July 12, 2020

12 Min Read

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Assassin’s Creed Valhalla – Assault Castles, Repair Broken Kingdoms, and Recruit a Cat Raider on November 10

Assassin’s Creed Valhalla launches on November 10, and we’ve finally gotten our hands on an extended demo set in the game’s vast, war-torn region of East Anglia. While the few hours we spent with the game represented a small slice of what’s to come, we were able to raid multiple locations, solidify a new alliances from those raids, assault a fortified castle to free a captive ealdorman, attend a Viking wedding, and even recruit a cat raider to our longship. To watch all this action play out, check out our 30-minute walkthrough with Level Design Director Philippe Bergeron below, or read on to hear about our experience. You’ll be able to discover all that ninth-century England has in store when Assassin’s Creed Valhalla releases on Xbox Series X, PlayStation 5, Xbox One, PS4, PC, and Stadia.

Raiding

Our demo began as Eivor and her ally Finnr ride into the town of Theotford on horseback. Through their dialogue we discover that a man named Oswald – the would-be ruler of East Anglia and ally to Eivor – has been killed by a renegade band of Vikings led by a man named Rued. Eivor is looking to avenge her ally by taking down Rued; the only problem is, he and his clan are holed up in the fortified Burgh Castle, and if Eivor and Finnr are going to have any chance of reaching Rued, they’ll need allies.

We approach the town’s Reeve, a sort of ninth-century sheriff, to see if he’ll lend us the troops we need. We’re told that he has more pressing issues on hand, as the nearby village of King’s Bury has fallen to Rued’s men and needs to be recaptured. Eivor, ever the problem-solver, offers up a deal: If she and her raiders reclaim King’s Bury for the Reeve, he’ll help bolster our army. The two agree, and we set off for King’s Bury.

Here we get our first taste of raiding in Assassin’s Creed Valhalla as we approach the river, summon our longship, and join our band of raiders. We approach King’s Bury by water, and once we arrive, Eivor blares her horn to signal the beginning of the raid. With a resounding roar, the crew drives the boat onto shore and rushes up the hill to storm the outer defenses. Alongside our crew, we make quick work of the entry guard, utilizing Valhalla’s new combat mechanics that allow us to dual-wield any two one-handed weapons. We chose to keep it classic, and with one axe in each hand, took care of the guards easily.

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When we arrive at King’s Bury’s center, we dispatch a few more guards using the new stun system; drain an enemy’s stamina, or hit them with an arrow in one of their weak points, and you’ll temporarily stun them. Approach a stunned enemy, and you’ll be prompted to execute a stun kill, a brutal finisher that varies based on the enemy type. (One particularly ruthless stun kill involved us stealing a berserker’s dual axes, burying them into his ribs, before head-butting him back a few feet and throwing those axes into his chest). We head into the village church and have a bit of a challenging fight against a Slayer, a tough, hulking bruiser who’s one of Valhalla’s many varied enemy types. We pick up a key to a nearby building and acquire a new flail for our efforts.

The key opens the door to a nearby building where we find a Book of Knowledge. In Assassin’s Creed Valhalla, Eivor learns new abilities from these books, as well as by exploring the world, finding items, and speaking to people. In this case, we learn a new ability called Dive of the Valkyries, which causes Eivor to leap into the air and come crashing down on any enemy unfortunate enough to be caught within arm’s reach.

The Assault

Now that we’ve secured King’s Bury and gained allies, it’s time to prepare for our assault on Burgh Castle and get our revenge on Rued. The assault begins with Eivor and allies storming the castle at night by longship. As we get closer, Eivor and crew abandon ship, but not before tossing a torch on deck, which ignites the ship’s cargo of explosive barrels just as it crashes into a fortified wall, blowing a gaping hole for our troops to stream through.

Once through the gap, our goal was to quickly slice through any opposition for our allies, who wheeled in a battering ram. From there, gameplay is a constant dance between up-close melee combat to keep enemies away from the ram; firing arrows at enemy archers, explosive oil jugs, and environmental traps to keep the heat off of us; and jumping on the battering ram to quickly smash through the next line of defense.

With enemies all around us, we have to make constant use of Eivor’s combat abilities. Our recently acquired Dive of the Valkyries is useful against singular enemies, but when we found ourselves surrounded by them – a frequent occurrence during fortress assaults – Throwing Axe Fury was particularly helpful. Using it prompts Eivor to unleash a deadly barrage of throwing axes at multiple enemies, serving as both crowd control and damage dealer. Other abilities, like Kick of Tyr, knock a single enemy on their back, allowing Eivor to deliver a stomp attack that deals massive damage capable of easily killing weaker enemies. When we wanted to keep our distance, the Mark of Death bow ability let us tag and lock onto multiple enemies, then loose devastating arrows towards all of them at once.

Once our battering ram makes it through the final gate, we’re treated to a cutscene and discover that, despite what we were led to believe, Oswald is still very much alive. This knowledge boosts the morale of both Eivor and her troops as it becomes clear that she’ll have to defeat Rued to set Oswald free. We quickly scale the wall and take the fight directly to Rued in what proves to be our first boss encounter. Rued isn’t alone; he’s joined by his pet wolf, and together the two offer up a formidable challenge. Enemies aren’t the only ones with new stamina bars in Valhalla; Eivor has one too, and you’ll need to keep an eye on it to avoid being caught defenseless in a fight. Dodging or using off-hand attacks while dual-wielding drains stamina, meaning you won’t be able to infinitely dodge in fights anymore. Fortunately, we make smart use of our stamina and defeat Rued. (It’s worth noting that players can approach Rued stealthily here, and deliver a crippling blow with the Hidden Blade if they choose).

Before we can finish Rued, Oswald approaches and pleads with us to spare Rued’s life. We decide to show mercy and take Oswald’s advice (much to Rued’s dismay, as he’s dragged away screaming). What this choice, or any choice you make in Assassin’s Creed Valhalla, will mean for the future, we don’t know yet. With the assault complete and Rued’s clan defeated, it’s time for celebration, and there’s no better way to celebrate than a wedding. Oswald, the Saxon ealdorman, is set to marry Valdis, a Dane warrior. Together, the couple’s marriage will form a powerful alliance between Saxon and Dane.

Exploring East Anglia

We decide to take a break before the festivities and explore the wide open region of East Anglia. As with Assassin’s Creed Origins and Odyssey, pressing up on the D-pad gives you a literal bird’s-eye view of your surroundings. This time, as Eivor’s raven, Synin, we notice the town of Northwic nearby, and immediately set out to see what sort of fun we can find. As soon as we arrive, we notice a cat with a speech bubble above its head. You better believe that if we have the option to talk to a cat, we’re gonna talk to a cat. As we approach it, it runs off, and we meet a young child chasing after it. We offer our support in catching the cat, and after a chasing it down and speaking to the young child, we learn that the cat has lost its previous owner, and is looking for a new one. It seems she’s comfortable around us, and we’re able to recruit her onto our longship, where she’ll sail with us anywhere we go.

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Elsewhere in Northwic, we get into a Viking rap battle known as Flyting, where we must trade insults with the proper cadence and rhyme. Assassin’s Creed veterans will also recognize the flying paper challenges, making their return from Assassin’s Creed III and IV. This time, Eivor isn’t chasing songs or almanac pages – she’s chasing tattoo drawings. Successfully tracking one down will allow her to get a new tattoo back at her settlement from the resident tattoo artist.

Out in the wilderness, a simple religious altar provides an unexpected encounter, as Eivor’s offering is stolen by two children; and an ordinary house presents a unique environmental puzzle and story as we figure out a way to claim the treasure inside. Perhaps our most surprising encounter takes place in a misty clearing with a rather morbid altar, on which a rotting corpse is impaled on spikes. The setup is a trap to poison Eivor, laid by a masked figure known as Regan. Regan belongs to a mysterious group called the Daughters of Lerion, and through her trickery and poison, she unleashes a volley of mystical attacks in what turns into one of the most challenging and thrilling combat encounters during our time with the game. While we get the sense that Regan is part of a greater storyline, yet to be unraveled, there was no quest that brought us to her; we simply stumbled onto her as we wandered naturally.

After the fight concludes, we leave the horrid clearing to get some fresh air. Our next stop juxtaposes peacefully with our previous encounter, as we wander up to a cliff overlooking the clearing where we had just defeated Regan. We come across a grouping of stones and are tasked with building a cairn, a stack of stones meant to reach a certain height. Calming music, coupled with the serene sea view, make for a relaxing, not-too-difficult physics-based puzzle.

The Wedding

Now that we’ve built a cairn, broken into a house, defeated a mystical warrior, recruited a cat, and gotten pickpocketed by two kids, we could use a drink, so it’s time to meet back up with Oswald at his wedding. The ceremony goes off without a hitch, and then revelry truly begins. Eivor participates in some a drinking contest, drunken archery, and even has the option to romance one of the bride’s brothers. As the final party game is set to kick off, an unwelcome guest arrives. Rued has broken free and returned to get his revenge. He challenges Oswald himself to a fight to the death, a challenge that Oswald accepts.

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At this point, we’re able to make a decision as Eivor: let Oswald fight Rued and risk losing the new leader of East Anglia, or fight Rued ourselves and finish the job. Had we chosen to kill Rued earlier, this moment never would’ve taken place, and just like that decision, this one has lasting and unknown ramifications. We decide to fight Rued ourselves. He’s without his pet wolf this time, but his massive broadsword and the smaller arena make him a threat to be taken seriously. We eventually defeat and kill him once and for all.

The festivities fizzle out after the battle, but our alliance with Oswald is still intact, so Eivor decides it’s best to depart. On her way out, she mentions she should check back in on her friend Finnr before leaving. As it turns out, Finnr has been itching to live the life of a Viking raider, and decides to join our crew. Assassin’s Creed Valhalla allows you to recruit raiders from all over England to your longship, and each one brings their own unique fighting style and stories to share that color both the characters and the world as you sail through ninth-century England.

Assassin's Creed Valhalla is coming to Xbox Series X | S, Xbox One, PS4, PC, and Stadia on November 10 and to PlayStation 5 on November 12 and Amazon Luna alongside the launch of the Ubisoft channel. For more on the game, check out our Assassin’s Creed news hub.

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