Assassin's Creed

AC Valhalla – A depression simulator? (My Review) [Possible Spoilers!]

AC Valhalla – A depression simulator? (My Review)

I played ACV. Yes, I did. After watching my grandchildren praise this game I finally stopped playing Valheim and installed ACV (I am Ubi+ Subscriber).

Starting the game I thought what a nice background snow crunching. This game must have a lot of snowy-scenes in it (which I personally really love), but later on this.

I. Preamble.

The start although not so much action-laden like Odyssey is interesting and sets the character motivation and general idea where the game should go. Even so it is really REALLY a very unmotivated and stupid death of Eivor's parents, but hey, interns script-writers have to start somewhere, even if it is an AAA title in one of the biggest game franchises ever.

Setting the first 1,5 hours (for me, remember? I like exploring and snow) game-introduction aside, we sail to England (finally). And a big sigh of relief escaped my lungs. The only moment I really smiled was when Sigurd arrived and a wheef of friendship spreads over the monitor. Even so for only 15 seconds. But I really loved this moment. It is.. ..a perfect one!

In England the situation is clear: Build, conquer, help, get what you must, repeat. Very strong World of Warcraft feeling comes up. Specifically Warlords of Draenor DLC. I know, I know, there are tons of different base-bilding games out there and so on and so forth, but WoD has the exact same mechanics and plunging a knife into a table with a map and PICKING the actual part of the map for conquering is almost identical to the WoD and then even more to Legion and the later Battle for Azeroth. Don't believe me? Watch the gameplay of picking a part of the world to conquer/re-build. But enough, every gaming franchise plagiarises as much as possible, be it due to the lack of ideas or any other reason.

II. Critical history annotation.

Being an ELITE VIKING COMMANDO we already have a lot of weapons and armour of the kings to crush, kill and destroy (no pun intended, for those who know what I mean). Why of the kings? Pretty simple. Vikings had a very clear understanding of the weaponry and its value. The poorest of the warriors for example couldn't afford anything better than a pike (it was the most common weapon). Wealthier warriors had axes and the richest could even afford a sword. Yes, sword. Swords were very expensive and a special type of 'loot' and needed a lot of training to be used, too. So you had to be 1. in a good shape and 2. very rich to have a sword. Last, but not least most of the vikings (I simplify this word a lot here, but looking at the game-history-lore in Valhalla it doesn't matter much) had leather armour. Again a wealthier warrior could afford chain-armour/chain-'shirt' over the leather and even simple plates of metal on it. To watch Sigurd wearing the same type of clothing as most of the others is as painful as staring at the sun for several hours. How in the Odin's name could a JARL wear the same shitty outfit as a mere foot soldiers. Well, ok, his father wears rich clothing with a single medallion on the chest. But did you know that vikings thought so much about their looks that they put all the possible and impossible I-am-rich-as-f*ck-features all over their armour and most often on their belts? Sadly, I didn't see anything like this on Sigurd. Would it not be for the game to introduce him as the FIRST IN COMMAND I would never think of him as a Jarl or someone in higher position on the food chain here.

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Speaking of riches, did you know that simple candles were very expensive, too? I would even be so bold and say that only the most wealthy people like noble-men and rulers/kings could afford to have and even burn candles and even though they did it mostly for studying and when having important guests (again to show how freaking WEALTHY they are). The simple folk could only afford an oh so simple oil-burner. And what did I see here? During the introduction I stroll through the market near the longhouse where dirty peasants sell every kind of stuff and a simple wench in ugly clothes has this beautiful pack of candles on her table. All the big candles put neatly in a wooden box. And you will see this so damn ofthen through the entire game/playthrough.. Are you kidding me? Ubi, what the actual FUCK? Didn't you know such a simple fact? Tell your game designers that candles are not a interior/exterior decoration, but a historically important indicator. And also tell them to stop watching 'Vikings' (the TV series) so much as this show is historically in-accurate in many aspects, too. I simply cannot endure this anymore. Stop f*cking claiming to be a historically precise game (I know, it is not so obvious, but they pretend pretty much everywhere to be it). Oh my.. This is getting out of hand. Now back on-topic.

III. Pros and Cons (not a full list, you don't want me to re-tell the game, dontya).

Back to the viking-commando-Eivor, the being of two genders (so very SpEcIaL and noone gets offended, right?) with the stamina of a 12 years old.

The game pace is slow. It is painfully slow like the mead with 99% of honey in it. Yes, there is a lot to discover. Yes, the scenery is one of the most beautiful ones I've ever seen in games.

Be it on the PS of my grandchildren or my very old computer with only a gtx970 in it. The game runs smooth. So smooth I wondered how it could even be possible on so old hardware, but it runs. Even on high settings. The stable 45 FPS feature we all know from Odyssey is a godsend and does what it must: Stabilise the FPS. Thank you SO MUCH for this, Ubi. Your engineers did a brilliant work on it. Once again: One of the best features I've seen in games when tweaking the graphics!

Game mechanics didn't change much since Odyssey, but had a lot of small adjustments here and there and are more intuitive now. Giving all the pieces of the UI bit by bit, but in steady and OK-portions. And here we again come to the game pace. New functions are 100% bound to the parts of the game you play thus constraining the game experience due to these very parts. Do you want to change your horse? Build a stable. Do you want to hunt bad boys? Build a house for the random assassin. Why random? Because you as a player, you do not really care about Hytham. You simply don't. Although one the most important Assassins-introducing characters in game, Hytham is a mere placeholder for someone to say 'Bla, bla, League of Ancients, blabla, importance, blabla, Hidden Ones, blabla, go kill the bad guys' And you think to yourself: Are we finally done here? Let me open that menu, please.

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No, really. I think that tutorials and certain menu-objects, bits and pieces should be introduced as the need arises, but we are not 10-years olds (and even those know what's going on by now) and we do not need such long introductions. We've seen it before, we know what to do. Make it quick and sharp and let us on the action. But all this talk talk talk. Is it some kind of talking simulator or an action game, my ass..

About the River Raids.

Enter the game mode with no particular gains for your main game. Feels like a free DLC which was to be released as a bonus content to cheer up potential buyers, but ended in the game at the initial game release. Could be an interesting way to earn resources to upgrade your base, but hey, why don't we bring another useless currency (alongside the other 1000000000 currencies already present in game) and do not let the player use it everywhere, but only in this specific game mode. Wow, what a creativity and generosity, thank you, developoopers. Best move ever. And this game mode is a substitute to a real normal multiplayer experience? Oh, wait, we can pick our friends' hand made Jomsvikingr here? Oh, I am sorry then, it explains a lot. Best multiplayer mod ever (since mobile phones games were introduced). And what about customising your Jomsvikingr? What about giving some of them bows, some of them heavy swords? And armour? What about giving them certain roles? This game-mod screams CUSTOMISATION! Do you want a successful raid party or a bunch of some random dudes and dudettes in all random armour pieces with whatever weapons? I guess not.

IV. Conclusion and music.

I play AC-Series since the beginning when it was not clear that AC1 will overthrow Prince of Percia (mwah!) and become one of the biggest and best game franchises ever. Every part had a certain new experience to bring into the world and lore of the game series and each and every part felt mostly unique to the history of the actual, yes, Assassin's Creed.

This being said the last trilogy had one of the best starts we've seen since Ezio Auditore and Desmond: Origins. Then more modern in UI and less beautiful we had Odyssey. Still a very good functioning and interesting specimen which I enjoyed for again 200 hours after Origins. And now Valhalla. I won't say this game is a disappointment. It is a sturdy and well functioning game with its flaws and pluses, but not more than this. It is just another game. Nothing special and please, don't be offended, I am a big fan of the series, but this..

The writing and script is pretty clear from the beginning. You know your baddies, you know your good guys. But, BUT!!! Where is the damn intrigue? Where is the heat and action? Where is the heart of Assassin's Creed we all so crave for? The game feels dull and predictable. You know what will happen next. And very sadly, one of the most important parts in almost all game which saves the said games for me despite the bad writing or graphics (when present), the music. Oh, how I waited to listen to the Valhalla soundtrack. How I wished for the war-drums.. and got 'this'. I mean: You have millions to spend. Ok, let us say you spend good 50-70 thousands of dollars on a gaming soundtrack. Not that much in terms of a company of the size of Ubi. So why don't you try and make a soundtrack which ACTUALLY makes you feel like you are in action? Like you are an epic warrior conquering the virgin shores of England while howling and ohhmmiing yourseves in a war-trance-like-state? Where is the jolly calmness and whitty flirtness of the camp-fire while waiting for the next attack? (I mean everything in background music terms.) Yes, I romanticise the Vikings in gaming industry. Yes, I want to see them as fearless warriors with a jolly heart. Yes, I want to be entertained. So why is the music here so depressive and makes you go 'meh, another raid', 'meh, another story arc', 'meh, another boring beginning of something something'? I simply cannot anymore.

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And the actualy dialogues-writing. Look, the all-in-all sound effects are great. Here is a bird chirping, there we can hear soemone chopping wood, but dialogues.. Voice actors did a very good job. They are clearly professionals and know their trade. But even professionals cannot work with dogshit. The dialogues feel dull and veeeery try-hard. Like someone who is happy 100% of the time in the world of misery, but doesn't want to accept the whole situation he/she is in and simply plays the excitement, the happiness and a good mood. Why? What for? Why won't you simply give those actors a way to express real feelings of those we see on the screen and not some strange happiness about every possible action taken? It just does not fit well. Feels artificial at best.

A game I waited so long for to play is very sadly ruined for me by so simple things which are really not hard to make when you have the Ubi budgets.

It will be the first time in my AC-experience that I will NOT finish an AC-title. And I even finished Unity (and you know how it felt for me, even wrote that another article about it). Just to give the game a simple feeling of accomplishment I uninstalled the game only after finishing the Grantegrantebridgescire arc.

P.S.:

Ubi, stop being so moved by the media. Try to relax and give your writers the freedom to be as free as they can and want. (In terms of not breaking the law, of course, but ONLY the law, not MEDIA-standards). Don't try and push what everyone wants to hear and see, but characters and stories with their very good and very bad sides. More extremes, less dullness. More precise action, less talk. Interesting and addicting music instead of depressision inducing tunes.

Female 60+ Gamer out.

(Edit. Added a section about River Raid).

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