Assassin’s Creed is bloated, unfocused and needs to shed some systems

Assassin’s Creed has never been short of ambition. You’re not donning the Assassin’s cowl expecting a breezy 15-hour historical jaunt. There’s even something comforting about starting a new one and knowing you’ll probably be at this for months, chiseling away at the latest dense epic. But these behemoths just keep on growing, with every game piling on new systems and diversions. Things are getting out of control. 

Even in this age of big games, Valhalla‘s size and density is noteworthy. It is a vast, endless thing. But I don’t really have much going on right now, trapped in my flat as I am, so I’m fine with losing myself in medieval England. It’s not really the scale or length of Valhalla that’s the problem—it’s the lack of focus. It is heaving with shiny things to grab, quests, sieges, raids and settlement management, and they all suffer because of Ubisoft’s divided attention.

Starting with Origins, Ubisoft started to really rethink Assassin’s Creed. Methodically stabbing people had slowly been pushed further to the side, and when the series hit Egypt it more overtly moved from a stealth game to an action game. Odyssey then threw a whole RPG layer on top of it, which has been continued with Valhalla. But through all these big shifts, Ubisoft hasn’t really cut anything. All the stealth stuff is still there, but it competes with the faster, more immediately rewarding action-RPG combat. There are all of these legacy systems, and then all the new Viking shenanigans, and it all just feels like too much. 

(Image credit: Ubisoft)

This isn’t to say that stealth and assassinations have been thrown into the game without any consideration. The whole world has been designed with sneaking in mind, even if it’s much simpler to just go in axes swinging, and there’s a dedicated assassination system where you’ve got a huge list of targets to get through. Unfortunately, a lot of concessions have been made to stretch this across 100 hours and several beefy maps. 

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