With two years having passed since the last "Assassin's Creed" release, fans were clamoring for the next deep dive into its ever-expanding whirlwind of historical fiction. "Assassins' Creed Valhalla" slices off a juicy hunk of Viking lore, letting you don a fur suit as you make your way through the grizzled hierarchy as a young upstart.
As is always the case in "Assassin's Creed" titles, developers went to extreme lengths to nail historical accuracy. From period clothing and food, to dances and social rituals, the team delved into the material with the gusto of a history doctorate student.
Taking some cues from the 2018 "God of War" reboot, the game sets you free in a colossal world that captures the Norse kingdom at its most expansive, powerful and influential. Ubisoft Montreal one-upped that effort with stunning visuals, exquisite writing and captivating story twists.
The Vikings are at war with the Anglo-Saxons, and are prone to much infighting among themselves. After choosing the gender of your protagonist, you're plunged into a torrent of subversion, misdirection and calculated intrigue.
As is nearly always the cases in "Assassins' Creed" games, free-running, climbing and diving, stealth options and myriad options to tackle open-ended objectives abound. The major shakeup is the setting, which is far more loose and freeform than previous ventures into more organized facets of society. The narrative structure -- which does include the common modern correlated element -- intertwines well with past stories while pushing the overarching narrative forward in meaningful ways.
A game this massive and customizable could seem intimidating, but efforts were made to open it up to those of Optional menu narration and a colorblind mode -- introduced before the game starts -- make it one of the most accessible-from-the-jump major releases yet seen.
A fitting sendoff for the current-generation version of the series, as well as no doubt an introduction to the next, "Assassin's Creed Valhalla" makes you want to raise a glass of mead, shout "Skol!" and dig into the glorious unknown past once more.
Publisher provided review code.