I don't want to waste anyone's time with this avalanche of half-baked thoughts, so I'll just go straight for the meat and you can skip anything you don't care about! Warning: some very slight spoilers contained below.
Good Random Stuff:
- I'll lead with something controversial: I think there's a lot of really good writing in this game. Without spoiling anything major, the early whodunnit sequence, the East Anglia weakling King's journey, and later game "The Hangover"/framing for murder plots stand out so far.
- The AC games do weird/trippy but cool shit really well. I had an insult poetry battle with fucking Thor in Valhalla, in the shadow of the World Tree. I mean, who had this idea?! But also really cool too.
- The main plot (so far) is solid and interesting. They're doing a really good job of painting Eivor into a corner where there are no good choices.
- I particularly liked the Randvi story and the way it presented the option of "betrayal" as...well, not a blatant good/evil thing, but something much more nuanced and real.
- And the impact -- no matter your choice -- it has on all relationships moving forward is very well done.
- The game is just gorgeous. I love playing it on my Series X, and the graphics lend major atmosphere to many sequences.
- For example, at one point I had to go save an Ealderman from a human sacrifice, and to get there I had to ride/sneak/fight through a foggy, moonlight overgrown forest and deep into a beautiful cave system with druidic flair all over. Just before I got to the final confrontation of the sequence, Eivor mutters offhand, "am I still in Midgard?" I exclaimed unintelligibly in response because it captured perfectly the otherworldly feel the graphics and world design acheived. The entire art/design team deserves a medal.
- Some few of the little side "mystery" stories are funny and/or compelling. I won't go into them because they're too easy to spoil, but sometimes they are trying to be interesting, which I appreciate.
- Orlog is one of the best side activities in an RPG I've seen. Not quite Gwent but it's close.
- Flyting is great. Too easy, unfortunately, but really fun.
- The fire arrow that breaks the breakable walls instead of the horrible, horrible searches and fetches for exploding jars is the biggest quality of life upgrade you can find. A close 2nd is the auto loot upgrade. Get these.
- The horse is the best "fast travel" option ...maybe ever? you're not just warping around, you're experiencing the world, but it's smooth with very little jank and you're getting there very quickly. The only complaint I have is that they really missed an opportunity to build attachment/progression to your horse.
- The polish on the game is really solid. I have had a few minor quest scripting issues, but overall the bug level is incredibly low for the amount of content in the game. In a world with Cyberpunk, ASSHALLA should be praised for the effort put into QA.
- The new abilities you get through the leveling system are great, and feel very impactful. I'm still looking forward to new levels (currently I'm like 320ish).
Meh to Bad Random Thoughts:
- The combat is fine, but nothing particularly interesting, like most AC games. It's basically the same as Witcher 3 -- dodge a bunch, strike when opponent is exposed. There's a bunch of additional abilities, but they don't seem to help much with the fights that matter, boss fights.
- I find the world fights against like legendary beasts and zealots way too long and samey.
- Fuck those guys with spears.
- Fuck those guys that run away super fast then throw rocks at you.
- What in the flyting fuck are they trying to do with itemization in this game?
- I'm literally wearing my first armor set from the starting area, using the same 2 axes from the same area, because the limited amount of resources they give you pushes you to stick with a particular upgraded set.
- Everything you find in the world needs upgrades to be on the same level as your current stuff in every case I've seen. To upgrade these new sets/weapons you'd need a TON of resources, and it's not really better, just slightly different. So, you just end up sticking with your current set.
- I imagine there's an endgame set (I've seen hints), but what a waste.
- Each set/weapon should have had an upgrade cap that forced you to look for better gear periodically. This would have forced us as players to branch out and experience this content, and enjoy looking for better gear.
- This has been said over and over, but while some regional plots are good, there are many that feel paint by numbers. Run around, do some shit for a character you don't care about, siege a castle, done. There's WAY too many plots of this type, AC as a series just can't seem to stay away from this repetition.
- And speaking of repetition, most mysteries and world icons are trash.
- There's hundreds of them, no exaggeration - sad little fetch quests, the same 6 break into the house puzzles OVER AND OVER. It's quantity over quality and that sucks.
- And furthermore, to have fully upgraded gear you do need to do a lot of this stuff because the amount of resources to upgrade even one set is pretty serious.
- The same goes for the monastery raids. The first one was pretty good but they are exactly identical after that, and the core mechanics are far too simple to justify that repetition.
- The base building should be so cool and it's not. I mean, it's satisfying to see the town growing but the only real effect on the world is that you get a slightly better feast buff (which is essentially nothing).
- Once again, just like with gear or the horse, this game has no idea how to do satisfying progression and mechanics.
- I feel like it's possible a ton of content was cut here and might show up in later DLCs.
- It seems extremely obvious that some kind of initial, ongoing resource needs and raiding threat on your base would have added much needed stakes to the whole thing.
- Worst fishing in a game ever.
- The drinking minigame is trash and I hate it with the burning passion of a 1000 suns.
- Why do they give you so many ingots and so few fabrics/leathers/irons/titaniums? The ingots just open more slots for upgrades and change the appearance. It feels like this was not playtested.
I really like ASSHALLA, but it's a flawed game. It's easy to say it's the Ubisoft formula, but I think that's a little too simple of an analysis -- you can skip most of the repetition in the game.
In my opinion, the core issue in the game is a lack of satisfying progression. The gear feels mostly meaningless. The base-building is meaningless. The upgrades to your gear do have gameplay impact, but they are not associated with a satisying decision, it's just an unending grind.
These elements are so core to the gameplay loop, it's a mystery to me that these issues weren't addressed. With some very minor tweaks I think this game is a 9+/10, but instead it's a 8/10. Shame.