I love Assassin's Creed Valhalla. But I'm not ashamed to admit I had serious doubts after the opening cutscene and combat sequence. Why? Two reasons.
First: The fluidity of Eivor's movements.
I know, fluidity is generally a good thing. Maybe there's a better word. Eivor's movements just felt too quick and unnatural. It's almost as if Eivor's strikes, rolls, and dodges were too easy. Like not enough resistance? Then again, that feels like a petty complaint. Also, I wasn't quick to get on board with the limited health system. Running around searching for berries and flowers seemed like it'd quickly become a tedious chore.
Second: The shift from fighting as a lone wolf to raiding as a clan.
While stealth is still an integral feature, Valhalla takes more of a brute force approach than we're used to seeing -- which is fitting, considering we're vikings.
Vikings aren't subtle.
So, as you'd imagine, Valhalla's combat looks a lot different than its predecessors. You're not a mercenary. You're a prominent figure in a clan of warriors. Even though previous ACs featured crews and larger scale battles, combat usually revolved around a one-on-many style.
Brawling alongside a squad of fellow drengrs (courageous warriors) felt strange. I wasn't used to this pack approach. The battlefield felt crowded, sort of like Odyssey's Conquest Battles except in the primary environment as opposed to a separate, player-initiated sequence. I was lost in a sea of friendlies and foes. As someone who played a scary amount of Odyssey, it took a while to disconnect from the mercenary mentality and welcome the clan's assistance. In a way, it was like adjusting your eyes when you step into a dark room.
Whether you like it or loathe it, Ubisoft tinkers with the gameplay mechanics with each new installment of Assassin's Creed. Some features carry over, others disappear. They might be trivial, like whether or not fall damage is a thing (some may argue that's not trivial and I'd understand). They might be significant, like the Mercenary system's downgrade to Zealots from Odyssey to Valhalla.
Needless to say, after a few hours, my eyes adjusted. I've come around to the intricacies of Valhalla's combat mechanics. I enjoy the challenge of managing health and learning the fighting styles of a diverse list of opponents. I love the chaos of raiding, pillaging, and plundering. And there are still plenty of opportunities to flex your stealth muscles.
Each game has its own flair, and I think Valhalla's is now my favorite.