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Thoughts on Assassin's Creed Valhalla's Gameplay Trailer

  • Mr. likes this
  • July 13, 2020

    So...we finally got some actual content for AC: Valhalla and I thought it'd be interesting to go pretty in-depth analysing it and sharing my thoughts on the trailer. 

    First I guess I need to clarify, I didn't play Origins thought Odyssey was one of the most subpar games I've ever played and it did literally nothing for me. My primary issue is that they basically scrapped the well contained stories, characters and events of previous games to try and create a more open-world RPG style game that completely ignored what AC was originally good at. As solid as gameplay always has been (I will admit 3 was the weakest for me) the best games were 1, 2 and Brotherhood which were good mostly because they told two stories that were both really solid. They weren't perfect, but they were solid. Scrapping Desmond and not continuing the real world story at all really was, in my opinion a mistake but I'd also suggest that they'd gone too far into the whole alien/ancient human thing that I just don't care that much about. But take 1 and 2, Desmond escaping Abstergo and trying to avoid them while figuring out the actual goals of the Templars was a pretty cool storyline that was still relatively grounded. Ezio's storyline was honestly just excellent and I think Altair's was solid, it was a simple story with simple themes and messages but it was effective enough. Odyssey lacks any of that, really Black Flag does as well but they focused enough on the Naval Combat (and that was bloody fantastic) that I don't really care. Odyssey to me, is a fine story again, like it's as good I guess as 3 was (which was fine) but it's weakened by the world being SO MUCH LARGER and it being peppered with less content. Oh sure it has like a billion and a half minor side quests but absolutely none of them are worth doing in terms of telling good stories or having interesting characters. Compare that with Ezio having legitimate side characters that grow and change and are interesting. I'd also say they went too far into 'Prophecy' but I'll at least let that slide because it's a legitimate aspect of Greek Mythology, honestly a major part and skipping out on it would be kinda silly.

    I just wanted to quickly cover my issues with that game because, well it was their last game and it helps make my perspective clear. I like the early games, don't like the latter ones and think they have fundamental designed flaws that make them subjectively worse (they aren't poorly made or objectively bad, it's just not for me). I would compare them to Skyrim if you took all the Lore out of Skyrim, had a weaker character progression system and some of the RPG elements. That's basically like saying I like Mario Kart except for the driving, racing and characters...that's all the game is.

    The Story/Concept of Valhalla

    So, first is that obviously I think Valhalla is going to take more from Odyssey than Brotherhood. It's clearly going for at least all of Britain probably also parts of Scotland/Ireland/Wales (I think that's all of them) if not in the main game then at least in the DLC. It's possible that the tutorial will take place in...Vikingland or whatever since there are parts of the game apparently inspired by Norse Mythology which only really makes sense know Norway or whatever. Other then that I think the Siege/area control tactics are going to be fairly similar to the system in Odyssey, my only hope is that they make it more fun or at least a little more complex (in terms of design) than just completing minor radiant quests to conquer the area and prepare you for a siege. Personally I think limiting it to...maybe 6 major areas (or 7 or whatever, but a small number) and having each area have a major storyline related to it and adding in legitimate settlement management would be idea. Basically the core would be something more like how you operated in each city of AC: 2, gathering information on a target, allying with specific groups (that have actual characters and stories rather than 'generic general 1') and then leading up to an assassination of the leader + siege would be rather interesting and would help bring the series back to it's roots a little. But again, we're talking specific storylines for each city that also culminate in whatever the main goal will be (which we don't know) not the lacklustre system for chasing down random members of...whatever the organisation that weren't Templars was in Odyssey...Hydra probably. Again, we're talking really specific stories, characters and you know, actual writing involved in this game. That might seem harsh, but I don't think anyone is calling Odyssey's minor quests well written (if you are can we chat so I can understand your perspective)

    Obviously it's nearly impossible to quantifiable say anything about the story of Valhalla other than it making perfect sense so far. Our character is a Viking raider, we're gonna raid England because that's just a thing Vikings liked doing once they figured out England was a thing. We can assume that the Templar order will exist to some degree, in AC: 2 we received hints that, I believe they were around since Ancient Rome (It's been awhile, forgive me if I'm just wrong), or at least that the Assassin's were and that the two have existed as long as each other. That said we can also guess that our character is more than likely not an Assassin himself at the start, we simply don't know how entrenched they will be in the story.

    Considering the timing it is actually entirely plausible to suggest Arthurian inspirations, I doubt they'll go full King Arthur or anything (because at that point just make a separate game...actually fuck we kinda need a good King Arthur game) but a key component of the legend is that Arthur rises up and unites England/Britain/whatever I'm suppose to call it (I don't care, fight me British people) and pushes out the Saxon hoards which kinda puts us in an interesting position. I only mention this because Odyssey and Origins both delved far more into Mythology than History which could carry over. My guess would be a roughly 550-600 AD era timeline, but I suppose we could also be part of the earliest 'Viking' invasions of Britain. Regardless my assumption if we're talking about post-Roman rule because...well that's a totally different thing that could still be interesting I guess, siding with local people to rise up against the Templar led Romans could work but...wait didn't we already, nah it's fine, those weren't Romans they were just in Rome. It wouldn't be copying AC: 2 at all (or Brotherhood or whatever).

    Time for positives on the mechanics I've already mentioned. Personally I really love the idea of actual Sieges being present and used as a major mechanic. I think it fits perfectly with the setting, maybe obviously and from what little they've shown it seems like they've touched on what would be minor things which I think really add up. Being able to shoot burning arrows to destroy wooden buildings is awesome (as long as they're burned realistically that is, for example I'd be disappointed if it was just 'building is on fire while your fighting and as soon as it's over they have a cut scene, replace the models with burnt ones') and adds a layer of possible strategy. Maybe if you burn buildings it'll you know, lower local loyalty or reduce the resources gained but trap some troops inside and make the battle easier. It depends on the actual usage of the mechanic but on paper it's solid even as is. The use of siege weapons looked interesting, different city defences that will provide different challenges is good and I think the brief display of counter-weapons from the enemy (burning oil specifically) is nice to see, as long as it's more then that. I'd love to end up fighting cities that use catapults as defensive weapons and you start figuring out how to lead your army. Maybe going at it alone to attack weak points is a viable strategy or what we see in-game where personally leading your army can make knocking the gates down easier for your army. Again, depends on the implementation but the possibilities are solid.


    You can dual-wield shields, that's all goodbye....

    No, in reality I think the basic combat systems displayed in the trailer are really solid, the ability to dual-wield a wide range of weapons is really interesting, especially considering they've already showcased a solid selection of weapons available. In particular I think the idea of the Nordic Harpoon is the most interesting, or maybe that was a tool...not entirely sure either way the chain weapon displayed was a new and unique looking style of combat for AC. I think it will all depend on how fluid using each weapon will be, AC has always struggled making weapons feel really distinct in my opinion but I think Valhalla is aiming to fix that. Another change I quite like is the concept of how bows are now used, activating on a 'weak point' system rather than just simple headshots or always staggering enemies feel like an improvement to make combat more tactical but I will say that the displayed times of stuns felt ridiculous. They showed enemies being prone for ages and I just think it might be a little too long and make bows as stupidly overpowered as they were in Odyssey or guns were in other games.

    Personally I'd like to see the following weapons

    • Spears

    • Axes (Two-Handed and Single)

    • Hammers

    • Swords

    • Daggers

    • The Chain thing

    • Sickles/Scythes or just generally more sweeping attacks.

    • Crossbows (as distinct weapons)

    • Different types of Bows (with different draw speeds, weights, arrow-types, etc.)

    • Trap launchers

    There are probably more weapon-types...I guess you could diversify Swords into piercing and slashing and then add spiked hammers or whatnot. But this is like, the core of what I'd like to see with fully distinct movesets for all of them. Like, sure I guess Dark Souls like weapon systems wouldn't be fair to expect (actually it kind of would be...) with dozens of unique weapon types and whatnot but, yeah something better than what we've had. I will at least praise Odyssey by saying...Spears and Swords felt distinct so I have some hope for Valhalla continuing that trend.


    What's this? Stealth, in an Assassins Creed game? Blasphemy, oh your even going to bring back mechanics from the old games that were bafflingly taken out making the stealth system a fucking joke? Well cool, that's great I'm actually down for it. I think the largest issue with stealth in the recent games is taking it out of the cities (and of course the complete clown-move that is massively changing the parkour system each generation) because AC lived for the cities. We all acknowledged moving out of them to get to other cities in 1 - Revelations but those moments sucked and the new games are almost exclusively those moments. Who honestly felt like an Assassin at any point in Odyssey?

    I think they've shown off a really awesome system of infiltrating cities and the concept of constantly trying to blend into the background with small minor mechanics. Things like...were you basting a chicken in that one scene? Either way things like that are brilliant if they're widespread and heavily utilised by the game (admittedly I am worried that the series will have held itself back to release on current gen consoles. I know NBA2K21 will be doing it and my guess is we'll get a similar thing here so mechanics that could work on PS5/Xbox Series X won't be possible in the game to make it easier to release for both). We'll have to hope that parkour feels good again (or at least important) and that navigating cities is finally a thing. I know we had Syndicate or Unity or whatever the last actual AC game was but, honestly just never played them (Syndicate's movement felt off and I didn't bother wasting money on Unity after hearing how broken it was). Either way, it's clear to me that stealth hasn't quite been the same since then, operating more like something out of an open-world game. It certainly lacked the sophistication and actual use of early games and started operating simply as an 'avoid enemies or deal more damage' mechanic in Odyssey.

    Shit, gotta try and stop ranting (it's really clear I don't like Odyssey right?). Basically I'm glad they're bringing it back and honestly I'm more or less convinced it'll be fine. I really, really hope that they back this up by actually putting you in situations where Stealth is a mechanic in of itself rather than another approach to combat.

    Final Thoughts

    I probably didn't cover everything...oh uh, honestly no real thoughts on the base building or group mechanics briefly mentioned in the trailer. I don't think they showed enough of either to be really worth talking about at the moment, I guess I could theorise what they could be but the possibilities are endless. My guess is sadly that the Base Mechanics will operate a lot like building your ship in Black Flag (throw money at thing, solve thing) and that the 'clan' will just be basic NPC's that follow you around for big battles and maybe you can send them off on mini-quests but nothing concrete. It'd be cool if they borrowed from the Nemesis System from uh, Shadow of Mordor but yeah...probably be lame.

    Actually, I did want to just briefly say that...the graphics were surprisingly mediocre. Character models looked kind of poorly rendered (including the main character shockingly enough) and it just didn't astound me like...say Horizon: Forbidden West. It looked a lot like they were using current-gen footage for the game which I guess isn't awful, it's better than trying to pretend next-gen graphics are current but yeah. Just thought it looked like a bit of a step up from Odyssey but barely. Voice acting seemed subpar as well but that's literally just from a few people shouting so it's not really worth mentioning as anything other than a tidbit.

    So yeah, will do this maybe for a few other games. Kingdoms of Amalur Re-Reckoning would be high on my list since I loved the concept of the original game (just thought the gameplay was flat and replayability wasn't huge) and it'd be fun to cover it once we get Gameplay.



  • Mr.
    July 18, 2020

    Here's a rant/opinion/hope. First I'm talking about older AC, but if you want to read my take on Valhalla, I'll make it stick out to you. It's not as deep as Dragonborn's take on it, though.

    I decided to play Assassin's Creed these days again - finished Black Flag a couple of days ago, and I was absolutely sick of the repetitive naval combat and boarding. But the story, as I remember, was good, but I feel like it would have been better at enacting an emotional response in me if I had enjoyed the gameplay more (like The Witcher 3, The Last of Us Part I, Batman Arkham (especially City and Knight) or Red Dead Redemption were capable of accomplishing).

    But still, the story was good, and I remembered why I liked Assassin's Creed: outside of that precursor/first civilization crap, the idea of two secret organizations fighting each other throughout history was always appealing. It's why the Ezio games were so good, and why I, in the minority, loved Assassin's Creed 3. Templar v Assassin stuff, when done right, is really, really good.

    So I decided to check the newer games, and I bought Origins (skipped Odyssey as I saw it barely had any Assassin/Templar stuff on it, lots of First Civilization stuff,  meaningless battles, grinding and repetitive assets bloating the world so it feels bigger - so everything I hate about Assassin's Creed). And I'm... loving the protagonist, Bayek, but something isn't clicking with me. The gameplay sometimes feels good - I like one-shotting people with arrows from above, but there's something strange. Now, I shall bitch about Origins:

    • The open world isn't really working. I don't feel immersed on it, it feels like it should be huge and filled with activity, but everything in it feels extremely artificial. I want to love the game, and the main story seems interesting, with good characters (Aya is breathtaking), but having to do 5-10 annoying/lifeless/filler sidequests just kills the vibe completely for me. Hell, responding to generic police calls in L.A Noire was more exciting than Origins' sidequests. 


    • Bayek is already a tall man, and yet there was a human enemy that was built like a bear and a lot taller than Bayek - that enemy's physical build just reminded me this is a game, and not a what-if historical setting telling me about the birth of a secret organization to fight an evil secret organization that rules the world and looks cool as hell in those masks. Gone are the struggles of the Italian playboy or the displaced native american fighting against this evil secret organization, in is the Dark Souls-like combat. It takes you completely out of the setting, and if I wanted a challenging spongy fight with a big bad enemy, I would have bought Dark Souls.


    • The controls when you're riding your camel/horse is awful. Yes, I want to follow the road/the objective. No, when I move the analog in any direction, I don't want to have the camel to a 360º turn and continue to follow that road. Maybe I'm just getting old significantly faster than I should and can't keep up with these controls. 

    I haven't finished the game yet, but I can say I'm not hooked. I might even regret having bouth the DLC Hidden Ones, or maybe the entire game, since I'm not sure I'll ever get to the ending. Sure, I want to see the birth of the assassins, I want to meet Caesar, I want to find out more about these proto-templars, but I feel like I will have to suffer through most of the gameplay to get there. And you shouldn't suffer through the gameplay... in a game. 

    Now, what I think of Valhalla.

    Base building is back, you get to recruit a crew of (hopefully) interesting NPCs, and one of the devs compared the settlement to the Normandy and Inquisition's Skyhold, and that's my favorite thing that has been revealed. But I read Odyssey is even worse than Origins (with microtransactions! In a singleplayer game! yay!), and I fear for Valhalla. 

    Also, from what I've seen, the voice of the male protagonist sounds weird. I expected a booming, commanding voice from that bearded dude - if they wanted to give him a boyish voice, don't give him a beard and make him young, stupid and lovable. His current voice is "light", soft and calm, and it doesn't really match with his appearence.

    Oh, this also reminds me: I don't think you should get to choose the gender of your protagonist in Assassin's Creed. I get it, they're trying to make this an RPG, but from what I've experienced and seen, they're failing miserably. Make a defined protagonist, either a male or a female, and make them really interesting and don't waste resources on recording the voices for a different character playing the same story. If you want to have more than one protagonist, do it, but make their stories different yet connected - like Bayek and Aya in Origins or Michael, Franklin and Trevor in GTA V. Or, if they really want you to choose the gender of your protagonist, make it a tight, short open-world with a focus on the story like Dishonored 2.


    Oh, and I've been reading some reviews/opinions, and Unity is apparently a lot better than it was given credit to originally. It's the last real Assassin's Creed game, and this guy has a really interesting take on it:

    I should have bought Unity...