back to article Assassin's Creed Valhalla is a monastery-burning romp that would be way better if it was not an Assassin's Creed game

Greetings, traveller, and welcome back to The Register Plays Games, our monthly gaming column. We've continued to put the Xbox Series S through its paces [read: played it a lot] with one of the titles available on the console from launch on 10 November, Assassin's Creed Valhalla. Where are we now with Assassin's Creed? VIII? …

  1. Andy Non Silver badge
    Happy

    I found the previous two games

    Origins and Odyssey very good and kept me amused for a very, very long time. The wife complained of becoming a console widow. But based upon experience with a number of bugs in those two games, one serious and required a complete restart of the game, I'm going to wait for others to stumble on the faults and they will hopefully be fixed before I buy the game. It is like the ancient days of DOS and Windows releases, never install a point 0 release, wait at least until the point 1 version comes out.

    I just hope there isn't too much sea fighting in Valhalla. I didn't enjoy those parts very much in the previous two games. My fingers are getting a bit arthritic now too, so I'll probably have to play it on the 'story' difficulty level. I couldn't kill any of the bosses in Odyssey, my fingers seized up before I could drop them.

    1. Excellentsword (Written by Reg staff)

      Re: I found the previous two games

      No sea fighting, the longship is just a transport method and to raid on-shore settlements with your fellow Vikings as far as I can tell. If you liked those two, I imagine you'll get just as much out of this.

      1. Andy Non Silver badge

        Re: I found the previous two games

        Excellent, thank you. I know what I want for my birthday now... towards the end of next year. ;-)

  2. MJI Silver badge

    I enjoyed the first 4

    But AC3 was dull to play.

    But my favourite is still 1.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: I enjoyed the first 4

      ... And? 3 was years and years ago. The series has changed a ton since.

      This is AssCreed 32 or something (this is a joke but by less than you think..)

      1. MJI Silver badge

        Re: I enjoyed the first 4

        Ezio and Altair were fun, my sons did the sea one, none of us went any newer.

        That generation there were so many fun games to play we were spoilt.

        Another unpopular opinion. I liked Farcry 2

        2 was great, 3 I disliked the character, 4 was fun.

    2. overunder Silver badge

      Re: I enjoyed the first 4

      I agree with the editor on all but AC2.

      I played the first 5 (or 6?) and AC2 was the best as it fixed/added the fun 1 was missing (one felt boring and empty), but then 3,4,5 were rinse and repeat without all the allure of first experiencing Victorian Italy (properly). I think 3 was literally 2 with a different play order and different textures (I'm serious, it was 3 or 4 that literally did that... literally the same game).

      The last one I played (5 or 6) is the one that was so buggy, that it made a very clear statement that Ubisoft just wanted $$$ and didn't demand any play testing... none, zero, zip, zilch. Guess what I think about Ubisoft?

    3. Sorry that handle is already taken. Silver badge

      Re: I enjoyed the first 4

      I gave up on the first after one too many completely irrelevant but unskippable interactions with a peasant.

  3. Dabooka Silver badge

    Never played one

    My pal swears by them and always get them on launch, but I haven't even seen one on screen.

    Not seeing much here to convince me bother trying either.

    1. Andy Non Silver badge

      Re: Never played one

      It depends whether or not you like vast open world games. Much of the time is spent exploring in these types of game. There is lots of fighting of course but for me the enjoyment is just wandering around in these landscapes and deciding what trouble to get myself involved with. I guess such games are very much a type of digital marmite.

      1. Pascal Monett Silver badge

        Re: vast open world games

        7 Days to Die. It's as vast as you can stomach, there is next to no story to bother you, and there are very few bugs.

        It's just you against a zombie world, and you have a number of ways to try to survive.

        And, in the latest version, there is some parkour to be had - although you can't just go and climb vertical walls. But you can create a ladder to get to the roof.

    2. Jellied Eel Silver badge

      Re: Never played one

      Not seeing much here to convince me bother trying either.

      Depends what kind of game err.. floats your boat. I think my favorite in the franchise was probably Black Flag, mainly for the sea shanties. A theme for me though is the open world environment. Many of this kind of game have annoying features, like knee-high walls you can't climb over. Or hills you can't crest. Might be 'open world', but devs funnel you along the path they've chosen.

      But a beauty of the Assassins Creed games is the environment. It looks good, and you can pretty much go anywhere. And then play it as a sneak'em up, or leeroy in, axes swinging. One peeve from previous games though is sometimes the timed quests. One had me pursuing a target by boat, then into an enemy camp.. and you had to do every move click-perfect, or fail the mission. I really hate those QTE-like quests, especially if they're key ones.

      Oh, and the adult-sized children? They're probably just Dutch settlers..

  4. khs666

    You're either a fan of the AC games or not

    Having played ever AC game since II, some are great (Black Flag), some are good (Revelations), some I left after bugs killed my enjoyment (looking at you Unity). It seems to always depend on which Ubisoft studio created or led the development.

    I've also discovered that you either a fan of AC, or you absolutely hate them, they are the marmite of the games world - I get that they aren't for everyone. I would assume, given the comments in the article the reviewer falls into the latter camp.

    As for the "lore" and the animus, ignore it, it's seems less and less important in the reboot games (Origins/ Odyssey), than in the originals.

    What I will agree on though is that Valhalla is a bug ridden mess at the moment, which is disappointing (and the patches have not helped so far)

    1. Excellentsword (Written by Reg staff)

      Re: You're either a fan of the AC games or not

      I don't hate it, I'm having fun, there's just a lot of annoying things about it. It's like a solid 7/10.

      1. Dinanziame Silver badge

        Re: You're either a fan of the AC games or not

        The first game was really more a proof of concept than a full game. If you really didn't play any since that one, you should try at least the second one. Much better story, and beautiful sceneries. But then I like Italian renaissance.

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: You're either a fan of the AC games or not

      Think I read too much El Reg.....

      Took me a few seconds to realise that AC in this context does not mean Anonymous Coward...

  5. MJI Silver badge

    Modern games

    Explore, climb viewpoint, get map.

    First few games was fun, first few AC games, like the tall tower in Acre.

    Now everything is, Watchdogsd, Farcry, AC games, even a bit with Horizon : Zero Dawn.

    FC4 was a change in that you could land auto gyros on them. And only 4 in HZD

  6. BrownishMonstr Bronze badge

    I enjoyed the first one, though that may have something to do with being Muslim, or I just thought the concept was awesome. Then from 2 onwards it seemed like they were in it for the money and it was less about the origins of assassins.

    Then I grew a bit older and only played battlefield. Now I'm much older and haven't got time to commit to console games.

    1. BigSLitleP

      Mate i'm much much older and if i haven't spent two to three hours a day on the console my wife checks my pulse in case i've died and not had the decency to tell her.

  7. Stuart Castle Silver badge

    I like Assassins Creed games. I thought Syndicate was fun (mostly). I didn't enjoy Unity so much, but it was also fun. I liked Origins, Odyssey and am enjoying Valhalla.

    However, the Animus plot line feels like a forced attempt to make a link between the games. A link which I don't think they need. There are enough links between the games to imply a shared universe without this.

    I like the wandering round finding missions. That said, playing Valhalla, I am finding the acting a little flat, and the story is less engaging than that in Odyssey.

    1. Dinanziame Silver badge

      The Animus plot was okay in the beginning, and it was even somewhat interesting in AC Brotherhood — you got to do something in the "present". But then, they borked the end of the plot; it was never interesting afterwards.

      I can understand the author of the article dropping the original title in the middle out of boredom; it was more a proof of concept than a finalized game. However, I found AC 2 breathtakingly beautiful, with a much more interesting story. I haven't played games after Syndicate, but most of those I played gave a really deep immersion in historical events, full of explanations about what was going on at the time, with the odd details — e.g when Robespierre was arrested, he was found with a gunshot wound to the jaw; probably a suicide attempt but details aren't known. Well, that's a scene in the game.

      1. MJI Silver badge

        One of the AC2s

        I remember that modern day bit, I failed it straight away as I got the controls wrong.

        Why?

        Voice actor and his most well known games, I dropped into Uncharted parkour mode and fell off!

  8. Jay 2
    Pirate

    Out of all the Ubisoft copy/paste games over the past few years I've only been tempted by AC Black Flag (be a pirate!) and WD Legion (be a group of hackers in dystopian slightly-futuristic London!). In each case there was a setting that really piqued my interest enough to spend some cash and while away a good few hours.

    To a certain extent I'm having a fair bit of fun with WDL right now, but I've got one beady eye on the forthcoming Cyberpunk 2077. Now I know that's going to be choc-full of content and takes *ages* to play as The Witcher 3 did and apparently Cyberpunk will be more so. It's almost at the opposite end of what Ubisoft spew out on an almost cookie-cutter yearly basis.

    Pirate flag, because of pirate or pie rats, whatever floats your boat etc.

  9. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    I love open world games like Far Cry, Phantom Pain V, Ghost Recon Wildlands, Just Cause, etc.

    I hate parkour. It's microsecond twitch based gameplay that I hate. I am sure some folk enjoy it, but that is their perogative.

    Because the AC series incorporates and gates significant progress behind parkour skills, the whole series is not for me.

    Unfortunately all AC title like Dying Light chooses to make parkour a central progress gating mechanic. You may have choices about what you do and where, but if you want to progress, you have to run the parkour course timed challenges or make these insane jumps for almost ever single significant story or character progression step.

    1. Vometia Munro

      I get what you're saying; I mean I hate twitch-games because I have no concentration nor dexterity, but ACV's "parkour" pretty much translates into "keep the spacebar pressed and pray to Vindy that it doesn't decide to randomly change direction by 89.9⁰ because you weren't perfectly perpendicular to a brick wall or just because it felt like it." Which is to say it's kinda briefly entertaining but mostly doesn't work.

      tbh I'm mostly enjoying it in spite of numerous bugs and idiosyncrasies. The most painful bit for me is that most of the kids sound like Bart Simpson. They're even more distracting than the unloved and unwanted animarse and modern-day nonsense.

  10. DrXym Silver badge

    Entire series is flawed

    Ubisoft managed to shoot themselves in the foot with the very first title. Contrary to popular belief you're never playing an assassin in these games. No, you're playing a dork from the future called Desmond (or in later titles, another dork) who is playing an assassin. A simulation of a simulation of an assassin. The game would have been more interesting if the player dropped straight into the story with all the animus / future shit just cut straight out. Reveal the story through actions of the protagonist / antagonist and allow the lore to build up slowly.

    Aside from that AC titles are just too repetitive. They're also the same thing over and over. Other sandbox titles, particularly Rockstar ones recognize how boring a world is if you're doing the same stuff over and over. So they pack in an insane amount of diversions and silliness to keep the game engaging. Not so with AC which cut and pastes the same content all over the map. Ubisoft do this a lot with Far Cry and Watchdogs suffering the same issue.

  11. MSC

    What everyone gets wrong about AC

    As someone who has played every single assassins creed game to death, with the exception of unity (because it was unplayable due to ridiculous matchmaking times) I can honestly say that the In-Animus story is given a whole new light because of the Animus and what takes place outside of them.

    Like you, I also had my moments in the first game where I found being pulled out of the "fun-part" jarring at times.

    However, being an Xbox Achievement miner, I stuck all the external animus lines to the bitter end. I snuck around as Desmond in the first games animus downtime, I read every last shred of email, audio tape, collected everything.

    I can honestly say, AC is a game that is meant to be played by almost everyone. It defies genres in the sense that your in animus play is very different to the external animus play. As is the content. Outside of the Animus, is the place where you get a picture of the very psyche of the developers. As someone with an AOE (Area of expertise) in philosophy and ethics, some of the deepest content in the game takes place outside of the animus.

    Here is a prime example from the newest game, Valhalla: If I asked you, why did Desmond respect Shaun so much? Or why Desmond chose to run away from the Assassins to become a bar tender? Most people would not have the foggiest idea, because they ignore the majority of what goes on outside the animus, because it really forces them to think about the creed, the templars, order and chaos, good vs evil and the vast grey area between. AC is not a warriors game, Valhalla especially. AC is a Skalds game. A warrior Scholar. That is what the templars and Assassins have in common, they aren't just warriors, they are philosophical scholars. As are the developers to some extent.

    So why did Desmond respect Shaun so much and why did he leave the Assassins and run away from his family? Desmond has a major problem with the creed. He has a problem with the hypocrisy of valuing freedom above all else when he was never really given a choice as to whether or not he was to be an assassin? He was born into it. If the creed was to be respected, he should have been able to join the templars, if that is what he wanted. Ultimately, Desmond deep down always knew that he really did want to be an assassin. He just had to find a way to make it his choice, so he left. That is why he respects Shaun so much, because Shaun grew up not knowing about any of this stuff, yet when given the choice, Shaun chose to join the Assassins and accept the creed.

    Both Shaun and Desmond agree that the Assassins creeds power, comes from its danger of devoting itself to freedom, over control. Freedom in the wrong hands is a dangerous thing, the templars act with freedom after all.

    All in all, people really ought to do a deep dive into the external animus lore because I promise you, it changes your life.

    If you think it is bad that they use the animus to create a virtual environment for people to go around in, it's a bit of an irony that you have a problem with that when you don't realise you are doing the same thing with your gaming system. Our gaming systems are just low tech animus for every type of game we play, from historical to fanciful.

    So isn't it a little hypocritical to chastise the developers for introducing characters that are so like us, they are even playing video games within the game? I can't say that I blame them. If the true to story animus existed, I'd probably rarely get out of it myself.

    1. Excellentsword (Written by Reg staff)

      Re: What everyone gets wrong about AC

      My problem is that it unnecessarily convolutes things.

  12. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    People are still complaining about this?

    Really? Games are allowed to change, you know. Just because it’s an RPG doesn’t mean it isn’t an AC game. Ubi can do whatever they want with their games. No matter how much people don’t like it, we can’t change it.

    Everyone has their own opinion. Mine is that Valhalla is as much of an AC game as the second one was. I always tend to avoid anything related to the AC “fanbase”, if you can even call it that, because it seems like it’s just people who critique and judge, instead of play the game.

    It’s easier to be a casual gamer who like Assassins Creed then someone who loves it.

  13. Seth_Dufrene

    This article was recommended to me by my phone and I just have a few comments to make. Not so much about how much you like or dislike a game, games need criticism to become better. What is really annoying me about this article specifically is that it was written by someone who repeatedly in the article proved that he had no idea what he was talking about. He makes a very bold claim by saying that ACV would be a lot better if it just simply was not an AC game. To make that kind of a claim you need to have an intimate knowledge of the franchise and be able to identify common themes in each installment. Then in the second paragraph, he straight up said the words, "haven't touched the series since the original." The vast majority of fans of the AC franchise almost universally agree that AC1 was terrible, and here is a link where a lot of people just straight up comment their order.

    https://www.reddit.com/r/assassinscreed/comments/juyxas/how_would_you_rank_all_the_assassins_creed_games/

    Consistently you see AC1 in the bottom half. So, how does this Richard Currie have any idea what he is talking about when he has not even completed what many die-hard fans would consider being one of the worst games in the franchise? He simply does not have the authority to be able to make such a claim.

    Currie continues to build on his lack of knowledge when he appears to think that the assassins from the original game were the only group that represented the creed in the world. He does this in his sixth paragraph where he also makes fun of the lore despite clearly having a massive misunderstanding of any of it. I'll be the first to admit that AC does not have the best lore in a video game out there, but I think that criticism of the lore should come from someone that, y'know, actually has an understanding of it rather than this guy. Then when discussing Eivor's gender he again makes for of the lore calling it stupid while also getting the lore fundamentally wrong. The game practically spells out for you that sometimes the female Eivor is the canonical Eivor and other times the male Eivor is the canon.

    Then we finally get to Currie's criticism of the animus. This is honestly a very controversial topic in the fandom, so I am not going to claim an absolute authority on this but I will express what I have to say about it as a fan of the modern-day sections of the games. Firstly, they have been a staple of the game series since the first installment, and to completely do away with them now would be way too extreme of a maneuver. The modern-day sections of the game in my eyes are the real plot. They are what I keep coming back for. I still remember my first time getting wrapped up in all the things that Abstergo did to Desmond and deciding that I needed to put a stop to Abstergo. Secondly, the modern-day sections provided us with a cast of characters that I love. The modern-day characters offer a way for the player to emotionally connect and relate to someone in the game. Ever since the first time Shaun basically told me to screw off and that he was busy, I knew I was going to love him forever. I'll admit that Layla was not the most compelling character for me until Valhalla came out, but now with her character arc going like it is, I love her. People like Currie call the modern-day sections immersion-breakers, but for me, they are the bread and butter that keeps me immersed.

    Before finishing his article he lays into the bugs surrounding the game, to which I only have one thing to say. Long gone are the days where games are released mostly bug-free. Every single AAA title to come out is released with mountains and mountains of bugs and it has been this way for damn near a decade, if not, ever since the release of the 360 and the PS3. Anybody else remembers Skyrim's launch? Or what about GTA V? Fallout 4? Ghost of Tsushima, ACOd, Red Dead Redemption both 1 & 2, the list goes on and on and on and if you are expecting to ever get another mostly bug free release, then I hope you let me know because I want to congratulate that company on caring more about their fans than their profit margin.

    1. Excellentsword (Written by Reg staff)

      I shouldn't have to play every part of the series for my opinion on this game to be valid. Thanks for pointing out that I've misunderstood some things – and I admitted as much in the article – but I think it only hammers home how convoluted it's become. I may not be a fan, but you're still allowed to like it.

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      The Reg calls out crap, fan dislikes it

      So every AAA title of the last ten years was a crashtastic turd on release. And people are supposed to drop £60 and put up with it? Maybe if more reviews pointed out how shitty the release-versions were, then companies would spend a bit of time making them playable. Maybe players realise how much they are having the piss taken out of them, and withhold their cash until they are playable.

      And save me from the "if you haven't completed every game in the series three times then you can't comment" fans. Bought one. Played it for a few hours. Got bored. Stopped. Why would I waste any more money buying another one, especially when way too many of this series were just reskins with the same gameplay mechanics. Or ship-based stealth.

      Did they ever fix the "long-goodbye" from the first one. I think it took over a minute to quit the game when you did get bored of playing it.

  14. Arealgamer

    This is a satirical review right?

    Your criticism is that they didn't completely abandon the plot of the video game series? Totally! Also, pokemon would be so much better if you didn't have to catch or fight pokemon and every show sucks unless it's a anthology like Black Mirror.

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