Between the scattered foxes and fox gloves, on the broken-covered hills separated by broken drystone walls, is a beautiful view of ancient Britain of Assassin’s Creed Valhalla. Its palette is muted compared to the sunny weather of the Odyssey – here, a ruddy, muddy mixture of red and brown, often shimmering beneath the shining clouds of England. For six hours I explored this world – specifically, Ledestresser – the second British area of Valhalla after launching in East Anglia.
The main character Ivor is still new to the country, her solution is now established and nowhere developed Eurogamer revealed earlier this week an in-depth tour of its evolution. The Vikings are still in the early stages of their British conquests – similarly, this LedestressCare chapter feels like Valhalla’s opening game. Ivory has some amazing privileges, and must participate in a relatively straightforward arc to establish the footsteps of her people by overthrowing the local ruler and establishing a puppet re-establishment friendly for their cause.
We will start at Ravenstorp, Ever’s new home, as Valhalla’s other major missions will also begin. Here’s a little detail I could not share earlier this week – Ravenstorp will be your portal not only to other English locations, but even further away. By communicating with your director you can explore multiple “mythworlds” involving Norse gods such as Asgard and Jotunheim. Ravenstorp will be your destination for a trip to North America – but it will be another small kingdom for you to visit.
Going back to the action at hand, she has been working with Ivor and Ubba Ragnarson since Ivor directed Ledeestress Zyr and her brother Sigurd. Together the four must get rid of the current Mersian King Bergred and replace him for another Saxon Seoulf who can control them. The story appears in a single arch, though you are free to roam around the area and participate in various campaign moments at your own pace. There are many distractions and other activities to entice you from the defeated track, all of which are now made more mysterious by appearing only as shining dots on your map until further thorough research.
Sticking to the campaign for the time being, Ivor meets the Ragnarson brothers. Together, they split up and make a plan to go after the fleeing King Bergred and his wife, who both go into hiding. You will be working on one of these missions with Stoic Ivory and the other with Hothead Ubba. Ubba is a kind of typical “absurd” mission sidekick, initially a bit of a melter – you first meet him when he tortures a poor local dangling from the roof in a scene where Ubisoft tries to play for laughter – but later in the moment he and Ever share a quiet drink and talk more about their themes. Makes it a little tastier.
The goal is to find King Bergred’s wife, and Ever infiltrates a castle and learns some (still rusty) assassin skills in her. There are many possibilities to choose guards with dots around the baskets that can be highlighted using Odin Sense capability like Evers Eagle Vision, but the faithful crow can scout Sonin from the air. It is very difficult to determine the principle of Valhalla’s abilities from this initial form, although it was accepted after I became accustomed to my full potential Demigod Cassandra, where, compared to most human beings, she established some points in her own skill tree. In particular, Sonin has yet to find a way to spot enemies from above as your Eagles can in Origins and Odyssey. But who knows, down the line?
Valhalla has an enormous web of upgradable skills and stat upgrades that sit right in your characters menu. Like the stars in a planetarium, most of its nodes are covered with fog until you move each branch further. I was able to see early options to start adding different killing techniques, buff health and special abilities. You can unlock the ability to deal damage and roll after a fall, for example (Odyssey’s immunity to fall damage is not so high, Ever found a tough way). For now, the fight remains an enjoyable challenge, with a second hit item (be it armor or dual-catch two axes) being used to block some hits. Fans of software charges can detect the telegraphing of Valhalla’s attacks (which shines in amber) and you must use the Odyssey Returning Dodge Roll to escape completely (which is red).
One shield (or two shields, if you prefer dual-welding) seems to be a direct response to Odyssey’s absence – something that fans have been critical of since Cassandra’s enemies used armor and, to be honest, part of a very iconic ancient Greek form. There are other changes from Odyssey to Valhalla that seem to be the obvious answer to fan criticism – such as the former’s XP and the scalingback of the leveling system, while the gating player fires up progress, while the XP boosts sit in the game-shop. Valhalla now has Destiny-like power numbers on personal gear items that increase Ivor’s overall strength, while her stat upgrades sit on the aforementioned stellar skill tree, unlocking the nodes by completing operations.
When King Bergred found his wife, it was all over the man. Evidence suggests that he was hiding in a church in Repton, and that Ever Ever should talk about what was not visible, she hooded up. Assassin’s Creed has been around for some time since its main character constantly had large map areas in danger – but again, you spent some time hiding between them with NPCs or sitting on a nearby bench. I deflected an enemy by leading an intoxicated drunkard into their path, and then slipped into the church. Inside, instead of Bergrad, Ivor finds another clue to his whereabouts – and Seolbert’s son, Seolft’s fresh face, hopes to install puppet king Ever.
During these missions I enjoyed the role of Seolbert – a young, rather soft boy who was not used to war – trying to find his feet in the constant slaughter of the Vikings. Valhalla is often very bloody – in a way Assassin’s Creed never existed before. The heads are regularly lapped in combat and rotated around the floor. Possible enemies can be beaten worse. Later assassination abilities give your mortal combat X-ray view of your hidden blade slipping into people’s purl. Seolbert’s way through all of this, and the moments Ever is looking for him, adds a little more to her character.
The end of this story arc forces you to finally hand over his crown to Bergrad, who in the process installed Seowolf as your puppet ruler. I got the feeling that this last scene would play out in some way, in solitude it was hard to tell how some of the dialogue choices I came across during the arc really affected things. Instead of expanding Odyssey’s branching narrative options, Valhalla – in this order, at least – intends to throw things back. The dialog options I saw did not have all the similar concept responses, subsequent follow-ups or question lines.
There seemed to be less time spent on conversations given during normal gameplay or overall talking to Red Dead Redemption-style when going to the destination on horseback. But, again, it remains to be seen how much this will represent for the game as a whole. An element from Odyssey is its light and body tone compared to the straight-faced origins. Surely, Valhalla Iver does not give a chance for the Boneless Gog slide.
With the completion of Ledecestrescire’s Story Arch, it’s time to explore its open world a little more. In another endorsement of Red Dead Redemption, most of the side-stories I find here have small vignettes with odd strangers appearing in specific places and each one is wrapped up in minutes. I stepped into the lost building, to help the brothers find the lost treasure, to realize that they had all the treasure. I helped a group of armed nuns escape into the next county. I consoled a young woman, whose father went to war and never returned. I ate a mushroom found in a mountain area and followed the psychedelic illusion of an impression to complete a simple puzzle. I hunted snakes to give eggs to a strange woman, apparently for no other reason than a joke.
Ubisoft has previously talked about changing how Side-Quest works for Valhalla, and these “global events” make more sense this year as a passerby than what more questlines can do for the native. After playing these, I can tell you how thin these seem compared to the more involved Witcher-Esque stories that Odyssey offers, with no decisions affecting their outcome. See if any of these letters come back or if the missions with letters in your settlement fill the gap.
Six hours later, I think I ‘ve seen a lot of what Valhalla has to offer, but I’m still wary of giving it more ump hala with very little with its world and web of letters. I was impressed with Britain’s design, was very impressed with Ever and was curious to see how her story develops. I’m hopeful for the Snazier Viking and the killer forces. I am less optimistic about its lack of choice in its narrative and petty explorations. There is still a month to go until the full saga of Valhalla begins for truth.