The LONG road to Valhalla: A Review of Assassin’s Creed

We’re going try something new on the blog this week: reviewing a video game.

I’ve never tried very hard to keep the contents of this blog focused on one particular topic or medium, but I’ll admit that generally I’ve have considered this space a “book blog” with the occasional digression into movies, comics, or my own fiction (oh and I suppose that one time: radio).

However, it seems that more and more stories are refusing to be bound by their original medium, and storytellers (or more likely their publishers) are finding new ways to adapt their tales and reach “readers” however they prefer to consume their stories.

This has obviously been going on in movies and television for some time. It seems like these days a movie cannot be made which wasn’t originally a best selling novel. Or vice versa, how many successful movies or shows are released without a novelization?

This formula has seemingly very rarely found success when adapting video games to the big screen. Indeed a 2016 adaptation of the very game franchise I’m about to review an entry in, Assassin’s Creed, is generally considered one of the worst failures of all time at videogame adaptation.

However, the new Mario movie is perhaps a striking example of how success can look when a video game is adapted for the screen (I’m sure there must be novelizations or comics of Mario long before now). Of course some could argue that the OG and real trail blazer here has always been the Resident Evil franchise.

Lastly I think it’s worth noting how, The Witcher has gone from extremely popular book series, to even more popular video game series, and finally, absurdly popular television show.

Adaptations from any medium to another are interesting in a general sense, and it’s easy to spend time pondering questions like “Why did they change this?” or “That was not how I imagined that”, but I also find properties which use multiple mediums to tell one unified story interesting as well.

I remember games like Halo, StarCraft, and Warcraft III doing this back in my youth. Allowing the reader to delve deeper into the world of the game by reading novels that embellished backstory or side quests only hinted at in the main games.

It seems like the Assassin’s Creed franchise has been doing this for quite some time as well, but I guess I’m only now catching on. I picked up the franchise with the game Assassin’s Creed Origins, and have greatly enjoyed each consecutive installment but never thought it worth mentioning on the blog because it wasn’t “book related”. Well, now I see that there are books and so discussions of the games could indeed be “book related”.

So here we are . . .

Assassin’s Creed Valhalla

I’ll start by saying that while AC Valhalla is a great game, it is a LONG game. This is not really a very original assessment, but it is was the thing that stood out to me the most while playing.

After spending hours creeping around castles, assassinating some guards before eventually getting tired (or more likely caught) and blowing my horn to get the raiding party started, I would celebrate my victory for a brief few moments before immediately the next quest would arrive and I would begin it all again.

In literature, I love a doorstopper as much as the next person. I will spend a whole month, or even two, immersing myself in a world with a grin on my face because of the nuance and care an author has brought to their story. Every little detail that they could have breezed over but instead called into view . . . it’s the sweetness at the center of a pastry. It’s the reason I read the books I read.

In many ways, Valhalla has this same quality with its many side quests and mini games, items to be collected, and world events to experience. In games like God of War, the items you collect are not nearly as exciting as the puzzle you have to solve to get them. Valhalla has this quality too.

Only it never ends.

In a novel, at least you have the author setting your pace, and if they’re any good, you make all these discoveries as you move forward through the plot.

In Valhalla, you can spend days raiding or attempting to turn your camera to precisely the right vantage to view a rune which will give you a skill point. Meanwhile England remains unconquered and eventually, in order to “finish” the game, you’ll have to go forth and conquer.

I’m something of a completionist, and so the first time I tried playing the game, I thought I could find all the items, experience all the events and do all the raids. I burnt out and never reached the end.

The second time through, I stayed focused. Mostly main quests, and a couple side quests here and there. The second time? I “finished”. I put finished in quotes because what I accomplished was allying every territory in England to the Raven Clan, and I slayed each of the members and zealots of the Order of Ancients. I did the same with two of the three DLC’s (I’m still working through Ragnarök), but there is still sooo much in the game I haven’t done.

I think I have a screenshot that says I’ve only explored 2% of the map? I think that has to be an error but it still makes my point. The game is HUGE.

Don’t Judge the # of hours played lol

Despite all my complaining, there are lots of things I think the game does really well. Primary among them is its character work. Of course, there are tons of them, but each felt really fleshed out and even alive. They all have motivations, some grand in scale, and others simple but satisfying (which unfortunately does not help one stay focused on the main plot). One of my favorite quests was helping free a caged wolf for a group of kids. That wolf stayed in my room for the rest of the game, and honestly it was quite fun to return home and see him every now and again.

Another thing I enjoyed about Valhalla, which I think many more traditional gamers might not enjoy, is that it wasn’t incredibly ‘boss’ centric. There are tough fights for anyone looking for them, but this was not the main focus of the game which seems to reward exploration and problem solving more than just mashing buttons and grinding down health bars. There’s a balance here to be sure, one which I’m not entirely sure Valhalla achieved, but in general I’m happy the focus of the game wasn’t a bunch of ‘big bads’.

Finally, despite how much I complained about the game being immersive to the point of distraction, I do have to say that I’m somewhat in awe of all the research that seemingly went into creating the world. On some of the other AC games, I’ve played through the tour function and learned about the real history behind the setting. I’ve not yet completed this portion of Valhalla yet, but I think I will likely do so eventually.

Give this One a Shot?

If you enjoyed either of the last two Assassin’s Creed games, this one is much the same only seemingly a lot longer (and I though AC Odyssey was massive). And if you’re new to AC games in general, I think there is a lot here to enjoy, but just remember to stay focused. You will lose WEEKS of your life otherwise.

My favorite parts of the game were absolutely its characters and the moral situations you (and them) are placed in. I’m not sure what the lessons may be yet, but I’m sure there are some good ones to take away from the experience for anyone doing game writing, or even novel writing.

That’s all I have for now. Has anyone played this game? What were your favorite parts? Did you “finish”? Leave your answers in the comments!

Until next week!


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