The Assassin’s Creed series has had a two year break, but finally Assassin’s Creed: Valhalla is here and I believe this is the best in the series for quite some time.  Set in the year 873 AD you play as charismatic Viking Eivor who one day is a leader of the Raven Clan and the next is thrown into the ancient conflict between the Brotherhood of Assassins and the Templar Order.

Much like Assassin’s Creed: Odyssey in Valhalla you can play as either a male or female character.  However unlike Odyssey where essentially two sides of the tales co-existed for example if you played as Kassandra her brother Alexios would be the evil twin and vice-versa.  In Valhalla regardless of whether you pick the male or female Eivor the story pretty much remains the same with either gender slotting into the tale.

So at the end of the day it’s personal preference as to which version you go with, however you can switch from male to female and female to male as you please.  For me personally unlike Odyssey, I preferred the male protagonist as I found him to be more charismatic and I feel the male voice actor (Magnus Bruun) had a bit more oomph with the character over the female voice actor (Cecilie Stenspil) in my opinion, however both of which do a fantastic.

At the beginning of Valhalla tragedy strikes with a young Eivor which sets his or her path of revenge and helps shape the character in which they become.  As Eivor becomes an adult it becomes apparent that they are meant for more and eventually outgrows the Raven Clan.  So with Eivor’s sworn brother Sigurd they set sail for the United Kingdom in the midst of the Anglo-Saxon era and will launch a Viking invasion like no other, and it just so happens that Eivor’s path of destiny entwines with a Basim Ibn Ishaq a member of the Brotherhood of Assassin’s as the ancient war against Templar Order wages on.

Just like its predecessors Assassin’s Creed: Valhalla is an open-world action-adventure and inherits its strong RPG elements that really took to the forefront of the series in 2017’s Assassin’s Creed: Origins.  However I would say that Valhalla feels like the most RPG-like game in the series, in fact I would label it as an RPG.  Everything from the levelling up, mini-games, how you interact with NPCs and exploring the huge world.  So if you were already put-off from this series slowly morphing into an RPG, then Assassin’s Creed: Valhalla might not be for you.  However if you still loved the series despite the direction of Origins, then you’re in for a treat.

The world is full of events from main missions, side-quests and mini-games.  One criticism that I had with previous games, especially those since 2014’s Assassin’s Creed: Unity is that the world is full of way too much stuff.  Missions, chests, quests, more stuff, petty events and even more stuff.  At times the map would be littered with so much stuff it would be difficult to process the map due to it being so full.  The following games in the series weren’t as bad, but they could still feel a little overwhelming for those that wanted to go for 100% completion.

Valhalla is still full with events but it doesn’t feel too overwhelming, so its activities feel more meaningful and the game has implemented a quite casual approach to events outside of the main campaign.  So if you just wanted to focus on the main campaign or just partake in a side-mission as and when you choose, that’s fine and importantly the world map doesn’t appear to be littered with endless stuff.

A few of my favourite activities outside of the main campaign are the Raids.  In essence they can be seen as glorified bandit camps, but the game has managed to capture that Viking aggression as you storm a settlement in the hunt for loot, resources and victory.  Taking over bandit camps in the previous game just felt like an activity to reduce the amount of enemies in the area or rather as filler.  However not only do the Raids feel satisfying, but they also have an added purpose as they can benefit your own settlements.

It can be argued that settlements are not an entirely new feature in the series because a management feature in 2009’s Assassin’s Creed II saw you renovate and invest in the Monteriggioni home base.  However the settlement feature in Valhalla is far more advanced and will not only see you developed your home, blacksmiths, stables, an Assassin’s base of operations and more, but it will also activate worthwhile missions associated with your settlement departments and your actions will also have an impact on the morale of your clan.

Valhalla also has some fun mini-games with Orlog which is a tactical dice game with the aim of depleting your opponent’s health until you are victorious.  In-fact it’s so good that it’s getting its own physical release.  The other mini-game includes Flyting which I can only describe as a Viking rap battle.  In Flyting your opponent will spit out some rhymes and you must not only rhyme in return, but you must also stay on topic and hopefully throw in an insult or two.  So if you ever dreamed of being Eminem during the Viking, Anglo-Saxon historic period, then Assassin’s Creed: Valhalla has you covered bruh!

Taking inspiration from the RPG genre you can customise your male or female Eivor to your heart’s content.  From hairstyles, tattoos and more, you can trend Eivor how you please.  Though I found myself going back to the default Eivor other than having a change of beard now and again.  You also have a quite advanced skill-tree to shape your assassin’s abilities to your play-style.  Combat feels very satisfying especially when you find you favoured dual weapons, however I always preferred the good-old Viking axe and shield combo.

Combat is very similar to that of Odyssey which I am fine with, but there seems to be more of an emphasis on stamina bars and counter moves which I like as it adds a layer of strategy during battles, especially when coming up against the more challenging foe.  The stealth mechanics at its core still feels pretty much the same; however there are some new and returning stealth mechanics.  Fans of the original 2007 Assassin’s Creed will be pleased to know that once again you can not only blend in crowds, but you can again hide in stationary positions and pull down your hood to get your Altair vibe going on.

New stealth skills that you can unlock is the ability to use Eivor’s Raven (Synin) to distract guards so that you can slip by and Eivor can even feign their own death to fool guards, which is fun.  How you interact with the world and the characters can also have some implications, especially later on in the campaign, a feature that I appreciated from Assassin’s Creed: Origins as it made you think how you answered certain questions or even manipulated some NPC’s with conversation skills that you can unlock and enhance, which really has that Skyrim-like tone.

As with practically every game in this long-running series, the soundtrack is sublime.  Series favourite Jesper Kyd returns who has been here since the 2007 original, along with the returning Sarah Schachner.  One of the reasons that I’ve loved each and every new iteration of the soundtrack is how they’ve remained true to the iconic music, but have also adjusted to accompany the tone of the latest Assassin’s Creed.  So to go the extra mile to give Assassin’s Creed: Valhalla that true authentic tone they have drafted in Nordic folk musician Einar Selvik.

Visually Assassin’s Creed: Valhalla is quite possibly the best looking game in the series with its variety of terrains and seasons.  The icy mountains of Norway, the stunning Northern Lights to that vast countryside of an historic United Kingdom.  This is a beautiful game in so many ways at the peak of the PS4 and Xbox One era.  However it’s not all roses with Assassin’s Creed: Valhalla because during the more frantic moments of battle the framerate does stutter a little from time to time, and I have encountered some odd animation bugs now and again.  Thankfully none of the issues have put a dent in my immersion and I hope that Valhalla performs better on PS5 and Xbox Series X|S.

It’s quite mad to think that this series started way back in 2007 and while I can acknowledge that no game in the series has been perfect, there’s always been something special about this series.  In recent years the series has morphed into an RPG, rather than the more traditional of yesteryear.  This has split much of its fan base and Valhalla will likely do the same.  Don’t get me wrong this is still very much an Assassin’s Creed game, however it would perhaps be the result of The Elders Scrolls V: Skyrim and Assassin’s Creed IV: Black Flag got together and had a baby, Valhalla would be its love child.

Valhalla won’t be everyone’s cup of tea, but if you’ve stuck with the series since 2017’s AC: Origins then you’re going to love Assassin’s Creed: Valhalla.