When Ubisoft revealed "Assassin's Creed Valhalla," the publisher presented two visions of Vikings. One showed the common perception of bloodthirsty marauders plundering towns and killing villagers. The other image showed a caring people, one that raises children and practices rituals to the Nordic gods.
The trailer shows that there's more to these sea rovers than meets the eye. At a Ubisoft Forward preview event held virtually, I had a little over three hours of hands-on time with the upcoming game. The demo took players to 873 AD in East Anglia, that's the bulbous landmass jutting out from the eastern coast of the United Kingdom.
A rival clan led by Rued had reportedly killed King Oswald and had taken over much of the land. As the female Eivor, I traveled to Theotford and talked to the sheriff there about a job. I had to clear out Rued's men in King's Bury.
It was a nice introduction to one of the major elements in "Assassin's Creed Valhalla" - the longship. To call it, players have to press the down button on the directional pad and that brings up a slew of options. They can take out a torch or put it away. They can go incognito or even fish but what I wanted from the menu was a horn to call the longboat.
From there, I used the narrow ship to travel up the numerous waterways in the region. One of them led to King's Bury, and that's where I had to position the ship for landing by hitting a button to raid. This sent my men forward into a skirmish in town.
Like the previous two games, Eivor attacks by pressing the shoulder buttons for light and heavy attacks. Dodging is done via a face button, but surprisingly, I relied more on the block button to parry attacks. In addition, the adrenaline attacks return and they're tied to the face buttons. Lastly, Eivor has a ranged attack with her bow.
In raids like these, there isn't much in terms of stealth. Players throw themselves into the fray and must do enough to turn the tide of battle. Sometimes Eivor will have to help up a fallen comrade. The special attacks include a flurry of thrown axes, a shoulder charge that when connecting tosses foes against a wall, and a maneuver that's similar to the Spartan kick from "Assassin's Creed Odyssey." It deals hefty damage but doesn't look as cool as knocking an enemy into next week with foot to the solar plexus.
While all those offensive moves were helpful, it's the parry that's the MVP of the arsenal. A well-timed parry can stun foes, opening them up to brutal finishing moves such as a stomp. On tougher opponents such as Beserkers, it's even more helpful and allows players to damage foes who are constantly on the attack.
Although parrying attacks is helpful in most instances, players will encounter brutes that will make Eivor crumple if she tries to block. In those cases, it's best to dodge and live to see another day.
STORMING THE CASTLE