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Assassin's Creed Valhalla: every improvement we want to see when it comes to Xbox Series X

Assassin’s Creed Odyssey is one of my all-time favourite games - for its in-depth exploration of Ancient Greek mythology and culture, for its incredibly beautiful game world, and for the gameplay itself. I’ve lost hundreds of hours to it, and I’ll probably be shackled to it for a long time yet. I was preparing myself for years of defending Odyssey as the best AC game, yet the first look at Assassin’s Creed Valhalla seems to have me shamelessly switching loyalties. It looks as though it could blow Odyssey out of the water for me. Odyssey was itself building on some of the newer RPG elements added to Assassin’s Creed Origins, and although it implemented these very well, it seems Ubisoft expects Valhalla to build upon those elements even further from what Odyssey was trying to achieve. As much as I love Odyssey, there are several areas which definitely could do with improvement, and it’s these I hope Ubisoft has focused its efforts on when Valhalla is released later this year.

So, in case you couldn’t already tell, I love Odyssey. I love Greek mythology, and I love open-world games. The game’s map ties these together and presents you with an almost endless level of exploration. This should be a good thing, right? Well, yes, sometimes. But also, definitely not. It really does feel endless — you could invest hours into exploring just one area of that huge map and still have forts, bandit camps, and question marks left over. Not to mention the wolves and bears you’ll encounter along the way — and the ridiculously overpowered boars which team up and ambush you with more gusto and skill than the highest-level mercenary.

Yet this endless opportunity for exploration doesn’t equate to an endless enthusiasm for it. The map is just as beautiful from Kephallonia to Pephka, but it can feel empty. Those bandit camps and outposts start to blur together despite drastically different backgrounds, and the similarity in layout, enemy types and combat styles can start to feel a little too repetitive. An endless open world sounds appealing, but without something of substance to make each part of it meaningful, that open world starts to suffer under its own weight.

It sounds as though this is going to be addressed in Valhalla with the introduction of the settlement feature. The main character, Eivor, travels from Norway to invade England, and it seems Ubisoft is keen to represent this settler side of the Viking character. Players will therefore be able to grow their own settlement, collecting members and adding and improving buildings such as a barracks, blacksmith, and tattoo parlour. The settlement itself will feature as a sort of hub area for the player to return to during quests, and a place to see the consequences of your decisions play out. Speaking to Eurogamer, lead producer Julien Laferrière said, “It’s your own Viking village you’ll see prosper and grow... It’s at the centre of our quests and the centre of the decisions you make.” Ubisoft seems well aware of the drawbacks of Odyssey’s huge map, and Laferrière says of Valhalla: “Instead of exploring one territory, then moving on to another and having no real opportunity or reason to return, the settlement changes the structure. So you’ll go on an adventure and then be encouraged to come back to your settlement.”

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