I don’t know, you wait for what seems like years for video games to pitch up in England and two come along at once. Ubisoft has found fertile ground on these shores with Watch Dogs Legion and now Assassin’s Creed Valhalla. But while one in a dystopian view of near-future London, Valhalla takes the quasi-historical series to the verdant 9th century wilds of the entire country. A chance to indulge in your Viking fantasy, beach your longboat on the shore of the river Trent and raid pesky Saxon monasteries with an axe in hand and Norse brethren at your back.
Ubisoft has done some raiding of its own to build Valhalla, adapting ideas and philosophies from other games in order to refine its own. In its sprawling naturalism, shifting countryside and off-piste distractions is the influence of Red Dead Redemption 2, it looks to invoke Breath of the Wild’s constant sense of exploration and there is even a smattering of Sekiro in its approach to combat.
Valhalla can’t quite match its inspirations --that would be some feat indeed-- But there is the tremendous sense of lessons learnt, weaving improvements into its own tapestry. But the biggest influence on Valhalla is Assassin’s Creed itself. This is the game that marries the vibrant stealth-action of its earlier entries with its more recent RPG trappings. It’s not just because the hidden blade returns. Or that you can swan dive from battlements into the conveniently placed hay bales below. Or even that you have your own hub --Ravensthorpe-- to build and maintain in an echo of Assassin’s Creed II’s Monteriggioni.
These all help, but it is about its broader, more organic sense of adventure. Origins and Odyssey were fine games that breathed new life into the series, but more mechanical RPGs coming to terms with a new identity. Valhalla seems far more comfortable with itself. And the result is the best Assassin’s Creed game in a decade.