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access_time November 9, 2020 at 3:25 AM in Microsoft by David Poole

Review in Progress | Assassin’s Creed Valhalla

It’s going to be a busy season for gaming, not just because of two big console launches, but because of all the games that are releasing in the next few days. We’re going to do our best to keep up, but all of our writers won’t be receiving their new consoles until launch day or later. With that in mind, like our Yakuza: Like a Dragon review, our Assassin’s Creed Valhalla review will be finalized after having some time with the Xbox Series X version. For now, we’re going to give some of our early impressions on the game from the Xbox One version.

Like many fans, I have an interesting relationship with the Assassin’s Creed series. I don’t consistently play through them, but I own the majority of the franchise. I’ve decided to change that with Ubisoft Montreal’s Assassin’s Creed Valhalla. Something about the Viking lifestyle was calling me to come back to a series I haven’t been giving enough attention to for years. Telling a fictional story of the Viking expansion, players will experience retribution, kinship, and of course, the glory of battle.

Players will take control of the Viking raider Eivor, with the choice to play either the male or female variety. After a clash between clans during Eivor’s childhood, tension raises in Norway that lasts for years. Growing older, Eivor becomes a fine warrior. That warrior is made even more deadly by a visit from some members of the Brotherhood of Assassins. We’re still playing through the story, so we won’t touch up on it much more than that. I will say that the story is enjoyable so far, and it feels very much like an Assassin’s Creed game.

For those that have played Assassin’s Creed Origins or Assassin’s Creed Odyssey, you’ll likely feel right at home. The game plays very similarly with the exception of a bigger reliance on parrying. Either way, attacks are still handled using the shoulder buttons and triggers, with regular attacks on the right shoulder button and heavier attacks assigned to the right trigger. Left trigger readies the bow while the right trigger allows you to aim, releasing to shoot. You’ll still have the ability to whistle to draw out enemies, and you’ll even have use of a raven to observe the land below. With many weapons, you’ll even be able to dual wield, changing your strategies up quite a bit.

While combat will feel familiar, other features return with slight differences or additional features. Sailing returns to the game, though focuses mostly on taking your band of Vikings to villages to pillage. Rowing your boat to these villages offer the option to raid, setting your crew out to take them by storm. Raiding enables players to gain resources and loot to build settlements. These same actions carry over into Assaults on fortresses, feeling more reminiscent of For Honor at times. When you’re not pillaging, you could tell stories of battle or sing songs to pass the time. It’s a bit of an easy comparison, but it brought back memories of my time in God of War, listening to Mimir on the boat.

When you’re not fighting and pillaging, the game also offers additional distractions. Orlog is an addictive dice game where players have to defeat their opponent using bows, axes, and the wrath of the Gods. You’ll accumulate tokens in the game and spend them to request favors from the Gods, each one having a different effect in the game. It takes practice to get used to it, but once you understand the game, you’ll be winning in no time. There’s also drinking challenges, showing the many citizens that nobody can handle liquor better than Eivor. You’ll even be able have your own Viking rap battles with Flyting challenges. Perform well in these and you’ll gain more dialogue options, improving your powers of persuasion.

While I can’t comment on the graphics of the game on the Xbox Series X yet, I can say the game looks fantastic on the Xbox One family of consoles. Even on the Xbox One S, the game performs well enough to be manageable. Of course, if you have access to the more powerful hardware, you’ll be doing yourself plenty of favors. This would include the PlayStation 4 Pro, (ideally) PlayStation 5, and of course, PC. Environments are full of details and plenty of flourishes, from snowy flurries to burning countrysides, Assassin’s Creed Valhalla is a visual treat. The lighting is also fantastic and makes certain areas pop with beautiful imagery.

My time with Assassin’s Creed Valhalla is admittedly still early on, but I fully intend to finish it this week. I’m unsure of how the next-gen version will affect my opinion, but I’m very much looking forward to the experience. Regardless of that, you can look forward to my more analytical review when it publishes. For now, I’m having a good time as Eivor. I just might have to start back up on the Assassins Creed train.

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