The last few Assassin’s Creed games have infamously been criticised for for having a little too much bloat and a few too many meaningless quests or boring caves. Valhalla was no different but its good parts tended to outweigh its worst.
The Siege of Paris Story
One thing that is instantly a little disappointing about The Siege of Paris is its story set up. You are told of an approaching threat from Francia and must deal with it by talking to their self-righteous king. After brutally murdering tonnes of families, you feel it is time to step in before they reach the shores of England.
This is a little too reminiscent of the story of Valhalla itself, taking on a big bad with a little too much power for their own good by destabilizing the area and making tactical allyships.
I don’t think it would be fair to call The Siege of Paris’ writing poor - it just feels a little uninspired, perhaps pigeonholed by history itself? That being said, characters are likeable and new character arcs serve the purpose of rounding out previously two-dimensional characters well.
Not everyone is quite as well rounded but the main cast you spend your time with are interesting to learn more about and the central antagonist, Charles the Fat, holds a commanding aura that is quite intimidating to watch.
We have to talk about Charles
He is both utterly unbothered by things around him and thoroughly devoted to his religious zealotry that makes him quite formidable. You are faced with a tonne of choices for how you might want to deal with the story but the most interesting are those that have you infiltrate and explore the inner workings of those closest to him.
The Siege of Paris works with set pieces in a fascinating way, some scenes feeling like a side mission in a Hitman game. One scene fairly early on has you take out a Bishop and you could either go all in and rush everything or you could sneak around the complex, steal some robes, attend a religious ceremony and take him out in the middle of all that commotion.
You don’t appear to get any noticeable reward for doing so but the fun of it is just in the accomplishment. Assassin’s Creed is very fond of rewarding every little action, making you feel like you're doing a checklist and not exploring a map and yet, this is one of the more fun things you can do. Sometimes, the reward is in the action and a defined reward can cheapen that sense of satisfaction.
The Siege of Paris holds this strange dichotomy between the interesting and the cheap. It sets up a new system of missions where you can recruit soldiers and take down targets but this feels shallow after your second mission. It sets up a new mechanic with rats but doesn’t utilise them as much as it should.
Not so eagle visioned
It comes with plenty of little changes but fails to fully see their vision throughout most of the runtime. The rats work as an unkillable mob that can be controlled to fight your enemies or lead to your own death. If you swing, you can scare them away or push them into the right direction.
They are a genuinely good addition to the game that I can’t help but feel could have been made more important. The feature moved from an interesting focus to a backdrop very quickly and was forgotten after an hour - another obstacle between you and the end of the game.
The same can be said for Francia. It adds a whole new section, roughly the size of one or two big regions from the base game. Paris itself is an interesting city with tonnes of secrets, and the surrounding countryside was fascinating on first arrival but starts to feel a little bland as you play.
Much like the base game, The Siege of Paris is an interesting experiment in taking the shine off something. There are plenty of little ideas that are relatively interesting and just intriguing enough to keep you going, even as they start to lose part of their mystique. The rubber bands and glue holding your own immersion intact comes apart slowly. Luckily, it's fun enough to keep you going regardless.
Assassin’s Creed Valhalla has come a long way since its launch in November last year. With tonnes of small updates and, now, two large expansions to its name, it’s hard to think of where the game could go next.
It continues to build upon its base formula but a game already filled with bloat adding even more can only get so far before those diminishing returns start to set in. Luckily, The Siege of Paris doesn't fall completely foul of this, with just interesting enough mechanics and a brutal enough land to keep me going, ten hours in.
RealSport Rating: 3 stars (out of 5)
We reviewed Assassin's Creed Valhalla: The Siege of Paris on Xbox Series & Review Code was provided by Ubisoft.