Assassin’s Creed Valhalla is an action role-playing video game structured around several main story arcs and numerous optional side-missions, called “World Events”. The player takes on the role of Eivor Varinsdottir (EVIOR), a Viking raider, as they lead their fellow Vikings against the Anglo-Saxon kingdoms. The player has the choice of playing Eivor as either female or male (voiced by Cecilie Stenspil and Magnus Bruun respectively), or letting the game alternate between the two at key moments in the story (with the female avatar depicting Eivor’s life and the male avatar depicting the physical appearance of the Isu Odin, due to his connection with Eivor). The player is also able to customize Eivor’s hair, beard, war paint, clothing, armor, and tattoos. The variety of weapons available to the player has been expanded to include weapons such as flails and greatswords. Combat has been changed to allow dual-wielding of almost any weapon, including shields, and every piece of gear that the player collects is unique. The Eagle Vision mechanic of previous titles returns in the form of “Odin Sight”. The player’s companion animal is a raven named Sýnin (Old Norse for “insight”) who can be used to scout the nearby areas, much like previous avian companions had done in Assassin’s Creed Origins and Odyssey, and other parts of the game world from afar before Eivor engages in combat. There is more focus on the stealth aspects for both traversing the game world and in combat. The “social stealth” concept from earlier Assassin’s Creed games returns: Eivor can hide from enemies not only in stationary environmental objects but can pull down the hood and slip into certain crowds to use them as cover. Eivor can feign death, use her raven to distract guards, and can access a hidden blade for near-instantaneous assassinations. Most of the game’s enemies, through specific combinations of approaches, tactics, and weapon selection, are able to be assassinated through a single attack, with the notable exception of bosses, but still can be defeated through numerous other routes.
Valhalla has a familiar structure of main story missions and a number of optional side-missions. While the main storyline in past Assassin’s Creed games typically moved linearly through the main sections of the game world, Valhalla has the player often returning to the main settlement and back to areas previously visited as information about the new areas of England is learned by the Vikings through reconnaissance or from contacts. Not all missions require violent ends, with some that can be resolved through diplomatic means. Player choices through conversation or gameplay options will affect the characters and their political alliances with other non-player characters. The game also relies less on a traditional leveling system and instead focuses more on the selection of skills through skill trees selected by the player as Eivor advances through the game. The difficulty posed by enemies is rated based on the player’s collection of skills. The development team aimed to introduce a wider range of enemy archetypes to Valhalla than in previous titles as they wanted the player to be continually surprised by the game even after playing for tens of hours. Narrative director Darby McDevitt said that the game has 25 unique enemy archetypes, and each “has a unique way of challenging the player.” Enemies can also use objects in the environment to their advantage. Some enemies are also capable of adapting to the player’s actions and combat and finding ways to defend themselves. Enemies can also show personality during combat. While some might be intimidated by Eivor and fight more defensively, others might be more aggressive in their approach.
Conquest Battles, a feature introduced to the series in Odyssey, return in the form of “Assaults” which see the player lead armies to attack fortresses. “Raids” are smaller engagements where the player leads a raiding party to attack a target and secure resources for their settlement. The player is able to build a raiding party by recruiting non-player characters to assist with these. The player is able to create a Viking mercenary, or Jomsviking, that can be recruited by other players to act as a non-playable character within those games; the player gains additional in-game rewards for successful missions that their Jomsviking takes part in. As part of the game’s first season of DLC content, an expanded “River Raids” game-mode was introduced which offers replayable raiding locations in new regions of England not reachable in the main map.