Assassin's Creed Valhalla

Before I started playing Assassin’s Creed Valhalla, I asked the question, “Is it time to start caring about Assassin’s Creed again?” After more than 135 hours of game time, I can answer with a definitive and enthusiastic “Yes!” Not only is this game much better than I hoped, it’s actually one of the best games of 2020.

Now, a bit of backstory (in case you haven’t read it elsewhere): I played the original Assassin’s Creed a long while back, probably in 2012-ish. I absolutely hated it, but I felt obligated to complete it to see the story through to its conclusion.

I’ve recently been interested in checking back in with the original Assassin’s Creed, so I watched a couple story breakdown videos to get myself up to speed (I’ve played stupid amounts of video games in the past eight years, so most of the story details of Assassin’s Creed had faded from my memory).

And it’s good! Clearly, it wasn’t the story that repelled me as a player. My issues were with the repetitive gameplay and the uninspired open world that was big simply for the sake of being big. It was tedious to play, and while the story was actually pretty neat, the narrative never really knew when to step aside.

In Assassin’s Creed Valhalla, none of those things are problems. The gameplay is still kind of repetitive, I guess, but not in a bad way. You have more tools at your disposal now, like upgradeable gear and a longship that you can use to carry around a band of raiders who will raid villages at your command. There’s much less focus on meticulously blending into your surroundings (which made the original feel tedious), though you still have a good toolset for stealth gameplay if you should choose to play that way. Yet you can almost always choose to go in loudly, with a band of warriors at your side, if you’d like to do that instead. It’s less, “Do this task this specific way,” and more, “Here’s your task, now figure out your own way to complete it.” And the latter is immensely more satisfying.

Most importantly, the world — which is bonkers enormous — feels interesting from edge to edge. It’s more than just big; it’s a thrill to explore. It’s perpetually beautiful, and there’s stuff packed away in practically every inch of it, even if sometimes that’s just a herd of caribou to hunt so you can maybe score an antler for your Hunter’s Hut.

Assassin's Creed Valhalla

And the story here is phenomenal. Sure, it has its slow points, but it’s filled with twists and surprises, and some of the character work is really great. The strained friendship between Eivor and Sigurd is compelling, and it’s really hard to look away from anything Ivar the Boneless does — love him or hate him (I’ve always kind of hated him), Ivar is never boring.

All of this to say that I’m interested in Assassin’s Creed all over again. I’ve even managed to pick up some of the earlier games on sale, so I can get caught back up on the main story events (I don’t want to watch story breakdown videos of the ones I haven’t played yet). Assassin’s Creed Valhalla is just that good.

And sure, I’m sure I’ll burn out on the franchise by this time next year, but for now, I’m loving this wild ride, and I can’t wait to experience more of it.

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