There are a lot of circumstances that resulted in me playing my first Assassin’s Creed thirteen years after the whole thing began, but there was one in particular that pushed me to buying Assassin’s Creed: Valhalla: I need a Bioware-adjacent RPG experience in 2020, and it doesn’t look like I can expect that from the studio itself anytime soon. Did I get that in Assassin’s Creed: Valhalla? Not exactly, as it doesn’t feel like it has that same laser focus on character-driven storytelling, instead opting for a more episodic vignette kind of deal. But the knowledge that one particular pillar of Bioware’s games is somewhere in this game’s neverending expansion keeps me going. It keeps me synchronizing points on this map so I can safely drop into a pile of hay. It keeps me dealing with that Open World Bullshit of getting on a horse or a boat and auto traveling while I check my phone (because the loading screens are too short for me to do that now). It is what has brought me to a Ubisoft open world game when I swore off that shit six years ago after the original Watch Dogs.
I want to be a gay viking and ravish as many virtual men as I’m allowed, and Assassin’s Creed: Valhalla is the only game on my fancy new PlayStation 5 that’s gonna let me.
This singular goal has made Valhalla my most-played game on my PS5 since I got it on Thursday, and at about 20 hours I have been just fumbling about trying to figure out if I even like it yet. I’m certainly not miserable playing Valhalla, but I definitely find the parkour elements to be second class to better games like Infamous, and even frustrating at points when it seems like protagonist Eivor has velcro attached to his hands and latches on to any grabbable surface when I’m just trying to climb up a straight line. I also don’t yet know if the game is going to reckon with the fact that this character I’m playing as, despite all his well-meaning charm and desire to protect the people he cares about, is a fucking invader killing innocents so he can expand his influence. And, my god, why does the map just seem to get bigger and bigger and bigger every hour?
But somewhere on that stupid big map are men who are down to do the no pants dance with Eivor, and if I have to stab every shitty king and rival viking to see the plow-swords of these men, I’m gonna fucking do it.
Am I thrilled at the fact that this is not the stealthy game I had always thought Assassin’s Creed was, and instead feels like a Witcher-adjacent game with occasional encounters that make stealth optional? Nope. In fact, I’ve found a fair bit of the standard combat frustrating, especially when I’m doing a raid that has a group of teammates with me who insist on attacking enemies as I’m lining up a critical shot with my bow. But will I go through all of it to let some NPC who stands to benefit from me fighting their god-proclaimed rivals line up a shot on Eivor? You’re goddamn right, I will.
And do I also think the entire real world/Animus plotline, despite being an interesting concept, has been robbed of any meaningful impact on the larger story as Ubisoft unravels it with every game rather than abandoning it entirely? Absolutely, but I’d be lying if I said that I wasn’t headcanoning that Layla Hassan, the woman who is using the virtual reality nonsense to look back on Eivor’s life, isn’t just in it now because she ships Eivor with the collective male populus of Assassin’s Creed: Valhalla and wants to see him make sweet, sweet, viking love to as many men as Ubisoft will allow. Because that’s where I’m at, folks.
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Last night, I did manage to make some progress. After helping crown a king and see that a political wedding went off without a hitch (the other kind of hitch, obviously), I was approached by Broder, the brother of the bride, who was drunk and had taken a liking to me through all of the quest line. So when he offered to fuck Eivor away from all the hubbub of the afterparty, you know I was down. This seems like it’s a one time thing, though, and despite my willingness to spread the love to any man who is down in England, I am still on the lookout for who is going to be my Eivor’s main squeeze. So hopefully that lucky guy makes himself known sooner than the nearly 20 hours it took me to find Broder for a sloppy wedding hookup.
I am enjoying Assassin’s Creed: Valhalla a fair bit, even if it’s hard for me to nail down why just yet. It is the product of some of my least favorite trends in modern RPGs, and because it just insists on getting bigger what feels like every time I look at the goddamn map, I feel like I’m moments from getting overwhelmed and playing something else. But then I remember that Eivor’s story is not done until he has become known for how good he is with his hands, both on the battlefield and in the bedroom. So I must persist.