After having just finished the game- the main story at least- looking back I have had a lot of ups and downs. Overall, I feel that it wasn't a bad game, but definitely not as good as Origins or Odyssey. Playing Valhalla felt like a game that Ubisoft just needed to check off on it's list of yearly games for earnings. Indeed, I read several articles about how big sales were for Valhalla. No doubt due to big expectations made from Odyssey, which to me is one of the best if not THE best in the series. It made a new standard in RPG games. Which is odd to me, considering Ubisoft went out of it's way to make changes that seemed like a couple steps back.
Campaign & Story:
I enjoyed most of the story. I was constantly interested in what would happen next. I enjoyed interacting with most of the characters and going from zone to zone. I can tell it's a good game if I keep coming back to find out what happens next. The acting was great. I loved how each chapter/zone was different and not just "conquer all of the zone" type quests. There were of course some decisions to make that affect the end game, and I found myself really pondering decisions made.
Unfortunately, the ending was a major let down. Without giving away too much- in fact, you really can't- I anticipated some huge final siege. The game seemed like it was building up to harder and more challenging sieges, leading me to believe that there's going to be some major battle at the end. Instead, a let down. I battle in a small village which felt rather rushed. That was it. Pretty lame.
Combat, Abilities, & Skills:
Combat was probably the strongest suit for the game. I REALLY enjoyed the combat aspect, and think they improved on the use of stamina so you can't just constantly roll and dodge to your hearts content. Instead, you have to use wisely, and getting that perfect dodge or parry felt really rewarding, especially when you get the slow motion ability at dodge. Watching weapons finish off targets felt very rewarding, guts and limbs flying everywhere. Well done here!
Unfortunately, I have to ask Ubisoft... [censored] were you thinking with abilities?? This had to have been the most lazily implemented portion of the game. Well, maybe AI. I'll get to that next. Where as in Odyssey if you wanted to use fire or poison, you activated one ability and then could use it for either weapon. Here, it's almost as if Ubisoft couldn't think up anymore abilities to use, so they broke it up in to a separate fire ability for bows and a separate one for melee weapons. Same for poison. Throwing Axes: there's a separate ability for both melee and ranged, yet they do almost the exact same thing. Nobody could really think of something better?? I looked forward most to the wolf companion, but even upgraded he doesn't stay very long. Most abilities just come off as useless. I think I used four abilities between ranged and melee through almost the whole game.
The Skill tree and obtaining Skill points seemed pretty cool at first, but I reached a certain point in the game where I had earned so many skill points that the game was ridiculously easy. I was like 30 skill points ahead of each zone. There was no point in doing any of the "mysteries" or finding roman masks because all you get is more skill points. I increased the difficulty to max in both combat and assassination, and it was still a breeze.
Then there's the AI. Holy.... hell. Everyone remember in Odyssey how soldiers would often patrol, forcing you- the assassin- to time your assassinations just right or to sneak across undetected? Not needed here! In most enemy camps and garrisons, targets will sit or stand perfectly still and never move. You can go on an assassin rampage with ease, or just snipe with a bow and take out five targets before any charge you. Remember when enemies would take cover in Odyssey or Origins? Yeah... they don't do that here. They just look around for a moment. If they don't see you they will stay out in the open waiting to take an arrow. Even after the 1.04 update they still do this.
The Zealots. I was looking forward to these Odyssey Mercenaries, as early in the game it said, "zealots will now hunt you! Be careful!" Not once in the entire game was I ever hunted. They all just stayed in their zone patrolling a specific part. This was like the mercenaries in Origins, sadly. They just walk around. I really enjoyed Mercs in Odyssey as they would appear out of nowhere while you were fighting, spicing things up. Not so here. While I enjoyed some of their fights, they all were pretty lackluster in rewards- just more un needed skill points because I have 30+ still unspent.
I thought this was a great idea, but poorly implemented. After the second or third one, you realize you can take your time as your raiding party will never die. They might fall and you can revive them, but I guess my idea of a raid was hurry up, get in, get what you need, and get out. There's no thrill/excitement here. Why isn't there a time limit until reinforcements from a nearby garrison come crashing in?
Your Raiding Crew. Perhaps one of the most useless parts of the game is upgrading the barracks. You might think this would actually contribute to some rare vikings- in fact you can hire other players custom made vikings- but you won't notice any difference. You can leave your raiding party to the default and you wont notice any difference. You can change their gear- and you won't notice any difference. So why bother spending silver to hire any other units?
Probably one of the better parts of the game. The game really shines when standing at a syncronize point or some high vantage point staring off in to the distance. Absolutely beautiful. Walking through some of the major cities is a drag on performance- I'm sure this will get patched out, but was really offputting when you hit the first major settlement in Norway and it's at 30 to 40 FPS on a 2070 Super. Sigh.
I get it... Odyssey had a ridiculous amount of gear. I'm cool with trying something a little different. I just think it went too far. Would have been nice to reach an in between point of Odyssey and Valhalla- not too much, not too little. As it is, I kept my Raven gear and just stuck with that through the whole game. I didn't see any point in choosing any of the other gear, as the other sets did so little. Each set only has two special skills. Beyond that you can just add runes to everything.
Another game mechanic that feels rushed. Contracts are given out to random NPC's throughout the world. Sometimes it happens to be the target dummy in your settlement. Other times, you will rescue the same exact NPC from the same exact bandit camp. Really????? Perhaps I'm just spoiled from the side quests in Witcher 3- and I get that Odyssey's contract missions weren't much better- but I thought Valhalla would have meant IMPROVING contract missions? At least TRY to make them a little fun!
I'm pretty sure Ubisoft will release patches to fix the worst parts of the game. The ending felt rushed to the point where it said "more adventures await!" IE we are rushing to the DLC! I just wish the main portion of the game had the polish that Odyssey did. I have replayed Odyssey probably five or six times. I don't think I'll play this one more than a couple playthroughs.