It's been a busy week, but I've managed to get a little over twenty hours into AC Valhalla on PlayStation 4 so far over the weekend, and I think it's given me a pretty good idea of what the game's about, and... so far so good!So far, no sight of one-handed swords. In fact, I've gotten very few inventory items over the course of my 20+ hour playthrough. Emphasis is definitely on leveling up what you have, rather than gaining more. Though I cannot stress enough- get a flail. They're super cool!I agree with the camera feeling too far back. While it gives a more tactical view of the battlefield, it sometimes removes any tactical advantage by making it hard to even tell specifically who you're targeting. And worst of all, it really removes that player from the character's perspective. I'd much rather have seen an over-the shoulder perspective, especially with this brutal combat system. There's been some concern about whether/how Vikings would be justified in this game. I'm not sure if this is necessarily spoilery, but I'll tag it as an extra precaution: [spoiler] Honestly, not much justification is given. Raiding/killing seems to be a virtue in Eivor's mind, at least from what I've seen so far. Sometimes, the violence does feel very much unwarranted- and sometimes, it feels necessary. I think that's going to be very much up to the player.[/spoiler]
I thought I'd make up a little review here since the embargo is lifted, and I could maybe address some of the questions and concerns I've seen on the forums so far, as well as any other questions you might have.
I will not include any story spoilers (at least in the main body of my review), and will try to tag other things that I consider spoilery- but be warned that it's possible there may be some stuff in this thread that you have not yet heard about yet.
Here goes! (Ah, and no photos for now, because I don't think the photomode website it live yet, and I can't find a flashdrive 😕 )
Right off the bat, this game has more accessibility options than any I think I've ever seen, and it make sure you're aware of these options before starting. Stuff like adjusting text/map size are present, as well as various ways to adjust difficulty separately (through combat difficulty, speed of stealth detection, etc).
Additionally, there are a lot of options I've seen requests for, such as toggles for nudity and gore in the game (and by the way, if you're the least bit squeamish you may want to take advantage of that gore toggle- Valhalla is by far the most brutal AC game yet).
This is likely the most configurable title yet in the series, and it includes a lot of options that I've specifically seen requested on these forums. I know sometimes it might feel like screaming into the void here, but they definitely listen to us 😊
AC Valhalla feels better than AC has felt in a long time.
Let me explain- right off the bat, you might notice the return of a "Sprint" button. It's a minor change, and it Eivor still isn't particularly fast even with it, but that extra dimension of movement really just makes her feel a lot more interesting to move. She also has weight and momentum in her movement- much more natural feeling than the more stiff and tanky navigation in Odyssey.
Parkour isn't particularly all that different. The ability to sprint in between obstacles adds a little more flair, but this parkour is still much more similar to that of Origins and Odyssey than any of the other games.
Combat really surprised me- it's... actually a lot of fun. Preview footage didn't really do it justice, as it looked a lot like Origins/Odyssey. And in a way, it is- it's still hitbox-based, and while leveling has been somewhat de-emphasized, stats certainly still play a significant role (this time in "Power", rather than traditional leveling, which I'll discuss later). But combat just feels fun again, and I think a big part of that is the increased frequency and variety of animations.
Again, combat is still hitbox-based (the "Dark Souls style" that's been all the rage the last few years) but animations provide a lot more flair to the battlefield again- no longer do all of your enemies just fall weightlessly to the ground after having been hit by your sword- instead, you might fling on ruthlessly to the ground to dislodge their back from your axe, just in time to turn around and decapitate another enemy soldier next to you. Like movement, it just feels better than its recent predecessors.
In general combat is fun, but one of my favorite aspects of it is the raids. In these, you approach an enemy area (so far, they tend to be monasteries) and try to loot its riches to help build your own settlement. You can approach this in a variety of ways, from stealthily eliminating the town guard or leading your Vikings straight into battle, but at some point you'll need to call for assistance to get those pesky doors and chests open. That's where my favorite part comes in- much like everyone's favorite Gondorian Boromir, you pull out your horn and alert your longship that the attack is on! Your battle-call echoes across the monastery, as viking charge from the shore and the abbey's guards scramble to defenses, bell towers ringing. The hunt is on!
A few notes on combat from requests or concerns I've seen from the forums:
Oof, I'm awful at stealth in this game.
Or, rather, I'll say this- I enjoy how the cloak helps in avoiding detection, but I think I have yet to have a successful run of assassinating guards without being detected. Feels like every time I go in for a kill, the entire town finds out within seconds.
Maybe I need to invest more points into the stealth tree, get better stealth-oriented gear, lower my detection difficulty in settings, or simply "git gud", but this is one of the first Assassins Creed games where I barely even consider stealth a viable option for me right now.
There are some neat stealth abilities, especially [spoiler] Chain Assassination, that lets you throw a lethal axe at a target at range after a hidden blade assassination, for usually an instant kill [/spoiler] but so far stealth hasn't been my favorite part of the game. Perhaps Eivor's path will help her get to be more of a sneaky-stabby, rather than a hacky-slashy.
As you may know, progression is done through allocating points on a constellation-stylized skill tree rather than traditionally leveling up. You get these points pretty frequently (two at a time) and usually have a dozen or more options when allocating them, so it really does feel like you have a lot of freedom to make your Eivor however you want.
There are two types of nodes on these skill constellations, and as far as I can tell each node only costs a single point to unlock. First are simple stat boosts- one might make your melee attacks slightly better, while another might increase your stealth score- you know the drill here. The other type are more active skills- stuff like [spoiler] stomping on downed enemies as a finisher or planting explosives on enemy corpses as a trap [/spoiler].
Keep in mind that those skills you unlock on the tree are actually different from Abilities. Abilities are more similar to the stuff on the ability wheel from Odyssey- if things like Ghost Arrows of Artemis or Heroic Strike jog your memory. Strangely, Abilities are actually found by looting tomes on the map, rather than through normal progression. I'm... not sure how I feel about that. I think it works as a system, and these Abilities are very cool and powerful, but I almost wish they'd just been included on the Skill tree instead. It seems like kind of strange and arbitrary difference between the two.
Gear is something I haven't delved too deeply into yet, but I'll reiterate that you're not gonna be looting gear in near the frequency that you did in Odyssey. Instead, you'll have a couple of ways to increase your gear's effectiveness. First, you can upgrade gear yourself, which will increase its stats. Second, you can go to your Blacksmith, who can increase a gear's tier (at least, I think that's how it works). So, instead of trashing gear you looted early on, it can remain a viable choice. I like that a lot, as I think it helps the player form more of an emotional attachment to a piece of gear, rather than trashing it the second something better comes along five minutes later.
Again, I don't want to get too spoilery here, but I can maybe answer some questions below in tags if you have any. Overall, I'm trying to temper my excitement over the new game with my opinion on it, and I'm far from finishing it, so I'll refrain from any sort of numbered score. But it's definitely good, of that I have no doubt.
There is so much more I want to say, but I think this will do for now. I can't wait to discuss this game with you all in the coming weeks!