Benjamin Wollmuth is a writer who loves to express his opinions on literature, TV, film, video games, and other media.
Being a Casual Gamer
Hello. My name is Ben Wollmuth, and I am a casual gamer. What do I mean by this? While I do play video games often, it isn't my main priority. I love to sit down and play, but it usually takes me a bit to complete the main campaign of a video game. I refer to myself as a casual gamer, therefore... I will be calling myself a casual gamer.
This, of course, also means that I rarely buy video games directly when they are released. I really don't like spending $60 on a game, but I will do so if the game really intrigues me or if it's a follow-up to other games that I enjoyed. The most recent games I paid full price for were Red Read Redemption 2 (worth it), Marvel's The Avengers (not worth it), and... Assassin's Creed: Valhalla (well, technically I received this game as a Christmas gift, but the point is that I got it pretty soon after it released). I will be talking about the latter. Perhaps most of you don't care because the game has been out for quite a while, but I'm gonna give it a go anyway.
I don't get terribly spoiler-heavy here, but I thought that I would warn you, just in case you haven't beat the game yet and want to know nothing about it.
Assassin's Creed: Valhalla
The Assassin's Creed franchise has been one that I have loved for quite a long time. While I hear and understand people's criticisms of the newer installments, I still have had a great time with each. Valhalla was no exception. While the world is extremely massive and the story is quite long, I still found enjoyment in exploring and losing track of what I was originally planning on doing to instead do something else entirely. That may explain why it took me so long to complete this game. I could talk about the graphics (which are beautiful, by the way), the upgrade system (which was cool), or the many, many side quests I got distracted by (did I mention there were a lot?), but what I really want to focus on here is the main story, the characters within it (mostly the main ones), and the world which the story takes place.
A couple of things before I begin:
1. I am no history nerd, so I will not be talking about historical accuracy because I honestly have no idea.
2. I will be referring to Eivor, the main character, as a female. While I did play the entire story as a male, it has come to my attention that Ubisoft wants the main canon to be centered around female Eivor, and since I am obsessed with what is canon, I will be complying with what Ubisoft has decided.
2a. I am a little upset with Ubisoft for not having faith in selling a female-lead game. If Ubisoft says that female Eivor is truly canon, then they shouldn't have given players the option to choose genders. I mean, this is a pretty big franchise. I still think they would have made tons of money.
The World of "Valhalla"
As I said before, the open world that Valhalla lets you explore and traverse through is massive. There is so much to get lost in, so much to see, and so much to do. To me, it's no wonder why it took me so long to beat the game. The world offers tons of variety, as well, with areas covered in snow, areas that are beautifully green, and areas that are extremely populated by people. There's always a place to go if you need a change in scenery. The campaign utilizes this world very well, requiring you to travel to nearly every corner in order to complete the game. Other Assassin's Creed games didn't really do that, making exploring feel a bit more tedious. While it's not the best setting for parkouring across rooftops like in the older games of the franchise, it did allow for some awesome action-RPG gameplay. And it's not like you can't be stealthy by hiding on rooftops or in bushes––the game does give you that option. It's just that the game usually doesn't make it feel necessary. But hey, you play as a Viking, and Vikings aren't really known for their stealth. Overall, I loved the world of Valhalla and will continue to explore it until I find all of the secrets it has to hide.
The Characters of "Valhalla"
Since Valhalla is a game based on history––just like the past AC games––it is full of characters who are based on real historical figures (minus the main protagonist). As I said before, I can't go into detail about how well these characters represent their real-life counterparts, but as with all AC games, I feel as if I learned something. There are a lot of characters in this game, each with their own traits and quirks that help define them. This makes meeting new characters a lot more enjoyable, for they all feel different in some way.
As for the main protagonist, Eivor was a wise but brutish character to play as. Of course, Ubisoft wanted her to be a character to think with her brain rather than her ax––a character who only did what would better her settlement––but when players are given the choice in the matter, they can completely sideline that mindset to instead choose violence. That can of course hinder an RPG in some ways, for it can feel inconsistent if the game wants the protagonist to be a certain way but still allows players to completely go against what the developers intended. Either way, Eivor was an interesting enough character to follow throughout the entire game. I wish I would have known early on that female Eivor was considered to be true canon, for I would have played as her the whole time rather than switching once I complete it.
There are plenty of other characters I could mention, including the extremely annoying Sigurd or the backstabbing assassin (pun intended) Basim, but I don't want this thing to be longer than it needs to be.
The Story of "Valhalla"
Valhalla's story is one that––while lacking assassins in general––still feels like an AC game. Sure, Eivor isn't a part of the Assassin's Brotherhood and doesn't even join after killing off all of the Templar leaders while Hytham sat around doing nothing, but she still uses a hidden blade (unlike Odyssey's protagonist) and parkours like a beast. Plus, the story is rich with AC lore, going as far as making Eivor the reincarnation of the Isu Odin, something we have never really seen prior to this game. We even get to see bits of the great catastrophe which wiped out much of humanity and practically killed off all of the Isu. Double plus, Eivor spends most of the game killing off Templar (I know they aren't called Templars in this game, but this is what I'm calling them) leaders in order to pacify England. So, it's not a complete divergence from other AC games.
My biggest gripe with the game comes with the fact that it takes a while to get to the lore. The main focus of the plot is the pacification of England, with the focus shifting every once in a while to Sigurd's antics as he tries to convince Eivor that he is indeed a god. Then we have Basim's arch, which plays a huge role in the story's ending––an ending that, to me, felt like such a random shift in character motivations. But I'm gonna blame that on how long it took me to beat the game and how distracted I got while playing it. Perhaps if I would've stuck to the story more, I would have remembered certain things and the ending wouldn't have felt so jarring. But I still wish the game would have focused more on being an assassin, even if Eivor wasn't technically an assassin.
Did I like the world? Yes.
Did I like the characters? For the most part.
Did I enjoy the story? Once again, for the most part.
I do think the game is maybe a little too long for its own good, but at least it makes use of its massive world––a world that is far from boring. It's not my favorite Assassin's Creed game––that honor goes to Black Flag––but I definitely see it as an improvement over Odyssey.
I understand why people criticize the franchise for falling away from its roots, but would the franchise still be going strong if it hadn't evolved in some way? If the franchise had stayed the same, don't you think we would be complaining about every game feeling the same? Maybe that's just my way of thinking. I do think Ubisoft has a solid system going. If they keep making fantastic worlds and, perhaps, focus more on assassins, they may be able to keep going strong. All I can say is that I'm excited for whatever they decide to do next. Here's hoping people's disdain for the newer games doesn't ruin the franchise for good. Moreover, here's hoping Ubisoft doesn't make terrible decisions that ruin the franchise for good.
There was a lot I didn't talk about here...
...so be sure to leave a comment if you feel I missed something that should be talked about.
© 2021 Benjamin Wollmuth