Assassins’ Creed is one of those franchises that has existed for as long as most of us can remember. With a fanbase mostly encompassing teenagers and young adults, this franchise has tried to do things differently with its last few entries. Origins adopted an RPG-esque approach to what has predominantly been an action-adventure game series for almost a decade. Pairing that with an ancient Egyptian setting, it certainly was a much-needed refresh but its successor was a mixed bag. Assassins’ Creed Odyssey went even further back in history, to 480 BC, back when the Greco-Persian wars had concluded, and the Greek city-states had just started to tear each other apart.
I personally found Odyssey to be an excellent example of why open-world sandbox games are a step back rather than a step ahead for the industry. Sure, you’ve got a massive world to explore, with a ton of side-quests and collectibles, it’s really just a moot point if most of it is just filler content that’s been replicated several hundred times.
An empty duplicate world and spongy enemies made Odyssey rather cumbersome and hard to like. Although most of the “!” side-quests are unique, they are hardly worth picking up. You’ll mostly have to go and collect a list of items from an unexplored area in an effort to actually “explore” that content-less desert, but cheesy lines and the lack of a good writing team makes them little better than the identical, several dozen outposts scattered across the map.
With Assassins’ Creed Valhalla, Ubisoft decided to dive back into the recent past, sometime between 700-900 AD. That’s right around the time established powers like the Romans and Sassanians (Persians) had started to collapse and the resultant vacuum was filled by freshly risen groups such as the Arabs, Turks, Mongols, and to a lesser extent, barbaric tribes such as the Nords and Danish.
So, which one did Ubisoft choose? The Vikings of course, cos you can’t have a trailer with a Mongol or Turkic protagonist, no, no, you need to stick to the cliches of the modern age and depict the Nords pillaging helpless monasteries and burn down villages. Strangely, the Vikings in Assassins’ Creed Valhalla don’t kill “innocent civilians” and bystanders, despite the fact that there are tons of casualties in war, with most of them being peasants and farmers.
Among some of the other ridiculous additions to an already flawed depiction of Medieval England include the presence of heavily militarized monasteries. Imagine having a Church or temple full of soldiers because why not, that’s how places of worship are supposed to be. I get that it’s in a way essential to facilitate combat in raid missions but it’s an absolute blunder if you actually try to make sense of the whole thing.
Portraying groups like the Vikings as the protagonists may not sound that bad but at the end of the day, you’re misleading a large chunk of young adults who already have a very conflicting view of history. You’re essentially glorifying a group that mostly attacked helpless abbeys, monasteries where most of the local population was either killed, drowned, or enslaved. Of course, none of that is in the game cos then it’d be a “bad influence”. No, no, you’re a “good Viking”.
All that prattle about an inaccurate and misleading depiction of the Vikings aside, Valhalla is actually a good game. Of course, you still have a bunch of mind-boggling missions where the assassins’ teach the protagonist how to jump off a cliff and into a river or stack of hay rather than solid ground (genius, I know) or where you’re taught how to remain unseen by “putting on a cloak”. However, the main questline is pretty decent, with a revamped combat that’s not too grindy with less spongy enemies.
The side-quests which come in different forms this time around from treasure hunts to “World Events” are actually worth a good laugh or two, and seem to have actually been thought over by the writers. Furthermore, you don’t have an excessively large map, but a decent world with ample content. All these things make Assassins’ Creed Valhalla a recommended title, but at the same time, it is a forgettable experience due to the various blunders made while trying to depict a clan of “peaceful” raiders and some of the other cliches of the franchise.