I was hours into Assassin’s Creed Valhalla — maybe six — before the game’s title sequence rolled and the game really began, and Eivor sailed away from Norway and over to England. As it turns out, it’s definitely a trend for Assassin’s Creed games to start with a smaller Assassin’s Creed.

The Greek island of Kephallonia held that role in Assassin’s Creed Odyssey. Now, a small area of Norway does the job in Valhalla. It’s a fantastic, manageable open space, one that’s the video game equivalent of a playground — a safe place to explore. It’s not without danger, of course, but it’s properly leveled to account for early game players. (Except for a 200-plus power level area that’s specific to endgame stuff. Please do not go there, my child.) And that rules.

Norway of Valhalla is a gorgeous snowy world. Sure, the game seemingly wants to send you off to England, but I suggest you stay awhile. Learn of the systems. Embrace Norway. There are, of course, the super high points to synchronize the world, but plenty of gold and mysteries abound, too. These are particularly helpful; you won’t head off to England with empty pockets and a low power level.

It certainly helps that Norway is delightful to explore, with plenty to do before sailing off for new land. For instance, here are a few things I did: competed in a trial to win a date with a woman; solved landscape puzzles to find chests of loot; took mushrooms and hallucinated; climbed massive mountains; and sought out a legendary elk.

Tutorial parts of video games can often feel a bit hand-holdy, and that’s certainly true at the start of Valhalla, too. But I love this open-world way to experience a lot of what the larger game has to offer, but in a way that feels manageable. There is so much to do and find in Valhalla once England has opened up, so the concise nature of Norway (while, honestly, still pretty big) is a welcome sight in booting up the game. It let me figure out what experiences I’d be interested in seeking out in England. (For what it’s worth, finding Mysteries has been the most exciting of the side quests for me.)

Like I mentioned earlier, it’s a piece of design that’s carried over and been iterated on in previous Assassin’s Creed games, but probably most recognizable from Odyssey, which let players romp around the similarly gorgeous Greek island.

Even after playing Valhalla for over 65 hours, I am still eager to go back to Norway to live in that world for a bit. Within my first six hours there, before starting the main questline, I didn’t get to touch each part of the map.



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