For a while, Assassin's Creed games were regarded as quite dull. They offered a predictable open world with limited expanded mechanics, and considering they were an annual release, they were reaching the point of no return. At least that was the case before Ubisoft Montreal dropped Assassin's Creed Origins: a revamped experience offering a revitalised look into one of gaming's most iconic series. Since that day, we've been lucky enough to receive Assassin's Creed Odyssey and more recently Assassin's Creed Valhalla, which many people regard as being the best of the three.
Valhalla is set in the ninth century and is split between two regions; the colder, mountainous environment of Norway and the more docile, lusher land of England. Focussing on the tale of Eivor the Viking (who can be either gender to suit personal preference), this title looked to produce a spanning story based on a Viking clan facing the challenges of creating a new home in a less hostile place.
Building on the expansive RPG systems and open world formula for these newer, revamped Assassin's Creed games, Valhalla brought a freer way to enjoy the open world, by redefining how interactive its world is. Outside of the narrative, the new activities spread across the land offer exciting new challenges and the World Events that replaced the more linear side quest style, bring lighter and unique tales - some of which are completely ridiculous in nature.
On top of this, the upgrading system was reformed so you can take whichever gear you like along your journey, provided you upgrade it at blacksmith to increase its effectiveness and appearance. Pitting this less funnelling style with the overwhelmingly large skill tree, you can really make your Eivor as unique and fitting to your playstyle as you'd like, which makes the Valhalla experience even more engaging and exciting to play.
By making use of all of these more user friendly, customisable features, Valhalla transcends the Assassin's Creed name. It's combination of a diverse world, different forms of travel that range from horseback, parkour and sea-based, mixed with an engaging form of combat that actually requires you to use strategy and skill to overcome some of your opponents, makes it exciting at every turn. Considering the sheer scale of the game, that's pretty impressive if you ask us.
Obviously, Valhalla isn't perfect, very few things are. There are bugs and the levelling system basically limits how you can approach the exploration aspect of the title. But, considering Assassin's Creed games are transitioning to reflect more of an RPG experience similar to that of the near perfect The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt, Valhalla is the closest representation of what the series can be at its best. The most exciting part is that by also producing a storyline with roots back to the assassination questlines that basically founded the franchise itself, the series has a clearly defined identity, built in a world packed with refined combat and exploration.
As good as Assassin's Creed Valhalla is - and it really is excellent, the reason why it ranks only as eighth on our Game of the Year list is due to what comes ahead of it. This edition into this timeless series is probably the best we've ever seen, which is why it's garnered the respect and credit it has, but what lies ahead are some of the most exceptional games of the year, and we think in eight days time, you'll come to be content with how far Assassin's Creed Valhalla made it into this year's rankings.