Can’t get enough of Ubisoft’s Assassin’s Creed franchise? It has already been over two years since 2018’s Assassin’s Creed Odyssey graced the previous generation of consoles, if you can believe it. Curious to see if their take on living life as a Viking melds well with living as an Assassin? Take a leap into our Assassin’s Creed Valhalla PS5 review to see how well everything comes together on the next generation of consoles.
Assassin’s Creed Valhalla PS5 Review – A Few PS5 Upgrades
First, the answers to some questions you may have about playing Assassin’s Creed Valhalla on the PS5. Yes, the upgrade is free for owners of the PS4 version. From a technical standpoint, the game runs at a targeted 60 frames per second at 4K resolution, and remains pretty consistently around that target (more on that below). There are no options for preferring resolution or performance as you might see on the PS4 Pro – instead, the game just runs as well as it can with a dynamic resolution.
It runs exceedingly smoothly, though, and the PS5 remained essentially silent while we were playing. Things look great, though perhaps not quite a generational leap in terms of graphical fidelity. Ray tracing is not currently supported, though everything runs at a buttery-smooth and nearly-constant 60 frames per second at 4K resolution, with HDR support as standard for this generation. Load times are incredibly short – booting from the title screen to actually playing takes less than ten seconds, usually quite a bit less.
For some reason, respawning actually takes longer, though at most you’re looking at around 15 seconds of waiting. Who’s to say how much of this speed is the PS5’s SSD and how much is Ubisoft’s optimization? Does it really matter? By the time you finish reading a few of these sentences, the game will have loaded! Those of you who are used to catching up on social media or messaging friends while your game loads may find those moments to be ever more fleeting as this generation gets started. There’s always lengthy boat rides to enjoy instead, at least.
Assassin’s Creed Valhalla takes place in Norway, England, and some iconic locations from Norse mythology for good measure. The main map of England encompasses an enormous area, filled to the brim with quests, people, and artifacts to discover. Indeed, this is a world you can easily get lost in. Hel, turn down the navigation hints, and you can actually get lost! The game starts within the jagged, snowy peaks of Norway, but quickly transitions to another nearby country with gently rolling hills, and pretty dreary weather. Still, Ubisoft brought their usual attention to detail, so if you want to see a mostly accurate idea of what Medieval England might have looked like, then you’re in luck.
Assassin’s Creed Valhalla PS5 Review – Big Map, Lengthy Campaign
So, what is this merry ol’ map of England (and other locations) filled with? Quite a lot, as luck would have it. There’s mysteries, which usually involve some crazy person that you have to follow and help out in some way, treasure to increase your settlements’ wealth, and of course bandit camps, monasteries, and other areas to pillage like a proper Viking. Assassin’s Creed Valhalla has a map that is simultaneously wide and condensed, as many areas have secrets buried under a house or hidden deep within a viper-infested dungeon. You’ll never forget the viper egg mission. I know I won’t.
There are also some entertainment options available in most civilized areas, including a dice game called Orlog and a game of wits called flyting (think Medieval rap battle, with poetry), to name a few. Combining these side activities with the main campaign results in an estimated play time of 60-80 hours for average players who don’t stress on speed-running the campaign. With such a meaty play time, Ubisoft is still catering to those of us who love a good single player campaign. The story does take a while to get going, but when the scenery is so detailed and fun to explore, you can take your time and play at your own pace.
The story stars Eivor, a Viking whose burial site has been discovered by modern-day Assassins while the real world is nearing catastrophe with an increasing magnetic field being emitted by the Earth. The modern-day storyline takes a backseat for most of the experience, which is probably for the best since most people play Assassin’s Creed to get lost in a fictional realization of historical time periods. You can choose Eivor’s gender after playing through the opening sequence, or you can also have the Animus decide, which swaps gender at certain key moments in the story. Beyond that, the game is exactly the same no matter which gender you choose, and in fact Eivor’s gender can be freely changed at any moment simply by accessing the pause screen.
Combat in Valhalla sees a more skills-based approach, with a complex constellation of abilities that can be unlocked with skill points earned as Eivor levels up. Some areas of the constellation are geared towards offensive capabilities, others favor stealth, and others still offer defensive options. It’s easy to reset skill points and try out a different loadout, as well. This might feature one of the most robust combat customizations of any Assassin’s Creed game, and more choice is rarely a bad thing to have.
Assassin’s Creed Valhalla PS5 Review – Stab First, Ask Questions Later
As for the actual fighting, it’s standard-issue action with a few layers added for variety. Certain skills unlock special abilities which can be mapped to the directional pad or face buttons, which are activated by holding L2 and R2 for ranged or melee abilities, respectively. Adrenaline bars are also used for these special maneuvers, which build up over time automatically and through player actions. A stamina bar also drains with each attack, though naturally some equipment can buff this out with successful hits or upon other conditions that are dictated by the equipment.
Enemies can approach from any direction, and the player must pay attention to incoming attacks, which are represented by runic emblems flashing near the danger, if the difficulty setting is low enough (the player has to pay attention to other more subtle indicators on higher levels). Combat is more in-your-face than I remember Assassin’s Creed being, but this ties in with Eivor being a Viking first and a stealthy warrior of justice second.
Some passive multiplayer options are also included at a certain point, where Eivor can command Jomsviking NPCs, who are Viking mercenaries. They can go and assist other players during raids, and earn rewards for the player while assisting. Beyond this, though, the game largely stays out of the player’s way and allows the single player campaign to shine through, for dozens of hours.
Is Assassin’s Creed Valhalla the best entry in the series yet? Some would be tempted to say so. While the map size might overwhelm some players, it remains an easy game to mainline with the right navigation mode turned on. In fact, the quick load times help to make this an even easier task than in previous generations. This is an iteration of Assassin’s Creed that has a bit of everything from the previous games, as refined as we have seen to date.
Assassin’s Creed Valhalla review code provided by the publisher. Version 1.002 reviewed on a PS5. For more information on scoring, please read our Review Policy.
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