Final Impression: AC Valhalla: The Siege of Paris

Well that didn’t take long. Not sure I’ve ever written a First Impressions one day and finished the content the next.

So nothing has really changed. The rat swarms continued to bug me. I guess the Francia countryside grew on me a little more as I got farther from Paris. Paris itself was a place I didn’t want to spend my time in. I still haven’t done another Rebel Mission (there is a quest to rank up to level 3 in them which maybe I’ll do).

I’m not really too much of a fan of the new abilities. There’s one that summons a swarm of rats to a spot, and another that creates a poison that causes enemies to start vomiting all over the place. I haven’t used either of them…they just seem dishonorable and don’t feel like something my Eivor would use. There’s a head-butt ability I do use, though. It’s kind of fun. And while also not super honorable, an ability that places a sticky bomb on your enemy is pretty useful.

Narratively, the story felt rough. There are individuals who are urging for peace and for sparing the lives of women and children in one scene, then cheering maniacally at their leader’s urging to burn an entire city and to ‘leave none alive’ in the next.

Eivor’s actions seemed chaotic as well. She goes to Francia at the urging of another Norse clan, but then tries to broker peace just to convince the Francia king not to invade England, and even after being double crossed she continues to try to make deals with her double crosser. Basically she felt like she’d say “Yes” to anything anyone suggested.

I guess Eivor is now a diplomat rather than a warrior. In some sense that’s OK and while it wasn’t really satisfying, the ending felt kind of authentic in that no one really got what they wanted. Isn’t that what diplomacy is all about? Everyone compromises. No one really wins but everyone is grudgingly accepting of the final situation.

Also worth noting that the game did do what Assassin’s Creed games often do: they make me interested in the historical characters they depict. I had never even heard of Richardis (or Charles the Fat) before playing the game and now I want to learn more about what actually happened with these characters.

So bottom line, I didn’t enjoy The Siege of Paris as much as I did Wrath of the Druids, but I’m still happy that I played it. I have the Season Pass for Valhalla, though. It seems like Ubisoft is selling this DLC for $25 as a stand-alone, and that price seems quite steep. I started playing it Thursday evening and finished Saturday evening, and I wasn’t playing for marathon sessions. I’d estimate it took me 8 hours to rip through the storyline. So if you’re interesting in playing, at least wait for it to go on sale. You can play through it in a couple of evenings.

First Impressions: Assassin’s Creed Valhalla: Siege of Paris

The other day I talked about how much I’ve been enjoying Ubisoft’s post launch content for Valhalla and Watch Dogs Legion. Now DLC #2, Siege of Paris, has dropped for Valhalla. So is it as good as these other DLC packages?

This post is 100% First Impressions. I’ve only had time to put a few hours in and my opinion may well change, but sadly so far I’m not as impressed as I am with Wrath of the Druids.

Most of my issues are very personal and things that bother me may not bother you.

First let’s talk about Francia. It appears to be a smaller region than Ireland is, which is a little disappointing. But the bigger issue is that it just kind of feels like England. Ireland felt like a different region in some way that I find hard to quantify. It felt faintly magical. Francia’s countryside is fine, it just doesn’t feel very unique.

Paris, on the other hand, is just squalor. There’s a plague ravaging the city and it is wall-to-wall corpses and decay. It is quite convincing but just not something I relish spending time in and around.

Welcome to Paris. Quite glamorous, isn’t it?

Then there’re the rats. In various sewers and dungeons you’ll encounter swarms of rats that are basically a living DOT. You can attack them but at best that shoos them away; you can’t kill them. The idea is you’re suppose to herd them into a drainage grate or something and then they’ll vanish, but the process is super cumbersome, particularly if you’re using a big slow weapon. My first death in the expansion (and the first death I’ve had in Valhalla for a long time) came from a swarm of rats. I was trying to open a chest to get some loot and the rats kept coming back and attacking me.

Again, personal preference. While having an enemy you cannot kill is an interesting mechanic, it is not a mechanic that I personally find fun.

There’s a new game mode called Rebel Missions which is in some ways similar to the River Raid system in England. I kind of ignore River Raids and will probably ignore Rebel Missions too. In both cases these feel like content for content’s sake. You play through them to get rewards that make you better at playing through more of them. If Valhalla is the only game you want to play these modes are probably welcome but I am more driven by narrative and exploration. I’m not really interested in this kind of ‘endless mode’ content. That said, so far I’ve only done a single Rebel Mission and maybe they do unlock some narrative content so I guess I should give them a chance.

So those are some of my issues, but there are aspects I like.

They’ve introduced more assassination content, which given the name of the game is probably a good thing. Missions where you have to uncover clues and figure out a way to get to your target and then take them out seem very on-brand and like a move in the right direction. Unfortunately the one mission like this I did had kind of a non-gameplay finish where the actual assassination was literally a menu choice.

You’ll now encounter enemies on horseback and which tend to remain on horseback. In the base game there were baddies riding horses but at the first whiff of damage they’d fall off. In Siege we have soldiers who’re much better at remaining on their steeds (though oddly their horses seem immune to damage). It’s nice to have a new enemy type to fight.

They’ve added a new weapon type: scythes. I haven’t played around with these too much yet, but new weapons are always fun. There are new skills as well but again, I haven’t used them enough to comment.

In summary while I’m happy to have more Valhalla content, I’m just not quite as excited about Siege of Paris as I was about Wrath of the Druids, which I absolutely adored. Maybe Siege still has some secrets to reveal, though. I’ll post again when I’ve played it more.

Wrath of the Druids and Bloodlines: Ubisoft Post-Launch Content

Last year Ubisoft was in a strange situation (weren’t we all?) where they had a bunch of delayed games hitting the market more or less at the same time. Fenyx Rising, Watch Dogs Legion and Assassin’s Creed Valhalla all launched in something like a two month span. That’s a LOT of open world to cover.

I’ve so far bounced off Fenyx, but I played Legion & Valhalla to completion of their storylines. They were both OK. I mean, I enjoyed them enough to finish them.

Time passed, and both games got DLC expansions. Bloodlines for Watch Dogs and Wrath of the Druids for Valhalla. I played through both of those too, and in both cases I liked the DLC much more than I liked the base game.

Bloodlines brings back familiar characters from the first two games in the series. Aiden Pearce was the protagonist in Watch Dogs 1, and Wrench was a main NPC in Watch Dogs 2. Instead of the ‘recruit anyone’ gimmick of the main game, you play the DLC as Pearce and Wrench. This makes for a more compelling narrative (presumably it’s a lot easier to write a story when you know which characters are going to be in it) and WAY better voice acting. Bloodlines kind of redeems the main game in a lot of ways.

Wrath of the Druids keeps you playing Eivor, your character from the main game, and instead gives you a new area to explore. You’re in Ireland helping High King Flann try to unite the realm. He’s being thwarted by a sect of druids, who take on the role of the shadowy cabal usually occupied by Templars or Order of the Ancients in AC games. The DLC also adds some new game systems, including some very light strategy/economic game aspects, and one very charming new NPC in the form of Ciara, a poetess voiced (and sung) by Julie Fowlis, who is a Scottish singer.

Have a listen:

Damn I loved Wrath of the Druids, though every time Ciara started to sing I’d stop playing just to listen.

So to finally get to the point, I wonder why in both these cases the DLC are so much stronger than the main game, at least narratively speaking. Was it that the teams had more time to devote to the storylines, or was it just because they weren’t trying to fill 100 hours of content?

Today the second DLC for Valhalla, The Siege of Paris, launches, and I’m really interested to see if it is as good as these other two DLCs have been. (There’s more Watch Dogs Legion DLC coming too, I think.) Maybe Ubisoft would be better served to just release anthology titles with lots of shorter storylines rather than trying to make one story that struggles to hold the player’s attention for 100+ hours?

Viking Synergy

Late last year I was sitting around at the end of the day, looking for something to watch on Netflix. I picked The Last Kingdom. Turns out it was about the Danes invading what we now call England. Or to put it in pop culture terms, it was about Vikings!

Through a happy coincidence I’d just started playing Assassin’s Creed Valhalla, a game where you play a Viking invading what we now call England!

I only watched a couple of episodes of The Last Kingdom before I noticed it was based on a book series by Bernard Cornwell, an author I knew from his Sharpe series. I really enjoyed the Sharpe books (they’re historical fiction that take place during the Napoleonic Wars) so based on the generally safe assumption that the books would be better than the TV series, I stopped watching The Last Kingdom and started reading Cornwell’s Saxon Stories series. (I just noticed he now refers to this series as “The Last Kingdom” series…the man knows marketing!)

I’m not a very fast reader. I generally read when I go to bed and I generally stay up much too late, so I often only get through a dozen pages before my eyes are drooping. Because of this, 6 or 7 months later I’m only on book #6 and there are 13 books (to date, anyway) in Saxon Tales.

I’m also not a very fast gamer and I’m not really sure why this is other than I tend to be methodical and deliberate when I game. So I’m still playing Assassin’s Creed Valhalla, too.

Over the months I’ve taken breaks from both the game and the books, but invariably when I pick one back up, I soon pick up the other. It’s been really fun to read about some location and then go there in the game, or vice versa. Both the book and the game use the names of locations from the time period. (They are not always exactly the same. For example York is called Eoferwic in the books and Eurvic in the game; I’m not enough of a historian to tell you why. Danish vs Saxon name, maybe?)

The point is, the early books and the game cover the same period. Alfred is King of Wessex but wants to unite all English speaking lands into one country. The Danes and Norse are in the north, Mercia is kind of stuck between the two. You encounter the same individuals, at least in some cases. For me it’s been really enjoyable to learn (in a casual sense) about this period of history from two angles and two different forms of media at the same time. (I came into both game and books more or less uneducated when it comes to this era.)

If you played and enjoyed Valhalla I think you’d really like the Saxon Stories sage (or the Netflix series). And if you’ve read the books, you’d probably get a kick out of the game. And if you’ve not been exposed to either, it might be fun to start both at the same time.

Assassin’s Creed Valhalla patch 1.3 is a game-changer

Earlier this week Ubi rolled out patch 1.3 for Assassin’s Creed Valhalla.

The bad news: with it came a really annoying bug where your character would go into an infinite sleep cycle if you happened to be in Dublin. They seem to have addressed this so I won’t dwell on it. Life is too short to carry around angst about video game bugs.

The good news is, they added a Scaling Option to the difficulty settings. Prior to the patch, if you went to an area with lower level enemies, those enemies would scale but only to a power level of 50 below your current power level. This made a lot of content feel really trivial.

The new patch lets you change this (if you want to). There’s an option to scale enemies to your current power level, to your level+30, or to your level+60. I dipped my toe in by changing the setting so enemies were the same level as I am.

Immediately the game became so much more interesting. In fact I am essentially having to re-learn how to play. Prior to the patch my Eivor would stroll into an enemy camp dual-wielding 2 giant axes and just lay waste to every enemy via me button mashing. It was a fun Viking power fantasy for a while, then it started getting dull.

Now I have to remember how to block, dodge and parry again. I have to use skills. I have to think about the battle, sometimes skulking around and assassinating some enemies to thin them out. I had to upgrade my gear! It’s great fun and has really re-invigorated my interest in the game.

Just wanted to throw this out there in case anyone else had grown bored with Valhalla. The Wrath of The Druids expansion has been out for a while, and The Seige of Paris expansion is coming soon. If you have the Season Pass (or are willing to throw a few more bucks at the game) there’s still a lot of enjoyment to be had. There’s some free content as well (the River Raid system) and they’re constantly adding new skills to play around with.