Assassin’s Creed has this habit of taking us through the wildest and historically rich adventures. The popular franchise takes you through the streets of London and Renaissance Italy, even through the beaches of the British Isles. Through these rich adventures, you uncover secrets about the powerful figures violently trying to establish a new world order.
Ubisoft’s latest project takes you even further into the dark timeline of human existence. If Assassin’s Creed Odyssey focused on the prominent events of Greek history and mythology, this new adventure takes you up north to the land of the Vikings. During the darkest times of Norway and Anglo-Saxon England, a new legend comes to life.
This is how Assassin’s Creed Valhalla shapes up to be: the classic formula applied to the legends of the Norse warriors. It seeks to shed light on the chaotic events brought about by the Dark Ages, as Viking expansion to England became imminent. For what it’s worth, Valhalla takes you a time of harsh bloodshed, forging alliances, and operating in the shadows.
Expansion in the most literal sense
The story in Valhalla takes place some time in the late 800s, during the Dark Ages of English civilization. The clans in the cold territory of Norway are at constant war and overpopulation, seeking to establish a kingdom of their own. You play as Eivor, a Viking warrior born into all the chaos and bloodshed.
As the clan wars in Norway soon pass over, your crew goes on an expedition to find a new home. In search of a new place to establish a Viking settlement, you arrive at Anglo-Saxon England — with four great kingdoms in control. Within both countries, there are tons of mysteries, treasures, and activities waiting for you.
This sort of expansion isn’t unheard of in the realm of Assassin’s Creed, specifically with Black Flag, Odyssey, and Origins boasting vast lands to explore. However, Valhalla’s strong case just lies in the fact that you have two countries to explore to your heart’s content. The game also comes with a nifty raven feature to make exploration much easier.
It’s a staple from all previous titles, that I felt Ubisoft completely utilized to its fullest extent. They’ve even added a lot more fast travel points to aid in exploration and mission completion, while cutting down the time you take.
Authentic combat and stealth mechanics
Another staple brought in from every Assassin’s Creed title is the combat style and stealth mechanics. In Valhalla’s case, combat is adjusted to match the fighting style of the Norse warriors. There’s great emphasis on weapon and armor loadouts, using runes to improve certain character stats, and upgradability to increase power. For the combat mechanics, it draws a lot from raw power the Vikings roll with, while still giving them a method to their barbaric madness.
Where I was genuinely surprised at was how Valhalla handled a stealth mechanic for a Viking. In most cases, Vikings are often seen as strong brutes, which doesn’t necessarily match the whole hidden nature of Assassins. As Eivor, however, you’re a more agile type of brute, scaling walls and mountains with ease. Stealth kills are often slow in real-time, but deal devastating damage.
They even brought in Skill Trees in the form of constellations to improve damage and resistance. As you complete missions and side quests, you earn XP that gives you one to two skill points to upgrade your tree. Focusing on specific sets of attributes grants you skills you can use mostly for combat.
Building everything from scratch
Your arrival in England is a struggle in its own, as you try to establish your own Viking settlement. As one of the key features taken from Black Flag, you are also tasked to improve your Settlement to gain access to a variety of things. Upgrading your settlement is a lot of work, but Valhalla’s new feature aids in fast-tracking your progress.
In this game, there are two ways you improve your Settlement: raiding, and forging alliances. In Raids and Assaults, you simply pillage any nearby settlement of all their resources — raw materials and supplies, mostly. These were enjoyable as you also get to test out the combat firsthand. Acquiring supplies and materials is essential in building different structures within your Settlement.
The other option is to simply go on main quests in forging alliances with nearby territories. Each territory actually gives you a main story arc that ties in with the Viking expansion you’re embarking on. As you forge greater alliances, your Settlement’s notoriety grows — for better or worse. It’s as if you’re totally building everything from scratch, and all of this is your own doing.
The realm of chaos brought upon by you
See, Valhalla shapes up to be a decision-based storyline with one ending in sight. As the Vikings expand their reach in England, you will come across kingdoms and powerful leaders that simply won’t allow it. With your Settlement’s notoriety growing, so does their desire to seize it from you.
As Eivor, you decide on how the story progresses, along with the relationships you cultivate. Each story arc provides you with key insights on all the other characters you come across, and certain actions will allow them to join you on your quest. In essence, they will end differently depending on how you wish things would end.
The decisions you make aren’t just limited to being the judge, jury, and executioner. Sometimes, even simple dialogue between you and another character can change things. It’s the kind of decision-making that impacts the world you’re living in, and the people you go into battles with. I take a liking to this kind of decision-making, as it makes the whole story dynamic.
A legend forged in the Northern Lights
Valhalla hinges a lot on how you make of it, from start to finish. In the near 30-hour playthrough I braved through, I was presented with opportunities to shift every story arc into many different outcomes. Who lives, who dies, how the settlement in England grows, the relationships I foster — it goes according to how I see fit.
It’s a full adventure which only grows the more places you seek. There’s an entire world beyond the winter, one that presents an opportunity to start anew. In starting anew, Valhalla depicts the challenges of the Vikings vividly, as if you’re living through the chaos that ensued. Through all of the chaos, you decide whether you seek personal glory or a collective effort.
In essence, Assassin’s Creed Valhalla presents a unique look into the lore of the Norse. In stunning quality, it takes you through a deep dive into one of the Vikings’ most successful conquests that rocked England to the core. Ultimately, it puts what you desire at the heart, with every decision having a purpose in the order or chaos.
Assassin’s Creed Valhalla arrives on November 10 for the PC, PlayStation 4, and Xbox One, and Xbox Series X|S. It will be available on the PlayStation 5 on November 12.
The industry’s next big thing: Cloud gaming explained
It’s gaming on the go, but for internet that’s not slow
Everybody’s getting into gaming these days, and you can’t blame them. With the pandemic continuing its ravaging ways in the world, people turn to their consoles or PCs for some action. However, not everyone can afford all the expensive PCs and the next-gen consoles when they come out.
Instead, a new player comes into the fray with a pretty great idea. What would happen if you can just play your favorite games from any device? Also, what if we told you that this won’t take up space on your device at all? This is basically what cloud gaming offers to you: a way to play games from any device at any time!
So, how does that actually work? What do you need to ensure quality gameplay, and should you even consider it?
The basics of playing on a cloud
On paper, it’s pretty easy to understand how cloud gaming works. Basically, you have access to a library of games from a cloud storage service. When you subscribe to the service, you can virtually play your library from any device regardless of the specs. Also, you don’t have to worry about storage problems since these games are stored on a server.
It’s no joke when these companies tell you that you can play your games on any device. With their dedicated data servers, they make sure that the games run smoothly once you access them from the cloud. On your end, you will need a strong and consistent internet connection to play the games smoothly.
Several companies already have cloud gaming software available for people to subscribe to. Some examples include NVIDIA’s GeForce Now, Microsoft’s xCloud, and Google Stadia — all of which store PC games on a server. These companies even take the time to update their server hardware every so often to bring the best possible quality.
System requirements for cloud gaming
Much like your ordinary PC or gaming console, companies that run cloud gaming servers need certain equipment to run smoothly. First, these companies must set up active data centers and server farms that run the games. These data centers ensure that games are up and running, while reducing latency. In other words, these serve as the powerhouse of cloud gaming.
Next on the list is the network infrastructure necessary to send these to the users. To ensure that people don’t experience lags when they play their games, companies also invest in acquiring proper data connections. However, in most cases, this isn’t something these companies have control over; it’s mostly coming from their available internet service providers.
On the front-end, companies also provide dedicated hardware and software to house the cloud. For example, NVIDIA integrated GeForce Now into their own cloud streaming device, the NVIDIA Shield back in 2013. Meanwhile, Google Stadia relies heavily on using pre-existing Google software like Google Chrome and the Stadia App.
Something great to offer, for the most part
Cloud gaming services offer something unique in the industry. Essentially, it eliminates the user from investing so much into buying expensive PCs as it allows people to play from virtually any device. Whether it’s on a smartphone, laptop, or even a smart TV, people get access to games at high frame rates without an RTX 3080.
Furthermore, the game and save files are stored on the cloud, and don’t take up any storage on your devices. This is greatly beneficial for people who are already running on limited storage space, especially if they play Call of Duty: Warzone. With everything stored on the cloud, you don’t need most of the 512GB of SSD storage.
However, one of the biggest issues with cloud gaming revolves around the thing it’s based on: the internet. Specifically, it’s on the user’s internet connection as these services require the fastest internet to run smoothly on any device. Basically, you will need either an Ethernet or a 5G wireless connection to ensure the lowest latency possible.
That infrastructure isn’t readily available in most markets, which is a prominent issue among several third-world countries. Furthermore, even if there are companies that have 5G in their pipeline, these same providers also put data caps on it. Even if the user can play at an optimal frame rate, they’re doing so with a restriction in place.
Does this new player have any place?
With the world continuously opening its arms to the gaming industry, innovation becomes the forefront of success. Companies come up with a variety of gaming technologies that seek to cater to a wide variety of people. From individual hardware to pre-built systems, gaming often revolved around these things.
With cloud gaming, it gives people not just another option within the mix. Rather, it seeks to challenge the notion of availability and accessibility, and give it a viable solution. Essentially, it takes away the physical hardware limitations on the user’s end, and makes it available for everyone.
But like most gaming technologies, everything is still limited somehow. These systems still experience bottlenecks both on the manufacturer and the user’s end. In the end, it will depend on how much you’re willing to shell out for them, and how willing you are to accept the risks.
Tom Clancy’s Rainbow Six Siege next gen versions now available
For both PlayStation 5 and Xbox Series X|S
These versions will allow gameplay in 4K and up to 120 fps, depending on the mode chosen by the players (performance or resolution), among many other improvements. Players will be able to upgrade their version on the same family of devices at no extra cost.
Current players on PlayStation 4 or Xbox One will also be able to keep their progression. Cross-generation play is also available within the same family of devices, allowing PlayStation 5 players to face PlayStation 4 players, and Xbox One players to face Xbox Series X|S players.
Cross-play between different families of consoles or between PC and consoles is not currently supported.
Players on next-gen consoles will be able to experience Tom Clancy’s Rainbow Six Siege with the highest graphical enhancements the game has yet to offer. These enhancements will offer multiple options for prioritizing either performance or resolution, granted players are equipped with a compatible device:
- 4K resolution (PlayStation 5, Xbox Series X) / 1080p (Xbox Series S)
- 120 fps (PlayStation® 5, Xbox Series X)
- DualSense wireless controller capabilities for even deeper immersion (PlayStation 5)
- Activities support for the most popular playlists so players can dive into the game faster (PlayStation 5)
The following features are also being implemented for an enhanced next-gen experience on all platforms:
- Better accessibility (readability options, text to speech and speech to text)
- Quick start (optimized login flow, streamlined intro sequence)
- Ubisoft Connect overlay
This next generation of hardware provides the latest tech and features available, and Tom Clancy’s Rainbow Six Siege will keep improving to leverage all the new opportunities afforded by these new platforms.
A somber look at the PlayStation 5 crisis
Can’t buy a PlayStation 5? You’re not alone
In 30 minutes from the moment I’m typing this sentence, Walmart, one of the few American retailers selling the PlayStation 5 online, will restock its console shelves with an undetermined number of units. If the restocking goes exactly as it has in the past few weeks, the retailer’s website will crash within the first few minutes. When it goes back up again, everything will have disappeared from the shelves.
If you’re one of the millions of gamers looking to bag a PlayStation 5 or an Xbox Series X for the holidays, such an experience is familiar to you. Both Sony and Microsoft have fumbled their respective launches, leaving most of the hopeful without a console.
After weeks of the same, attempting to buy the new consoles and leaving empty-handed has turned into a shared global experience. Many are wondering when (or if) they are getting the device. Unfortunately, things aren’t as simple as they once were.
Day zero: zero stock
On November 10, the Xbox Series X and S dropped online for the first time. Though Microsoft’s console didn’t share in the same hype as its Sony counterpart, the new Xbox sold out within minutes. Faced with an even larger demand for the PlayStation 5, everyone portended much of the same for Sony’s console. Unsurprisingly, it was.
Days later, on November 12, the PlayStation finally launched. As expected, in the brief moment that “Buy Now” buttons opened, every retailing site either crashed or stalled. Most stores held a one-time drop. Meanwhile, Walmart did drops throughout the day. And, expectedly, every drop, one-time or gradual, sold out.
Only a handful received consoles on launch day: lucky pre-order purchases, even luckier same-day buyers, or, more likely, bots.
Rise of the machines
Most of the outcry revolves around despised bots refreshing every site and buying every stock before real people can do so. The bot’s owners, all of them scalpers, resell their supply at dramatic premiums. Hours after the initial launch, eBay had auctions going up to US$ 2,000. At the time of this writing, most entries hover around US$ 1,700. (For reference, the PlayStation 5 retails for only US$ 499.)
Neither Sony nor any authorized retailer explicitly commented on the bot takeover. Some (eventually) installed captcha measures to hopefully weed out bots from humans. It did little to stave to onslaught. Scalpers (or worse, scalper networks) thrived under the online-only purchasing system.
Should we, then, blame bots for the year’s most botched launch?
Bots, logistics, or supply?
Currently in our sights, bots and scalpers are easy targets. The systematic supply grab owes a lot of its shortages on the automated schemes of bots. Some scalper networks have even defended their actions. Supposedly, creating a scalping ecosystem creates jobs for scalpers who may have lost their jobs from recent furloughs.
However, a launch is hardly only a matter of consumers. There’s supply and demand, too. Didn’t Sony and Microsoft foresee the demand months ago?
Drumming up intense hype throughout the past few months, both companies naturally predicted a surge. It still wasn’t enough.
Sony, through the PlayStation’s official Twitter account, confirmed “unprecedented” demand for the PlayStation 5 series. It was still a surprise. Echoing the same, Sony Interactive Entertainment President Jim Ryan told a Russian outlet that “absolutely everything is sold.” Unfortunately for gamers, current predictions still estimate shortages lasting until spring next year.
Sony and Microsoft are hard-pressed to make more devices as soon as possible. However, with current COVID-19 restrictions, manufacturing facilities can’t work at full capacity. And it’s not just on the manufacturing side.
Recently, a logistics source confirmed that a lot of resources are still devoted to shipping COVID-19 aid, including PPEs and masks. With a potential vaccine on the horizon, supply transportation will certainly feel the crunch, leaving little room for less essential products like gaming consoles.
So, who’s to blame?
More than bots, scalpers, manufacturers, or logistics companies, the ongoing PlayStation 5 crisis pulls the curtain from an inherently broken system from a pre-COVID-19 era. The current global economy was, and is, ill-prepared for a global emergency.
Companies, manufacturers, and logistics did not anticipate an overwhelming demand for emergency products. Even now, the world is still aching for aid: from simple masks to scarce ventilators. We’re seeing the flaws only now because the new consoles are home appliances. Other launches this year weren’t as in-demand as the PlayStation 5. For example, with everyone staying indoors, not a lot of people are exactly lining up for a new iPhone 12. (Sorry, Apple.)
On the other hand, a lot of people truly are jobless from a crumbling economy. Albeit a lackluster excuse, scalper networks do have a point that some people are reduced to less-than-stellar ways of making money amid the pandemic. (Not to defend scalping, though. It’s still a shady business.)
Throughout this entire shortage, one thing is clear: The world, as we know it, cannot adequately save itself from a global emergency. The fault inevitably rests on both individuals and systems who persistently refuse to accept the realities of the pandemic: from anti-maskers who put more people at risk to companies who haven’t prepared for the surge to governments who can’t provide aid for its citizenry.
Should you still get a PlayStation 5?
If you’re still inclined, Sony promises more stock before the end of the year. Anyone can still try their luck for a fresh device from the factory. More realistically, you can wait a few months without the new console; by then, Sony should have ironed out a lot of kinks and bugs.
No one is judging you if you do. No one is judging you if you don’t. But if you’re worried about the fear of missing out, just remember that not a lot of people have the PlayStation 5 yet, as much as we all would want one.
Oh, and in case you were wondering, remember the new stock I mentioned 30 minutes ago? Sold out in less than ten seconds. Go figure.
SEE ALSO: Sony PlayStation 5 Unboxing
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