Assassin's Creed: Valhalla – Review & Analysis
Written by: Sorrosyss, December 11, 2020

Warning: Spoilers from the game and across the franchise

After a two year release hiatus, we have a new game release again this year in the form of Assassin's Creed Valhalla. Primarily developed by the core Ubisoft Montreal team, hopes were high for this instalment to return to the cores of the franchise, especially with the return of several creative veterans to the project.

Let us take a look at the game in detail then, and decide which elements I consider were a success, those that partially worked, and those that did not work well at all. Finally, let us also analyse the story conclusions and where it may take us next!

Note: This review was made of the state of the game from launch to patch 1.3.

The Positive Aspects


The star of the show is of course the main historical story. To my mind, it has been several years since we have seen an Assassin's Creed truly embrace its narrative roots, and I was so delighted to see that the First Civilization was so central to these proceedings. The quality of the dialogue really stood out from the start, with some thought provoking conversations from many memorable and nuanced characters. Most of the main cast were really enjoyable in their diversity, with Eivor shown to have far more depth than the pure Norse Viking the advertising implied. Special mentions should be made of the headstrong Sigurd, the mysterious Basim, the unhinged Ivarr, and a personal favourite – Fulke, who is an Isu supremacist I can really relate to as a Juno fan.

The narrative is aided by the new focus on utilising “arcs”, which to my mind really helped with the storytelling, giving us very specific plot lines with character development and their own self contained endings. This new structure has been mostly attributed to the design of the narrative director Darby McDevitt, and his experienced hands are clearly evident across the body of work. He understands the lore intimately, and alongside the team of writers has laced text files and the in-game Codex with references to previous games as well as surprising and welcome cameos from the likes of Bayek, Juno and Desmond. With a combination of the Isu elements into the story, and the overarching Modern Day setting the premise, this template is what classic Assassin's Creed should always be. It is also why the fan base (old and new) has seemingly thrown overwhelmingly positive comments at the game's story thus far.

The Isu have always had a special place in my heart, and I cannot tell you how much joy it gives me to see them so central to the main part of the story. Our main character Eivor is ultimately a Sage, with Odin himself within their DNA. This is also what fuels the Modern Day aspect for Layla and the Assassins as they are sent after Eivor's body at the behest of none other than the reincarnated Loki within Basim. Equally, seeing the Isu sites is once again amazing, and I always love to see that very distinctive sharp edged aesthetic present within their temples. The First Civilization version of the world tree was certainly quite the image, proving vital to the conclusion of the game with it being a device that is both running calculations of reality, as well as the shared virtual simulation of “Valhalla”. A nice little emulation of the Animus technology that would later derive from it.

If I had only one negative comment to make on the story as a whole, it is that there was perhaps one too many regions with similar themes. Most of them involve you trying to place a supporter in a position of power by some means, often concluding with a fortress assault and it gradually started to feel a bit samey. This was especially the case when Sigurd was captured, as it felt a bit strange thematically having Eivor playing politics on the other side of the country in separate arcs, when she should be planning a rescue mission. In that regard, whilst I love that the game is huge and high quality, it is one of those situations where perhaps less is more. Overall though, the story was impactful, it had some delightful twists, and it respected the lore kindly. May it be a template for future instalments.


I'll be honest, when it was initially announced that the game setting was about Vikings I was less than enthused. It is not really an era of history that had ever appealed to me, but I took on board the suggestions from friends to watch the TV show called The Last Kingdom.
It helped me a lot to understand the period and motivations of the time, and my interest subsequently started to grow.

Living in England as I do, it was also a little tough for me to expect the open world to be that appealing, especially coming off the back of the gorgeous landscapes of Egypt and Greece. As usual though, Ubisoft's level designers managed to exceed expectations, ultimately making a stunning depiction of the dark ages. I was initially blown away by Norway, and wandering around the tops of mountains gave welcome flashbacks to the ever popular Skyrim. Then when it came to England itself, there was so much lush green it really felt like you had been transported to another time. Speaking of, I was equally stunned by the visuals of Asgard, again offering us a new stylized look at the mythological plane. Jotunheim and Vinland were also welcome diversions, and helped the game universe to feel even larger with this variety. I also loved how the cities of Lunden, Jorvik and Winchester were homages to the main areas of AC1, even down to very similar assassination targets in familiar circumstances.

Exploration in all of these zones was rich, and fun to explore. The main attraction was the World Events, the newly fashioned form that side quests take. The writers clearly had a lot of fun with these, and I never expected to come across a flyting squirrel on my travels, or a pop culture reference to The Prodigy and several of their famous music tracks. Ultimately this new style worked amazingly well, and I felt really rewarded by going out to the far reaches to enjoy these little self contained stories and puzzles. Collectibles were still present as always, but I also appreciated the attempt to keep our interest by giving us some text documents alongside them for flavour. Finally, loading times on the likes of fast travel was noticeably quicker compared to Odyssey, which was a pleasant discovery.

One other welcome return to the franchise was that of mini games around the world. We had a fair few different varieties here, with Orlog being a standout favourite among them. I quite enjoyed flyting as well! I really had a hard time with the cairns though, with the difficulty of the final ones making it more annoying than fun honestly. Outside of the games, we also gained the ability to fish which
Source: DiceBreaker
was a nice change of pace to simply enjoy the peace and ambience of the open world.

There are a few niggles that could be ironed out for exploration for the next game though. The compass for one can get very busy when you are in towns with the amount of icons around you, and it is times like that I really miss the old mini map capability. Our raven friend Sýnin is also noticeably nerfed compared to the last two games, and her scouting capability feels severely diminished to me without her highlighting of enemies. Fortunately Odin Sight replaces that mechanic, but I feel it might be helpful to have Eagle Vision back as a plain toggle again rather than simply a pulse. I also found that the red outline of enemies this time around made it difficult at times to make out which way enemies were facing.

When you consider other barriers to exploration, one that unironically stands out is barred doors. These things are everywhere, and are actually quite annoying. Fortunately I found that several abilities can smash these open, but that is still reliant on you having adrenaline on hand to spare. Otherwise, you are often left trying to find some strange acute angle to shoot the door from a certain window, locate a nearby key or find a well hidden explosive to smash down a wall. If that is not painful enough, it worsens when your few minutes trying to gain access are rewarded by... an ingot. If you are going to let your player put in the effort, at least provide a reward that isn't simply a purchasable resource from a vendor. Finally, there are a few places that are far too dark even with a torch out. Looking at you Hidden Ones bureaus.

Travelling is thankfully generally pretty easy, as there is a good variety of fast travel points thanks to the inclusion of the various docks for your Longship. I've never been a fan of the naval mechanics, and here again I really disliked the controls. Try turning around in a small river without turning the wrong way temporarily – seriously it's impossible. The way the turning direction switches depending on whether you are reversing or going forwards is cumbersome, and I am once again left disappointed with this aspect. Thankfully I barely had to use the boat, and stuck with the trusty horse who felt a lot faster than the boat for me in getting to an appropriate location, namely as you can cut cross country to get there. I do wish the poor mare would stop strangely slowing down whenever you aggro an enemy though.

As fun a world as it is, there is not much in the way of repeatable quests when you complete everything though. Yes, the adorable Reda gives you a couple a day, but it would be nice to have a few more options of obtaining more money and resources, as beyond these there is little else you can do except going around to loot every single small chest.


Ah the music. You realise, it is now customary for fans to wait on the menu screen and listen to the theme play through once before hitting continue? Thankfully music is an area that the franchise has usually always excelled at, and it was with great delight that
I learned that Jesper Kyd would be returning. His amazing work in the original games set the musical template for the Assassin's Creed universe, and it is only fitting that his most famous contribution track – Ezio's Family – continues to be the staple theme tune to the franchise, even so far as being featured in the short Netflix tease for the new TV series.

Jesper's work on Valhalla is sublime, with the Tron-esque track Animus Anomaly a personal favourite. His work has always managed to set the Modern Day tracks to beautiful synth, juxtaposed against the more raw and tribal instrument sounds utilised for the historical sections. It is no different here, with beautiful string and horn arrangements that really set you deeply in the Viking era. Fortunately we are also treated to the work of Sarah Schachner, whose previous work on Origins was beautiful and haunting, and her tracks here are equally as wondrous. The two composers clearly collaborated well together, as their styles complement each other and the soundtrack as a whole. On top of that, the inspired decision to bring on board Einar Selvik was genius. I really enjoy several of his tracks, some of which are the boat songs, but the ones that traditionally play over the raids like Vigahugr are stunning in setting the mood.

Ambient sound is noticeably improved upon from Odyssey, with directional sound a lot more distinct and clearer. I could often hear what direction a guard shouted at me from, even without looking at the UI which is pretty impressive. Towns now appropriately bustle, with
chatter amongst locals, and feel a lot more alive this time around. As a pluviophile, I love that the renowned English rain makes a frequent appearance, and the soothing sound even has differing tones depending on what it hits. I was so impressed by how, when standing underneath a cloth stall you can hear the soft patter as you hear upon an umbrella, whilst when you are in a building you can still hear the muted clatter above you. It is little details like that which add up to some remarkable immersion, and the sound team at Ubisoft have my sincere appreciation.

On a game of this size, you tend to see a lot of voice actor reuse. Skyrim noticeably was mocked for how often you hear the same actor over and over on different NPCs. Whilst there is some of that still prevalent here, it was far less frequent than I can recall from any other open world game of this size, so praise should be warranted for that. I would say that we could probably have done without the American accented children that occasionally appeared though, as that certainly can pull one out of immersion. The main cast were consistently great though, and as I played on the default setting my Eivor's voice was the female variant of Cecilie Stenspil. It took a while to get used to her delivery which felt a little off in places initially, but I soon grew to like her voice and actually thought it suited the character quite well. She certainly pulled off the shouting scenes with aplomb. My exposure to Magnus Bruun was primarily from his Havi / Old Odin performance, and I felt he delivered a suitably measured tone befitting of a god of that power and renown.

The Mixed Opinions


As a fan since the original game, I've always been used to the legacy control scheme, so I was a bit disturbed to realise that it finally was removed for this release. It took me a while to adjust to the new layout, and this was actually my first time playing on PC with an Xbox controller, but eventually it started to click. With all that familiarisation aside though, there is a pretty distinct sluggishness to the controls compared to Odyssey. You see this in almost everything; combat, parkour, climbing/descending – it all feels heavier and stiffer. One could argue this would be more befitting of a Viking in hefty fur clothing and the like, but for the player it is a little jarring. Some of this is also down to individual situations. For example, some of the initial weaponry you start out with are considerably slow. Once you switch to a Seax, and start acquiring more speed via runes and skills, it does improve. I also found a faster way down mountains by hitting the heavy attack whilst falling, giving you a suitable superhero landing. This originally gave no fall damage, but was patched shortly after launch.

Combat itself is a bit of a mixed bag for me though. On the one hand, I appreciate that the team has tried to mix it up with a stamina system, but in practice I was left frustrated that the mechanic left me unable to dodge unblockable attacks when I seemingly needed to the most. As your stats increase this seems to become less of an issue, but some of the world bosses in the early areas are just brutal and chronically out of kilter with the power level of the area. Why are the Daughters of Lerion in a power level 50 area when one is over level 300? It is a bit strange.

Fortunately the variety in enemies is noticeably improved from previous games, and we have more capability to deal with shield enemies this time which is very welcome and a previous bane resolved. It is a shame though that we have done away with the standard HP recovery system, as the ration system does feel like an unnecessary chore that you need to constantly loot for. I found the same with arrows, which I was constantly running out of. There is simply not enough of them around in the open world, and losing the ability to craft them
on the fly as we could do in Odyssey is a shame for those players that like to focus on the ranger play-style.

By the latter half of the game, the limitations of the combat system really start to play out. Dual wielding Seaxs makes everything really easy due to their sheer speed, and most enemies in my playthrough could be dropped with a single heavy strike mainly due to the fact that I reached maximum power level (400) about three zones prior to the end of the game. By far my biggest issue with the system though is the mid-combat executions. Is it really necessary for me to have to sit through the 8 second long cutscene of me strangling the big goliath guy? I mean... they are fun the first few times but after like the 20th time you start to get sick of seeing them, and if anything it just feels strange pulling control from the player for seconds at a time, whilst the other guards just stand there and do nothing. It is an area that I will always hold Assassin's Creed Brotherhood high on a pedestal for. That game allowed to you weave executions in to fights on the fly, without the need for zooming in the camera, without the need for slow motioning the action - it left the player to do everything in real time and keep their deadly dance with the enemy flowing throughout. We've lost that somewhere along the way, which is frustrating as with some minor changes I do think the Valhalla combat system could be the definitive version we are so close to.


Source: LeoKRogue

As I have already commented on the historical part to the story, we always like to provide some commentary on the Modern Day aspect. Yes, many fans love it, especially the ones who have been here from the start. Other fans do not. We all know this, and it is why we have to get used to it being minimal for each release. With that being said, I do think it wasn't really spread out quite enough here. You essentially had Layla emerge once you leave Norway, and the only other time she gets out the Animus herself is when she heads to Norway to her death, and that was sadly all we saw of her. It's a shame, as I genuinely believed this was going to be her chance to actually play as a true Assassin, but in the end she did next to nothing action wise again. However, the writers did a sound job displaying her remorse over her actions in Atlantis, and I did feel a little sorry for her over the Staff's corruption that ultimately plagued her actions. Ultimately, she was manipulated as a pawn in Isu chess exactly the same way as Desmond, but she met a noble end at least, and we can at least be thankful that she got to say her proper goodbye unlike in the case for Mr Miles in AC3. On the plus side, it was a beautiful nostalgic touch to bring back Shaun and Rebecca, something many long term fans certainly appreciated. It will certainly be interesting to see how Basim fits into his new role as (we assume) our new ongoing Modern Day protagonist, but more on that later in the analysis.

Special mention should definitely be made of the Animus Anomalies. I really loved these, and whomever came up with this concept struck a genius chord. As optional content, it satisfies both sets of fans, which is a very smart move. The music, the Isu mystery slant, the parkour puzzling – it is all reminiscent of what we missed and loved about the Modern Day in the original games, and I for one would love this style of content to continue into future releases.


The switch from a traditional levelling system for Valhalla was certainly interesting. I can say that I definitely prefer getting away from seeing enemy level numbers above their heads. As the zones are still segregated by power level, you still have a small amount of freedom in choosing which area to attend to next, but it also allows the writers to still guide the narrative in a collective direction. Personally, I think this experiment has worked well.

Rewarding skill points from exploration is also a sound idea. However, I'm not sure the Skills tree really fulfils its purpose correctly. It is certainly not ideal to hide most of the abilities from players to begin with, so you do not know where your skill investment will take you. Furthermore, if a player likes to focus their skills on a specific area, such as a ranger, then you can do that initially. However, if you look at the individual trees they are littered with stat increases for just about every area, and by the time you have hit max level you have taken everything in all trees. So what was the purpose to it all really, beyond an arbitrary stat increase? I feel players would possibly like to see true personalisation of style. In example, if we extend this discussion to the Abilities themselves, why not allow a Bear (melee) focused player the ability to map eight melee abilities rather than forcing four ranged ones upon them? Conversely the same for rangers, whom might prefer to have eight ranged abilities. There is certainly work to be done here, as to my mind this skill tree feels a bit weak overall in terms of allowing a player to add any personalised distinction to their character.

In terms of accessibility options, Ubisoft really outdid themselves here. There are lots of difficulty sliders, even down to allowing quick time events to be a toggle, as well as good options for those with physical conditions such as colour blindness and narrated menus. I know a lot of players like to have the map and UI completely blank for the maximum exploration experience, as opposed to someone like myself who likes to see all the map indicators and be told where to go. Catering to a wide breadth of your player base is simply good business sense, and I can only applaud them for their progress in this area.

I've always enjoyed base building in Assassin's Creed, and seeing it return here is a lovely addition. The settlement grows in both size and character, and being able to tailor and decorate the area with specific themes is a nice touch as well. After exploring for several hours it always feels like a home to return to, and capturing that aspect is endearing. I would say though that the shops throughout the game could definitely use a “buy all” option for resources. Your life passes by waiting to purchase 200 ore.

The Jomsviking system is another new addition, but feels like a complete let-down to me. I was excited at the advertised mentions that we could customise our own Viking and share it with friends, but the reality is pretty underwhelming when the presets are so few, and indeed that you don't actually have the option of seeing your friends’ attempts as it seems to purely provide you with one from a completely random other player each time. I'm not sure what the team was hoping to achieve with this system exactly, but it definitely needs a rethink.

The Order of the Ancients system offers us 45 targets for elimination. Compared to Origins and Odyssey, I do think we are getting a bit too many targets now. I'm not sure we really need a short death cutscene each time either, as our association with these characters are traditionally nothing much beyond a hidden blade stabbing. At least in Origins we had a bit more of an association and interaction with the various targets, but this time around, for the targets that are not part of the main story arcs, it feels very impersonal and more of a checklist honestly.

In terms of customization, we again have a bit of a mixed offering. To start with, let me say that I LOVE the hood toggle. Special thanks to whomever fixed the ability for it to appear in conversations this time around as well. I personally think Eivor looks amazing with the little cloak cape, though I understand why some players want to have just the hood alone due to the cape slowing your movement. But I really, really, wish that the hood would stay up more. Why does it have to come down whenever you enter combat, when you swim, or for certain cutscenes? It needs to be a toggle... period, leave it to the player to raise or lower it as and when they desire.
It also needs to be added as a hold modifier to the controller layout, at least considering the amount of times I had to put it back up during my own playthrough.

Outfits in general are severely lacking. It is like we have gone from one extreme in Odyssey of having too much loot and gear, to now having barely any. It is really odd, and a touch disappointing that we mostly have bulky fur items, and not many cloth orientated ones that would be more akin to our traditional assassin style garbs. I really do miss the visual customization tool (or transmog as fans call it) from Odyssey, as we could pick and choose what we wanted to apply over any slot. Although it may be patched in later, it is disappointing not to have it useable at launch for those of us that have since finished the game. It is even more galling with the existing system when you like the initial colouration of a set, and then when you enhance it, it changes colour – quite often to something worse in my humble opinion, as nearly every set ends up covered in gold! Nothing like hiding in plain sight dressed like a Queen. I really loved the Vinland outfit, but we do not appear to be able to wear that outside the area which was pretty sad for me as well. I was really hoping for a true Isu armor set as we had in the last two games but alas. Finally, I should make special mention that I think the tattoo system is a welcome new addition. However, when you are in your full attire you can't even see them so most of them are a bit of a waste of time. Unless you like to play your character a little bit naked... (I'm not judging!)

The dialogue choice system returns from Odyssey, but with a few small changes. For one, you actually have a charisma score which you can increase from flyting, and can use this to open up extra dialogue options to get you out of resorting to violence in some encounters. I will say that some of the dialogue options at times feel like three different ways to say the exact same thing - if that makes sense, which may be a bit more of a conscious choice by the writers to guide the storytelling and indeed proves how all the choices belong to Eivor’s specific personality spectrum as mentioned during the marketing campaign, but at the same time it does feel like that your choices have a lot less impact than last time out. This is especially felt in the romances, which are really bare bones. In the example of Randvi, you go on the initial date, and then are left with a generic kiss and bed dialogue option, neither of which change, and there are no further quests or proper development of the relationship with Eivor. It is disappointing, and when compared to the romances in the likes of Bioware games where there are usually numerous interactions with lovers, it is definitely an area that could use improvement next time around.

Nitpicks of Negativity


Source: LeoKRogue

On paper, this should have been one of the most enjoyable stealth revisions to the franchise that we've ever had. After all, we have the return of social stealth, blending, and the notoriety system back. However, the reality is that for the most part those mechanics were barely used. From memory I can only recall one such tailing mission that actually appropriately used them within the main narrative through the whole game.

The biggest issue though is the detection speed. It is far too harsh. In some hostile areas, if you even go an inch around a corner to a guard's field of view - you are instantly detected, often times by a guard who is miles away. Furthermore, even if you do manage to perhaps get an arrow off, their death sound usually attracts other guards. It is the same case with general assassinations as well, especially the axe chain assassination which seems to attract everyone too in my testing. Like many fans I have played every game, and I don't recall struggling this much since Unity's brutal mechanics. I would say less than half of my attempts at “stealthing” an area ended in success. I am not the most skilled of players I will freely admit, but it should not be this difficult – even on the easiest stealth difficulty. As a consequence, my main interactions with the notoriety system usually occurred whilst I was on horseback, and exploring. Often times I would ride into a town, and before I even noted the distrust marker I ended up triggering a bunch of guards, and either having to ride all the way back out or get stuck into a needless battle. From that perspective, you could even argue that the stealth system actively slows down your exploration.

What truly frustrates me though is that even when you try to play in the true stealth manner, it often takes you far longer for little reward. Guards are often placed covering all entrance points, and most of our distraction abilities are pretty lacking, or reliant on
The mini game for the hidden blade kill
adrenaline that you might not have at that moment. When I whistle, I want the guard to come immediately, not stand there rooted looking in all directions by my fifth whistle. Even compared to Odyssey, the Hidden Blade kill animations are much slower here, and even worse when you have active possible chain assassinations as the whole game zooms in and goes into slow motion, both making it difficult to see your next target for a few seconds and slowing you down yet further. Inevitably, after a good few minutes of being ultra careful you end up triggering a guard, and then forced into a fight that you usually can end in a matter of seconds. That is the real kicker really, when you realise that you can just swoop into an area, kill all guards in melee, grab all the loot and be on your way in likely half the time it takes you to stealth the same area. When stealth is this inefficient and cumbersome to your progress, it defies the purpose to it. For the next game, I truly hope we look at speeding this process up, even down to a swifter way of disposing with bodies. Watch Dogs Legion actually has a mechanic that lets you instantly camouflage enemies upon takedown, and I'd certainly love to see an Assassin's Creed style take on this.

On a more positive note, I am pleased to see that we have a guaranteed hidden blade kill option, which helps return us closer to what the assassin fantasy should be. If a player manages to navigate this stealth system correctly, with this amount of time investment, then the least we should have is a clean kill as reward.


If there is one area that Valhalla seems to have fallen down universally according to critics and fans, it is on the technical side. I've heard from multiple friends, and witnessed comments throughout the community confirming the same. Simply put, this game was not ready for release. Ubisoft are fortunate that the story is so good, as if it had not been the backlash here would have been “Unity level” I am quite sure.

For me personally, it took me around 142 hours to clear all the maps and quests, though a lot of that was probably me being AFK whist working at home. In that playtime though I suffered 8 game crashes, which seemed to be mostly at random but a few were while synchronizing viewpoints. I suffered other frequent bugs throughout too; lost sound of footsteps, invincible NPCs, fell through the map, looping battle music which never stops, a sliding sound repeating, the controller stuck vibrating, audio tear up, screen tearing, and a really common one – constantly dropping in and out of combat with the white notoriety glow on Eivor constantly flashing over me. I had to reload in several points when I got stuck in surroundings, such as a tree that Eivor dropped inside of, or a building I dodge rolled into but could not get out of. The worst offender was when I finished a main story mission, and the next one did not pop up. It took me awhile to realise that it wasn't my mistake, and when I reloaded a save nearly an hour beforehand and replayed the mission, thankfully the next one popped fine.

Still, I had it fairly lucky. Most of my issues were resolved by reloads. Other players had their saves corrupted, progression lost, the cloud saves reverting etc. All very messy. The situation was not helped by the decision to launch the new cross platform Ubisoft Connect around the same time, as I ran into issues with that, with several challenges not registering as complete. Valhalla also had no achievements available on PC, despite the equivalent trophies being out there for Xbox and PlayStation players, though those too are reportedly not registering correctly either.

That all being said, it cannot have been easy for the developers to try and complete this game amidst a global pandemic. This game is huge, and their ambitions here were probably contributing to the sheer number of bug fixes they likely had to contend with. I completely sympathise and appreciate their efforts, and to an outside viewpoint I can imagine the usual QA cycle was severely impeded by people working from home etc. I am sure many fans are appreciative to have something to play during these consistent COVID lockdowns, and indeed many Ubisoft employees have their jobs tied to the releases and successes of products. With Watch Dogs Legion in a very similar broken state, it pains me to see Ubisoft still releasing games in an unfinished state though. Outside of a pandemic, these releases would and should have been criticised for launching in this manner, especially when rival studios continued to delay their products.


Speaking of corporate decisions. The development of Valhalla was directly impacted throughout 2020, where revelations and allegations of long term sexism and abuse culture appeared to pour out of Ubisoft in headline after headline. Like many fans, a lot of the people involved were developers we looked up to, and it was a sad state of affairs to see even Valhalla's Creative Director being removed from the project.

The apparent slant towards main line games having mostly male protagonists has been noted for years, with the few times females have lead a game consigned to handheld or side game releases. From a personal standpoint, it is something I was pretty aggrieved about for a long time and expressed my distaste over the official forums at the way that our first main line female protagonist Evie Frye was given far less content within Syndicate for one example. I was pleased to see gender choice return for Odyssey, and indeed for Valhalla, as that actually meant I could play as a female, but it does still beg the question of why we still need a male present upon all advertising. Neither female was shown on either official game cover for the last two releases, as they were both confined to the reversible version, which is even more troubling when you consider that the male protagonists were both not canonical. But more on that in the final analysis.

It is really frustrating to observe the marketing each release as well. Take the initial announcement. We have a main cinematic with male Eivor, we knew who he was and who was playing him. Yet Female Eivor had no official imagery, and the actress’ name was merely confirmed over Twitter. Eventually an image of a figurine was all the actress had to post to confirm who she was playing, which is just so shameful. This male bias slant and many other related issues eventually lead to a social media initiative of fans using the #ACSisterhood hashtag, showing both support for the victims of Ubisoft's internal sexism, as well as questioning the methodology and marketing decisions of the games themselves towards their depiction of females. With many of the franchise developers and actors supporting this movement in apparent defiance to upper management's decision making, it was quite heart warming to see the initiative strongly embraced by the majority of the fan community. There is even a Sisterhood tattoo in the game based on the design made by a certain talented friend of ours, as well as a series of Hidden Ones text files which pay tribute to the cause. May this all lead to better creative choices going forwards. Or you know... that Shao Jun main RPG China game we all keep asking for. After all, female characters certainly can head up critical top sellers, with the most obvious and appropriate example being Aloy and the rival open world franchise Horizon Zero Dawn.

On top of all that drama, we had a long derided marketing campaign using the #LikeAViking hashtag, which many Assassin's Creed fans absolutely loathed, and was further pointed to as evidence that the franchise is no longer catering to its original roots. This is a two-fold disappointment in that by focusing on the Viking aspect, the game has apparently sold very well from this, and secondly that the game does have a pretty impactful amount of core Assassin's Creed elements within it. I just wish Ubisoft would not keep shying away from showcasing the elements that older fans enjoy too, as many walked away from the RPG model and don't realise what they are missing out on.

Finally, I always make my usual micro-transactions complaints, so here they are again. As always, the cosmetic items look better than just about anything in the main game. As always they are inappropriately overpriced. (£16 for a cosmetic set, I mean really...) As always, the completionists have been skimmed again on maps, this time with artifacts. It cannot have escaped the notice of most players that whilst wealth and mystery locations get populated to your map by viewpoints, artifacts do not. In fact, they have a much smaller detection radius, and even though I managed to explore and completely “unfog” the map, I was still missing a good twenty or so artifacts by the end. This either meant painstakingly following online maps and checking EVERY location again, or taking the quicker route and purchasing the map unlock. Which I did, but I really dislike this dishonest design practice.

Conclusions & Analysis

So what conclusions can we draw from the story this time? Well to start us off, to my mind female Eivor is technically the only true canon gender. I say this for a number of reasons. For starters, Eivor is a female name, as pointed out by just about every fan. It is also pretty clear she is a form of Sage, which means her DNA has a partial triple helix portion of Odin's Isu genetic makeup. As such, when we refer to the memory streams within the Animus, the male stream is nothing more than the genetic memory of Odin's appearance as a young man. There never was a male Eivor, at any point. This is further backed up by both the tie-in novel and comic both featuring a female Eivor, and indeed a text file confirming her surname as Varinsdottir – which roughly translates to “Varin's Daughter”. Even if you play as male Eivor, several NPCs still refer to you as a she in dialogue, though this might admittedly be scripting errors. Finally, there is a further scene at the end of the game, once you have completed the various endings. After Basim leaves the Animus, he experiences a bleeding effect by the campfire and witnesses a vision of female Eivor in Odin's robes - regardless of what gender you played them as.

I really loved how we saw so much of the Isu back story. Asgard and Jotunheim were represented as a mythological interpretation of events (in a similar fashion to how the Quebec studio handled Atlantis in Odyssey), as indeed they were no doubt shaped by how Eivor's mind had heard the stories through myth and legend. But in the end, we saw so much play out, even down to noting that the Asgardian Isu (which I will moniker Aesir too) were a distinct different caste to our more classical Roman Isu which were commonly titled the illuminat – or at least Juno and Aita certainly coined this term. These may well be the two factions that fought the so-called “War of Unification” amongst the Isu that was cited in previous games, as we know that Eden and Atlantis were at odds in the past at one point as well. We certainly see the division between the castes here constantly, and it may be another reason why Loki and his lover Angrboda (or as we previously knew her – Aletheia) are both treated with such disdain by Odin as they come from the “illuminat” caste, which I interpret to be depicted as Jotunn throughout. With the Nornir representing an allegory for the Isu future calculations, we also got to see the seven solutions to the Toba Catastrophe (or Ragnarok) fully laid out for us in explicit detail here as well:

  • Four towers built to absorb the sun's energy. (We see a similar tower built by The Builder in the storyline, but it too is never completed.)
  • The creation of ring force fields (such as the Shards of Eden) by the Isu identifying as Idunn.
  • The creation of the Apples of Eden to control the world, again by Idunn.
  • The divination. An attempt to send messages through time. This is herein described as a failed use of the Triskele which represents the spirit, physical and cosmic – or in other words an attempt to read the “code” or – seidr, the first language of the nine realms.
  • The construction of armoured suits.
  • The attempt to transfer consciousness to an artificial vessel.
  • Digital immortality to the Yggdrasil device simulation.

All their solutions failed, save for the last. There is lots of symbology that is mixed together here, such as Odin sacrificing his eye to gain foresight and knowledge, which is ironically the same name as the device used by Minerva (here Gunlodr) and Juno to make calculations of fate into the future. I personally think this is also representing the partial gift of knowledge to humanity, the blue shimmer, eagle vision, the ability to read the code – true Odin Sight. I would also argue that the Mead that Odin steals from Jupiter (here Suttungr) to perfect the serum is most likely from the work of Consus, and explains how both he and Juno (here Hyrrokin) obtain the means of this independently. In my interpretation the serum allows the soul or consciousness of the Isu to be transferred or copied into the device, and for the entity to re-emerge in the future their blood is transferred into the well of Mimir – or more literally in this case the bloodline of humanity. We see that this serum is denied from both Loki and Aletheia, the latter of which is dying prematurely. In her case, her mind is rescued by being uploaded into the Staff of Hermes. In a scheme that would reach over 75,000 years, Loki realises that if he can obtain the serum then he too can reincarnate in the future to save his family, which he eventually does as Basim. Tracking down Odin (as Eivor), he suffers a setback and becomes trapped in the Yggdrasil simulation. However, from there he realises that he can witness the world outside, and eventually with the help of calculations is able to manipulate Layla into bringing the staff to Norway, and from there he is able to resurrect Basim's diminished form and be reunited with his digitised love.

This version of Sage Imprints is a different body of research work to that which Juno worked upon with Aita. For example, we do not know how frequently these Sages are reborn. Some of the text files suggest that it might be a single one off reincarnation, or it could be a repeated recurrence down humanity's bloodline. It might even be specific objects that trigger the dormant Isu genetic memory to initiate. We see this in Eivor's case whereby her full on Odin visions evidently only start once she picks up Varin's axe, and end once she removes it from her person in the Valhalla simulation. If Eivor's bloodline carried Odin's DNA throughout, perhaps that axe also contains a digital version of Odin, but that is highly speculative. Odin of course wants her to remain in the simulation, as it allows his digital copy stored there to slowly take control of her body, which is depicted as the battle between them, which he of course loses - for the moment at least. In the end, besides Eivor, all we do know of these Sages is that Basim was Loki, Sigurd was evidently Tyr, Svala was Freyja, and I would suggest Halfdan Ragnarsson certainly appears to be gradually losing his mind to the Thor entity. It is also theorised that Faravid is the reincarnation of Sif, the wife of Thor, which would go some way to explain the bickering going on between him and Halfdan. In the Animus Anomalies cinematic we only saw three human foetuses above the table, so whether multiple Isu could be within the same person is yet another question again that we do not have the answer to as yet. We are also not entirely certain on the identities of the four remaining Isu that took the serum, though I would guess two of them are Heimdall and Idunn, even though the former evidently died after the process to Loki's blade. Certainly it appears that the reincarnations themselves are usually represented by a mark upon their necks, so this may be our clue to look out for going forwards.

Another huge lore confirmation, was one of the oldest mysteries of Assassin's Creed, namely that of the identity of the Father of Understanding. This was revealed to be a title held by the Isu Jupiter during his time, and subsequently became used as the title of the local leaders within the Order Of The Ancients, before it was finally later changed by a reinvention by their leader during the Dark Ages in England - King Alfred of Wessex. By his decree, and as revealed by a text file, the new Order would no longer revere the Isu and would instead be ordained by Christianity first, and as such the “Father of Understanding” would only be known simply as “god above” from that point. Herein is how the Templar Order gained their motif through to the Modern Day. An interesting, but welcome revelation to the lore, and also confirms that Aspasia's reference to a Philosopher King in Odyssey was referring to none other than King Alfred.

Going back to Basim and the Modern Day, what happens now for our new shock protagonist? Well, he has already openly stated that he seeks to reunite his family, and look for his three children - for those unaware these are Fenrir, Jormungandr, and Hel – the fates of which we do not currently know. Fenrir was certainly portrayed as something monstrous, which makes me suspect that he may have been some kind of hybrid, or it was literally a personification of Odin's fear of his predestined fate. We note that Basim immediately wants to seek out the Templars, to which I can see two connections that he might be looking for. One, is Project Phoenix. Although the majority of the research was lost in the Australian Abstergo facility when it was destroyed in 2018, there is no doubt that some data still lingers on Abstergo servers, and it is that which Basim will seek to obtain in planning to create a new body for Aletheia in the same fashion as was created for Juno. Furthermore, we understand Abstergo is still sitting upon several blood vials from the Isu era. It is entirely possible that Loki's children are among them too, and the Staff may well be able to regenerate their bodies as well.

How will Basim react to William Miles though? Is his intent entirely benevolent? Does he intend to kill and replace him triggering another great purge of the Assassins? It is hard to say, as in the themes of the Isu story at least, Loki was clearly not the villain but more of an anti-hero, with the true villain honour really down to Odin. Certainly both Loki and Aletheia came across as human sympathisers within their dialogue of Valhalla. We're also not really sure how much control Loki has of Basim's body. Certainly when you look back at Basim's earlier scenes in the game, such as his retelling of losing his son to Eivor, you do wonder how much of that was Loki all along. Still, I am sure we will find out his true intentions soon enough, and knowing Isu as we do I would suspect it will not ultimately end well for the Brotherhood or humanity in general.

It cannot have escaped most people's attention though that Loki and Aletheia are a very similar mirror to the story of Aita and Juno. I'll confess, as a huge fan of the latter, it saddens me a little to think that we were once told that Juno wasn’t going to be featured in games anymore because new fans wouldn't understand who she was, and yet here we have a character with a handful of scenes suddenly taking over as our protagonist. But I digress. Let us not forget that Aita is still technically out there, and will continue to appear throughout the rest of humanity. At this point, we still have one of his Sages active in the form of Desmond's son, Elijah, who the last time we saw him fled away from society with a very powerful Isu artifact – the Koh-I-Noor. Who is to say that Aita might fully take over the young man, and return to his attempts to revive Juno? Perhaps she too is amongst the blood vials, or for all we know, as a final gambit perhaps Juno may well have taken the serum as well. I can imagine that whilst most of the Instruments of the First Will have been wiped out, some likely remain. Perhaps it will herald a rebirth of the Order of the Ancients, and we could well have a new battle amongst the Sages within the Modern Day? Sages certainly proffer a unique solution to Ubisoft on how to maintain the gender select option going forward, when you can have two souls in one DNA source.

But what of Layla? Alas our poor corrupted Heir of Memories fulfilled her predestined work for the Isu, and evidently perished whilst connected to the Yggdrasil device. In doing so, she uploaded her consciousness to there, where she came across an entity known as The
Source: LeoKRogue
Reader, who was apparently a newly awakened Desmond Miles residing in the Grey. This was suggested to us by Juno back in Unity, and follows on from some of our previous theories that the Nexus and the Grey are connected, as we see calculations being conducted within both. This also ties in to why Eivor describes the dark background of her assassination speeches as being within “Helheim”, as the Grey is considered thematically to be a form of digital afterlife. It also explains why she only sees Odin in that realm as well, with him being stuck in the Yggdrasil device and partially within Eivor's DNA.

From within the Grey, Layla and Desmond now read the calculations by looking at how everything plays out, trying to find a solution to ending the third such catastrophic loop of the node repeating and the world ending. I find it curious that Layla immediately thinks of a different solution, which suggests that she perhaps perceives differently to others, something that was suggested in the Empirical Truth back in Origins. Those Isu messages also suggested that her Animus was to be “different”, and could change the past, but I would now suggest that purely is an explanation at allowing dialogue choice rather than actually changing events as it were. It's interesting then that we have Shaun telling us in Valhalla that his research seemed to tally up with Desmond and 2012 being a kind of singularity event, and Layla immediately is drawn to that exact event within the calculations, offering another branch of thought. What pray tell would have happened if Desmond had not touched the pedestal? Juno would still be trapped, the world would have been thrashed by fire, yet some humanity would survive. It is an entirely different timeline of events, and would be fascinating to glimpse this even if we know it is just within a simulation.

This greatly reminds me of an interview from 2015 with former writer Jeffrey Yohalem:
"Originally there were some discussions about AC3 being in a parallel universe, where it just seems that it's in our universe and then it ends turning out that it's in a different universe. My point is just that you think that you've entered some dead end, and often times when you think that you've entered a dead end, that's the best place to be at for writers - because then you create some incredibly inventive, highly energetic solution to that problem and it re-energises something."

This also tallies up with an interview with past creator Patrice Désilets where he stated that the original vision was for Desmond and Lucy to end up on a futuristic spaceship at the end of 2012 and timetravelling back to different periods from there to understand and better humanity for the future. Switch Lucy for Layla, and this now sounds awfully familiar to what they could be doing whilst performing calculations, or certainly inspired by the original planned conclusion to the franchise. If the “Readers” become our narrative framing mechanism, they could even go back and revisit previous settings and how they may have played out differently. It might be a stretch, but if you wanted to see a remake of AC1 with Altair using the new RPG model and dialogue options, they have an open creative licence here to do so completely within existing lore. (Someone say AC Persia?) Whilst I do not think they will go down the parallel dimension route any time soon, these simulations certainly offer some fascinating narrative potential. Sticking with our established timeline though, the two Readers are now fulfilling Norse lore and by surviving inside Yggdrasil they are our version of Líf and Lífþrasir, and if events follow on it will fall to them to potentially restart humanity with a new Ask and Embla or as we know them – Adam and Eve. If Ubisoft really wanted to have fun with these calculations, we could even get glimpses into potential futures, for us nerds who always wondered what the Assassin / Templar war would look like in a cyberpunk dark near-future. Perhaps not for a full game, but it would certainly make for an interesting part of side content.

So what next? Well, in the short term we have the upcoming DLC expansions next, therefore I wouldn't want to make a prediction at the next game setting just yet. However, the base Valhalla game does offer us some hints as to what we can expect within the Ireland expansion. For starters, there are several cursed objects littered throughout the maps that seem to tie in to Pagan druid rituals. It cannot escape one's notice that the first expansion is in fact called “Wrath of the Druids”, and they are apparently terming themselves the Children of Danu. For reference, Danu was a motherly Irish goddess, known to be a member of a god race called the Tuatha Dé Danann, which sound exactly like the Isu. However, I feel that with the dark elements present there may well be a different entity perhaps masquerading as Danu. You will note that most of the cursed sites tend to have fog as well a flock of crows and ravens surrounding them, and these are traditionally symbolism associated with the Irish goddess of war and death – Morrigan. Indeed, we actually have a text file in the Excalibur vault that has a direct quote from her as an Isu, and separately to that there is also an Isu shield in game titled “The Morrigan's Guard”. In short, I suspect Eivor may well be coming up against this goddess in Ireland, whom might actually be a Sage as well. With the connections to death and the Irish Otherworld, it sounds thematically very similar to Helheim. As such, it is also vaguely possible that Morrigan might be a new title given to Hel, which might in turn explain why Basim is keen to review Eivor's time in Ireland to try and locate his daughter. Finally, there is also the mention of Lug the Polymath, another Irish Isu whom was traditionally portrayed as having a triple face, so that could certainly be an interesting meeting.

Beyond that, we also know that Eivor will travel to France, and eventually will meet her end in burial in America. Perhaps she will return to Vinland to be a protector to the Grand Temple, whose sealed entrance makes a cameo at the north west of the map in-game. Could she or Odin still yet be resurrected in the Modern Day? Time will tell.


In closing then, Valhalla brought us the strongest story content in a long time, and I am pleased to say that it achieved this by focusing on the three tiers that make up the franchise – the Isu, the history, and the Modern Day. I sincerely hope that Ubisoft can continue this focus for future games (perhaps let Darby oversee them all), as it provides us such strong and unique storytelling which has by all rights been truly well received by the media, and across the fan base both old and new. The Ubisoft teams need to build on this, and not drop this remarkable new storyline into a comic as they have been guilty of in the past. The next game absolutely needs to do its own thing, but carrying on the narrative path laid out here I feel is crucial to maintaining faith within the Assassin's Creed community. We've had our fun exploring the origins of the Brotherhood, but I feel our next protagonist now needs to be a true Assassin. If the game had some kind of multiplayer option like the games of old, I would perhaps place Valhalla higher on the “all time” list, especially when it used to be a staple of the franchise that has been oddly absent for several years now. Let us hope the new generation of consoles brings a return to this aspect, especially when rival IPs like Ghost Of Tsushima have put out some well received multiplayer content. Equally, I would offer more praise for Valhalla if there were not so many technical issues present. With some small adjustments to the issues with combat and stealth though, I strongly suspect the next game will be a further step forwards. But with all that said I still enjoyed Valhalla very much as the story left me wanting more. And there is no better mark of approval than that.

I award Valhalla a score of 8.3 out of 10.

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