Assassin’s Creed Valhalla does something different in comparison to the other games in Ubisoft’s Assassin’s Creed franchise — it deemphasizes stealth. It’s something Eivor, Assassin’s Creed Valhalla’s main character, states outright when she declines to conceal her assassin’s blade under her cloak. She wants her enemies to know what’s coming. It makes sense for Valhalla to be the Assassin’s Creed game that deviates from the well-established loop of tedious, precise stealth-based missions that Ubisoft has relied on with the series since its inception. This game is a Viking game, and Vikings aren’t known for their subtlety; in Valhalla, Eivor has her not-so-hidden blade, yes, but also an ax or heavy broadsword.
It’s not the newest Assassin’s Creed game — that’s Assassin’s Creed Mirage — but Valhalla is still worth picking up and trying for yourself. The two games couldn’t be more different, despite sharing a character in Basim Ibn Ishaq, who is something of a mentor to Eivor in Valhalla but the main character of Mirage. Assassin’s Creed Valhalla is now on Microsoft’s Game Pass subscription service, making it a good time to pick up or revisit the game. But know that you’re getting yourself into a sprawling Viking world that could take more than 100 hours to fully explore.
You’ll play as Viking raider Eivor Varinsdottir, who can be either male or female in Valhalla. She and her crew have hit English shores looking to expand their settlement against the backdrop of Anglo-Saxon resistance. But in the midst of that colonization, Eivor is tied up with the Hidden Ones (the Assassin Brotherhood) as they seek out a common enemy. This story plays out through main story missions and side quests that take Eivor into nearby regions (and sometimes farther!), looking to either conquer or ally with local settlements. Between each mission, Eivor typically comes home to the burgeoning settlement that continues to expand throughout; it’s also a place for fun, with opportunities for fishing, fighting, and flirting.
The size of Assassin’s Creed Valhalla couldn’t be more different than Mirage, which is a much smaller, more focused game. You could say the same about the games’ combat systems, too — there are elements that are similar, but Mirage takes the franchise back to its roots, while Valhalla expanded beyond the stealth-style combat. Assassin’s Creed Valhalla has big, sprawling fights to match the scope of the game, which are best demonstrated when Eivor raids villages and castles. There are hints of stealth as Eivor’s longship slides undetected into a port before launching a surprise attack on a settlement. But that’s when secretive attacks go out the window, as arrows fly, swords clash, and buildings burn. Meanwhile, battering rams knock down fortress gates, leading into all-out battles I’ve not seen elsewhere in an Assassin’s Creed game. It’s chaos, and the opposite of the structured stealth missions of previous games.
Assassin’s Creed Valhalla is the Assassin’s Creed game for people who don’t like Assassin’s Creed games — and one of the best Assassin’s Creed games Ubisoft has made, improving beyond combat and into the role-playing elements that impressed in Assassin’s Creed Odyssey and Origins. Though massive, Valhalla’s story is not diluted, even as Eivor moves from region to region, with many smaller sagas contained within the larger tale. But at the core of it all is a story of Norse mythology and religions — old gods and new. Like in Origins and Odyssey, myth is wound up with reality in a beguiling knot of fact and fiction, telling a fantastical story that goes beyond the mind-jumping technology of Assassin’s Creed’s real world.
Speaking of the real-world story tied into Eivor’s, that’s where Assassin’s Creed Valhalla sometimes goes off the rails. That part of the franchise has always been convoluted and weird, and it’s still the case with Valhalla. However, it’s pretty easy to ignore for the majority of the game, and doesn’t spoil the full, complex open world of Norway. Now that it’s on Game Pass, check it out for yourself.