As the saying goes, opinions are like arseholes – everyone’s got one. With Ubisoft officially drawing back the curtain on its latest addition to a much loved IP, Assassin’s Creed Valhalla featured centrally at the Forward event last night. The people, it seems are not holding back. We’ve done the hard work gathered the best, and worst views on the latest addition to the AC universe.
With Ubisoft dropping secrets like Snoop Dog does something hot, concern was widespread that there wouldn’t be anything left for the loose lipped developer to reveal. Luckily, granting a 3 hour play window for a selection of popular streamers has unearthed a number of previously unconfirmed gameplay intricacies. Tantalising nuggets indeed.
Assassins Creed: Odyssey, Viking edition
Probably the most unsurprising fact, but one impossible to gloss over is that AC Valhalla looks very familiar. Whatever your opinion on the direction of the series it was unlikely that Ubisoft was about to ditch the open world formula that has so split opinion. Lest we forget, Odyssey sold faster than any prior title, not that money influences development decisions of course.
But more than that, it looks and plays very similarly. Gone is the god-spear, instead Alexios, err we mean Eivor, has figured out how to use both hands in combat. Cue duel axe holding, beyblade wielding slaughter. Fabulous.
But there’s no denying that it really does look like Odyssey. Whilst that comparison would be welcome in 2018 we have seen a steep upward climb in graphics in recent months. With the current generation of consoles reaching end of life, developers are squeezing every last drop of processing power. The results are simply beautiful (Last of us 2, I’m looking at you, you sexy, controversial bastard). Simply put, AC Valhalla doesn’t look like a game released in 2020, let alone a next generation contender.
Fetch my frying pan
A big criticism with Odyssey and what feels like every other open world, mind-bendingly large action RPG released in the last 10 years. For me this is epitomised by fetching someone’s frying pan in the otherwise flawless Witcher 3 (I’d do it again in a heartbeat FYI). This was particularly apparent in Odyssey encumbered by its own girth. If not empty in things to do, it was surely lacking in anything approximating differentiated content.
Valhalla feels different here. Rather than generic, inevitably pointless battles that ended ubiquitously in a gold shiny new weapon and bit of coin. In Valhalla the raids feel meaningful, with local villagers screaming in fear whilst you decapitate Mrs Jones from number 34. The people feel alive, the world filled with complaints of moving hey all day, or the simply joy of horse husbandry.
Mini-games and sub quests too feel less tacked on, thematically positioned to gel with the Viking aesthetic. Wanna stack some rocks without them toppling? Fancy a quick rat-battle? Go for your life. Old Viking wants a hero’s death? Hold my stein. It remains to be seen if this sandbox will be “the biggest open word in the AC universe yet”, but this level of attention on quality over quantity indicates a move away from bigger is better (Something my wife can confirm, happily).
Improving on perfection
It is in these subtle details that the maturity of a team 12 times versed in their trade start to come though. Gone is ability point farming, with upgrades discoverable via environmental encounters and scrolls. Health is now a managed resource with no option of high-tailing it round a corner and waiting for the green bar to re-generate, ya’ lily livered yella’ belly. Weapons and damage feel better too, and getting hit poses real threat, a far cry from the god like power wielded in our Greek predecessor. All this helps to ground Valhalla in reality, the combat balance fine-tuned with artful precision. Whether this will hold true into end game remains undisclosed, with some streamers managing to all but one hit a boss having finally hit their Nordic stride.
So, you have chosen death
There’s no doubt that from a gameplay perspective, Valhalla will present a better experience than Odyssey, in the same way that Odyssey improved on Origins. But now we stand among giants of the industry, striving hard to be the game defining this generation’s glorious swan song. Controversy aside, The Last of Us Part 2 is a mouth-watering, eye-poppingly stunning game. And Ghost of Tsushima looks to come hard on Ellie’s perfectly rendered heels. Among such spectacular comparators, is iteration enough outside of DLC?
Whilst you consider that, let’s address the neon elephant in the room. Assassin’s Creed: Valhalla will release for Xbox One, PS4 and PC on November 17th later this year. An interesting decision, considering Cyberpunk 2077 is due to release exactly two days afterwards. With anticipation reaching fever-pitch for CD Projekt RED’s upcoming release, I can’t help feel more than a little nervous for Valhalla.
There is still time for Ubisoft to make some final adjustments of course. It’s possible that the game-play fidelity was impacted by remote play, the developer ditching a live event amidst virus-related concerns. We certainly hope so. With a bit of luck they might both be breath-taking.
Which one are you most looking forward to? Let us know in the comments below.
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