New console game is ‘utterly insufferable’: Review
No game has triggered my virtual blood lust quite like Assassin's Creed: Valhalla. I'm not ashamed to admit it.
We were assured earlier in the year that this game "won't be the longest or biggest game in the series. They addressed criticism on that one," said Malek Teffaha, Ubisoft's Head of Communications, in a since-deleted tweet.
He was referring to Valhalla's predecessor Assassin's Creed: Odyssey, set in Ancient Greece. This was a pretty great game made exceptionally tedious by a storyline that dragged on for way too long, interrupted by pointless side quests, and world map way too large for its lack of variety to be interesting after 50 hours of gameplay.
It doesn't seem like Ubisoft heeded this criticism either, making Valhalla larger and longer than Odyssey. As one of my favourite YouTubers Skill Up observed: "[Valhalla] is a completely fine game that becomes utterly insufferable owing to its length." Oh dear.
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If you're familiar with Norse mythology and Viking history (and all who have seen a Thor movie should be able to claim a little bit of knowledge), you'll know that mythical legends and epic sagas are all part and parcel of the culture. But this world feels soulless at times, and not a fair homage to what could have been a rich narrative experience.
Before jumping in for the first time, you're asked to review the game's settings, including whether to permit "sensitive" content. Assassination sequence? Er, isn't that literally the name of the game? Blood FX? Yes please. Dismemberment? Ooh baby.
Honestly, who would go into a story about the Viking invasion of 9th century England expecting a PG-rated experience? Let the pillaging and conquering begin.
Fittingly perhaps, stealth does not play a huge role in this latest instalment of Assassin's Creed. While other titles in the franchise encouraged and often rewarded the scoping out of locations, scaling buildings to strategically eliminate enemies one by one (as you'd expect an assassin to do), Valhalla is more of a kick-down-the-front-door, blood splattering, limbs flying approach.
This sort of hack-and-slash style gameplay has pleased most gamers, but others feel dissatisfied with the lack of skill required in battle. I feel it sits somewhere in the middle.
Dodging and parrying are a tad more useful than they were in previous iterations, and I suspect this is because Nordic weapons and armour were much heavier, which obviously would have affected a warrior's agility in battle.
You can certainly feel the weight and brute force of a two-handed war hammer as it obliterates an opponent's skull. What fun. But unfortunately, the fun depletes pretty quickly as repetitive missions set in and the narrative fizzles.
The vast landscapes of Norway and England are really beautiful, but after about 20 hours I'm still having a lot of trouble caring about these hollow characters. Admittedly, I still have a lot of game to get through (completion of the main story clocks in at 55+ hours) but the feedback from other reviewers whose opinions I trust don't fill me with confidence. I'm going to curb-stomp more Saxons, but my heart won't be in it.
Assassin's Creed: Valhalla is out now on PC, PlayStation 4 (and will be compatible with the PS5 upon release), Xbox Series X and S, Xbox One, and Google Stadia.
Originally published as 'Utterly insufferable': New game slammed