Assassin's Creed Valhalla

Platform(s): PC, PlayStation 4, PlayStation 5, Stadia, Xbox One, Xbox Series X
Genre: Action/Adventure
Publisher: Ubisoft
Release Date: Nov. 10, 2020

About Andreas Salmen

I'm sure this is all just a misunderstanding.


As an Amazon Associate, we earn commission from qualifying purchases.

PC Review - 'Assassin's Creed Valhalla' The Siege of Paris DLC

by Andreas Salmen on Aug. 11, 2021 @ 3:00 a.m. PDT

Assassin's Creed Valhalla throws players axe-first into ninth-century England, an age of warring kingdoms and Viking conquest. Wars will rage. Kingdoms will fall. This is the age of the Vikings.

Buy Assassin's Creed Valhalla

Assassin's Creed Valhalla is coming up on its first anniversary and, as is custom with recent AC games, that means there is a second expansion around the corner. The Siege of Paris DLC adds new gear and skills, a new map to explore, and a short single-player campaign to round out the first year of paid content (that we know of). We also know that AC Valhalla will, as the first game in the series, receive a second year of unannounced expansions, likely a mix of paid and free. Instead of a rousing finale, The Siege of Paris is another side adventure for protagonist Eivor to ax his or her way through. This second expansion feels much more focused and to the point than Wrath of the Druids, and it also doesn't emphasize the shortcomings that it inherits from the main game that remain mostly untouched.

I have my issues with Valhalla and its first story expansion. Decent ideas and a fun setting were ultimately smothered by a campaign bloated with repeating content that couldn't be carried by the often-shallow combat and RPG systems. It felt like a 20- to 30-hour game stretched to about three times that amount, especially if you count expansions. Wrath of the Druids offered a large new map but ultimately didn't amount to much more than set dressing that fell into the same traps. The Siege of Paris isn't too different in many regards, but there is a faint light at the end of the tunnel that has me hoping the series may have an ace up its sleeve.

Structurally, The Siege of Paris is very similar to Wrath of the Druids. A new building appears in your settlement, along with some nosy visitors asking for assistance in a land across the sea. This time around, King Charles the Fat is the target of our mission. Defying the Viking invaders in his country, he also poses a potential threat to England, prompting Eivor to follow their new friends: Toka and Pierre.

If you've had your fill of medieval intrigue and backstabbing to replace one ruler of a region with another, I've got bad news. This is still very much the Valhalla you've sunken 60+ hours into at this point, so there won't be many surprises. Mystical components are completely out of the picture this time, so prepare for pure medieval fights and mischief with the goal of replacing another ruler in a foreign region. The plot of The Siege of Paris feels familiar, but the pacing is better. During the adventure, Eivor meets a range of memorable characters on each side, including King Charles and his family. The core story quests comprise a short runtime of about six hours, so things are to the point and much more engaging. I was let down by the lack of meaningful decisions in Wrath of the Druids, but the tale in The Siege of Paris features more decisions that feel more impactful, even though they rarely are in practice.

In terms of content, The Siege of Paris is much more streamlined than the last expansion, where a huge chunk of Ireland was explorable. The map of Francia is as pretty as all of the maps that came before it, but it's smaller than the Irish region, and it has one of the biggest cities we've seen yet in the form of medieval Paris. From flooded barracks to plague-riddled outskirts and the secure Île de la Cité stronghold in the center, Paris provides much more of the chimney-chasing assassin feeling than most other content we have seen thus far in Valhalla. Otherwise, Francia is very similar in scenery to what came before, and not much of it stands out visually, with the exception of its big, open fields with colorful flowers to chase through on your mount.

Another important note is side-quests. Wrath of the Druids introduced a somewhat new trading system and a "new order" of targets to take down on top of the story campaign, but those mechanics are not present in The Siege of Paris. While Ireland had the ring forts and trading system, Francia has a network of resistance fighters who oppose the king. Instead of capturing and upgrading ring forts, you have the option to assist the Resistance in a never-ending string of sting operations in exchange for currency, which can be used to upgrade NPC troops that support you during these missions or buy gear and weapon runes. The general structure and rewards are similar to the way the trading system worked, but it's essentially been replaced with a lot of repeating and grinding tasks that quickly burned me out. Paired with the fact that there are no additional assassination targets (aside from those in the story), and this expansion feels rather light beyond its main single-player questline.

While I enjoyed the story and choices more than in the previous expansion, the gameplay changes provide a breath of fresh air. Black box missions are returning, so the story has certain moments where it gives you a target and a location but leaves the approach up to you. This is a tricky proposition on multiple levels. Stealth in Valhalla has not seen any significant improvement, so it's still bare-bones and a bit janky to execute. However, Valhalla has a huge problem with recycling content and mission designs, so the black box missions finally infuse some much-needed variety, and it's a sign that Ubisoft acknowledges what makes Assassin Creed fun: being a bad-ass assassin who leaps from rooftops and punches a metal bolt into unsuspecting jugulars.

There are several black box missions in the campaign, and while they are not very deep, they are entertaining. They're like the story missions that Hitman uses to provide some memorable cinematic kills. As such, they are guided and hard to miss with little room for improvisation, but pulling them off feels far greater than any assassination mission in the previous quests. Add to that the usual siege combat and infiltration missions, and you have a decently entertaining story campaign that felt much better than much of Valhalla. I hope that Ubisoft continues down this path to re-introduce stealth as a valid and fun gameplay option in further content packs and sequels.

Of course, there is new gear and abilities in The Siege of Paris. I am still not convinced or ecstatic about the gear that Ubisoft includes in its paid expansions, given that most of the cool-looking loot is hidden behind another paywall. If you're keen on some Frankish loot, The Siege of Paris includes a couple of new weapon types: single-handed swords and heavy two-handed scythes. They don't change any combat mechanics, but they look kind of cool when picking the limbs of your enemies. There isn't much connection between the expansion and Assassin's Creed lore, but there are three Hidden Ones Bureaus to discover to grant a special gear item. I had hoped these bureau missions might turn out to be a climbing challenge similar to past entries, but most of them default to simple structures that are easy to navigate and complete.

The bureau missions showcase a new environmental hazard well: rats. Paris is hit by the plague, so rats are the logical expansion of that idea. They cannot be killed by Eivor, but when attacked, they retreat into the next sewer grate. Sometimes Eivor has to free up a hidden grate, and other times, Eivor must move objects to block a grate so the rats can be permanently removed from the equation.

The addition of rats shines through in one of the three new abilities: an arrow that causes a horde of rats to attack your enemies. It's admittedly very similar to A Plague Tale: Innocence, which is currently free on the Epic Games Store. Another new skill has you place explosives on an enemy to watch them blow apart and take surrounding enemies with them. The third ability poisons your opponents in a big toxic cloud. The skill tree also has a few additions, including some potent passive skills, such as being able to use your bow while mounted, automatic pickup of items when running by, tackling enemies when sprinting, adrenaline regeneration, and more. It doesn't do the intense skill tree any favors, but some of them are worthwhile additions that have a noticeable impact.

From a technical perspective, not much has changed with AC Valhalla. Ubisoft fixed a few bugs and added some quality of life improvements via free updates, but most of it has stayed the same. The game is still janky at times, with animations regularly glitching or not lining up correctly. We only encountered two back-to-back crashes, which means the expansion has run far more reliably than any other part of the game ever did. My favorite improvement, regardless of The Siege of Paris expansion, is that Ubisoft finally allows manual level scaling to make the overall experience harder. Enemies become more of a damage sponge, but they are not simplistic pushovers, which made the experience much more enjoyable. Otherwise, Valhalla looks and sounds the same as it has since release, which is a compliment, especially in the audio department. I still enjoy the subtle and fitting score in Valhalla, including all of the additions since then.

The Siege of Paris DLC for Assassin's Creed Valhalla is less bloated, and that is a positive. It still recycles most of what it did previously, so this expansion does little to get you onboard if you're already burned out on it. As an expansion of Valhalla, The Siege of Paris seriously trims the fat and provides one of the better story arcs we've seen for this entry. The welcome reintroduction of black box missions provides a diversion from the regular grind that is so prevalent in its other content. It's a step in the right direction.

Score: 7.1/10

More articles about Assassin's Creed Valhalla
blog comments powered by Disqus