Assassins Creed Valhalla – A Joyless Waste of Time

So when I write a review i usually have a few rules. Steer clear of major plot points, discuss overall experience and how I feel about it and most importantly….complete the game/movie/tv show before writing anything. In Valhalla’s case, I have to break my most important rule because after sinking 74 hours into this behemoth, I just have to walk away. The sense of going through the motions with no end in sight was too daunting. This has been a mostly meh, joyless experience for me and I get the sense I’m at least 10 hours away from the main story line completion. I just can’t do it. Let’s find out why!

Graphics

I don’t want to piss all over this game so I’ll start with perhaps it’s strongest feature. I’ve played it on the original PS4 and the new PS5 and it’s a jaw dropper on both consoles. Stunning varied landscapes, detailed world design and impressive lighting effects all add to the immersion here and make you feel part of a vibrant realised recreation of Norway and England set in the era of the vikings. It doesn’t quite have the artistic flair of Ghost of Tsushima but it’s not far off and I ran into very few graphical glitches or pop up problems during my playthrough. Ubisoft have always impressed with their open world designs especially in recent years but I feel this one deserves a hats off as the visuals are some of the best available even on next gen consoles.

Story

It starts with a bang! The opening hour or so are really compelling. Life of death scenarios that carry weight and have an impact on your own character. I found myself excited to play as Eivor in the beginning and certainly the main storyline involving him/her and brother Sigurd drew me in from the start. Unfortunately, that doesn’t last too long. Side characters, quests and side quests are all repetitive and forgetful. You are introduced to a huge amount of characters that simply can’t hold your interest. You will forget their names and faces and backstories almost immediately after completing their quests because the writing is just so bland. I found myself meeting characters later in the storyline, not knowing that I’d already met them before and done quests for them. The scene from Endgame with Scarlett Witch and Thanos springs to mind : ‘You took everything from me! I don’t even know who you are’. Sadly that happens too often as storylines just don’t land and aren’t interesting enough.

Gameplay Format

This is where is all falls to pieces and also why the story lines don’t really stick out. The mission structure is repetitive to the point of frustration. You are tasked with selecting an area of England, then completing similar small missions in that area (fetch quests, assassination,etc.) Then it usually finishes with a slightly bigger scale mission (storm the castle, boss battle) and that’s it. Then you return to your tent and pick the next area. After doing four or five of these you feel like the game is insulting your intelligence. Essentially they’ve taken the ‘take over the boroughs’ side missions from Assassins Creed Syndicate and made it the entire game! There is no variety and no relief from the endless amount of areas you need to take over. I usually quite enjoy Ubisoft’s game play loops but this is bordering on insanity. This select an area, meet the forgettable characters and complete the small mission will take up around 90% of your playtime with the game. The rest of the story line revolves around your brother and the hidden ones which is a welcome relief from the monotony but also eventually wears out it’s welcome.

Breaking point for me (minor spoilers) I spent 60 plus hours practically taking over almost the entire map of England, then rescued my brother and he’s just a miserable fucker to be around. Moaning and depressed with no gratitude, just awful in every sense. I’ve read that certain choices you make in the game will affect whether he says or goes but frankly….who gives a fuck if he leaves? This story and character arc are just poorly written and the writers seem to have no sense of tone throughout the campaign. Even after providing much needed breaks from the norm…the brother story line just starts to feel the same as every other mission or encounter, it just doesn’t resonate with the person holding the controller after a while and you lose interest.

Fighting & Levelling

The fighting system here is actually pretty good once it gets flowing. In the beginning, it’s just a button mashing affair slowed down by your stamina bar and will remain like that for many hours. However, unlocking abilities and overall improving health and stamina through levelling up opens up the combat system in some clever ways. My hours of play through from around 10 to 16 were actually really enjoyable. The abilities, weapons and upgrades really allowed me to mash opponents into paste in ever increasingly violent ways but there was also some challenge to be had and I could still be killed or outnumbered which felt challenging and rewarding. Flash forward another 5 hours and I seem to have god like abilities which completely break the game. With single button presses I can, slow down time and attack to my hearts content. I can catch projectiles and hurl them back at the enemy. I can stun enemies and put then on their knees just by blocking. I can restore my health by pulling off almost any fighting move whether it’s blocking, parrying, stunning or finishing enemies. I rarely end a scrap without full health as every move I do restores my energy and that’s no exaggeration. The bloat of adding as many abilities and stat boosts to the skill tree means that you will easily surpass all your enemies the longer you play the game which takes away all the challenge and leaves you bored. Could have been amazing with a little tweaking and nerfing here or there. Sadly a missed opportunity.

Length

I think this is the biggest offender here and the main reason why I had to walk away. You get value for money but by stuffing the game with content they’ve effectively destroyed any momentum. Quantity over quality unfortunately and as mentioned, this makes character interactions and game play so repetitive that it becomes mundane to keep slogging through it. I didn’t feel like this all the time playing it but certainly at 20 plus hour mark it starts to feel stale. I really think that if they’d condensed it down, focused on story writing and kept the roster of character lower but with more depth, they would have smashed a home run for me! But I just can’t keep going on. The sheer length has sucked the joy out of the experience for me and I no longer care how the story finishes up.

Overall

I hate to bash Ubisoft as I do enjoy most of their games and I am a huge Assassin’s Creed fan but the quality for me just isn’t here. There are positives to take away and hopefully make a better game next time. The graphics are there, some characters are interesting, the skill tree and combat could be amazing if tweaked but it’s still a let down for me. There is no one mechanic in this game that hasn’t been surpassed by someone else. Ghost of Tsushima to name one beats this game in every department…..so go play that instead!

What did you think of Valhalla? Or God of Bore as I like to call it! Are you excited for upcoming DLC (even more content). Let me know in the comments below!

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