The Assassin’s Creed franchise has been on quite a roll in recent years. Assassin’s Creed Origins and Assassin’s Creed Odyssey were two of the most well-received entries in the franchise’s history, offering up something for new players and AC stalwarts alike. Now, with Assassin’s Creed Valhalla, the developers at Ubisoft are bringing some of history’s most fearsome warriors into the fold for the first time. In advance of the game’s release on Xbox Series X|S and Xbox One on November 10, I recently had the chance to play Assassin’s Creed Valhalla for nearly six hours.
For the uninitiated, here’s the story: Assassin’s Creed Valhalla puts you in the shoes of Eivor, a Viking warrior who comes to England in the 9th century. As was the case in Odyssey, players can choose to play Eivor as a female or male as you take on a quest to make England your home. Naturally, the Saxons who currently rule the kingdom of Britain don’t take kindly to the new arrivals from Norway, so it’s up to Eivor to take over the land one region at a time.
I spent a good chunk of my time delving deep into that game’s story and exploring my clan’s settlement (more on those next week), I chose to use the lion’s share of my session exploring a new addition to the game: mysteries. These are missions or activities that pop up on your world map when you’re nearby or after synchronizing at one of the high points (they’re presented as a beam of blue light) that have become a trademark of the series.
There are 11 different types of mysteries to be found as you explore Assassin’s Creed Valhalla’s expansive regions, so let’s take a closer look at what you can expect to be doing when you’re not raiding or drinking your clansmen under the table.
By definition, a cairn is a stack of stones that is placed upon a hilltop or overlook. In the world of Assassin’s Creed Valhalla, stacking these stones is a relaxing, almost meditative activity that allows Eivor a chance to look back on old memories. When I did one, an audio clip of Eivor’s mother played while I rotated and adjusted stones to reach the required height, offering some character development that explained a bit more about Eivor’s motivations. Although mine was not great, I was still able to stack the stones high enough to get rewarded a skill point.
Longtime Assassin’s Creed fans know the Animus as the machine that allows a user to access memories of their ancestors. That seems to be the case again in Valhalla, as you can find anomalies in the world that pull you out of Eivor’s body and into the current day character. Once there, you’ll need to make your way across a number of floating platforms to get a data packet for analysis. These are basically environmental puzzles that need to be solved. In my case, I needed to use beams of light together with mirrors to “build” the platforms that I had to navigate to the end.
Scattered throughout the world are altars, where denizens of Britain leave items or sacrifices in an effort to appease or curry favor with the gods. In Eivor’s case, that favor comes in the form of a skill point, but it required a bit of effort to earn it. The one I found tasked me with returning with 3 hare’s feet, which required me to do a bit of hunting. Thankfully, my prey wasn’t too far away, and I was able to use Eivor’s eagle vision to spot them in some tall grass. After a couple of well-placed shots from my bow, I was able to bring the hare’s feet back to the altar for my reward.
Daughter of Lerion
Although there was no Daughter of Lerion in the region I explored for this hands-on, I did get a chance to go head-to-head with one the last time I played Assassin’s Creed Valhalla. These terrifying warriors are the daughters of King Lerion, who was betrayed by his subjects. Tackling these enemies results in a challenging boss fight in which all sorts of mystical attacks and powers are used against Eivor, with each of the daughters controlling a different element. Regan, the daughter I fought, summoned fire-based shadows of herself to fight alongside her and quickly performed teleporting attacks that made it much harder to heal.
These mysteries look a lot like a version of Stonehenge, with large rocks standing at different angles. Upon arriving, I had to clear the area of enemies, then read a nearby stone for some context around the game’s mythology, as well as a symbol to look for. Using eagle vision near the arranged stones brought out jumbled elements of the symbol, requiring me to walk around until I had the correct angle for viewing the whole symbol. Once I was able to see it, I meditated to earn a skill point.
Did you know that rap battles have been around since at least the 9th century? I sure didn’t, but Assassin’s Creed Valhalla features activities called “flyting,” in which Eivor engages on a verbal war of words with another character in the game. You can place bets on these encounters (100, 200, or 300 gold) if you think you’ve got the chops to compete. Once you’re in the battle, you’ll need to choose a line that both rhymes with whatever you opponent says and fits the same cadence. The clock is ticking though, so you’ll need to choose quickly. If you’re able to best your foe, you’ll earn charisma that will give Eivor new dialogue choices in certain conversations.
Fly agaric is a type of mushroom that provides a powerful hallucinogenic response when eaten, and that’s exactly what happens when Eivor chows down on one. In the one I did, I was tasked with walking through ethereal gates in the correct order. How did I know which ones to go through, you might ask? Well, I simply followed the waddling psychedelic seals that appeared before me, of course! I have a feeling that we’re going to see some weird stuff in these mysteries.
These mysteries are essentially longer side missions that help to build out the game’s world a bit more. During my time with the game, I protected the White Lady of Tamworth, who was role-playing being trapped in a tower by her lover, helped an incompetent warrior fake a raid by torching a house (with their mother’s precious axe inside), took part in some bare-knuckly basement brawls, protected holy women trying to escape persecution, and much more. These events were a fun way to meet some of the oddball characters populating the game’s world and often provided a bit of levity to the proceedings.
The Lost Drengr are fearsome Vikings warriors that came to Britain about a decade before Eivor’s arrival with their king, Ragnar. After the king’s passing, the Drengr lost their sense of purpose and have been wandering around Britain aimlessly, but Eivor is able to offer them a chance to get what they’ve always wanted: a glorious death in battle. That won’t come at Eivor’s hand, however, since defeating them (in what amounts to a boss fight) will recruit them into your clan, where they’ll be a big help in battles.
There are a number of mythical beasts roaming the countryside and defeating them in battle will provide Eivor with a skill point as well as bragging rights at the clan’s settlement. The one legendary animal that has been shown so far is the Black Shuck, a large, shaggy dog from English mythology that was said to fight like it was possessed by the devil. As with the Daughters of Lerion and the Lost Dregr, taking on a Legendary Animal is akin to a boss fight, so it pays to make sure you’re up to the task.
Treasure of Britain
The final type of mystery in Assassin’s Creed Valhalla are the Treasures of Britain, which have not been shown yet. However, if I was a betting man, I’d bet that some (or all?) of them revolve around the famed Thirteen Treasures of the Island of Britain, which feature everything from weapons to cloaks of invisibility. It’s likely that there are some artistic liberties here and there (does Eivor need a hamper that’s always full of food?), but given that the developers have already said that the famed sword of Excalibur will be in the game, we’ll likely be seeing some really interesting items.
We already knew that Assassin’s Creed Valhalla would feature a sprawling storyline and plenty of things to do in Britain, but the addition of these mysteries provides even more reasons to explore the game’s massive countryside. We’ll be bringing you more on Assassin’s Creed Valhalla next week and leading up to the game’s November 10 release on Xbox One and Xbox Series X|S.