Ubisoft’s open-world Viking adventure is filled with possibilities. There are lands to raid, kingdoms to ally with, and ruthless foes to combat against, all amid England’s ever-changing landscape of politics and tussles among the people. But when it comes to calling in your fellow Vikings to aid in battle, it feels as if half the effort is put forth when it comes to these friendly NPCs. There is plenty of goodies to collect in Assassin’s Creed Valhalla as Eivor, and it soon becomes a chore when it comes to looting. This bleeds into the game’s biggest missed opportunity – the underutilization of the Vikings.
Vikings in Valhalla: Hit or Miss?
Eivor is on a constant search for the most valuable gear across England. By doing so, they embark on raids to fight and bring back any supplies that can be used for their benefit. Monasteries burn to ruin, enemy camps are left to dust, and sacred items all soon come home to Ravensthorpe. But when it comes to mustering up the befallen materials, it seems as though Eivor is doing half the work – even with a brotherhood of Vikings by their side. Yes, Eivor is the de facto leader of these warriors. The one that leads them into battle, to be victorious or to be slain. But as soon as the fighting subsides, it becomes break time for these apparent Norsemen who have no issue in killing and conquering. It’s like they were commissioned with an inhibitor chip to not help Eivor in doing some clean-up-and-pick-up.
During any raiding session, the typical enemy will drop some loot. Correspondingly so, the player is obliged to scrape up the goods, but it’s really only them doing the lifting. Of course, the fellow Vikings will slay enemies, commence supply openings, and back you up during combat. But they don’t even lend a hand in picking up some of the loot for you. The developers even go as far as to program the NPC Vikings to crouch by a slain foe, to only end up with nothing but the indicating light signifying that loot is still present. So what did the Viking do? Check their heartbeat? Sing them a goodbye tune? It’s just for show, and it’s disappointing to experience in this latest Assassin’s Creed installment.
Eivor, The One-Man Collector
After the detailed blueprints from earlier titles and the recent Origins and Odyssey games, you would figure that something freshly cooked would come served to the table. While the rehashed mechanics work well in Valhalla, there’s definitely more that could’ve been expanded upon with the Vikings.
When Eivor calls upon his ship with enemies behind him, the Vikings don’t join in: They simply shoot a few arrows, no matter who you fight against. When you’re close to death, they don’t attempt to save you: Instead, they expect the exact opposite unless you want the alerting exclamation points on your screen. Upon venturing into enemy territory, you can’t recruit a fellow member to be by your side: You’re really on your own unless the game makes it convenient for you.
This also doesn’t help the fact that Valhalla lacks memorable supporting characters and moments. If I had to recall any of the noteworthy supporting warriors who fight alongside Eivor, the number would be low. Birna’s importance is brief, Vili comes in way too late into the story, and Sigurd is…well, he’s here and there, depending on which part of England you and/or he embarks on. You are with these companions until the end, until you reach Valhalla, but the game gives half the effort to see this through. Of course, there is the final battle in the game where all of these “unique” companions assemble to fight alongside Eivor one last time. Some meet their ends, unfortunately. But luckily, there wasn’t much of a consistent impact when I asked myself, “Who is that again?”
A Loss of the Mechanical Touch
This doesn’t exclude the game’s recent additions either. The River Raids inclusion and the Wrath of the Druids expansion fail to build on the Vikings’ presence. In a way, their importance feels diminished. In the River Raids, they act in the same rudimentary fashion of combat and loot indicating. It becomes more of a chore to watch over them instead of bestowing some digital trust that they’ll actually be of use. And the game’s first big story expansion rarely touches on the Vikings’ mechanics. You can still trigger a raid here and there, but it’s really just the same thing in a loop.
Doing everything by yourself is pretty much expected when playing a single-player title. You accomplish various tasks across the open land, with all of the glory resting in your pockets. But the Vikings are more than NPCs with a few swings and dialogue lines. They’re imperative to Eivor’s story and the Assassin’s Creed Valhalla experience. To have them perform in old-fashioned gestures for show-and-tell is mildly disheartening. They can’t loot a body and add the items to your overall inventory? It severely lacks the immersion of being a Viking beast to instead play pick-up for all of the loot.
Assassin’s Creed Valhalla is a wonderful game with several upsetting flaws. Sure, the bugs still exist and the time it takes to complete the game can be extensive, but there should have been something new to the table. We’ve had fellow pirates, members of the Brotherhood, and allies from across the sea that aid us in serving the light. After eleven major installments in the series (excluding Valhalla), one would assume that Ubisoft would approach the concept from a different angle with Eivor and the Vikings. And yet, it’s not fair to assume but only hope that perhaps they will try something new one day.
Are you still enjoying Assassin’s Creed Valhalla, and what do you think about the Vikings and their roles in the game alongside Eivor? Do you think the next game will feature a buddy system of some sort? Let me know by leaving a comment down below.