Our Assassin's Creed: Valhalla Review Angered Some People (Review Recap)
VOICE OVER: Ty Richardson
WRITTEN BY: Ty Richardson
It's no secret that my review of “Assassin's Creed: Valhalla” was...polarizing, to put it gently. Many of you wrote in criticizing the review in a variety of ways, and in this video I will address as many of those concerns as I can. Since the original review I have doubled my play time with Valhalla, so without further ado, here's my Review Recap!
Script written by Ty Richardson
Assassin’s Creed Valhalla Review Recap
Greetings, ladies and gentlemen of the internet! My name is Ty with MojoPlays, and this is the Review Recap for “Assassin’s Creed: Valhalla”.
Before we get into the thick of it, I’d like to express my relief for Ubisoft Montreal. While I am one of the company’s biggest critics, no one should feel their life is in danger regardless if it is a prank. On behalf of the MojoPlays team, I’m happy you guys are safe and wish you all the best. Now, on with the show.
I have spent a little more time with “Valhalla” since the review. By the time you’re watching or listening to this video, I will have spent more than 15 hours with the game - almost double the time I put in for the review. In case you are planning to say “That’s not enough time to review a game”, we’re going to have that conversation later on.
Folks, it is no secret that my review of “Assassin’s Creed: Valhalla” was...polarizing, to put it gently. Many of you wrote in criticizing the review in a variety of ways - some of it constructive, others just outright mean. I do plan to address all, if not most, of them today, but because there were so many similar comments being made, we will not be reading off any particular comments. Instead, I’ll be giving a brief summary of a common complaint before going into my commentary.
“You Didn’t Even Play the Game”
For the review, I clocked in a little over eight hours of gametime, most of that spent on progressing through the main story with roughly two hours spent doing raids and open world stuff. Just for this episode, I went back and doubled my time. In my time post-review, I have noticed fewer bugs and improved stability. So, I can say the game is in a more playable state.
In case you’re curious, I did go and investigate that cursed tree I mentioned. Gotta say, I was disappointed. Cursed areas are resolved by simply shooting an arrow at a glowing skull. It immediately dispels the curse and offers a note or two for lore’s sake. Judging from what I’ve read on various wikis and strategy guides, there’s no reward for finding all forty outside of inching closer to that 100% and two PSN trophies. Needless to say, my interest in picking the game up again has further waned.
“Minor Bugs” & the Point of Open World Games
This criticism, I feel, was a point of contention not just between me and the comments, but in a way, other critics as well. I’m not going to call any names, but of the reviews I read, I felt that the game’s buggy state were either downplayed or the critic was too forgiving.
To me, the idea of an open world game is for the player to get immersed in a game, to get completely lost and shut the world out. That’s what draws us to them. That’s why mainstream gaming outlets have their eyes on them almost all the time. The genre creates such an experience that more traditional genres rarely accomplish. Besides, with a genre like “open world”, the world is, technically, the star of the game. It’s about exploring the world, finding landmarks, hunting down enemies, etc.
So, when you’re playing a game like “Valhalla” and see something similar to my Balloon Man, it totally destroys the immersion. That being said, what good is an open world game if the world itself isn’t believable?
Complaining About Long Cutscenes “Doesn’t Like Cutscenes or Talking But Plays RPGs?”
I don’t have a problem with cutscenes and talking. To say I did is to shove words in my mouth. My criticism here was that the cutscenes were long or the plot took too long to progress. There were bits of dialogue that didn’t really add anything to the story or characters, at least that’s how I feel. I’m sure plenty of people see something in the story that I don’t. Again, reviews are always going to be subjective.
And just for your consideration, I love RPGs, but “Valhalla” is not an RPG. It’s an open world action game with RPG elements. If you want a definition of an RPG, I’d point you towards “Persona 5”, “Dragon Quest”, “Citizens of Earth”, and “I Am Setsuna”.
“You’re Nitpicking/Who Complains About a Hold Command?”
Oh, boy...I’ve been waiting to explain this. I’m about to go full-on nerd here...with BUTTON PHILOSOPHY!
So, “Valhalla” has a nasty habit of making you hold down the Triangle or Y button for almost every trivial action you do. This is the case for synchronizing, breaking down doors, open chests, carrying corpses, and more. My problem with this is that these tasks are so frequent that it makes the “hold” command feel like a waste of time. Doesn’t help that breaking down doors and some part of the looting require you to have an AI “help” you. Why can’t I just press the button and do the thing? “Ghost of Tsushima” did that. “God of War” got to the point quicker by having Kratos smash chests with his foot. The “Borderlands” series makes holding a button optional, making it only necessary when trying to collect multiple items at once.
So, why are so many common tasks tied to a single button and only as a “Hold” command? I did see one or two people say this was to make sure you don’t accidentally do something, but this is where controller philosophy comes in. I don’t know about you, but when I hold a controller, I always have my right thumb sitting between the Cross and Square buttons (or the A and X buttons, for Xbox). Triangle and Y, being placed at the top of the face buttons, are so out of the way that I fail to see how anyone could accidentally press it. The most common buttons you press in “Valhalla” are your attack and counter buttons, those being Cross, Square, the shoulder buttons, and the triggers. Most of the time, you will not have to press Triangle/Y unless you need to interact with something outside of combat. You’re really going to use it only after the Raid or when you’re collecting stuff during free roam.
And when you think about how much more raiding there is to do, how many more things you’ll have to collect, and the like, the time spent having to hold a button adds up. If I’m going to be doing this a lot, why not just let me press the button and be on my way? That’s what a button is meant to do! You press it, and it does the thing almost immediately! The fact I have to hold the button and let a gauge dictate if and when I can do the action makes me feel like the game doesn’t respect my time. I’ve fought all the bad guys, now let me grab what I came for and be on my way.
If you really don’t mind holding buttons for mundane tasks, then more power to you. But I’m a guy who has a meaty backlog of games, games that don’t dictate my time spent doing simple actions. They let me do the thing and move on so I can keep playing.
Overall Complaints About My Tone, Frustration, & “Jokes”
First off, I would like to apologize if my tone did come off somewhat harsh. If anything, though, that should tell you how frustrated I was with “Valhalla”. We’ll get into the things I was specifically frustrated with later on, but my tone says how I feel about a game. That’s just how speech works - tone conveys meaning. The “jokes” I wrote wasn’t me trying to be funny necessarily - this was to emphasize how bad something was about the game. I did see a couple people accusing me of ripping off of Jim Sterling or Yahtzee Croshaw. All due respect to those guys, I would never try to do something remotely close to their work, not in a million years. I admire their work, but I wouldn’t even attempt at copying somebody else.
“You’re Biased/Trying to Be Edgy/Way Too Subjective”
I’d say this was the most frequent comment I got for this review. And here’s an unfortunate truth in not just games journalism and criticism, but in most scenarios of life as well - bias is everywhere, even in the people you follow, your friends, your family, and even yourself. Games criticism is nothing but bias. Just so you guys know a little more about me, I’ll tell you a couple of my biases - I am more likely to be favorable to a game with good controls, unique concepts, and good optimization than I am to a game that is significantly story-driven but doesn’t do much interesting with its gameplay and is riddled with technical problems. In other words, I prioritize gameplay over story, which is why I try not to spend too much time talking about story in reviews.
Some folks accused me of being edgy to which I must disagree. I don’t try to be edgy. I don’t try to be controversial. When I review a game (or anything for that matter), I always provide my general thoughts, opinions, and insight. I will never--NEVER fake an opinion or thought for anything. Let me ask you this, dear viewer or listener - what would I have to gain from lying about my opinion on something? What would I have to gain from something that would cost me my integrity, my credentials, my self-respect, and to some extent, my dignity?
That last bit I wanna address - “being too subjective” - is a subjective statement in and of itself simply because it goes back to what I said about biases. All game reviews (and opinions in general) are subjective. There is no such thing as a completely objective review. You wanna know what a completely objective review sounds like? Here it is… [read following in monotone voice]
This is my review of “Assassin’s Creed: Valhalla”. When I boot up the game, it opens up. Pushing buttons and tilting the analogs makes the character do things. This game has stuff to do. All that said, I can confirm that this is a video game.
Now, imagine that review being published, and because of that review, someone goes and buys the game (which, let’s be honest - if that’s all it takes for me to sell you a game, one of us has to question their life choices). But it turns out that review said nothing about the game-breaking bugs, unresponsive controls, and graphics that make Atari Jaguar look next-gen. Who’s fault is it that you bought a terrible game? The reviewer can’t be blamed - they gave an objective review. To say any of the problems you found can be interpreted as subjective. That may be a game-breaking bug to you, but to me, that’s a one-way ticket to beating the whole game! Story good, oh emotion, masterpiece, 10/10, too much water!
“You Just Hate AC/Why Review It If You Hate It”
I don’t hate the “Assassin’s Creed” games. I’m actually playing through AC2 in my downtime, and I’m having a blast making Ezio a petty thief in between assassinations. I plan to return to “Black Flag” as soon as I Platinum AC2.
I didn’t review this game because I hate it or hate “Assassin’s Creed”. If anything, I wanted this to invigorate interest for the new games so I can give “Origins” and “Odyssey” a chance. Unfortunately, I found the game is too bloated, too inane in its design, and too time-consuming. I play games for a challenge, and even with difficulty cranked all the way up, I wasn’t getting that.
“You Straight Up Admitted You Hate AAA Games”
This is incorrect. Not once did I express any hatred for AAA games. What this criticism commonly referred to was a part in the video where I talked about my expectations of AAA games given how they demand a hefty amount of money. I said those things to give you guys an idea of how I was approaching the review, to set boundaries and say, “Look, this is what I’m expecting, this is what I’m looking for”. Like I said, sixty bucks is a lot of money, and if we’re making this jump to seventy, we can’t be getting lazy with the quality, not when I can get significantly better games at a third of the cost. Honestly, “Hades” has been the most fun I’ve had with a game all year, and the game costs $25. Not trying to sidetrack here, but the indie market is booming right now with so many fantastic games at really great prices.
“You Constantly Complained//Whining/Said Nothing Positive/Condescending”
First off, the word “condescending” was frequently misused in some of these comments. To act condescending is to act like you’re superior in comparison to someone or to talk to someone in a positive light but with some sinister, perhaps insulting, undertone. I do not nor did I ever feel superior to this game, and the positives I did give it were authentic.
Part of reviewing a game is stating the negatives of your experience. Now, my tone may not have complimented my criticisms all that well, but I gave this game more than enough time to show me what it’s all about.
As for the complaints about me not saying anything positive, that’s just not true. Go watch the review again.
“This Guy Gave a Positive Review to ‘Anthem’/I Bet He Plays ‘Call of Duty’”
This insult is just flat-out incorrect. If I was to unearth everything I’ve ever posted across social media, you would not find one speck of me speaking of “Anthem” in a positive light. I have publicly laughed at the game and even criticized many of the outlets who gave the game positive reviews AND previews. So, this belief could not be any further from the truth. You’d be so far away for thinking that it makes a trip to the moon look like a drive to the candy store.
Another supposed insult I saw was along the lines of “I bet he plays ‘Call of Duty’.” ...And? I’m sorry, I don’t see the problem with me playing CoD. In fact, I’m pretty apathetic towards it. My PSN trophy count certainly shows it.
“Your Review Sucks/You Have No Business Reviewing Games”
This is a subjective complaint. You can agree or disagree with it if you want, but reviews are merely reports of a critic’s experience with the game.
“You Really Going to Compare this to ‘Breakpoint’??”
Yes. Yes, I am. I reviewed “Breakpoint” last year, and given that “Valhalla” has a gameplay loop that’s almost the exact same as “Breakpoint”, I feel that warrants comparison. Concerning their gameplay, the only difference between the two is that “Breakpoint” had excellent gunplay. “Valhalla’s” combat feels dull all around unless you grind and grind and grind to unlock all of the cool abilities, but even these abilities kind of break the formula older AC titles used to have. Back then, you weren’t really supposed to fight. After all, this was a stealth game series. But I digress.
“Fire Ty, Get Someone Neutral”
I’m about as neutral as you can get. May I point you towards my reviews of “Super Mario 3D All-Stars” and “Pikmin 3 Deluxe”? Both games are from Nintendo, and I think you’ll find them very interesting to watch in comparison.