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Assassin’s Creed Valhalla review: One of the franchise’s best

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Assassin’s Creed Valhalla review: One of the franchise’s best
MSRP $60.00
“Valhalla marries the best combat in the series with a more organic world.”
  • Breathtaking combat
  • Refined meta systems
  • A more thoughtful open world
  • Raiding never gets old
  • Expanding your settlement is compelling
  • Familiar story
  • Buggy, especially on PC
  • Stealth and modern-day content lacking

Assassin’s Creed Valhalla is my personal favorite of this new revamped trilogy of games in the franchise, but the reasons I enjoy it might be turn-offs for others. The improved combat and raiding with a platoon is the focus of the game, and while it is well-executed, it ultimately casts aside the stealth roots of the franchise.

This is a step the series needs to take; to break loose from what defined these games nearly a decade ago in order to become the standard-bearer for action RPGs.

I also would like to get this out of the way: If you were planning on picking this game up on PC at launch, don’t. Not to say the console version can’t be buggy at times, but the PC version was nigh unplayable for me (a problem I also had with Watch Dogs: Legion,) and I gave up trying to work through it crashing constantly after an hour in. Another writer on our team had an issue regarding an NPC that died, and in order to progress, they had to talk with that NPC. They are now soft locked out of proceeding any further in the game, and that’s with the day one patch.

Initially familiar, the story goes to some interesting places

Many Assassin’s Creed games revolve around family, betrayal, and political strife in the setup for their campaigns, and Valhalla is no different. Set in the 9th century, Eivor, who can be played as male or female the entire time or either sex at different points in the story, is seeking revenge for the death of their parents at the hands of a rival clan leader. In order to get what they desire, they make specific choices that ultimately lead them out of Norway with their brother Sigurd to form a new home in Anglo-Saxon England.

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From there, the main thrust of the game is for this small group of Danes to extend their reach through devastating raids or diplomatic alliances, expanding their base camp of Ravensthorpe from a ramshackle village to a thriving community.

Assassin’s Creed Valhalla is my personal favorite of this new revamped trilogy of games in the franchise.

The game’s familial core, of Eivor and their brother Sigurd, at times is strikingly similar to the Kassandra and Alexios dynamic in Assassin’s Creed Odyssey. As time goes on, and the story gets a little more breathing room as the Raven clan expands throughout England, Valhalla makes some interesting deviations that set it apart from the more recent entries in the series, but I truly hope that the next game in the franchise breaks from this set up entirely.

The narrative that ties directly into the gameplay, of Raven clan’s expansion across England, is the story that I found more compelling, but at times can be off-balance. Eivor and their people are not refugees that have no other choice to flee Norway; they explicitly decide to leave in order to reap the rewards of literal greener pastures.

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While they initially arrive with the goal of being as peaceful as possible, they very quickly move to the raiding and pillaging part. The game then creates villains that are so spiteful and power-hungry, that you have no choice to root for Eivor. Valhalla at times tries to raise a “both sides” argument, but it never really works as well as intended.

I very quickly ended up taking things more at face value, and ultimately enjoyed the narrative for what it was. However, it was never lost on me that Ubisoft is a company going through its own internal issues regarding abuse of power, so I never fully gave up on scrutinizing the game’s narrative.

The gameplay is the best the series has ever had

There’s a phrase people like to use when critiquing video games: Gameplay is king. While I’ve never fully subscribed to that idea, it’s hard to argue that it isn’t true in the case of Assassin’s Creed Valhalla. Something that ultimately pushed me away from Origins and Odyssey is the feeling that the rebuilt combat system was only part of the way there. The two-year gap in titles has allowed the development team to refine it, and I’m so thrilled with the results.

Valhalla makes some interesting deviations that set it apart from the more recent entries in the series.

Eivor and their clan are a devastating and relentless force, something the gameplay completely captures. Every swing of my ax felt snappy and satisfying, and even after hours of playing, exclamations of disbelief at Eivor’s ruthlessness continued to spew from my mouth.

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More often than not, Eivor is accompanied by a squad of Viking warriors to aid them in expanding Ravensthorpe’s reach, and it works better than any system that prior Assassin’s Creed games have implemented. It feels the way Brotherhood should have felt.

This conceit of consistently working cooperatively with NPC allies means that there are even fewer instances that require stealth this time around. The game at points tries to nudge you into using it, but it rarely is ever required or the more desirable tool to complete your goal. While one of the big selling points was the return of the ability to blend into the crowd, hacking and slashing your way through enemies is always the more satisfying and successful solution.

The fact that stealth plays second fiddle to confrontational combat is an improvement, but it may be a problem for some. Fans of the series who were hoping to see a return to form for stealth in a big way will likely be disappointed by the heavier emphasis on face-to-face combat.

All of the meta systems feel more refined than previous entries, too. Instead of receiving tons of marginally better weapons and armor, I’m more frequently finding improved upgrades, reducing the need to constantly manage my inventory. Likewise, the skill tree slowly unfurls as you branch out across it, rather than presenting you with the totality of what it has to offer from the jump. It makes the RPG features of the game, which many fans have found themselves turned off by in recent years, far easier to swallow.

A more organic and varied world

Another big turn off for me regarding Origins and Odyssey was the sheer magnitude and endlessness of the game’s map and activities. This isn’t to say that the world of Valhalla isn’t massive or is lacking in quests, but it all feels far more manageable, and completing objectives is less like ticking things off a checklist and more about natural discovery.

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England, the largest map in the game but not the only one, is a single landmass that can be traversed on foot, on horseback, or by boat through its branching rivers that stretch across the entire country. Smack dab in the center is Ravensthorpe, and the game returning Eivor to their home base frequently provides more context for the world that is simply non-existent in the ever-nomadic lives that Bayek and Kasandra/Alexios led in their games.

Every swing of my ax felt snappy and satisfying, and even after hours of playing, exclamations of disbelief at Eivor’s ruthlessness continued to spew from my mouth.

Instead of feeling compelled to gray out every marker on an island, and ultimately failing to do so as I did in Odyssey, Valhalla lets your desire to strengthen the Raven clan be your guide for traversal, and side activities that you do come across feel far more integral because of it.

Gone is the need to rely on your bird partner to scout out an area, tagging every enemy and resource you see, before systematically moving from marker to marker. While you do have a Raven as a partner that can scout for you, it’s more about receiving an initial lay of the land rather than intimately acquainting yourself with every nook and cranny.

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Odin’s sight, a pulsating ability that highlights points of interest and enemies in your immediate vicinity, is far more useful this time around, allowing players to stay more in the immediate action and organically engaging with it.

Of course, this is Assassin’s Creed, which means that there are also some modern-day portions with our contemporary protagonist Layla. The game attempts to make it feel more relevant by bringing in characters that tied into Desmond’s story in the original trilogy and spin-offs, but it once again feels half-baked, both narratively and visually. Like stealth, the modern-day content is something that the series feels compelled to include, but these games would be stronger without it, and at this point, I wouldn’t care if they dropped it entirely.

Our take

Assassin’s Creed Valhalla promised to return to the series’ roots after two big steps away from them in Origins and Odyssey, but what it attempts to rekindle ends up holding it back, and what it does best is what makes it decidedly very un-Assassin’s Creed. Those willing to embrace Valhalla for what it is will find a compelling and satisfying action RPG.

Is there a better alternative?

The only other big action RPG out around the launch of the Xbox Series X|S and PlayStation 5 is Watch Dogs: Legion, but Assassin’s Creed Valhalla is the better of the two games by a wide margin.

How long will it last?

Tens of hours at minimum, hundreds of hours if you’re a completionist.

Should you buy it?

Yes, especially if you are picking up a next-generation console that will give it big frame rate boosts and will eliminate load times.

Editors' Recommendations

Tom Caswell
Professional video producer and writer, gaming enthusiast, and streamer!
The best skills to get in Assassin’s Creed Mirage
Basim about to assassinate a dude.

With Assassin's Creed Mirage going back to the series' roots with this entry, it also makes sense for us to start from scratch as well. Basim will begin his journey as a young street rat, but slowly evolve into the skilled assassin you later meet in Valhalla. This will be a long and arduous journey for our hero, and for you as a player, but one thing this entry doesn't abandon from the more RPG-focused titles is the skill tree. Basim's skills are broken down into three different trees, Phantom, Trickster, and Predator, that you can invest your points into as you see fit. While none are technically useless, there are some standouts that are much more useful across your journey through Baghdad. These are the best skills you need to get in Assassin's Creed Mirage.
Best skills to get

Unfortunately, nearly every skill in Assassin's Creed Mirage is on a linear tree meaning you need to unlock prior skills to get to the more powerful ones. Even so, there are some trees far more valuable to invest in in general than others. Note that you can freely refund any spent skill points by highlighting a skill and holding the button prompt to get your point back at no cost if you want to reallocate your points.
Auto-Collect - Trickster Tree
Let's be real, no one can resist looting a body. The problem with that is that when you're trying to stealth your way through an area, taking the extra time to dig through the pockets of a freshly assassinated foe will more than likely end up with you getting discovered. What is a greedy assassin to do? With the Auto-Collect skill you can steal an enemy's life and their goodies all in one fell swoop so you don't have to worry about getting caught or backtracking to all the bodies you left later to collect your spoils.
Chain Assassination - Phantom Tree
The only real essential skill in the Phantom Tree has to be Chain Assassination. This will be a familiar skill to those who played prior games as it allows you to stealth kill one target, and then chain that into a second if they're close enough, or in line of sight so long as you have a throwing knife handy to toss at a nearby target. Not only is this more efficient, but opens up tons more possibilities since you don't have to wait until each enemy is completely alone to stealth them.
Extra Tool Capacity 1,2, and 3 - Trickster Tree
The tools you unlock as you level up and complete missions are essential parts of Basim's tool kit. The more tools you can have at the ready, the more situations you will be equipped to deal with.
Knife Recovery - Trickster Tree
Throwing knives are almost too overpowered in Assassin's Creed Mirage. The only real balance to them is that you can only hold so many, and once you use one, you need to head to a shop to get more. Or, if you unlock the Knife Recovery skill, you can salvage any knife you use by looting it off the unlucky soul who was on the receiving end. If you play smart with this skill, you can save tons of currency and time by recycling your blades.
Pickpocket Master - Trickster Tree
Basim grew up as a thief, but he can still learn a few tricks to get better. Pickpocket Master has two effects, the first is to vastly decrease the difficulty of the QTE for pickpocketing higher-tier loot from targets. The second is to completely remove the QTE from basic pickpocketing making it an automatic success.
Stealth Recon - Predator Tree
Last up, we have the Stealth Recon skill from the Predator Tree. So long as you're in stealth and crouched or in cover, any enemy in the area will be highlighted and their patrols shown to you, even through walls.

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iPhone 15 Pro can natively run the latest Resident Evil and Assassin’s Creed games
Leon and Ashley in the Resident Evil 4 remake.

In a major stride forward for mobile gaming, Apple announced during today's event that console games like Assassin's Creed Mirage, Resident Evil 4's remake, and Resident Evil Village are coming to the iPhone 15 Pro. These aren't watered-down mobile spinoffs or cloud-streamed games either; they're running natively with the help of the A17 Pro chip.

During the gaming segment of Tuesday's Apple event, the power of the iPhone 15 Pro's A17 Pro chip was highlighted. The 3-nanometer chip has 19 billion transistors, a six-core CPU, a 16-core Neural Engine that can handle 35 trillion operations per second, and a six-core GPU that supports things like mesh shading and hardware-accelerated ray tracing in video games. Several game developers were featured following its introduction to explain and show off just how powerful the A17 Pro Chip is. While this segment started with games already native to mobile, like The Division Resurgence, Honkai: Star Rail, and Genshin Impact, it didn't take long for some games made for systems like PS5 and Xbox Series X to appear.
Capcom's Tsuyoshi Kanda showed up and revealed that natively running versions of Resident Evil Village and Resident Evil 4 are coming to the iPhone 15 Pro before the end of the year. Later, Apple confirmed that Ubisoft's Assassin's Creed Mirage, which launches next month on PC and consoles, will also get a native iPhone 15 Pro port in early 2024, while Death Stranding is slated for a 2023 iPhone 15 Pro launch.
Historically, console-quality games like these have been impossible to get running on a mobile phone without the use of cloud gaming. Confirming that these three AAA games can all run natively on iPhone 15 Pro is certainly an impactful way for Apple to show just how powerful the A17 Pro chip is.

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Assassin’s Creed Mirage: release date, trailers, gameplay, and more
Assassin's Creed Mirage Basim

It's time to ready your hidden blades once again, assassins, because a brand new entry in the Assassin's Creed series is upon us. All the leaks and rumors have turned out to be true, and the next installment in the franchise has been officially revealed as Assassin's Creed Mirage. This franchise has undergone some major changes in recent entries, and the next game seems poised to shake things up yet again.

First officially revealed during a Ubisoft Forward in September 2022, Assassin's Creed Mirage will be the next mainline game in the series after 2020's Assassin's Creed Valhalla. While each game typically only has smaller, less prominent ties to one another (at least after the series moved on from the Desmond arc), this game bucks the trend in that regard. From plot to gameplay changes and more, here's everything we know about Assassin's Creed Mirage, an upcoming PlayStation 5 game we have our eye on.
Release date

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