Preview impressions of Assassin’s Creed Valhalla are out in the wild. While Ubisoft Montreal’s new Assassin’s Creed is branching out to evolve the recently updated formula, how much of it still plays like the originals?
The Raven Clan
The story centers around Eivor, a mighty Viking leader of the Raven clan, finding a new home for their people in England. Eivor’s journey will take the clan through four distinct areas in England: Mercia, East Anglia, Northumbria, and Wessex. Every quest completed furthers Eivor’s goal of influencing people and gaining power. At the alliance map, the clan’s intel gatherer, Ranvi, will have strategies on how to proceed with each area and what action must be taken. With her, Eivor will devise the most effective path forward with more than brute force. Deception is key and is a necessity to make takeovers look like legitimate exchanges of power, instead of a ruthless invasion. As the Raven clan’s sphere of influence increases over England, new opportunities and threats will emerge according to the player’s actions.
As the Raven clan grows, so will it’s settlement. Resources gathered on raids can be used to develop the settlement. The creation of infrastructure, such as bakeries and fishing huts, will add long-term buffs to Eivor when feasts are initiated, allowing players to taste and feel the fruits of Eivor’s labor. In the barracks, Eivor can assign themselves one companion from a roster they have built. This companion can be customized down to their loadout, giving players customization options that aren’t offered to the main character. The barracks also allows players to customize Vikings that can take part in the raids of their friends, earning rewards even when they are not playing. In addition, the shipyard allows Eivor to customize the details on their longboat, permitting personalization on raids. One of the greatest forms of navigation through England will be the use of rivers, so expect extensive use of the longboat on raids and exploration.
The optional content is attempting to diversify its offerings by creating interesting scenarios and twisting situations, much like The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt. By making interactions with characters strong and personable, the optional content doesn’t feel like checking off a list of tasks, rather discovering new adventures. Fans of Ghost of Tsushima will recognize the sorting scheme of the side quests, noting which kind of experience it is. Yellow dots are side quests with physical rewards such as money or items, white dots are collectible quests, and blue dots are world events. Keeping the world events vague and varied keeps players uncertain of what lies at the world events. Many side quests found in the open world will offer keys to shortcuts or locked loot, enticing players with opportunity at every point in the game. Moving away from lists of quests to complete and toward discovery makes the content much more approachable and personable. Players will be much more likely to check out what that quest is if they know what kind of experience they are headed toward and if they are spread out and hidden through the wilderness.
Assassin’s Creed Valhalla is taking even more steps to move away from the original combat formula and more towards modern third person action elements people have come to expect in full fledged RPG’s. The inclusion of a stamina meter and rations that act as estus flasks are interesting resources to manage in combat scenarios that give players a vulnerability to master. The stamina meter means dodges can’t be spammed and must be timed, and limited rations mean health is not regenerating. The resource management ensures every encounter will need more consideration than previous titles demanded. Another noticeable change to the formula that fans of Ghost of Tsushima will recognize is enemies have health and stun bars that can be targeted specifically with different abilities. Depending on the enemy, they may have special move sets that give them strengths and weaknesses to exploit, keeping players on their toes.
Stealth will be a viable strategy for players looking to conserve their ration reserves while also eliminating the opposition’s numbers. Side activities, including dice games and verbal duels, can be completed for rewards and resources to develop the settlement. Aside from distracting players from the main gameplay loop and offering a refreshing break, they can also give boosts to stats, such as charisma. The confirmation that charisma is an improvable statistic leads to the question: How far will players’ choices go and who will they be able to influence? The developers also set out with the goal to have players appreciate their loot more than they have in previous games. This means less lootable items, but with greater impact and diversity in those items. Choosing a gear set should feel like an important choice, and so will devoting resources to upgrade them.