If you didn't like Odyssey, turn away now, there is nothing for you here...
Still reading? Good.
Assassin's Creed Valhalla is a natural evolution of the previous game, unfortunately not all of thee changes make a fitter game. Let's start with the positives.
First, and foremost the graphics. Odyssey was already a very good looking game, but this one goes above and beyond that, in spite of the relative dullness of the English islands compared to the colorful vistas of ancient Greece. The atmospheric effects are what make this game truly looking great. You can almost smell the environment it is so vivid. Every sundown and dawn is a sight to behold no matter where they happen to catch you.
Of course with that territory comes a very big jump in system requirements. To play in 4K with highest settings you'll need at least a 2080Ti. I game at 3840x1600, and my fps was usually around 50. It never dipped under 40, but never quite reached above 60 either on a 2080Ti.
The level walls are no longer as steep as in Odyssey. Where enemies just 2-3 levels above yours were virtually invulnerable to your attacks, and could one hit kill you, while enemies bellow your level were instagib.
Now the differences are more subtle, enemeies 50 levels above you are a bit more challenging but far from unbeatable. On normal difficulty in the late game you can easily take on lvl 350 enemies while being 100 or more levels bellow that yourself.
There are various enemy types now, even among the 'fodder' that require different tactics to defeat. Some are almost untouchable by normal attacks. So parry is your friend in this game. When I first started the game I struggled a bit because I tried to play it as Odyssey, which didn't go that well. And superficially the game seems like odyssey, but after finishing it, I can say the combat in this is better. Not just repetitive hack and slash, but actually varied depending on your foe.
Ranged combat is more rewarding as well. You can kill regular enemies by one headshot usually, so switching between ranged and melee on a seconds notice is a very rewarding experience.
You also get various abilities from which you can assign 4 melee and 4 ranged at any time to hotkeys. I usually only used one of each. Abilities are awarded for completing some story missions, but can also be unlocked by reading books of knowledge around the map. Unfortunately this means you can't choose your abilities, you get what you get.
Skills however that's an entirely different thing. The skill tree is huge and very important early on in the game. You can assign points to things that actually matter to you. For example if you want to be a tank you assign points to health upgrades, you want to be an assassin, you assign upgrades to stealth damage etc. I like this new system much better. Is's only drawback that after a while, I had to start wasting points on things I didn't really need or want to get to branches of the skill tree that were still locked.
The battle mechanic of Odyssey is replaced with a Raid mechanic. It's not all the different to the battles. The main difference is that these are not static, you either need to bring down walls or other obstacles while fighting off enemies, or reach loot during raids for resources.
That brings us to somehing I sorely miss, there are no naval battles anymore. The trailer for the game suggested there will be something similar in assault mechanics, but that's just the same as raids they only really begin when you get out of the ship.
The game's story is similar to Mass Effect 2, which is a big positive to me. Meaning the focus is not one big overarching main quest, while sidequests are forgettable fetch quests. The main goal is only lurking in the background while you do various shorter, but way more interesting story arcs. And there are more arcs than regions on the map, so it's not just a few. Admittedly some of them aren't that great, but most are pretty enjoyable. My only real issue is that some are too similar, as each time your goal is the same: To install someone sympathetic to your cause in power at reach region. This usually means doing favors or prepping for an assault.
What I neglected to mention until now is that you also get a settlement to manage, which is more a gimmick than a real focus of the game. As far as I can tell upgrading your settlement only gives you small boosts to stats, and unlocks a few side quests, it's not very important in the overall scheme of things.
The story picks up very slowly, the first 5 hours of the game were pretty boring, until you settle down in England. It really starts to pick up after the second arc there. Then it's very good until the end, but the endgame was underwhelming to me, and a slap in the face rather than being satisfying. It left a sour taste in my mouth, so much that I almost stopped playing the game completely after finishing the main story.
Now that we have rowed into darker waters let's see the bad.
By far the biggest issue of the game is the enemy AI, they are completely idiotic. Far too often they'll freeze and don't even try attacking you, either stand around doing nothing waiting for you to kill them, or just walk around aimlessly, climbing on top of random buildings for no reason then climbing down again. This seems to happen less often after the latest patch, but it's still a significant issue. I don't know how this happened since the ai in odyssey never showed similar issues.
There is virtually no loot in the game. Enemies don't drop any equipment. The only way to find equipment like weapons is to go looking for equipment stashes, that are scattered around the map. The biggest issue with this is that you don't find full sets, only single pieces. And as luck would have it I always kept finding boots and gloves, two of the most useless things. Or shields that I never used. Case in point: I finished the game with the same bow I picked up at the start of the game in the first hour.
And even if you find some new weapon or armor that you'd like, another thing playing against switching equipment mid game is that it still needs to be upgraded. And if you don't go out of your way to grind for resources you barely have enough to keep one set upgraded. Odyssey at least dropped new equipment from boss enemies.
On a side note there are also mysteries and artifacts around the map, to waste time on, but I generally don't have the patience for these. I think I found one artifact and solved maybe 5 mysteries by accidentally bumping into them.
With that I'm out of words, let's see the notes:
- Better and more varied fighting
- Improved skill tree
- Huge level walls are taken down
- Varied storyline made up of shorter standalone arcs
- Dull beginning
- No equipment drops
- The game does not favor switching equipment despite encouraging you to do it
- Too much grind for resources
- The activities get repetitive after a while
- Dumb ai
- Numerous glitches and bugs, I thankfully didn't encounter any game breakers
- Some enemies seem to have infinite reach
- No naval battles
Overall impression: 7/10
It was overall a good game, only slightly falling behind Odyssey. With Ubisoft+ subscription it's a bargain. Even if you can only finish it in two months it's still worth it. Of course only if you liked Odyssey.