DLC REVIEW: ‘Assassin’s Creed Valhalla: Forgotten Saga’ Brings Rougelite to the Franchise (XSX)

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Assassins Creed Valhalla: Forgotten Saga

Personally, I find Assassin’s Creed Valhalla’s two years of continued support to be a gift that keeps on giving. With three major DLCs and tons of free updates so far, the variety of game types have expanded pretty far from the original release, with each adding their own nice twist on the tried and true formula. With the latest free update, a roguelike mode “Forgotten Saga,” Eivor steps into the shoes of Odin once more as he continues his saga post-”Dawn of Ragnarök.” Diving into the depths of Niflheim, Havi is deadset on recovering his lost son, Baldr. Of course, Hel has no interest in returning the dead.

Adding a roguelite mode to Assassin’s Creed isn’t something I ever asked for. It’s not something I ever even thought of. It’s something I’m glad exists, though. As far as roguelites go, this is a pretty simple one. You start a run with only one randomly assigned sword, shield, and bow, and none of your skills, abilities, or upgrades. You must set forth across four levels, defeating “rooms” of enemies to acquire the upgrades and weaponry you’ll need to make it to the end of this saga.

You’ll see indicators on the mini-map as to which areas will yield which rewards, but not what kind of challenge you’ll have to face. Some are timed, some you won’t be able to run away from, some have special enemies spawn, and others are just a straightforward brawl. It’s all pretty much exactly what the previous 150 hours of this game offered, each level being themed to one particular kind of enemy or another whose weaknesses to ice, fire, lightning, and poison are shown in their health bars.\

There’s some level of strategy to which paths you choose and which upgrades you decide to go for. You can only see one room ahead of you at a time, so something you want may be hidden in the next room beyond something you don’t want. But you often cannot return from where you came, so you won’t be able to gather every item. However, the game’s strategy feels like it only extends so far. The array of weapons and abilities you can happen upon is limited, which means that once you’ve gotten the weapon that you most prefer (since honestly, most weapon choices in this game besides the most powerful are just a matter of preference), you can pretty much just go for the health upgrades as frequently as possible and never feel like you’re making much of a difficult choice.

That is, until the second half of the game mode when health refills become basically non-existent. Unlike in the main game, your health will never refill naturally. You can only refill health at certain locations or by spending currency at few and far between merchants. It’s a piece of gameplay that, at first, felt pretty cool, making me be extra careful about taking damage and choosing when to use those refills and when to wait. But by the end, when they basically stop giving you any at all, it felt like all my health upgrades were for naught because survival was the only way to defeat Hela.

It’s not that it felt unfair, per say. If I was simply better at not taking damage to unworthy enemies, I wouldn’t enter boss fights with such a low amount. But the difficulty spike is quite sharp at the final two bosses, and the road to getting there and trying again can be long and tedious. At least when you die you can spend some different currencies to get permanent armor and skill upgrades.

Speaking of bosses, they’re pretty cool looking with interesting mechanics, as far as Assassin’s Creed bosses go these days. They’re not too hard to figure out, but definitely will keep you on your toes. The Nidghog in particular is pretty rad. I mean, it’s a giant poisonous dragon with green fire. What more needs to be said?

Ultimately, this game mode just suffers from Assassin’s Creed Valhalla’s generally disinteresting combat. Over my nearly 200 hours of gameplay, I have found that it only has two modes: I kill everyone in seconds flat or I spend an eternity dodging around because the enemies span unparalleled attacks. I can see this mode being far more interesting with Assassin’s Creed Odyssey’s more parry-based combat, and I more than hope that this will be tried again in future Assassin’s Creed games. It’s a great idea. The execution is just perhaps too straightforward for its own good.

Assassin's Creed Valhalla: Forgotten Saga

Lastly, I have to address my ongoing grievance against this game’s storytelling. Assassin’s Creed as a franchise continuously frustrates me when it comes to story. It does so well building up absolutely epic scale and stakes, but is so inconsistent when it comes to making an emotional impact. I feel like I’m constantly being introduced to new people and problems only to have them resolve in ways that tell me to feel something but never gave me the chance really to form those feelings for myself. So much of the game is spent alone, wandering around, so short cutscenes between other characters and myself just don’t fully invest me in those relationships. However, I must say I’m quite impressed with the number of cutscenes that were made for each return to Odin’s camp. It does add some urgency to your mission even if the emotional hook isn’t quick sunk in all the way for me.

The ones I feel most connected to in Assassin’s Creed Valhalla in particular are the ones who I spend time riding around on horseback with from place to place. Those conversations were always the most interesting and personal. So when you’re dropped into, say, a heated argument between Odin and Thor in “Forgotten Saga,” there’s no connection there for me. Just being told I should feel one. Same really goes for my quest for Baldr.

I have more attachment to this story via other media, unfortunately, than I do here, because we just never spend much time with Baldr before his kidnapping in “Dawn of Ragnarök” and his subsequent death. Assassin’s Creed is such a story-based franchise, I just wish I felt a greater emotional motivation for paying attention to all of its continued story.

I’m not disappointed with “Forgotten Saga” by any means, I think it’s a cool idea and it does offer a fun new challenge I will surely give many more tries. There’s only so far you can reiterate on a mediocre combat system, no matter how many gimmicks you add to try and keep it fresh.

The Assassin’s Creed Valhalla: Forgotten Saga free update is available now.


Assassin’s Creed Valhalla: Forgotten Saga
  • 7/10
    Rating - 7/10
7/10

TL;DR

I’m not disappointed with “Forgotten Saga” by any means, I think it’s a cool idea and it does offer a fun new challenge I will surely give many more tries. There’s only so far you can reiterate on a mediocre combat system, no matter how many gimmicks you add to try and keep it fresh.

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