Developed By: Ubisoft
Published By: Ubisoft
Platforms: PlayStation 4 & 5 / Xbox One X, Series S & X / Stadia / PC
Reviewed On: PS5
I had the pleasure of reviewing both Assassins Creed Valhalla and the first major expansion, Wrath of the Druids. Thanks to our wonderful PR contacts and Ubisoft, we were lucky enough to get an early review code for the second major expansion, The Siege of Paris and of course, I decided to complete the trifecta with this review. I thought Valhalla was great but too bloated and Wrath of The Druids to be solid but uninspired. After spending quite a bit of time with The Siege of Paris I was actually more engaged this time around from start to finish but ultimately as good as the ambition was the execution just didn’t match up.
Wild Heart, Level Head
The Siege of Paris starts not unlike Wrath of The Druids with a stranger coming to Ravensthorpe with an invitation. This time that stranger is Toka, second in command of the Elgring Clan bringing forth gifts but also with a warning of a grave threat rising in Francia. Eivor agrees to journey with Toka, not because of promised riches but to stop what could be a new threat rising that might jeopardize Ravensthorpe from the king of Francia, Charles the Fat. It does not take long for Eivor to realize that as much as her driving force is the safety of her home, she still has to interfere in the complicated conflict that is just a hair away from combusting and causing a lot of collateral damage to innocents.
Players will be introduced to a brand new cast of characters which include the aforementioned Charles the Fat; a mad king hell-bent on waging war against Northerners in Francia, Sigfred; leader of the Elgring clan who wants revenge for the suffering the mad king has inflicted so far, Richardis; the estranged queen, and Count Odo; a man who feels he is the last bastion of defense in defending Paris and also Francia from being overtaken by outsiders. I thought that the main characters had their moments to shine with Charles the Fat being an interesting villain however none end up being particularly memorable. The player does get cycled through what feels like introduction missions for the characters that serve to just set up their role in the overarching story.
What I was initially caught by pleasant surprise is how even early on there was an increased focus on having a more guided or linear journey in how the narrative threads played out. Previously it felt more like just moving from an obvious point A to point B type of progression (which isn’t entirely removed in case you are wondering) but at least there was an attempt in directing some gameplay scenes and how the player experiences them. An example would be how early on the player is given two choices on how to advance a quest and one of those choices involved saving a drunk’s daughter that would grant you access to a target’s location. I really liked how after I saved her the game led me back to the moment the drunk is reunited with his daughter to see how their interaction was. Sure, these types of interactions are there before but one of the biggest problems I found with Ubisoft sandbox gameplay is how easy it is to miss or just not connect with these small moments because they usually play out after the fact. Unfortunately, these guided moments felt too few and far between sort of like a mini-experiment rather than (ironically) actual focus. I will talk more about this later when addressing new gameplay.
When it comes to the entire The Siege of Paris story though I thought It ended up being just alright but quite disappointed that the actual siege part being so short. Valhalla had many sieges, Wrath of the Druids also had a siege and my presumption was that since this expansion literally had the word siege in it that it would play out in a very extended, gritty, and emotional arc. It was only slightly cinematic in the start then it just plays out like all the other sieges.
Deliverance or Damnation
Almost a year has passed since the launch of Valhalla and along the way, there has been multiple patches and updates and although the game can look absolutely gorgeous at times, it is also quite disappointing how the issues I had with it from a year ago is still there. Lighting and HDR still feel inconsistent with the same problems and scenes still have the same filter weirdness where some scenes its too dark and others it is so colourful with most characters instantly adopting an orange tan. Sound mixing is also still inconsistent with some sounds being okay and others being muffled or even overpowering. It was really quite hilarious how in one tense scene that was weirdly on the nose when it comes to power abuse in real life with Ubisoft and yet all I could focus on was how loud the splashing of water was to the point where it was hard to hear the characters talking. Performance in the expansion also feels really rough at times with a lot of screen tearing and during the siege itself frames dropped hard for no reason at all. I know the pandemic brought challenges, but it also felt like it was a result of cross-generation development but I’m only speculating.
When it comes to the gameplay there are a few new additions in this expansion. Firstly, the most interesting one I would like to talk about is the inclusion of the Infiltration missions. These missions are black box missions last seen in the AC Syndicate. For those unfamiliar, these missions are where players are dropped into a location and can choose multiple ways to complete the objective. If it sounds familiar it’s because it is the same formula that the Hitman series has perfected with this year’s Hitman 3 being the pinnacle of that similar excellent gameplay. However, as much as I enjoyed these infiltration missions it also becomes painfully obvious really quickly how shallow they are especially if you compare it to the level of detail seen in other games. This is related to the guided nature of Siege of Paris that I mentioned earlier because it felt like a curated experience but ends up feeling like an inclusion just for the sake of it. I know it is just an expansion, but I just couldn’t help feel excited by the potential only to just be let down by the execution.
Rebel missions is also another new inclusion where the player will have a choice in picking quick simple missions to assist the rebels in building up their resources. Sounds interesting right? Well, it was until it devolves into the most mundane repetitive task that feels so poorly designed. That is because there was a point where I took 6-7 missions one after the other and they all brought me back to the same exact place to kill basically the same exact people in exactly the same exact way. I mean why include it if it’s going to feel that lazy and it just damages the overall experience. There are new abilities, skills and weapons like the Scythe as well but at the end of the day, it also does not feel very essential. If you are like me who managed to get a really effective endgame build for any activity, I just never bothered with the new stuff and steamrolled the expansion to completion. I mean I might be in the minority about this but a new expansion should really give incentive for the player to play the new things it introduces but the problem with Valhalla and the past few AC games is how there is just too much of everything that it’s more efficient to just pick a lane and stick with it.
Just as a note the recommendation power level required for this expansion is 200 and the main mission’s length is just around 6-8 hours not including if you want to play everything around the map. I felt that Francia itself felt smaller than Ireland but for content included in this expansion, it was appropriate. The Siege of Paris itself also feels like it slots into any point in the main game’s narrative but absolutely not required.
What I Thought Was Just Okay
- Story & New Characters – I am sure some can find more enjoyment from it but I thought it was just okay and served its purpose.
- Infiltration Missions – These missions need to be a mainstay of the series. If they are capable of bringing the level of detail from the Hitman series and combine it with the AC open world that really had the potential to be a truly exceptional experience.
Only Then Do I Rest
As big of a success the AC series has been, I have always personally felt that there was just something lacking. I am certain that fans will enjoy the content from The Siege of Paris but like Wrath of the Druids, this still feels really non-essential to the overall experience. I understand that developing games is tough and a lot of effort was put into this expansion, and I really want to make it clear I will always appreciate the opportunity to play games like these. Maybe I am asking for too much but man I just really want to be completely blown away by something in this series. For me, The Siege of Paris ends up just being another solid entry and I mean that’s kind of been how the AC series has survived so far right? It’s always just good enough.