Ubisoft made a pretty drastic change to the skill system in Assassin’s Creed Valhalla and it hasn’t been particularly good. As the series transitioned into a game that leaned heavily on RPG elements, buildcrafting has been an important aspect of the new Assassin’s Creed games until now.
In Assassin’s Creed Origins, players were introduced to a skill tree which allowed them to build towards a particular playstyle, complemented by stat boosts from their weapons. This system was expanded on further in Assassin’s Creed Odyssey, where each piece of gear had stats that strengthened the player’s playstyle of choice. How players chose to build their character determined whether their strength was in archery, melee, or stealth. While it was more than fine to be balanced across all three, specializing in one particular playstyle offered a vastly different gameplay experience and it encouraged players to try new things. That level of buildcrafting is important to any RPG, but it’s virtually nonexistent in Assassin’s Creed Valhalla.
The skill tree has been completely overhauled in Assassin’s Creed Valhalla to the point where it might as well not even be a tree anymore. In the previous games, players had to carefully select which skills they wanted to unlock or which stats they wanted on gear, but that’s just not the case anymore. Players acquire so many skill points in Assassin’s Creed Valhalla that a thorough playthrough of the game will naturally result in the player unlocking everything. With all of the game’s skills and stat changes being in the skill tree, combined with Assassin’s Creed Valhalla’s lack of gear diversity, buildcrafting is largely unnecessary. There’s some room for customization with runes and gear bonuses, but it all runs together and Eivor is just inevitably great at everything.
There’s no real sense of progression in Assassin’s Creed Valhalla at all. Once players find armor or weapons they like, it can occasionally be upgraded as resources are acquired but there’s almost never a reason to change anything. Combine that with the fact that players are constantly building up universal strength, and there’s almost not even a reason for leveling up. There’s never a point where players are incentivized to try new playstyles or new builds because it’s all the same, and that can result in Assassin’s Creed Valhalla growing stale after a long period of time. The new Assassin’s Creed titles inevitably result in the player being overpowered, but it generally takes work to get there, and that’s just not the case this time around.
It’s a shame because Assassin’s Creed Valhalla’s gameplay and combat is genuinely fun. The game delivers on the viciously brutal playstyle that was anticipated with a Viking theme, but the systems surrounding it are weak. The way Assassin’s Creed Valhalla treats skills and stats essentially turns the player into a Norse God and that feels like the only real way to play, because the stealth gameplay is kind of bad. The lack of any real ability to buildcraft in Assassin’s Creed Valhalla is disappointing, as it feels like players are pigeonholed into a specific playstyle, and over the course of an extremely long game, that’s not necessarily a good thing.