Assassin’s Creed Valhalla has some technical glitches but I’m enjoying it anyway
Ubisoft’s latest entry in its series about the everlasting struggle between liberty and control is Assassins’ Creed Valhalla. Despite some technical issues, the new action adventure role-playing game innovates on the series’ storytelling in interesting ways.
When I start playing a massive open world game like Valhalla, I often ignore the main quest in favour of exploring the world. It’s an opportunity to test the mechanics before my virtual life depends on it. I can collect some experience and level-up my character so that I’m more powerful when I begin that narrative run.
Which is how I spent some 10 hours playing the prologue of Assassins’ Creed Valhalla.
I didn’t realize this until after a major plot point occurred and the game’s logo flashed on the screen. In retrospect, there were plenty of cues that I should have been moving the story forward instead of wandering the Norwegian fjords where the game begins. In my defense, I was enjoying my time finding a path to all of the highlighted areas on the map that indicated points of interest.
And while the animation tears far too often—the experience of a misaligned image or part of the image being missing that results from a problem with screen refresh rates—the art is quite stunning when it displays properly. (I’m playing it on a 75-inch Samsung Q60T.)
Needless to say I’m not even close to being finished. I’m the kind of person who spends 10 hours playing the prologue. I suspect I’ll be returning to Norway at some point in the game, though. The game told me I wasn’t high-enough level to complete certain side quests.
But I’ve played enough to understand what Ubisoft’s development team, led by the studio in Montreal, is doing in Assassin’s Creed Valhalla.
The core Assassin’s Creed games revolve around the mythology—some of it rooted in history, some an invention of the Western world—of the hashashin and the Templars activity in the Middle East during the Crusades.
I’m impressed with how seamlessly the Ubisoft narrative team incorporated Norse mythology into the larger Assassin’s Creed storyline here.
Valhalla expands the mythology
Valhalla continues to expand on the game’s mythology by leveraging the historical fact that people from the Middle East traveled to the Norse countries. In the game, two such visitors introduce your protagonist to the “Hidden Brotherhood” of assassins.
After the prologue in Norway, the story moves to England, which in this era (873 AD) consists of Northumbria, Mercia, East Anglia, and Wessex. It’s here that your version of Eivor—you can choose to play as male or female—becomes steeped in the struggle between the assassins and the Templars.
You’ll be responsible for going on raids to collect resources to build your settlement, and making alliances to strengthen your community in England. I chose to play the raids as opportunities for outright chaotic melee. That way, I saved the more typical Assassin’s Creed skulking for other missions. I did that in part because the combat is more satisfying and the parkour navigation more frustrating.
The contemporary side
As with previous games in the series, there’s a contemporary side to the story. The plot device created for the Assassin’s Creed games is that memory is encoded into our genetics. Machines and artifacts permit certain people to relive the experiences of their ancestors.
Many fans of the games despise this. I, on the other hand, enjoy the meta-narrative that layers on top of it all. I was glad that sequences set in the present-day world—in the ecstasy of an apocalypse—occurred early in the game and continued to advance the larger narrative.
The technical issues in Assassin’s Creed Valhalla are frustrating. It’s worth ignoring them, though, so you can appreciate the new context for the Ubisoft series.
Assassin’s Creed Valhalla is now available for PS4, PS5, Stadia, Windows, Xbox One, and Xbox Series S/X. Rated mature.