Assassin's Creed

A Few Thoughts on this Game, After Finishing My Second Playthrough

As the title says, just finished my second playthrough, this time on Drengr difficulty, and thought I'd share some opinions and hear what others think about this game.

Firstly, I did enjoy it quite a lot. The combat was the most fun out of the new AC trilogy imo (returning ranged attacks and throwing fallen weapons at enemies never gets old, and the weapon variety is great); the story's division into arcs was neat, and allowed for a multitude of characters and plots without them feeling too clustered; there were many interesting characters, more than Odyssey anyway; and I can't begin to describe how much I loved those little 'world events'. The equipment system also feels better than most RPGs in how weapons/armour are scarcer, but feel more special precisely for that (my only complaint is not being able to store them anywhere, which ironically makes the item list a lot more cluttered despite the scarcity of items to pick). The enemies' diversity is awesome, and visually this game is just stunning (even if I'm strongly biased in favour of Ancient Greece and Egypt)

On the other hand, I can't be the only one who feels like Valhalla takes its few flaws and deliberately amps them for no damn reason – and at times does the same to its strenghts to the point they become an issue.

Firstly, it's bad enough that there are so many unblockable attacks, even for non-boss enemies; a narrower parrying window would've been far more fun while also adding challenge, but attacks that you can only avoid by dodging feel cheap. But then the game has every single zealot all but exclusively use unblockable attacks. It's even worse for those who wield tower shields: they can only be hit in the brief window during which they're striking at you, and even then they don't get staggered, so you can only land 2 or 3 blows before having to dodge again. Yes, they can be briefly staggered by certain arrow shots, but you need to keep a lot of distance to have enough time for that, and Eivor moves too slow to take advantage of that. In regards to unblockable attacks, Callin is particularly annoying, because he's fast, agile, has a lot of reach (due to wielding a greatsword), and so even dodging is of little effect against him.

Then there's the fact 9/10 of every single treasure, weapon/armour and even chests are behind a locked door you need to scour your environment to find a way through. I like a little puzzle that makes me think outside the box, but Valhalla overdoes that. Sometimes I just want to walk into a house or ruin and collect a chest without having to find a key, a hole in the wall/roof or an explosive jar (which makes explosive arrow the single most useful ability to me, on par with harpoon and poison – this one for those annoying self-healing bosses). It often breaks the pace of the game when I'm, say, in the middle of a raid and have to find an alternate entrance into a house or church because its doors have been barred.

And then there's the story's length, which is just absurd – and even the organisation into arcs don't mitigate that. This is me, who loves lengthy open-world RPGs, and who was even ok with Odyssey's length. Perhaps it wouldn't be so bad if completing some of England's regions weren't essential to reaching the main plots' ending. For a comparison, many of the regions in Odyssey had their own plots (like Lesbos and Crete) that were entirely optional; you could focus on the main story first and then explore the world later. But not in Valhalla: there you need to complete every single region in order to know how the plot around Sigurd and the Order of the Ancients will end. In my second playthrough, I didn't bother to do the Asgard/Jotunheim quests, and avoided most world events & treasures; even then, I had around 100h of playing when I finally went to Goinhellir with Sigurd. Then another 3h were needed to finish the Hamtunscire arc – and then, and only then, I could finish the Order of the Ancients plot. What's worse, that we're forced to complete all regions deprives many of them of the fun they should've had: Glowecestrescire was my favourite region in terms of scenery, and I loved how unique the Essexe arc was in comparison to the others; Hunwald was a fun character to meet (and that moment in the Hamtunscire battle was one of the most pungent moments in the entire game to me), as was Vili. But I would've enjoyed them far more if I hadn't played through them out of "obligation", in the sense of having to complete them in order to know where the main story would go next.

Like I said, overall this is a game I enjoyed a lot (or I wouldn't have gone through the work of playing it a second time); but I just can't feel for it what I felt for Origins or Odyssey, even though I had all the potential of surpassing both.

(for a few random nitpicks, I'd add how OP bears are, to the point I got one-shot by one of their heavy attacks despite having a fully upgraded Thor's Armour with FIVE 2.1-2.8 melee resistance runes; how clunky Eivor's movement feels sometimes, especially zealots, though it could be just my impression; how the harpoon attack 7/10 times misses the desired target, sometimes hitting an opponent far away when the one I want to hit is right in front; and how pikemen not only recover from stagger super-fast, but parries and staggers you before you can even say 'maláka').


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