In name of Tecnoblog, I had the opportunity to test a preview of Assassin’s Creed Valhalla, next game in the Ubisoft Assassin franchise. In the control of Eivor, which I played in its two versions, I participated in raids and sailed on a Viking boat. I also faced tense boss fights with a degree of difficulty that, honestly, I didn’t expect in a game in the series (and that’s a compliment). Check out my first impressions below.
Just to better situate you in this preview, the test was performed on a small area of the map, but precisely in the eastern region of Anglia (England). Some activities were already available, such as raids (I’ll explain more later), some fighting challenges (which took work), exploration, navigation and I also had the opportunity to take a look at how the skill tree and the system are doing. of weapons and armor.
It is worth mentioning that this demo does not represent the final result of the game, which is still being developed. So, my opinions in this article may change in the review of the game already finished.
Becoming a Viking …
Right away, I had to choose which Eivor to start playing with. At first, I chose the female version. The similarities “in the way of being” of Eivor are similar to that of Kassandra (Assassin’s Creed Odyssey), especially in a strong and intimidating tone of voice. You acknowledge that you are a woman speaking, but you will certainly think twice before opposing her. I liked it, maybe play with this version in the future.
I did not feel the same empathy for the male version of Eivor. I also found Alexios (the male option in Odyssey) half without salt and I believe that the dubbing has a very relevant weight in this. Eivor’s voice just doesn’t suit him, in my opinion. Again, this may not be the final voice.
In the demo, I already started with a pretty presentable armor with good status, as well as some options of melee weapons (traditional Viking ax included – of course), bow and shield. As I am not sure which part of the game (if more at the beginning or advanced in the campaign) I tested the demo, I believe that at some point I equipped myself that way.
As in Odyssey, Eivor can learn special moves, in addition to fast, heavy and blocking attacks. You need to spend a kind of bright yellow bar to activate each of these strokes. Remember the kick in the stomach, King Leonidas style (from the movie 300), from the previous game? This is the kind of special I’m referring to. You can load these special bars by killing enemies.
Another aspect to pay attention to in combat is in your stamina bar. You need it to successfully dodge and block attacks. In addition, I did not find any very glaring problems in the movement of the character, at this first moment. You can also use your crow to map the skies in search of points of interest, such as missions, shops, etc.
Skill tree and armor menu
The skill tree of Valhalla forms constellation drawings, where you can invest points in skills that favor melee, ranged and stealth combat. In fact, I’m still trying to imagine a stealthy Viking warrior, but… Not everything in life is a foot in the door and an ax flying over your head.
The pause menu, for managing armor and other options, is very similar to that of AC Odyssey. Again, I don’t know if they’re going to change this until launch, but in the tested demo all the positioning of elements were the same: character in the middle, with closed angle in the middle of the thighs up, squares with spaces for items on the right and left and etc.
“Death is in the air” – Eivor
My first big mission was a reckoning, due to what happened to the king of East Anglia. He is an important piece in trying to unite Saxons with other peoples. For that, I needed to seek support to set up a mini army.
Until you actually go to the mission site, much of what you see (in terms of exploration) is already known from other games in the series: digging through boxes and chests for coins, collecting items to heal health (in the case of Valhalla are fruits, mushrooms and some pots with food), whistle to call your horse and etc.
However, something very interesting is the possibility of reaching any pier or river bank and calling your boat. Before, you necessarily needed to be on a pier for this (with a specific appointment). I believe that because the Viking vessels are smaller, it makes it easier to get access to them from almost any river bank.
Even if you are in a hurry to get somewhere, cutting your boat down the rivers is a good choice (even to find suitable places for raids).
Returning to the mission itself, Eivor needs allies and you can get them without having to do anything in return (just talking to them) or having to solve some problems. And one of these problems took me to the first raid of this demo, which was an interesting experience.
Raids: on top of them! (but with strategy)
You start such an attack from your boat, at least in the demo it seemed to be the only way. When approaching a location that could be invaded, a button with the description “Raid” will appear.
Then it is possible to ignore it or use it so that you and everyone on your ship enter the place dragging everything in front of you (civilians will not attack you, so better leave them alone). Now the interesting part that I mentioned begins. Although we are controlling a (one) Viking, it is necessary to have a strategy in the charge, because the opponents are very well positioned inside the fortress.
On my first attempt, I managed to get to the second gate. You advance from one area to the other of the Fort, together with your companions, breaking down gates with those wooden horses and wheels (I don’t know the name of this in Portuguese, if anyone knows let me know).
My first problem was that I ignored the upper part of the place, from which flaming arrows came to set fire to me and my soldiers – already smeared by a combustible liquid that they threw at us. The idea of being a Viking was so strong that I made the most childish mistake in any invasion game: ignoring ranged attacks from enemies.
After dying flamboyed at the second gate, I arrived at the other loading using my bow to blow up the barrels of fuel on the walls, killing some archers in the process. As with previous games in the franchise, you can use the environment to your advantage.
I also realized that I couldn’t spend a lot of time fighting in just one area. Sometimes you have to accept that you can’t solve everything on your own (and that you have an army for that) and keep moving forward while your teammates help you save time.
With the new strategy, I managed to reach the last gate and, to my despair (since I had already consumed all the mushrooms around to recover my life) there were at least four opposing elite soldiers waiting for me. Fighting them reminded me of the battles against mercenaries in AC Odyssey. Those that, by winning them, made you gain more reputation. The degree of difficulty was similar.
Well, I killed two, ran away from the other two (because my life was already in the red) and – after a cutscene – climbed a short wall to face the fortress chief.
As I was in a position above him, I had the option of trying to assassinate him right off the bat, but this is not as simple as before (in the case of a boss). To hit the blow, you need to position the crosshairs at the right place of the attack and press the action button at the right time as well (all while falling). Of course I was wrong, because I didn’t know that.
Let’s go to the normal fight: me against the boss and a wolf! In fact, it was the wolf that killed me (remember that I had my life in the red?) In my first attempt against the boss. I almost freaked out when the game loaded again, and started raid ALL over again! Since the departure of my boat.
I don’t know if this will always be like this, but I swore that the game would save after the cutscene, that is, after I had passed all the gates and I just needed to go to the boss. In all cases, I retraced all the way (again), but much faster this time, because I had already decorated where the arrows came from or the right moment to start climbing the wall and save my health (I jumped to face the soldiers of elite).
Boss fights and more skilled enemies
The enemies of Assassin’s Creed Valhalla, at least in this demo (I don’t know if they’re going to nerf it or give it even more boost), they’re pretty tough. Even those more petty little soldiers can become a problem, in the blink of an eye, if a small group of them surrounds you and you don’t try to get out of there. As reported by Ubisoft, this test was run on normal difficulty.
I noticed that, although they move and attack in different ways (according to the type of weapon and physical size), opponents have a kind of pattern that can be learned over time: there are attacks that are blockable with the shield and unblockable (when the stroke is preceded by a flashing red light). This is nothing new in the franchise, but it has happened more often now.
I even spent my last 30 minutes (of the 3 hours of testing) devising a strategy to defeat one of the Drengrs, ancient warriors who signed a pact to die in combat. If you already thought a badass viking, the Drengrs are true Berserkers in turbo mode! That said, I ate the bread that Loki kneaded against one of them – who was trying to show his son the honor of dying in combat.
Armed with three spears (or was it four? I don’t remember anymore) each hit he landed took more than half my life bar. Being hit by one of the unblockable blows was hit kill. Despite the bear’s physical build, he was very agile and, at times, jumped from half the arena directly at me in a devastating blow. I managed to beat him on the fifth try and I almost burst the eardrums of the boy from Ubisoft, who was accompanying me on the demo, with the shout I gave.
The world around
It would be extremely unfair on my part to thoroughly evaluate the look of a game, still in development, and playing remotely. But I can say that, in a general and superficial way, it is pleasant to see. I still need a little more polishing, in my opinion, but I believe that until the release things tend to improve. The battle parts are packed with Viking war melodies and the songs while sailing with your little boat have returned.
As I said before, I tested Assassin’s Creed Valhalla for 3 hours. As the time was short (3 hours for an open world sandbox is nothing), I chose to do missions with more action and combat, so I explored little. Regarding what I tried, I really liked the strategic mechanics of the raids and, mainly, the challenge imposed by the bosses. I hope you don’t smooth it out in the final product.
Sailing through the rivers and open sea with your Viking boat, listening to your companions sing took me back to AC Black Flag and it was a good moment of nostalgia. In particular, I’m curious to see how the whole game will unfold and bring more news to the series. Not that I don’t like the “beans and rice” in the sandbox (I’ve played the franchise since the first game), but we always hope for more.