keel. You beach, then just head back out to water with the other. In this UBI has a tiller locked to one end, so reversing out of a sandbank like a car is really immersion breaking, and really this would not of taken much to fix, and I hope this is something they work on post launch, not just for accuracy, but for quality of life.
The Settlement is a neat feature, there is a long to add to it and expand. The name generated Jomsviking creator was a minor letdown, I had a dozen Nordic names ready to make to add to my crew, yet you shuffle thru names predetermined.
I could keep going on and on but I will end it here. A good game that you do not need to be a AC fan to enjoy, there is some modern stuff but you can skip the cutscenes and walk your character back the Animus, I rally wish there was an option to not have these moments play, as I play for the History side of it, not this pretentious Sci-fi subplot that went nowhere and should of ended with AC3 debacle, Alas, it is what it is.
A 9/10 as a Assassin's Creed game. 8.5/10 as a game in general!
NOTE: Thank you to Amazon for the amazing service, the price and the beyond expected shipping really took some much needed grimness of this brooding brute!! Skol!