Alexa, play “Immigrant Song” because we’re off to raid England in Assassin’s Creed: Valhalla. Now, I know many of you are wary of playing another Assassin’s Creed game. And I don’t blame you, the last one was just too homophobic. But did Ubisoft learn their lesson? Is this one worth giving a shot? Read for our review of Assassin’s Creed: Valhalla.
Warning! Minor spoilers ahead.
So What’s It About?
It’s 800 AD in Norway and you are a horrible little viking. Just kidding, you’re actually quite good. Eivor, your character, loses her parents in an act of betrayal but the head of the clan happily adopts her into his family. Fast forward to adult Eivor trying to protect her clan from yet another attack from the same man that killed her family. After a series of events, Sigurd, who is essentially her adoptive brother, decides they will not bow to a new king and off they go to England to build a new home. Yes, you read that right. In this game, you are essentially colonizing England. How the tables have turned. There is of course the sci-fi elements typical of an Assassin’s Creed game woven into it, but it takes you out of story. So for the sake of this review I’ll ignore it. The game offers beautiful scenery.
But don’t expect the Aesir to look anything like they do in Marvel’s Thor movies. And we should be thankful for that! They are Norse through and through, even down to their accents. Lastly, the soundtrack was a bit disappointing. The sea shanties didn’t slap nearly as hard as they did in previous games and I often found myself just turning on my own Spotify playlists. Mamma Mia blaring over the speakers during a viking raid was very fun to experience.
While you can’t make your own character, saving you 45 minutes of cycling through nose shape options, you can customize Eivor’s appearance, the appearance of your longboat, and the decorations around your settlement. When the game begins, you can chose a female or male protagonist. The game also has a feature that changes the character’s sex randomly throughout the game. I of course chose to play as a female Eivor.
Eivor’s hairstyle and color are customizable, but you have to buy different styles from merchants, which seems utterly pointless. However, I am happy with the styles available because undercuts like mine were apparently peak viking fashion. Catch me showing screenshots of Eivor to my hair stylist. Anyway, you can also change the tattoos on her face, arms, chest, and back. That sounds great if not for the fact that Eivor’s armor covers up everything but her face.
Speaking of armor, it’s much harder to get armor and weapons in this game. You can’t simply pick up a piece of armor from a fallen foe. You have to find chests hidden around the country to get new armor and weapons. But, upgrading armor and weapons changes their appearance for the better. And we all know you can’t rain monasteries if you ain’t cute. Aside from this, you can also choose the level of gore and nudity you see in the game.
If you, like me, were one of the unlucky people who foolishly thought she could just impulse buy a PS5 and failed, no need to worry! I played the game on a PS4 and every PS4 version comes with a free next gen upgrade in the event you’re lucky enough to get your hands on a next gen console. Having said that, what is it actually like playing AC: Vahalla? It is very much like if Skyrim and Animal Crossing had a violent child. You might be thinking, “how in Odin’s name does that make any sense?” Well, you will spend a lot of time wandering around the wilderness and picking up minor side quests. Said side quests, unlike Skyrim, are quite easy to finish. So why are you running around the wilderness so much? To find resources to help you upgrade and decorate your settlement of course, hence the Animal Crossing vibes. And to give it even more Animal Crossing energy, Eivor proudly displays the fish she catches.
What was particularly fun about this game is that unlike the previous game, you can be an active participant in the culture’s mythology. Odyssey never allowed me to go hunting with Artemis, but Valhalla allowed me the opportunity to beat Thor in a viking rap battle. Whose English degree is useless now!? More importantly, you can pet both cats and dog in this game. Isn’t that what’s important? How can I be a lesbian viking without one of Freya’s blessed beasts on my boat?
However, there are times when the climbing and parkour mechanic becomes annoying. Eivor just won’t go the way you want her to go or the camera will swing to the most inconvenient angle. I experienced the usual glitches that come with a new game, but it wasn’t anything bad enough to get me to rage quit.
What About the Lesbianism?
We all know what you came here for: lesbian vikings. One thing I would like to point out is that the village tattoo artist is named Tove. Was this perhaps a nod to lesbian illustrator and creator of Moomins, Tove Jansson? I like to think so!
There are instances of gay NPCs, and thus far none of their storylines have been homophobic. But what about Eivor’s love life? There are three female romance options for Eivor. Bil, Petra, and Randvi. Bil we meet back in Norway as a group of men fight for her attention by looking for her comb. Petra is settlement’s best hunter. Randvi is married to Sigurd for political reasons and the romance option with the most drama. Guess which one of these women I chose. If you said Randvi for the absolute drama of it all you are correct! I have become a lesbian home wrecker by starting an affair with my adoptive brother’s wife. What chaos I have wrought. The romance with Randvi is actually very sweet and had me wishing I had a viking girlfriend to call me darling.
But my concern now is how things will play out if or when Sigurd finds out about the affair. Will it be homophobic? Sadly, I have not progressed far enough into the game to find out yet. But once I do, I will certainly update this review. And it is a valid concern as Odyssey didn’t get homophobic until quite late in the game.
The Bottom Line
In all honesty, I enjoyed this game much more than the previous one. Perhaps, it was because I had no expectations. It can get a bit annoying how difficult it is to get new armor and weapons, and having to buy new tattoo and hair options is outrageous.
While the romance was not a huge part of the game, it was still sweet enough to make me smile. So far, there hasn’t been anything homophobic enough to make me what to throw the game away. Valhalla gives us everything we expected from a game about vikings. The Aesir, the raiding, the longboats. But the best thing about this game is that it gives us a look into the Norse sense of community. Every time Eivor returns to her settlement she’s greeted by adults, children, and every animal she accidentally adopted during her travels. Every now and then she meets someone and invites them to join her settlement. Not necessarily because they have some skill that is beneficial to her, but because she simply understands what it was like not to have a home. And it’s these moments of compassion amidst a game so utterly doused in brutality that make Eivor endearing.
It won’t make you as angry Skyrim, but it won’t make you as happy as Animal Crossing. But maybe that’s enough. Currently, the game is about $20 off retail price for both current and next gen consoles. It’s worth checking out for this price.