I am a serious fan of the Assassin's Creed games. My first experience with the series was AC 2 in 2009, and I found the detailed historical world, the lively and playful characters, the challenging action, and the puzzly stealth to all be superlative examples of triple-A gaming at its best. I have played every single main entry since then and completed all of them, including the much-reviled entries AC 3 and AC Unity, which I loved.
I have thoroughly enjoyed the recent shift of the series into a more action-RPG model with some of the nemesis system elements borrowed from the Mordor games and with the huge, colorful worlds of Ancient Rome and Ancient Greece to play in. Despite the length of these new iterations, I found the story, characters, and power progression to be more than enough to drive me through the sometimes repetitive side missions and enormous landscapes to experience the conclusion of each game.
All this has come to a grinding halt with AC Valhalla, much to my surprise. I love the main character, I totally dig viking stuff, and more broadly I enjoy the way they've built a world of Vikings romping through the British Isles. But something about the structure of this game just prevents me from pushing forward, and as a result I keep putting the game aside for weeks at a time.
Part of the problem may be that I hate the central conflict of the story–the tension between Eivor and Sigurd seems so forced and exaggerated, and doesn't allow for player agency at all. I understand this is the story they want to tell, but it significantly lowers my enjoyment of the world and of my avatar's interactions with NPCs. Every time I get to a major plot point involving Sigurd, I just don't want to play anymore. It really weakens my enthusiasm for the game as a whole.
I also despise the "Assaults" on fortresses, particularly now that I've done so many of them. Getting stuck in an endless loop of tar, fire, breaking down doors, and shielding yourself from arrows just isn't fun. I'd take one of the old stealth missions over this repetitive junk any day of the week. I found the "Conquest Battles" of the past two entries to be very tiresome as well, but these seem even worse. Why do we need these annoying, meaningless gates in an otherwise open game world? I wish there was an option to opt out of all of them.
Part of me wonders if the problem isn't actually this entry in the Assassin's Creed series, but the broader (and oft-discussed) issue of Ubisoft fatigue. I love all of their action-adventure games, but playing every new Far Cry, Assassin's Creed, and Watch Dogs game means that this particular style of open-world exploration, storytelling, RPG advancement, action set pieces, and narrative-through-violence is starting to wear thin. In fact my least favorite Ubisoft game of all time was probably the recent Far Cry 5, which surely had the most annoying and frustrating antagonist/bad guys in the history of games. I finished that game out of hate, hoping that I would obliterate Joseph Seed in a satisfying ending. Boy that didn't turn out well.
For newer players, who haven't already gone on the decade-long journey of playing every game in the AC, Far Cry, and relatively newer Watch Dogs series, maybe AC Valhalla is full of tasty goodness? I don't know. But I'm afraid that I may end up playing fewer and fewer Ubisoft games, unless, of course, they bring Splinter Cell back. It all makes me sad.
Were you able to finish this game? How did you do it? Do you think the AC/Ubisoft formula is wearing thin?
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