Big thanks to Ubisoft's PR for giving us the code for this one!

Note: This review is based off the 'Let the Animus Choose' option presented after you reach a certain point in the game's opening moments. I advise anyone who wants to experience the full context of what's going on here to use this option and see the story as Darby intended you to.

It's also based off the Xbox Series X version of the game.

Long story short: Do not miss out on this game, this is the best AC yet and it's packed with features and systems to please new and old fans alike!

The Hall of Heroes

I am a big fan of Assassin's Creed. I have a long-standing, storied, and love-hate relationship with the franchise. Mostly more love than hate I will admit, but I've been waiting to see where the franchise would go, and how they'd fix many of the issues I've had with the lore and modern day since Odyssey and the retcons of series staples like the Hidden Blade and how they went backward again after Origins and tried to tell an origin story, of an origin story.

Enter Assassin's Creed: Valhalla, one of the best entries to the franchise yet, and the game that finally swings things back toward the conflict that started it all: The Assassin's vs. the Templars.

Now to explain all of this would take more words than I have here, and also, it'd stray into definite huge spoiler territory. Suffice it to say, that if you love the lore of AC, and your bread and butter is the tapestry of battle between these two ancient orders you're not going to be left wanting on this one.

Whilst Origins told the story of the rise of the Hidden Ones (the first assassins), this is the origins of the Templar Order, or rather the rise of the Order of the Ancients who later become the Templars.

It's told by the heroic team at Ubisoft Montreal, plus a whole slew of other studios (14 in total) and helmed by the Narrative Director. A man who brought us Revelations, Embers, the story of Edward the Pirate in Black Flag and who understands character, story flow, and narrative arcs in a way that very few people do: Darby McDevitt.

I won't say more about the story of this game than I need to, but to gloss over the story would be a huge disservice to this man's talent and the team behind the story of the game.

What's in a Tale?

A lot this time. The fundamental change to the way Valhalla tells the story here is how it approaches the narrative design. This is an open world, action RPG in the vein of the Witcher 3 and it has a lot of story to tell. It's the biggest AC yet and certainly one of the vaster, densest, and most exploration-rewarding game in the series so far. A note here is that every element of this game feels like it belongs and nothing here feels like it has to feed the game's systems to create a sense of endless grind.

There is an overall story, and then there are dozens upon dozens of interleaving sub-stories that weave their way through the overall book of tales that the game has to tell. Characters who might come and go in another game, return to star in other arcs and everyone who is introduced in one of the story arcs has a role and a part to play. These aren't throw-away Non-Player Characters; these are real people in the context of the game and they will live or die on the result of your actions.

Nothing you do in Valhalla ever feels like it's of little consequence.

Each Story Arc feels like a self-contained episode of a TV show, but also one that crosses over at times with other episodes. As you travel from kingdom to kingdom, pledging to the various arcs via the Alliance Map the sense of accomplishment and drama folds together nicely and creates an ambitious and totally enthralling story told in the style of the Norse Sagas, or Eddas.

Love, hate, betrayal, and more twists and turns than the branches of the World Tree await you here.

The way this has all been done is in a word: masterful and shines right from the get-go. From the opening in Norway to some of the more epic scenes later in the game, the focus here is on marrying gameplay with cinematic flair that we've not seen in the series for a long time.

It works like a charm too.

The cut-scenes in this game are jaw-dropping and even the minor conversations with NPCs can have layers of animation to them. Eivor will often move around the scene, change her expression (as will other characters) and the whole thing has a cinematic quality to it that's not been seen in the AC series before. This rivals both Origins and Odyssey for cinematic flair and it's up there with Witcher 3 in the way NPCs and characters use the props and environment even in the most basic of conversations.

This is a BIG and Engaging game

It's a big game, it's packed with content, and none of it is phoned in. Every aspect of this game is created to feed into the systems that are at play. I'm 160 hours in and I've still got a lot to do, none of it is filler, and all of it is stuff I want to do. From fun mini-games like Orlog (the dice game that's equal in complexity to Gwent from W3) to the drinking challenges, flyting (Viking rap battles) and more. To the exploration of diverse and interesting kingdoms, with their Spring, Summer, Autumn, and Winter themes in the biomes.

All of it draws me in and I want to see what's over that horizon, or up in the lofty heights of that mountain. Visual clues and cues draw my eye and lead me to the next potential event or collectible.

Again, none of these feels like they don't belong. There's no make-work here, there's no throw-away elements. Even the fishing is fun and relaxing, and feeds back into the settlement idea that's core to the game (we'll talk about that in a bit).

Valhalla throws away the Quest Log full of bitty side quests and doesn't hold your hand. In fact if you poke around the Accessibility and Gameplay Options (big kudos on these too as well) in the menus you'll discover there are dozens of settings to mess with to refine the way the game presents info to you - from a more guided mode to a complete explorer's mode where you need to actually read the land, work out where you are, and even pick up on landmarks to find your objectives.

Side Quests are gone. World Events are in, and these can range from an odd little encounter to multi-part events that you need to pay attention to. Because there's no Quest Log for them at all. Listen to what the NPCs have to say, what they tell you, and where they tell you to go. Because no note will pop up on your UI to point you in the right direction.

If they say, "The forest cabin to the north is where I saw her last." Then you'll need to find that on your own.

There are many-many locations here to explore, and they're all hand-crafted with many of them housing treasures and resources to find. There might be a few things to read as well, again, don't gloss over these because if a bandit camp mentions a ruin to the south, and a bandit who went exploring there - this isn't just a bit of throw-away text - it's a clue to more places to explore.

Vast is an Understatement

Prepare for something huge, hand crafted, and totally engaging right from the moment you get to explore Norway at the start of the game, and eventually get to England. You're going to spend a lot of time here traversing the environments that the developers have crafted - it's a Vast game and the most ambitious one in Ubisoft's arsenal yet. But it doesn't feel like a typical Ubisoft game crammed with map markers and so on. You're going to have to uncover this map, akin to Ghost of Tsushima and explore to find things on your own.

It's not just above ground either. There are hidden mysteries, caves, caverns, and a plethora of big underground locations to find and explore. Many of these will test your lateral thinking, your parkour, and feed your curiosity.

It's not just Norway or England either. There are other locations to go to, in the story, and my advice is to build the Seer's Hut as soon as you possibly can. I won't say why.

It took me 15 hours to leave Norway and earn the Title Card for the game, so this will give you an idea of the amount of things I could do in the first area.

Eivor the Wolf-Kissed

So, I've talked at length about the map size, and just how diverse it is, packed with lots of things for you to discover and a whole slew of detail. But I've not talked about the player character yet, so here we go.

Whilst you can choose Male or Female for Eivor, my recommendation stands - let the Animus decide for you. This isn't some random swap-shop method either, it has deeper context in the overall story and provides clarity for the character as to how both Male and Female can exist in the same Animus session and why. You can change at any time too, so it's not like you're forced in-stone to stick with one or the other.

I chose the Let the Animus Decide and this is what my reviews based off.

Eivor is a Norse warrior, a fighter and a complex character with her own set of emotions and likes/dislikes. Rather akin to Geralt of Rivia or Shepard from Mass Effect, Eivor's decisions in the story (even player prompted ones) come from Eivor's own set of moral codes and understanding - there's no flip-flopping from happy fun Eivor, to stone-cold killer who'll sleep with just anyone. Eivor exists in her world, and the world around her knows who Eivor is.

This is important, because it builds a connection to Eivor with the player, and you actually care about the character and the story because of it.

Like Edward was a pirate, Eivor is a Jarl's champion, their right-hand and in this case it's her brother Sigurd whom she serves in this role. It's a role that colours everything that Eivor does in the game.

Note: Eivor has some form of customisation available to them later on in the game when you build the tattoo parlour, where you can add tattoos, and change the hairstyle of the character - there's no other customisation in terms of character gen.

Core Gameplay

The game does a great job of introducing you to the vast amount of systems, slowly and surely it builds your arsenal of available options and lets you pop up tutorials at any time for most of them with a tap of the D-Pad. There's a lot to learn here and much of it comes naturally over time, with only a few things that are specialist, such as Orlog - the complex and addictive dice game.

I'm going to break things down into a few headings so I can talk about each aspect of this.

Traversal: With a suite of physics-based animations to ground Eivor to the world, she feels heavier than other series protagonists and this is to be expected. She's a Viking warrior, not a nimble Medjay or flashy swordsman. Walking and running feel hefty and there are numerous little animation-touches here that ground you into the world. You'll react to other people, and stumble if you collide with some lower objects like small rocks or haybales. You can actually knock people over if you run into them, and cause them to stumble.

On horseback. Horse riding is fun, and there's the follow road/go to marker/quest objective along with an activatable cinematic camera. You can also stand up in the saddle (B) and jump off (A) from that position. It works and is smoother than the previous versions in Origins and Odyssey. Also, the horse has a stamina bar now and you can't just gallop forever.

Note: the horse can be trained at the stables and taught to swim, so no more having to get off and swim over only to summon the horse again.

Boating. Punting down the rivers can be done with small fishing boats, same here, they can follow the river via the hold X action and go to map or quest markers. They are easy to control and useful.

Longship: One of Eivor's primary means to get around the waterways of England. The longship comes with a crew, can be used to raid locations (I'll cover this in raids). Slow, but easy to control, and will attack enemies with ranged weapons if you fire a shot off with your own bow whilst commanding the ship. Can be set to follow rivers or coastlines, go to map markers or quest markers the same. You can row or open the sail for more speed. Has a cinematic camera option.

Some vistas also let you press in the right stick for a panoramic view of the location.

You can get the crew's Skald to sing for you, or the crew can tell stories.

Climbing/Parkour: Similar in many ways to Origins this game has a heavier parkour in place, but it doesn't feel like Odyssey's Spider-Man climbing. Many times, Eivor cannot simply just climb anywhere without finding the right hand-holds and has a lot more in terms of animation payoff when using the parkour system. From the wall-ejects, to a nice reverse ledge-grab when she flips down over a roof edge to a lower floor or the ground. Again, it feels heavier when you're free-running through the world. Here though, the maps and areas have been designed for parkour in mind and it shows - it's an absolute joy to traverse these places and watch Eivor's animations interacting with them.

Stealth: Dovetailing into the parkour and design of the whole game, stealth is back in a big way for this one. It's easier now to keep to the rooftops, to use Eivor's stealth to get the drop on the enemy and enjoy the most Assassin's Creed experience since the Ezio games if that's what you really want to do. The routes onto the rooftops, across the towns, hamlets, villages, cities, camps and more are designed to let you approach things how you want and feel like an Assassin again.

Odin Sight is an ability Eivor has (Right stick clicked in) to scan the immediate area and get the lay of the land. You'll get enemy outlines and treasures/objectives/interactions appear briefly and you can use this information to plan your next move.

Synin: Your trusty friend and companion - the raven that sees all. Synin can mark up to three things in the environment and is useful to get a lay of the land and see where a quest area or objective area might be. On the Series X there is no load time when you return from viewing with Synin even if you go 100s of meters away from Eivor.

Social Stealth: Eivor has her cloak for this, and a quick access via the down D-Pad direction will open up the radial wheel. Here you can choose to don the cloak and this will help reduce enemy detection and awareness. They'll still spot you if you get too close, and if you do things to cause commotion. So here you can take advantage of several options to move around Distrust Areas.

  • · Blend in with groups of monks, just like the original Altair Assassin's Creed. Eivor can sneak around with walking groups and get close to her targets that way, or just get into a city through the main gate.
  • · Blend in with people at tables or benches. Join some Saxons for a drink, or sit down and watch the world go by. Once you blend in here the guards won't notice you, and you can lure one over for a quick stab.
  • · Use interactive elements. Weave, make bread, arrows, or one of the other highlighted elements - Eivor will throw off pursuit and suspicion. Might be that your target moves in range, once again, a quick stab will sort this out.

This is a welcome return of a fan-favourite feature and one that's been missing from the franchise for a long time. You soon learn to use it to avoid possible trouble and slip past guards undetected.

Exploration: I talked about this before, the most rewarding it's been for a long time with lots of secrets, environmental storytelling and more tucked away in every nook and cranny of this game. You never know what you might find, and more importantly, it'll be something useful and needed.

Combat: Where to begin. This is the most tactical and the deepest AC combat has been for a long time. With every weapon (there's a lot of types) having separate animations and handling characteristics there's a lot to get used to. You have a stamina bar now, and this will deplete as you perform certain attacks, dodge, block, parry and so forth.

You'll need to be mindful of this since enemies here are also the most diverse, they've ever been, with a hefty array of types and archetypes to fight against. You don't want to be left without stamina if someone smacks you in the face with a hammer.

It's a bold an ambitious combat system, one that will take some getting used to. It can be hectic and frenetic and it's up to you to put distance between you and your foes at the right time. These guards won't just sit back and wait one by one to be slaughtered.

Eivor can equip a variety of weapons, but only one set at a time. You no longer can equip two bows, with one to switch to, or several sets of weapons equipped. You'll need to pause and change it manually in combat if you want to change your equipment.

There's a light attack (rb) and a heavy attack (rt), you can use your bow (lt) and shoot with rt. You block by holding lb with the right weapon equipped (aka a shield) or you'll perform a special attack with the offhand weapon if it can be used to block with. You parry on a tap of the lb, and timed parries will open enemies up to follow up attacks. There are combos you can use, and a dodge (tap x) or a roll (hold x).

There are skills you can pick up later on that let you catch projectiles mid-flight and send them back with a kill shot. There are skills that let you pick up discarded enemy weapons and hurl them at foes and much more.

Combat is fun, a bit quirky with the camera at times, but flashy and visceral as well.

It leans heavily into the Viking side of the game.

Later on, you'll pick up Abilities from the Books of Knowledge found in game, and these can be used via Adrenaline - such brutal moves as the punishing Rage of Helheim, where you batter a foe onto the ground with a series of lb and rb button prompts to cause massive damage. Or Rush and Bash, where you can ram an opponent against a wall or off the edge of a cliff.

There are 8 of these that can be equipped. 4 ranged, 4 melee.

This is the most fun and diverse that the Fight system of the game has been for a long time.

Also, whilst the game doesn't tell you, I will. You can also jump off and hold the bow attack (lt) to slow down time and get a few shots off whilst leaping from a roof.

Echoes of Origins.

There's a lot more to the combat system as well. Enemies have a stamina bar, and if you deplete that before their health, they'll get stunned. You can then deliver a mighty finisher that brutally punishes them and usually results in death on the most stalwart of foes. Some weapons are better at doing this than others, experimentation is key.

Healing. You have a ration pouch, you don't auto-heal and you can consume a ration in combat. These things won't come back. You have to hunt, or collect berries, food and so on to make a ration to refill the pouches. Much like your gear, your quiver and ration amount is upgraded by resources in world.

Assassination

Eivor might not be a Hidden One, but you do have the Hidden Blade. Worn over the arm this time, because Eivor doesn't agree about hiding the blade from her targets. She wants you to know you're dying and how. There are numerous assassinations available, based on how you approach a target. Sneakily from above, ledge grabs, and more. Sprint at the enemy and pounce-stab them with all your might, or just creep up and deliver a silent blow.

Maybe hide around a wall and use the whistle (left on the D-Pad) to fool them into taking a closer look so you can jump out and drag them into cover to stab them good. Same with over low walls.

Or hide crouched (B) in the bushes and wait for a moment to strike.

It is all there.

Note: Unlock Advanced Assassination if you're not running with the AC-1 style Guaranteed Assassination option on. If you do this, then you'll get a small mini-game to complete and you can kill a target regardless of your power level and theirs.

This means if you get the drop on a boss, you can one-shot them. #LIKEANASSASSIN

Enemies

One of the best things about this new iteration are the enemy archetypes. There's a lot, and they all bring something new to the table. A lot of them have special skills, weaknesses, and work with each other to perform their chosen role on the battlefield. Your standard sword and board soldiers are still a threat, and some of them are likely to go into a frenzy when you smash their shields to splinters. There are some who will hurl their shields at you in frustration too if you're out of range. Others will grab fallen weapons and use them as missiles, or in combat, changing their role from one to the other.

Some are so big they'll throw objects in-world at you, or hurl the dead at your face in spite.

The Codex has details on every enemy you encounter. Plus, it's full of information, and lavish artwork.

These battles are something special and the enemy AI types make them even better.

Watch out for Rune Attacks. These can be blocked (gold) or dodged (red) and will hit hard, usually doing something special as well. One enemy can grab you, and shank you, or invite a friend to do it for them as you struggle to break free for example.

RPG: Gear

Valhalla takes the systems from Origins and Odyssey and improves on them dramatically. Say goodbye to RNG loot and hello to hand-crafted weapons/armour that have unique perks and set bonuses which make them worth getting.

There are four rarities and you can upgrade your gear at your blacksmith in the settlement, and that's the only way to do it.

You can take your first weapons and armour from the opening parts of the game and roll with them all the way to end game thanks to this system. Whilst core rarity upgrades, all the way to Mythical are blacksmith based, there are upgrades between that require materials from the world. Thankfully, these materials are plentiful and you will get them over the course of the game as long as you explore and open chests.

I am now rocking everything at Mythical and I'm 160 hours into the game with a lot of content still to experience, and enjoy.

Also, these upgrades are meaningful. The rarity can change the appearance of your gear and boost your stats, and the upgrades will alter the stats even further.

Gear also comes in three path flavours: Wolf, Bear, Raven. Wolf is your more traditional Assassin path, Bear the warrior, Raven the archer.

Each path will give your bonuses to that type of gear.

RPG: Power Level/Levelling

Taking a leaf out of Destiny's books or any game with a Gear Score. Valhalla replicates this, only it doesn't tie it into the gear itself. Every point you earn from levelling up, or doing things in the world, will allow you to put it into the vast skill tree that sprawls before you. You can reach a max power of 400 and every point beyond that can be placed in the Wolf, Bear, or Raven Mastery node.

Power Level means that you'll be able to tackle higher power areas easier. It doesn't stop you from going there at power level 1. You'll still do damage to the enemies, but they'll likely one-shot you until you improve the equipment and unlock your skills.

There are passive skills, active skills, and nodes that boost various aspects of the character - from doing more damage or taking less, to gear boosts that improve Wolf, Bear, or Raven aligned gear.

It's a simple, but highly effective and fair system. Plus, levels come thick and fast, so the reward is there.

RPG: Dialogue Choices

None of these things are throw-away. Every choice is designed to feed into Eivor's character, what they think, how they view a person and what they want. Some will come with heavy consequences down the line, or immediately, and several will alter the end of a story arc or even see if a main character lives or dies.

There are also some choices that are influenced by Charisma, the stat tracked and levelled by beating the Flyting mini-game.

A high Charisma can see Eivor bypass a tricky fight completely, or resort to diplomacy to get what she wants.

There's a lot to the dialogue and a lot of the dialogue here is excellently written and devised.

Making a Home for the Ravens to Roost

I've talked a lot about the combat and so on, but core to the game is the settlement. This is where the Alliance Map is, and many of the game's stories begin and end. Ravensthorpe is a settlement that starts as a little more than a few tents, and can grow into a huge sprawling place full of life and vibrancy - packed with buildings you've built as a player from the resources you've amassed via quests and raids. Here you'll see a myriad of characters, small stories, and hidden content come to life and experience a lot of interactions with the people around you.

There are helpful services too, such as the shop, the blacksmith, and the hunter. There are places to turn in collectibles, and everything is designed to reward you. None of it feels grindy, and nor does it feel as though it was just thrown together to feed the corporate microtransaction machine.

It actually feels like a place you want to spend time in, do some fishing, listen to the conversations and hold feasts with your clan (gives you a timed buff).

You can rest, regain lost health, pick up arrows and more.

Build a Barracks and you can customise a lieutenant, your very own Jomsviking, to join your crew on raids. You can have up to six crew you can change out from the barracks and many can be recruited from the various story arcs if you play your cards right.

They will also have custom stories told on the longship alongside the regular tales.

There's a lot more to the settlement too, but I'll let you discover it.

RAIDS

You need supplies and materials to help grow your home. Here's where your crew comes in, and the longship. Sail off onto the waterways and hit some enemy camps, or monasteries for plunder. It's a simple system to trigger and there's no management involved once you start one. Just point the longship at the shore and tap Y when the raid choice pops up. You'll get right into it.

Eivor will sound the battle call and it's time to feed the raven!

These are free-form assaults on a sometimes-fortified location, where your crew will attack enemy soldiers, and pillage (burning buildings too) to their heart's content. They join you at doors you can force open, and help you open the important big chests that have the loot you came for. These are exciting and diverse locations (the abbeys etc) with hidden loot as well as rewards. The fights are great and the crew do their own thing. If one goes down, you can revive them and get them back on their feet.

It feeds into the Viking fantasy and works like a charm.

Once a raid is ended, you'll be able to take the spoils back and help grow the settlement.

Note: you can also sneak in, murder everyone, then sound the horn to summon your crew as long as the raid icon shows up in the radial wheel (D-Pad down) on the quick access. Quick access is also where you can summon your horse. You can also hold down left to summon the horse without the wheel. If you continue to hold it down, Eivor with mount the horse automatically.

ASSAULTS

These are multi-stage big battles that leave Shadow of War in the dust. These are huge affairs that see you (as part of the story) siege castles and fortifications as you work to forge alliances and support the invasion of England. They're fun, long, and great to see the combat system in action. Again, your raiders, and the armies you fight with are all part and parcel of this.

Living World

I want to very briefly talk about the living world here. It lives, breathes, and is populated by folk who go about their day to day lives. They react to you; they freak out at the sight of a Dane walking their streets uncloaked and run in terror if you attack guards. They do their own jobs and adhere to a day/night schedule as well as a workflow, and social interaction. It's possible to get lose in the towns and cities of this world and just drink it all in.

If an NPC from a World Event or story character says they're going to do an action, then it's not a throw-away here. They will go off and do it.

Ivarr will say, "I need to piss."

Later you can find him doing just that.

If someone says they're going to go and watch the sunset from a waterfall, you will find them there. So too, you'll interact with story characters you helped many hours later if you go back and find them. Often there'll be new dialogue and even a reward or two.

This also counts for the world outside, the landscape is alive, it moves and it comes to life with flora and fauna. Animals hunt, hunt you, each other, and bandits can ambush you suddenly.

It engages you akin to Ghost of Tsushima, and it works.

Aesthetically Pleasing

The game is stunning visually, and delivers some truly breath-taking scenery (I was able to see this in 1080p and 4k running at 60fps) and whilst there are some moments of screen-tearing (Ubisoft will patch this) on the Xbox Series X, it's slight and doesn't impact the game one tiny bit for me. It is England in the Dark Ages, Norway, and so much more. Above, below, and in-between. The kingdoms follow a Spring, Summer, Autumn, and Winter vibe across their biomes and the developers have made a truly beautiful world for you to explore.

At times it can look like a painting, both day and night, with the most violent and vibrant thunderstorms outside of Witcher 3. The lighting and the fog effects combine to make some of these forests, sunsets, sunrises, and moonrises the best I've seen in a game to date.

All of the shots in this review are from my play of Valhalla on the Series X.

Note: The Series X version adds more texture, more reflection, and better quality of detail to everything.

There's also a wealth of emotional animations in the game, especially seen on the close-ups of the character faces in cut-scenes and dialogues. You can often tell what a character is feeling or thinking by observing these and how Eivor responds is also accompanied visually.

Animation Avalanche

There are a lot of animations in the game. From environmental, to combat, to character, and more. It would take paragraphs to describe everything I've seen and encountered as I've spent over 160 hours on the game taking in the sights and sounds.

Smooth Combat

The 60fps target on the Series X means, the combat is smooth and the game itself recognises those inputs at the time they're made. It shows too, as I was never shouting at Eivor to do something after the fact.

Sound is Fantastic

The world doesn't just come to life with the graphics, and the snow that pools around your feet. The sound design here is beautiful as well, restful in the vast open world of England and Norway, with so many elements that combine to provide a gorgeous set of locational sound effects. There's nothing like being on the longship and just sitting in the middle of a river and listening to the sound of the water lapping, and the hull creaking.

Combat sounds are also impressive with the clash of steel, and the brutal crunch of bone as your allies and enemies clash around you.

Vocal Talent

Voice work is astoundingly good, with a lot of performers heard in the Witcher 3, and the return of fan-favourite voice actors such as Mark Bonnar (Blackbeard: Black Flag) as Ceowulf. Magnus Bruun provides the voice for Male Eivor and Cecille Stenspil lends her tones to Eivor (Eivor is a female name in Sweden etc). Alongside these are other great voices and Sigurd, Eivor's brother is voiced by Gudmundur Thorvaldsson. Between these performances and the rest of the talented voice cast, there's a lot of dialogue to get through and the VA here on show is some of the best next to Witcher 3.

UI

I don't often talk about the user interface, but this bears mentioning. It's clean, simple, effective and the in-game HUD can be customised to only show the barest of info or turned off entirely. The rest of the game's UI is impressive, with clean pages, just the right amount of info and the Codex/Database is an excellent addition full of great writing and information. Enemy types are tracked and their info is displayed along with concept art from the game, or art generated for the character.

It looks and feels great.

Take some time to look at the Gameplay options, change the difficulty and see the way the HUD reacts too. Not only the combat, stealth, but also exploration difficulty and how much hand-holding is there.

MUSIC

Jesper Kyd is back, with Sarah Schachner, and the vocal talents of Einar Selvik to provide this astounding soundtrack to the game. Listen to Kingdom of Wessex for example, that track is highly impressive. The whole soundtrack to this game is superb.

SAVE SYSTEM

You can quick-save from the d-pad held down, and save at any time unless you're in the middle of a fight or enemy camp (red area). Warning: as of the review Ubisoft are working on a fix for a corrupted save game bug. Do not manually save over your cloud saves and make at least 3 saves to use as backups if something goes wrong. Also, if you suffer a crash and a corrupted save, go to the main menu and use Continue.

LOAD times

Series X load times off the new SSD are good. You're never more than a few seconds away from a load, and traversal via fast travel is around 5-10 seconds for the most part.

ISSUES

The issues so far for me have been. Some screen tearing, very minor, and a few crashes where the game sent me back to the dashboard. There is a fix in the works.

Loss of interactions. The interaction option has failed to show up, or an NPC hasn't appeared. I found a quick save, and a reload often fixed this.

AI bugs. Your crew AI can get caught up on things from time to time, same for world NPCs and enemies. These instances are few and far between.

Corrupt Save Games - see above. (Once or twice)

MICROSTRANSACTIONS

Ew. Right? These are back from Origins, and less intrusive than Odyssey. Via Reda's in-game store you can earn Opal and use that to buy one of the items he has on sale at the shop. Contracts award you weekly and daily quests. 5 Opal for a daily (two of these at any time) and 20 Opal for a weekly. Doing these per day can mount up and bypass the desire to even touch the store. There are no random loot crates ala Origins or Odyssey here.

Final Swig of Ale

With an epic story, numerous interwoven story arcs, modern day, the tie-up of the mythic trilogy and many tie-ins to old AC lore. This ambitious game succeeded in winning me back to the franchise that had grown long in the tooth. Eivor's journey is an impressive one, she is a great character, and the magic of this saga is still resonating with me even now. There's a wealth of end game content here and an expansive free update and DLC plan. This is not a flash in the pan cash-in to Assassin's Cred. This is the series redemption and the mythic arc's swan-song that sings brightly in the halls of the slain where Odin watches over the fallen.

Do not miss this game, seriously.

Note: Darby made a promise to us, he said we'd end up liking Layla Hassan, which I thought impossible - he was not wrong. That alone is a feat worthy of entry to Valhalla. This man is the master of character, and the lore of Assassin's Creed.

P.S. if you follow the AC Sisterhood movement, there's a lovely hidden message or two in the game that directly makes them part of the lore. Kudos Darby and co.

Now, if you don't mind, England calls again and a monastery requires liberation of some lovely supplies.

FOR ODIN!