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Assassin's Creed Valhalla (for PC) - Review 2020


The Assassin’s Creed series has taken us to numerous historical settings since its 2007 debut, including Ancient Greece, Renaissance Italy, and Revolutionary War-era America. The newest installment, Assassin’s Creed Valhalla, details the Viking invasion of 9th Century England from the perspective of history’s most notorious raiders. Though Valhalla doesn’t introduce anything wholly new to the series, it’s an excellent PC game that follows in the footsteps of its equally exceptional predecessors, Origins and Odyssey.

Assassin’s Creed Valhalla combat

To Greener Pastures

In Valhalla, you play as a male or female Viking warrior named Eivor, and travel with your clan from your ancestral Norwegian home to conquer and settle England’s fertile fields. Though more temperate than frigid Norway, England is no less perilous. Whether it’s Anglo-Saxon barbarians, trained soldiers under a king’s command, or untamed wildlife, England has many trials to challenge your Viking crew. In order to survive, Eivor and the clan must forge alliances with other Vikings and Anglo-Saxon allies.

Establishing and growing your settlement is one of Valhalla’s main features. By building and expanding structures, such as a stable, forge, granary, barracks, and item shop, you’ll gain access to additional weapons, gear, warriors, horses, and other items. Unlocking and upgrading your settlement also opens up new missions. These, in turn, reward you with experience points, weapons, lore, and a chance to get to know your settlers better.

You’ll need sufficient supplies and raw materials to upgrade buildings, but the process is as simple as walking up to a structure and selecting “upgrade.” Assassin’s Creed: Brotherhood and Assassin’s Creed: Revelations featured a similar base-building mechanic. However, those games’ settlement mechanics didn’t feel as intimate as Valhalla’s because you upgraded buildings from a bird’s eye view similar to real-time strategy games. In Valhalla, you live inside your settlement, and see it and its inhabitants mature over time.

Assassin’s Creed Valhalla stealth mechanic

Berserker Rage

Good old-fashioned raiding is the best method for finding settlement materials. If you’re near a monastery, military fort, or enemy-controlled town while sailing down a river, the game prompts you to raid them. Running into a village with a horde of Vikings at your back makes you feel as powerful as an Asgardian. Battles are incredibly frantic affairs as enemy and friendly forces clash. During the slaughter, you can ransack churches for precious building materials, silver, weapons, and other items. You can only attack soldiers or warriors, which somewhat diminishes the feeling of being a blood-thirsty Viking who indiscriminately kills. Still, lopping off enemy limbs and heads is a joy.

Combat doesn’t stray far from Origins or Odyssey. You attack and parry using a variety of weapons, including axes, spears, and maces. When using one-handed weapons, shields provide excellent protection. If you’re rocking a two-handed weapon, such as a spear or long axe, you must dodge to avoid damage. Parrying blows is great for both defense and offense. A successful parry stuns an opponent, leaving the foe open to follow up attacks. If you’re able to deplete an enemy’s stun gauge (found above their health bar), the opponent is temporarily unable to mount a defense. Though you can mash the light and hard attack when confronting weak foes, you’ll have to employ more strategy with targets that are as strong (or stronger) than you. Even during a raid, you must use your wits to survive clashes. Cinematic kill animations never cease to entertain, even after you’ve sliced off heads or driven spears through foes hundreds of times.

Stealth has always played a major role in past Assassin’s Creed games. Though Valhalla lets you stealthily approach certain encounters, the mechanic takes a backseat. This makes sense considering Vikings weren’t exactly known for attacking from the shadows. Still, bushes and tall grass conceal you from enemy eyes, as do elevated walkways or tall trees. With your assassin’s blade (a series staple) you can kill most targets in a single strike. Only higher-level foes will escape the bite of your blade.

Fighting, discovering new locations, and completing main and side missions rewards you with experience points that provide skill points. You’ll unlock new skills via a skill tree resembling Norse constellations. Skills let you strengthen your attack damage, boost your health and stamina, and increase your stealth and ranged weapon damage. Unlocking skills also raises your overall character level. Eivor must meet a minimum level in order to tackle areas with tough enemies (both human and animals). If your level is at 60 and a region is at 120, you’ll need to gain more experience and unlock skills before entering. Fortunately, nearly everything you do in Valhalla nets you experience/skill points, which negates excessive grinding. So long as you complete missions and raids, you’ll be swimming in skill points. If you aren’t unhappy with the skills you’ve selected, you can change at any time.

Assassin’s Creed Valhalla horseback riding through water

The New (Old) World

Assassin’s Creed games are known for their vibrant and detailed open-world environments. Valhalla is no exception. Early medieval England’s grass-covered rolling hills, winding rivers, and settlements come to life in vivid detail. You can almost smell the manure coming from pigsties or feel the wind as you sail downstream. Many environments look like recreations of The Lord of the Rings’ Shire, which itself was inspired by old England. You’re free to visit Norway if you fancy, checking out snow-covered mountains and gargantuan ice lakes. Though Norway is large, it doesn’t compare to England, where the bulk of the game occurs. The map is massive, but not overwhelming like the one in Assassin’s Creed Odyssey. What it trades in size it makes up for with density, which adds to its believability. You can tell the development team spent many years researching the England of old. This truly is one of the finest worlds seen in a video game.

The maps contains numerous missions, collectibles, and activities. The Orlog dice game is a great way to make extra money, so long as you have the patience to play the sometimes overly long mini-game. Flyting, a rhyming game, has you trading verses with professional and wannabe poets to see who can spit the best lyrics. There are numerous hidden treasures in towns and out in the countryside, most of which you can locate by purchasing treasure maps from your settlement’s cartographer. You must sometimes explore caves and other underground structures to find rare armor and weapons. These often have you completing a series of complex platforming challenges or solving environmental puzzles to open inaccessible areas. Ancient Roman artifacts also litter the land, as do challenging mini-bosses who actively hunt you. If you need a break from the main story, there is plenty to see and do out in the world. Considering how lush the land is, you’ll enjoy exploring the world to see what you’ll find.

Assassin’s Creed Valhalla detailed overview of map

Godly Graphics

To play Assassin’s Creed Valhalla on PC, your gaming desktop or gaming laptop needs at least a 3.2GHz Intel Core i5-4460 CPU, a Nvidia GeForce GTX 960 (4GB) GPU, 8GB of RAM, 50GB of storage space, and the Windows 10 operating system. Using my rig, a PC with an Intel Core i7-4790 CPU and a Nvidia GeForce GTX 1080 GPU, I saw frame rates dance between 45-60 frames per second in the open world and 60fps indoors (at 1440p resolution with Ultra settings). Playing at 4K/Ultra settings on my LG CX OLED TV, I saw the frame rates drop to 30-45fps range in the open world, though they hit 60fps indoors. If you want to get the most out of Valhalla, you’ll need a near god-like gaming PC.

The display options include the standard PC graphical options, such as shadows, volumetric clouds, motion blur, and depth of field. There are numerous accessibility options that let you completely calibrate your controls (gamepads, mouse and keyboard), audio captions for sound effects, and dedicated colorblind UI settings.

Assassin’s Creed Valhalla supports both mouse and keyboard inputs, as well as game controllers. It has achievements and cloud saves via Uplay. The game is available for purchase from Uplay and the Epic Games Store, but not Steam. It is also available on PS4, PS5, Xbox One, and Xbox Series X. You can stream it on Google Stadia and Amazon Luna.

Assassin’s Creed Valhalla on screen directions while walking

Valhalla Awaits

Assassin’s Creed Valhalla is both familiar and fresh. It has the large, explorable open world, dedication to history, and engaging narrative that are the Assassin’s Creed hallmarks. Though it isn’t the first game to feature Vikings, it presents the legendary Scandinavian warriors in a different light, making them more human and relatable. Plus, the core mechanics don’t stray far from series conventions; instead, they’re a slick refinement. Simply put, Assassin’s Creed Valhalla is another winner in the long-running, stealth-action franchise, and one that’s an Editors’ Choice for PC games.

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