Assassin’s Creed is an interesting series. While there is a certain over-saturation of the historical parkour formula, every game has been surprisingly good (surprising because there have been eleven mainline games in thirteen years). To create so many massive and detailed open-worlds to play around in is impressive in and of itself. Add to that the incremental gameplay tweaks and the more recent much-needed combat overhaul, and Assassin’s Creed has become one of the most important series in the history of video games (it’s the 15th highest selling video game franchise of all time by some counts).
And while the change from action/adventure to more RPG focused mechanics with 2017’s Origins was a welcome addition, it wasn’t until the year after with Assassin’s Creed Odyssey that they really nailed it. I think Odyssey is the best game in the series, and I think a lot of people would agree with me. However, that doesn’t mean it’s perfect, of course, and there are a lot of things that need to be improved, removed, or added to ensure that Valhalla reaches the masterpiece-level heights the series has always been capable of.
1. Fewer Glitches
Okay, this is a big one. I know the Assassin’s Creed franchise has been infamous for its glitches, but the games need to be more polished. The more the series moves away from the ‘animus’ conceit, the less they can explain away glitches as part of the narrative. And I think they’ll do it with Valhalla.
Odyssey was great, but that ridiculous horse and endless other glitches often broke immersion. It was still an amazing game, but having recreated the Greek islands in such keen detail, it was sad that the beauty was often lost by your horse Phobos at a ninety-degree angle. But Origins was much less glitchy, and led by the same team leading Valhalla, namely Ubisoft Montreal. They’ve made most of the best Assassin’s Creed games, and they’ve had 3 years off since Origins, so I have faith we’ll see some polish.
2. Better Side Quests
Something new happened with Assassin’s Creed: Odyssey. There were so many more side quests. Maybe too many. And they all had this familiar feeling, like a Witcher side quest copied through a steamed-up window. They got the general gist, but often lost the core of what made those side quests fun.
So that’s what I want from Valhalla. The dream of a trillion side quests that take these quirky characters and flesh them out. There were a lot of strange people in Odyssey, and meeting them would be great. But then they’d just ask you to kill ten bears or something. And you’d just tell them, ‘I’ve killed those bears,’ and they’d say, ‘oh gee thanks.’ That’d be it. With side quests, it’s definitely quality over quantity, for me at least.
3. ‘Real-world’ narrative
This one is also a big one. You know that meta-narrative about you being a real person who gets into a machine and then gets to parkour in the past? Yeah, that was barely there in Odyssey. And it annoyed me. Not because I love that side of the narrative, not by any stretch. It just felt like there was so little of it, why bother at all?
I think there needs to be a stronger decision. If they keep it, they should make it interesting and fleshed out, like Desmond’s story in the first five games. If not, just maybe get rid of it. It didn’t work in Black Flag, when you had a first-person camera and could only walk everywhere with your iPad making all the lifts go up and down. And it doesn’t work now.
4. Versatile Combat Encounters
Combat was really good in Origins and made even better in Odyssey. As you fight, you build up an adrenaline meter and then use segments of that meter to deploy powerful abilities. It was great, and felt like something straight out of a JRPG. If they’re going to keep looking at JRPGs, why don’t they look more to Dark Souls?
Now, I’m not saying they make the game as difficult as Dark Souls, that would be silly. But the Odyssey combat has the basic framework of some Dark Souls combat: dodging and parrying. I don’t think they need to look to Dark Souls to overhaul the combat itself, but rather the combat encounters. Enemies were fine in Odyssey, but you never really had to use different tactics to beat them. If they made the enemies more versatile, it would make the combat more interesting. And that would be ace.
5. Story Recaps
I really liked the story in Odyssey. Or rather, I really like what I could remember of it. The thing is, it’s easy to lose track of story threads when you’re running around an open world killing wild boar for that quirky character that needs boar livers or some nonsense. When there are so many side quests, the player will inevitably be distracted.
And that’s the difficulty with open-world RPGs. The player dictates the pacing of the story to some extent. Getting a nice pace to the narrative is key to a good story, and one of the main issues with Odyssey’s storyline was that it was so weirdly paced (because of my boar hunting) that I forgot a lot of things that happened. Maybe that’s my fault, I don’t know, but in a game like this it is somewhat unavoidable. So I’d just really like a recap feature like in The Witcher 3, except maybe make it more like the one in Dragon Quest XI.
6. More Mythology
From the Egyptians to the Greeks, and now onto the Vikings, we have been running around worlds with rich and vibrant mythology. While these games are rooted in history, it is impossible to ignore myth and legend when tackling these cultures. That’s why I’m so glad that Origins and Odyssey had such strong mythological moments. And I want more of it.
Norse mythology is awesome, we all know it. And it is really in vogue right now. From Thor: Ragnarok to 2018’s God of War, it’s clear that people love these myths. Imagine if we got an epic battle with Jormungandr, that big dragon serpent, or maybe a Kraken? Now that would be cool.
7. Better Voice Acting
This is a weird one because one of the main characters in Odyssey was brilliantly voice-acted, namely Kassandra. The other character, Alexios … not so much. But the world of Odyssey and Origins had some ridiculous voice acting all around, like something out of an outdated comedy sketch. It’s not really the accents, but rather that it felt that the actors didn’t know what scene they were acting in, as I assume they did it without an interlocutor actually present.
If I start playing Valhalla and there’s some hyperbolic NPC who rolls their R’s for 15 minutes, I think I’m going to struggle. I’m sure it’s difficult to have authentic accents, if not impossible. But just maybe make them a bit less silly. And maybe make it so the context of the scene is clear so that the voice actors’ tone is correct. There are some hilarious tonal shifts from all the voice actors in Odyssey, but it stops being funny after 20 hours, let alone 100 or more.
8. Fewer Icons
I know Odyssey tried to remedy the malady that has plagued Assassin’s Creed forever: there are icons everywhere. It did this by having a mode where you had to work out your destination via a set of clues, rather than just getting a waypoint. It was good for sure, but even then your screen would still have icons all over the place, making sure you always knew where the blacksmith was. I don’t always need to know that if I’m honest.
And I don’t think it’s difficult to not have icons everywhere. In fact, I think the majority of open-world games don’t have this issue. Red Dead Redemption 2 and Breath of the Wild are two of the most recent open-world games that don’t have icons anywhere really, they just have a mini-map. And even then, the mini-map wasn’t a necessity in Zelda because of the way the world was built. The fewer icons on the screen, the better I get to know the world I’m exploring. It’s like driving; if you always use satellite navigation, you’ll rarely remember the route without it.
9. More Choice
Similarly, with the ‘animus’ narrative, I want Assassin’s Creed to go all in on the choice-based dialogue. It was genuinely exciting to see the introduction of choices in Odyssey, but (as is way too common in games with choices) it didn’t seem to affect anything important other than the ending.
If they can expand the idea of building a crew for your ship from the people you meet, and give the relationships with these characters some depth, then that would make asking them to join you on your adventure actually exciting — rather than them just being a re-skinned crew member. From there, having choices that affect individual relationships would be amazing, and give you a personal connection to the world and its people.
10. Nicer Microtransactions
In general, the micro-transactions in Odyssey were nice. They were never forced upon you, nor did they pop up in the menu. You had to specifically go to the store. And in there, you could buy skins for yourself, your horse, and your ship, as well as XP boosts to save time among some other things. This is fine by me, as the game never felt grind-y, so XP boosts are just a luxury, not a necessity.
But still, it was all a bit expensive. I know, games are expensive to make and haven’t increased in price in years. So micro-transactions help a lot. But the Odyssey micro-transactions were really expensive. I would quite like it if they were more reasonably priced.
This feels like a long list, but the majority of things are just tweaks to the additions that Odyssey brought. If they fine-tune Valhalla, I think this could be the best game yet. Wouldn’t that be nice?