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assassin's creed valhalla northern lights
assassin's creed valhalla northern lights

Assassin’s Creed Valhalla – What We Loved

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The 2020 Ubisoft Forward digital event was more concentrated than a typical Ubisoft press conference. It’s sub-hour-long run-time was dominated by Watch Dogs Legion and Assassin’s Creed Valhalla. The Valhalla reveal from two months ago underwhelmed with its nonrepresentative in-engine footage following a cinematic trailer, but gamers now know what to expect from Ubisoft’s Viking adventure assuming one didn’t view the leaked content. 

AC Valhalla Addressing Concerns

The last Assassin’s Creed title suffered from content bloat. There’s nothing wrong with fully-featured experiences giving consumers their money’s worth, but a middle-ground between content and quality must be met. Odyssey’s endless mercenary system combined with the massive world and procedurally generated quests made it one of the generation’s most needless time sinks. Without playing it first-hand, there’s no way of knowing how Valhalla’s content fares, but the post-stream gameplay showed some cause for concern. 

Players can come across various locations to build cairns, which are man-made stone piles. It’s a seemingly harmless distraction, but one can already see the map littered with 100+ cairn symbols among another half-dozen time sink activities repeated ad nauseum across the world. Breathe a sigh of relief, though, as Ubisoft showed the long-forgotten social stealth in action. While previously confirmed, it was refreshing seeing this for the first time in eight years. Black Flag minimized social stealth, becoming altogether nonexistent by the time Origins reintroduced Assassin’s Creed after its year-long hiatus. Eivor can lift his/her cloak for extra concealment along with interactions to increase elusiveness. Eivor is able to blend in with patrols in addition to miscellaneous actions such as eating with civilians or kneading dough. The reintroduction of true social stealth marks a return to form. Though modern entries’ loot systems and more in-depth melee combat add a layer of complexity to the proceedings, the reigned back stealth gameplay and balancing felt at odds with the series’ core concepts. Older games suffered from rote combat with decent stealth options whereas the post-hiatus games feature good combat with horrendous stealth. Its return coinciding with bolstered melee combat is what the modern Assassin’s Creed series needed. 

Some of AC Valhalla’s Exciting Features

Ubisoft developers already confirmed malleable dual-wielding, allowing protagonist Eivor to dual-wield anything, including two shields. Seeing the more aggressive combat in action echoes the team’s sentiments regarding the Viking setting. The copious amounts of blood and decapitations were one of the steps Assassin’s Creed needed to enhance its player feedback. Ubisoft could refine its core mechanics all day, but animations and AI reactions play a large role in how good it feels defeating foes. These refinements come in the form of the free-form combat, with new weapons ranging from throwing axes to chain weapons in addition to a stun system. Combined with new abilities, such as a quick dash, Valhalla’s core systems seem built to feed into a vicious power fantasy. It isn’t going too far, though, as combat actions are tied to a stamina meter while still utilizing Odyssey’s segmented adrenaline meter for special abilities. This could address Odyssey’s issue of players becoming overpowered by the mid-game. 

Valhalla also sees the reapplication of  Assassin’s Creed 4’s sea shanty hunts, with the flying sheets of paper rewarding tattoo designs instead of seafaring songs. This adds an exciting level of personalization when taken with the combat mechanics and customizable settlements. With AC Valhalla leaning on the Viking fantasy, Eivor’s personalization should contribute to making players feel attached to their characters and settlements. 

Another interesting tidbit, which Ubisoft claims to play into the scope of Eivor’s mysterious origins, concerns the upgraded animus’ ability to change the protagonist’s gender. This is in stark contrast to Odyssey, which locked gamers into their gender at the start. Considering Ubisoft Montreal told a better story with Origins than Ubisoft Quebec did with Odyssey, they may be onto an interesting justification for adding lore behind something that doesn’t need it. 

Triple-A Vikings are Almost Here

Assassin’s Creed Valhalla releases November 17, 2020 on PlayStation 4, PlayStation 5, Xbox One, Xbox Series X, and PC. The next-gen consoles’ release dates are still a mystery, but it can’t be too far off Valhalla’s launch. Although Smart Delivery was previously announced for the Xbox versions of the game, PS4 owners are also able to grab a free upgrade to PS5. 

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