The open world of Valhalla is not rewarding to explore and wastes your time.
I’d be really interested to hear other people’s thoughts on this, especially from those who do enjoy this world. This won’t be a complete moan thread; I do have some positive things to say but I feel like this is yet another aspect that Origins and Odyssey did so much better.
Let’s start with the main thing that inspired this thread: In Valhalla there are a lot of collectibles and I think Ubisoft tried to prove that they hadn’t just mindlessly spammed the map with them by locking virtually every single one behind a mini puzzle in an effort to make resource collecting seem more “engaging”. The problem is collectibles in excess are inherently dull no matter how you frame it. Therefore, all the puzzles do is anchor you down with something that you would normally do in passing i.e. on the way to the actual main event. What’s worse is that they are superfluous, low effort and BORING. Here’s one I’ve just made up but is stereotypical of the type you will encounter again and again in Valhalla:
There’s a wealth chest but it’s behind a breakable wall. You don’t have explosive arrows yet so you need an oil jar to break the wall. However, the oil jar is in another house. You can’t enter the house through traditional means because the door is “barred from the other side”. So you need to shoot the wooden window to get in the house that’s barred but oh nos the oil jar is behind several pillars that you need to move. After completing the oh so challenging task of… moving pillars you then break the bar on the door, grab the oil jar and skip to the breakable wall. When you manage to explode the wall you finally get to the wealth chest but you discover that it requires a key to open it. You read the note on the table next to the wealth chest left by the poor soul who was once the owner of said chest. The note gives you a clue about where the key might be located. You pull up your raven and scan the area outside and discover that the key is on some dead guy by a tree. You grab the key (maybe read the note on the dead guy explaining how he met his demise), run back and FINALLY open the chest.
This isn’t a puzzle, this is an endless goose chase where you have to do the thing to do the thing to do the thing to get that other thing to do the thing and I can’t STAND games like that. It’s not too bad the first 20 times but beyond that it’s exhausting, needless busy work in a world that is not rewarding to explore. Thankfully, you can bypass most “barred from the other side” puzzles by using ‘dive of valkyries’ because this game is so unfinished and untested that the developers did not catch that the AOE for this ability extends beyond combat.
BUT THE ABSOLUTE WORST THING about the open world of Valhalla is that it commits the cardinal sin of locking content behind story progression. Not only is this immersion breaking but what it means is you could waste several minutes trying to get a collectible and fail because you needed to progress further in the story or do another activity in order to access it. For instance, at no point does the game tell you that you need to defeat all daughters of Lerion to obtain Thor’s helmet. Consequently, you learn to condition yourself to not bother with collectibles that take longer than 2 minutes to grab until a story arc in that region is complete. As a quality of life feature they could have marked such collectibles with a different colour. Problem solved.
Perhaps the best example of the world of Valhalla not being rewarding to explore whilst simultaneously holding rewards hostage to the story is in its loot system. I knew early on that I wanted the Thor set because looking at its perks it best suited my playstyle. Unfortunately, you can’t get the final piece until after completing the Order of the Ancients story line. That means I had to either play handicapped with a 3 piece for most of the game or switch to another completed armour set in the meantime and potentially waste upgrade resources on a set I didn’t even desire. By the time I got the final piece (the hood) I was pretty much done with all combat aspects to the game. Very, very poor loot system.
Speaking of the Order of the Ancients, wow did they botch that. Firstly, I think it’s bugged? The silhouette is too bright, revealing EXACTLY what each member looks like to the point that it spoils any choices you make in the story if you remember to take a peak at it every once in a while. And AGAIN, so much of it is locked behind said story that it never feels like you’re independently uncovering the mystery. In Odyssey you could be out in the world minding your own business when suddenly some guy with a massive health bar pulls up on you and you realise in that moment that it’s a cultist. Moments like that were exciting and contributed to the idea that Kassandra was being hunted.
The open world of Valhalla is not all bad. I will say that some of the “mysteries” are really quite good. The animus anomalies, for instance, are by far and away the best activity in the game; it’s not even close. It’s very old school AC, and it’s amusing that in interviews Darby acted like the idea of bringing the modern day into the animus was some new concept but that’s literally what the old games used to do. Also, unlike the wealth collectibles, these are puzzles done right. They are finely crafted and require actual thought. It’s not just do the thing to do the thing to do the thing to do the thing. There are only 10 of them and each one is unique and memorable. Layla’s movement also feels far better than Eivor’s; it’s really a breath of fresh air.
The Cairns challenges are also a lovely addition. They’re relaxing, and I think it speaks to the attention to detail when you can look at your stack of rocks and tell instantly whether the next rock is gonna topple it or not. I also like the fact that if you’re creative enough you don’t actually need to use all of the rocks to reach the required height. My only gripe is the controls/camera are quite awkward so you can end up moving or placing rocks that you didn’t mean to which can be frustrating.
The world events are also delightful, they remind me a lot of Red Dead Redemption 2 (which this game desperately wants to be in places but that’s a post for another time). I enjoyed the side quests in Odyssey but I appreciate this approach as well. What I love most about the world events is that they don’t actually tell you how to complete them. I remember one in Lunden where I came across a group of civilians in hysterics. There was no quest giver so I was wondering what all the commotion was about. It was only when I read the notes on a bench nearby that I realised what the problem was. Using the hints in the notes I went around the city attempting to resolve it. It was great. Many of the world events require you to listen out for hints in dialogue or read notes to figure out what to do or what you WANT to do.
I also love the fact that, in some cases, even after an event is ‘complete’ you have the option to stick around and do more stuff for the NPC.
I know they’re not exceptionally challenging by any stretch of the imagination but I like that the game trusts me enough not to spoon-feed me quest objectives. Sadly, I don’t trust the game. You see Valhalla is a buggy mess and that includes a lot of the world events. One such bugged event made me replay 3 days worth of game otherwise I would have missed out on the platinum. So because world events don’t update your objective you have no idea if they’re working the way they’re supposed to. That one in Lunden I mentioned? Me reading the notes was giving the game the benefit of the doubt but in the back of my mind was the thought that the quest might be broken and that I might need to reload. To approach every world event with that nagging thought in the back of my mind put a damper on any fun I had with them. The other issue with world events and mysteries in general is the way you uncover them which continues the biggest problem with Ubisoft open world games:
They are always aware that you are the player.
Before I elaborate on that though let’s talk about the completely braindead compass because this is one of my biggest issues with how you navigate this world. Changing what objective the compass prioritises with the flick of the camera really makes me think Valhalla was not play tested at all. If I mark something on the map the only distance/miles information I want to see is that which I marked, end of discussion. You can show other icons on the compass but don’t argue with me about what the selected objective should be. Also, why are you telling me where icons are from over 3000 miles away? When I am interested in exploring that I will do so on my own time. The worst part is if you get rid of the compass it removes the selected objective as well. How the hell is this game getting accessibility awards??? Origins and Odyssey had better HUD options than this. Do better.
Rant over. Now back to how Valhalla is aware you are the player. When I’ve said this in the past some people found what I said confusing so hopefully I can explain this a bit better this time: Yes, I am aware this is a video game and video games should be aware you are playing them but the WORLD within it should not, it should behave as if it will carry on with or without your presence. One of the contributing factors to this is a sense of discovery. “Mystery” is not simply what the event is; it’s also WHERE and WHEN it is and that’s what makes a world worth exploring.
I can’t help but think of Ghost of Tsushima and just how superior it is to Valhalla in every single way. Tsushima felt like a fresh take on an old formula whereas Valhalla feels like it’s taking all these new ideas from other GOTY type games but somehow dating them already or just missing the point. Tsushima has frequent “type” activities but the way you uncover them is in stark contrast to Valhalla in that you are REQUIRED to actually explore the map. Sucker Punch (and Bethesda and Rockstar and CDPR) understands that what makes an open world interesting is not the bajillion icons you can see marked on the map but the stuff you CAN’T see. It’s that feeling of seeing smoke touch the sky in the distance and curiosity driving you to go towards it. It’s the idea that you can go through the entire game and never find something that other people will and vice versa. That is the beauty of the open world genre that a linear game cannot capture. By marking everything, by telling me where all the interesting places and people are to see you’re squandering it.
Darby mentioned in interviews that the reason why Montreal ditched the traditional side quest log (which they technically didn’t but more on that in another thread) is because it did not make sense for a Viking to prioritise the petty affairs of peasants in his quest to “pacify”(conquer) England. His statements are completely undermined by the fact that the game literally prioritises these “mysteries” for Eivor by marking them on the map and treating them like one big checklist for him to complete. It removes any so-called “mystery” it could have had because you are letting the player know that anything in between isn’t worth exploring. Perhaps if the map weren’t so damn big you wouldn’t feel the need to tell us where everything is for fear that we’d never discover most of it. If you’re just going to outright reveal where everything is from the start I would rather you at least tell the player what they are so I know whether I want to do it at that time or not. If you’re going to treat your open world like a checklist of chores at least tell me what the chores are.
“But oh nos that won’t do! Because we have ‘Utilities’ and ‘time saver’ packs to sell!!!” And that brings me to the elephant in the room: microtransactions. You see the reason why Ubisoft will never change their open world formula is because you can’t be emotionally pummelled by something you don’t know is there. By revealing that there is at least something in a specific location but not telling you what it is Ubisoft wants to tempt you to pay for that knowledge. “Oh, but you can speak to civilians with questions mar” – shut up, they’re few and far between and most of them reveal stuff you’ve already discovered.
Microtransactions are also the reason why the Vinland arc exists. To be clear, Vinland is designed from the ground up to get you to purchase resource packs. That’s it. There is literally no other reason. “Oh, you’re a thorough player who is willing to scour every inch of the map for the resources you need to upgrade the armour you’ve acquired? Allow us to tempt you with the prospect of speeding up that tedious affair by taking away everything you’ve accomplished at this point and making you grind again to acquire items and tools that you don’t even necessarily want but will need to accomplish your goal in this area.” And despite that, I defiantly still grinded through it, got all the equipment and didn’t purchase a damn thing. I had already paid to be a beta tester for this game on day 1 so I’m not going to pay anymore to NOT beta test it.
And that’s the open world of Valhalla in a nutshell. Grindy, unrewarding, lacking in mystery with a RELENTLESS dedication to wasting the player’s time.
last edited by Finesse357