Improve Assassin’s Creed Valhalla With These Settings

Assassin’s Creed Valhalla is the third AC game since a major overhaul of the series starting with Assassin’s Creed Origins in 2017. I found Origins to have an impressive and dynamic open world with a decent story. The follow-up to that game, Assassin’s Creed Odyssey which released in 2018, was impressive in scope, but I found the main storyline to be uninteresting. On top of that, the combat felt inconsequential and there were too many samey quests. It was like everything from Origins had been turned up to 11 in Odyssey, and for me, it made the game less interesting.

Enter Assassin’s Creed Valhalla in 2020. Weeks before this game came out, I watched a gameplay preview trailer for Valhalla, and I remember thinking, “Here we go again. This looks like a fucking reskin of Odyssey.” I was not excited for the game. The AI looked dumb as hell, and the dialogue seemed stupid. Positive reviews began coming out shortly after the game was released, which didn’t tell me a lot, because Odyssey received great reviews when it came out. I decided to take a chance on Valhalla and was surprised by how different it felt.

I actually cared about the story in Valhalla. The gear was limited and you were motivated to invest in it. You had a community of Danes in your settlement, Ravensthorp, that actually mattered. Side-quests weren’t shoved down your throat. And raids with your crew on monasteries were fucking awesome. Ubisoft Montreal, the primary studio behind Valhalla’s development, had used lessons learned from Origins and Odyssey to deliver a much more balanced game. The scope of the game was still there, but it was presented in a compelling way.

Jesus fuck, Oracle. This article is supposed to be about how to improve the game with a few settings…not a tribute jackoff event about how good the game is!

Fine. As good as Valhalla was, it still lacked an element of exploration that I enjoyed in games such as Breath of the Wild or Jedi: Fallen Order. Just as in any other Assassin’s Creed game, you travelled to a vantage point like the top of a cathedral, synchronized, and now you suddenly had a bunch of points of interest to go to on the map and in your compass. The same applied to objectives. Once you were given a task, you knew exactly where to go, so you b-lined it to the objective.

Fortunately, there is a way to tweak settings in Valhalla and substantially increase the sense of exploration in the game. I’ve found that tweaking these settings has turned a good game into a great game. It is important to note that you need to actually be in the campaign to change some of these settings.

Here we go:

  1. Go to “Gameplay” and bump the “Combat Difficulty” up to “Beserker (Hard).”

2. In “Gameplay” change the “Exploration Difficulty” to “Pathfinder.”

3. In “Interface” turn “Enemy Proximity” to off.

4. In “Interface” go to the “HUD, WORLD & QUESTS” section and turn “Compass” to off.

5. In “Interface” go to the “HUD, WORLD & QUESTS” section and turn “Mini Quest Log” to off.

After you change the above settings, your Assassin’s Creed Valhalla experience should be much more exploratory and a bit more challenging while still being fair. When you travel to new destinations, you will need to use a combination of your raven Synin, the map, and landmarks to help you navigate the world. I’ve found Valhalla to be much more rewarding when I’ve set out on a road or followed a river to my destinations, only to encounter new and exciting side-quests that I wasn’t expecting. If you are a purist, and want to go full psycho, knock yourself out. There are many more options that you can tweak.

Visually, the game feels much less cluttered with the compass and its icons removed. The only icons that show up are speech bubbles on NPCs that you can interact with and quest markers once you get in close enough proximity of them. You can use your fuckoff supersight thingy when you’re in an area to help you locate things like loot and points of interest. When I changed these settings at first, I would frequently get lost and didn’t know where to find objectives in buildings. As I played more, I got better at navigating, and there’s no way I’m going to change the settings back. I believe some of these settings were available in Origins and Odyssey. I don’t know if I will go back to those games anytime soon though. Valhalla fine tunes what those games offered in many ways.

Xbox Series X Review

I’ve had the Xbox Series X for a little under 2 weeks, and I’m ready to give my honest to goodness review of Microsoft’s new console. First of all, it was a complete pain in the ass to get this console in 2020. I tried to purchase one on 4 different occasions by spamming the “buy” button every 2 seconds when I caught wind of a restock. Even with me hitting the button seconds after Walmart restocked, I still needed to spam the button for about 30 minutes before I was able to actually purchase the system. Fucking bots. Anyway, if you decide to buy one of these, you should have an easier time as 2021 moves along, but then again, you might not be in a rush after reading this review.

Form Factor:

I’m actually impressed by how compact this system is. The power supply is inside the case. When I pulled it out of the box I remember thinking, “Damn, this thing has some weight to it!” Microsoft is making a statement here: no frills with a big ole don’t fuck with me vent on the top. I haven’t noticed any extraneous venting sounds or anything coming from the Series X. You can put the system on its side, but I wouldn’t. It’s clearly been made to stand upright.

Setup:

Setup was incredibly easy with this system. I upgraded from an Xbox One X, so I already had the Xbox app installed on my phone. When you power the Series X on for the first time, it gives you a code to put in the app. I was up and running in under 5 minutes. I selected the games I wanted to install from my library and Game Pass and let it download and install. I have 400 MB internet in my apartment, and my Xboxes have consistently been the fastest machines in the house in terms of downloading games. Microsoft has been developing a massive server infrastructure for years and it clearly shows when you’re downloading games. The Series X detected my television’s capabilities and automatically set the best settings in terms of HDR. You can fine tune this with additional settings if you wish. I don’t have a PS5 yet, but I had a hell of a time getting my PS4 Pro HDR to play nicely with my setup.

Performance:

It’s fast. Performance-wise, the SSD of the Series X is the thing that stands out most when compared to the One X. Sorry, I don’t have a fancy chart to show the loading time difference with something like Assassin’s Creed: Valhalla, but I would say it takes less than a quarter of the time to load the game on the Series X. You can choose between “Performance” or “Graphics” on Assassin’s Creed. On the graphics setting, the experience was largely the same as my One X, minus much shorter loading times. Once I tried the performance setting, I knew my $500 Series X purchase was warranted. This mode locks the game at 60 frames per second, and holy shit, it is buttery smooth compared to 30 fps.

If you’re a PC gamer, you are no doubt lubing yourself with tears of laughter and masturbating at 60+ fps. Yes, if you’ve got the money to buy a killer graphics card like an Nvidia RTX 3070 (which costs more than a Series X on its own), and all of the other components required, you’re going to have a performance and customization advantage. That being said, the Series X cuts out an enormous amount of bullshit. You can power it up and be in a AAA game running at 4K 60 fps in under a minute. Not only that, but you can use Quick Resume on the Series X and jump between up to 6 or so games seamlessly. This feature has made me much more willing to pop out of one game after hitting a story beat, try another game, and resume once the first game once I feel charged up. It might sound like I have ADHD problems, but I’ve been surprised how much more I switch between games now that I can do it in a hassle-free way.

Game Pass:

In my opinion, this system is not worth purchasing without Xbox Game Pass. Microsoft doesn’t have the exclusives lineup like Sony does with the Playstation. Each company likes to tout how powerful their system is, but really, they’re both fast as shit. The value for Microsoft and the Xbox comes with Game Pass. Because of Game Pass, I’ve been able to completely fuck up my fiancĂ©s life and turn her into a gamer. She plays the system almost as much as I do and is crushing indie platformers like Hollow Knight, Ori, and Celeste. Game Pass doesn’t just have a library of indies either. They recently added the spectacular game Control and the entire EA Access library. You can tell the people curating the Game Pass library know video games and what the fuck they are doing.

My recommendation is to look for Game Pass cards on sale. This past Cyber Monday I was able to score Xbox Game Pass Ultimate cards from Target for $20 for 3 months (normally $15 per month). When I redeemed those cards, it gave me an extra month per card because I was signed up for autopay, so I got 1 year for $60 versus $180. That wasn’t the first time I cashed in on a good Game Pass deal either. Microsoft is pushing hard to get people signed up. They are currently running a deal where you can get your first 3 months for $1. Take them up on that one and look out for other deals. They want your business.

Interface:

I should start this by saying my PS4 interface made me want to drown a bag of kittens or beat a baby every time I had to use it. I shouldn’t have to look up how to install DLC on Reddit. The Xbox Series X interface is almost exactly as it was with the One X. It’s snappier on the Series X. One notable difference is that when I open an app like Disney+ or Netflix on the Series X, it switches my TV (Hisense H8G) to Dolby Atmos if applicable. My One X would keep the system on the “Game HDR” setting which doesn’t look as crisp as Atmos.

My television has Google features and apps built into it, and using something like Netflix or Twitch on it feels like using a Model T compared to the Series X. The promise of the “always on” box of the Xbox One that made everyone hate it, has come to fruition with the Series X. It absolutely kills as an all-in-one multimedia box. It even has a blue ray drive for you physical media nerds out there.

Controller:

The Series X controller is very similar to the Xbox One controller. It feels a bit more solid. There’s a nice gritty texture on the back, which actually feels really good for some dumb fucking reason. The D-pad feels way better than the Xbox One controller. There’s a share button. Yep, that’s it for differences! Just like so many other aspects of the Series X, the controller feels like an iteration of what Microsoft has done before.

Conclusion:

Should you buy a Series X? If you have an Xbox One X or PS4 Pro…wait unless you need the new thingy. There’s nothing huge here to warrant killing yourself trying to find a Series X. If you have a vanilla Xbox One or PS4…this thing is going to rock your world. The upgrade will feel huge to you. That being said, you will want to get a 4K television to take full advantage of it. If you don’t want to shell out several hundred dollars for a new TV, consider picking up the less expensive Xbox Series S.

Stop fucking around and buy Game Pass if you’re going to pick up one of these systems. The Game Pass library is already phenomenal, but this Xbox hardware lineup will not demonstrate it’s true power and value until Microsoft’s big exclusives like Halo Infinite begin landing in the fall of 2021.

The Xbox Series X is a solid, all-in-one entertainment system. Pair it with Game Pass and your favorite streaming apps, and you’ll have one hell of an entertainment setup.

VR is Perfect for Non-Gamers

I am a gamer. I spend a lot of my free time playing video games, looking at game magazines, websites, and performing all the other fuckoff activities that gamers tend to do. For all of my nerd brethren out there, you know exactly what I’m talking about. If you can’t relate, hold on, because there’s something here for you too.

As a gamer, my initial impression of VR was that it was dumb. The first thing I tried was a rollercoaster simulator on a Samsung phone. The graphics sucked. I just sat there. I didn’t feel a big sensation of movement. The experience didn’t even come close to the first time I fired up Mario 64 in terms of the “Wow” factor. A few years after trying the rollercoaster phone experience, I gave VR another shot with a Playstation VR on my PS4 Pro. This was certainly better. The graphics were not great, but they were passable. Think PS3 or Xbox 360 generation graphics. The tracking was okay, but honestly, it still sucked ass. The PSVR uses a camera to track light points on the headset and the wands. It was a passable experience in something like Superhot, until well, it stopped tracking and I couldn’t pick up a gun and got shot in the face. Don’t even get me started on the Playstation Move controllers. There are no joysticks on them. The whole thing felt limited.

It wasn’t until I picked up an Oculus Rift-S that VR began to gel for me. This is a headset that you plug into a gaming PC. There are no tracking stations with this system. You plug it in, and as far as the VR went, things like tracking and graphics, it worked out great. There were the usual pain in the ass hoops that needed to be jumped through with playing games on PC. Programs didn’t work. My system crashed. My CPU wasn’t fast enough. Blah, blah. Playing games on PC is like having a smoking hot girlfriend/boyfriend that is also completely mental and will key your car if they’re not happy. There’s a price to be paid for all of those sexy graphics and high framerates.

Anyway, I began to appreciate the types of experiences that I was having in VR with the Oculus Rift-S. Some favorites that emerged during that time were Until You Fall, Beat Saber, BoxVR, Duck Season, Elite Dangerous, Ultimate Fishing Simulator VR, and Half Life: Alyx (Ashtray’s best of 2020 video game selection). These were unique and memorable experiences in VR. I took my gaming laptop and Rift-S on a trip back to visit my family in Wisconsin. My mom fucking loved it. She jumped right into Beat Saber. I totally threw my dad into the deep end and had him try the boxing game, Creed: Rise to Glory. He got a little too immersed and almost went crashing through the living room television. It was amazing. I’ve been a gamer basically my entire life. My parents have never gotten into video games. It was fascinating to see how naturally they were able to use the tech.

Now that VR has become a staple of my gaming diet, how I play VR and whom I play it with are turning out to be big surprises. I’ve since picked up an Oculus Quest 2. This VR system is standalone and does not need a gaming PC. That means no cables and no PC gaming bullshit to deal with. You can hook your Oculus Quest 2 up to a PC to play more intensive games like Half Life: Alyx, but since cutting the cord and not having to deal with shit crashing in the background, I prefer to play simpler games native to the Quest and not even worry about my PC. I can be playing a game in under a minute with a Quest 2.

On my Xbox Series X, most of my gaming time is spent playing single player games like Assassin’s Creed: Valhalla (My best of 2020 video game selection). On the Quest 2, I’m playing almost exclusively multiplayer games. One of my biggest VR gaming buddies is my 60-year-old mother on her Quest. I can’t recall ever playing a video game with my mother prior to VR. We play frisbee golf in Rec Room, mini golf in Walkabout Mini Golf, and the amazing futuristic racketball game: Racket: NX. VR seems to make sense to non-gamers in a way that video games generally don’t. The physical movement involved is intuitive. And now that “good” VR has finally arrived in a standalone system in the Oculus Quest, the barrier to entry has been shattered for non-gamers—opening up new entertainment experiences for them, but more importantly, establishing more ways to connect gamers and non-gamers in meaningful ways.

This isn’t going to be for everyone, but don’t count someone out until they’ve tried it. Basically every person that I’ve had try the Quest 2 has fallen in love with it. If you’ve been curious about VR, I recommend picking up an Oculus Quest 2. This is the VR option with the best balance of quality and accessibility. Find some games that you like and have your parents, siblings, and grandparents try them out. Beat Saber is always a hit. Walkabout Mini Golf is a more traditional, subdued experience. Racket: NX is awesome as well. Probably don’t have grandma try out your weird VR porno videos. Give it a shot and you might end up with a new gaming buddy!