Assassin’s Creed Valhalla: The Siege of Paris is the second expansion for Ubisoft’s epic Viking saga and it’s set to release tomorrow. It takes our hero, Eivor, to the shores of Francia. Similar to the base game and Wrath of the Druids (the first expansion), you can expect a grand campaign and hours of open-world exploration.
Granted, Assassin’s Creed Valhalla: The Siege of Paris has a few notable quirks going for it, including the return of Black Box assassination missions (known in-game as Infiltration missions). Unfortunately, this newest romp also feels rather limited. Either its potential isn’t fully realized, or certain concepts are implemented better in other games.
On the shores of Francia
You can start Assassin’s Creed Valhalla: The Siege of Paris‘ campaign as long as you have a foothold in England (i.e., completing either the Ledecestrescire or Grantebridgescire arcs). This leads to the arrival of Toka and Pierre. Toka’s father Sinric was slain by Emperor Charles III (also known as Charles the Fat). She asks you to aid her uncle Sigfred, the leader of the Norsemen who are left on the shores of Francia. After a short meeting, Sigfred tells you of his plans to gain control of Paris. Like the previous campaigns and missions that you’ve experienced, you can expect the usual narrative arc.
As a franchise staple, Assassin’s Creed Valhalla: The Siege of Paris presents a sandbox campaign with a historical backdrop. The titular siege itself, which took place from 885 to 886 AD, is nothing short of epic once you get to play it. Moreover, it allows you to meet a memorable cast of characters.
The aforementioned Charles the Fat, great-grandson of Charlemagne, is backed by Count Odo of Paris. There’s also Empress Richardis, a kind and gentle woman who tries her best to console Charles. In fact, Richardis’ piety and devotion, along with the legends surrounding her, paved the way for her canonization as a saint. These characters and the events surrounding these personages come to life, and Eivor’s interactions with them are quite a treat.
Sadly, there’s one notable omission, and that’s Rollo or Hrolf of Normandy. The would-be Duke of Normandy and ancestor of William the Conqueror wouldn’t be granted lands until 911 A.D. However, legends say that he was present during the siege itself. Coincidentally, you do meet a raiding companion named Rollo Stoutheart while completing the Essexe arc in England. He even escorts another character, Estrid, back to Francia before rejoining your group. This Rollo, whom I thought was based on the historical Rollo of Normandy, doesn’t play a role in the expansion’s campaign. Although Rollo is still part of your raiding crew whenever you attack abbeys, it was disappointing when I realized that he and Estrid don’t figure into the narrative at all.
Rebel Missions with Pierre
Apart from the main quests in Assassin’s Creed Valhalla: The Siege of Paris, you can also partake in Rebel Missions handed to you by Pierre. Think of this as akin to bite-sized contracts given by Reda of the Thousand Eyes, except there’s a natural progression system like what you’ve seen in Wrath of the Druids‘ Trade Posts and Overseas Trading feature.
Examples of Rebel Missions include eliminating a lone target in a camp, stealing a note (or killing the guard who has it), or eliminating a patrol that goes from one destination to the next. You’re backed by two rebel soldiers by default, and, upon acquiring more Silver Deniers, you can upgrade your band to bolster their capabilities. You can purchase additional items such as runes, cosmetic schemes, and the Reaper armor set, too.
Black Box Infiltration missions in Assassin’s Creed Valhalla: The Siege of Paris
As mentioned earlier, Black Box missions return in Assassin’s Creed Valhalla: The Siege of Paris. Originally introduced in Assassin’s Creed Unity (2014) and also seen in Assassin’s Creed Syndicate (2015), these Black Box (or Infiltration) missions give you additional means of approaching an assassination target. For instance, you could eliminate a bishop by heading directly to the chapel. This will involve battling guards, and the encounter with the bishop will turn into a miniboss fight of sorts.
Alternatively, you could look for other ways to complete your task. It’s possible to eavesdrop on soldiers so you can learn of a passcode to enter the church. Likewise, you can rescue a drunkard’s daughter who will tell you about a secret entrance. You may even find a cloak known as a Bellatores Hood that’ll allow you to approach the ritual area. Get close enough to the bishop, and you’ll be able to perform a cinematic assassination.
Unfortunately, the feature feels tacked on and lacking. If we were still in 2015 to 2016 and this feature was fairly new, then I’d be more lenient. However, we’ve already seen the sandbox gameplay combined with multiple methods of elimination showcased in the rebooted Hitman franchise (including Hitman 3). As it stands, I was only able to see one type of cinematic assassination per target in The Siege of Paris. I was expecting more creative and niftier ways to dispatch foes.
The Bellatores Dei and rats
Speaking of features and mechanics that were lacking, I’d be remiss if I didn’t cite the fact that we don’t have an assassination targets board (like the Cult of Kosmos, Order of the Ancients, or Children of the Danu). As such, the creative ways of taking out your foes are limited to what you’ll experience in three chapters where you hear of the Bellatores Dei, a secretive organization with ties to the Christian Church. The story, too, seems rushed. At one point, I met one of Sigfred’s lieutenants. She had a couple of dialogue lines, making me think that she’d have a rivalry with Eivor. Alas, that didn’t materialize at all.
Moreover, the new Rat Swarms mechanic seems downright odd. The game tells you that there was a plague that swept the Frankish countryside recently, leading to the vermin appearing in sewers and crypts. They’ll chew Eivor to death if you get close, and your only recourse is to, get this, slash at the air with your weapons to scare them. They’ll scurry down grates and, in some cases, you can find boxes to cover these. That’s that. I was surprised since you couldn’t even use fire to shoo away the rats, let alone more clever ways of avoiding them. Even A Plague Tale: Innocence found a smarter way to present this concept.
What else can you do in Assassin’s Creed Valhalla: The Siege of Paris?
The main campaign in Assassin’s Creed Valhalla: The Siege of Paris lasts roughly 10 hours. Admittedly, there’s still a lot of stuff for you to do. You can look for new armor pieces and Books of Knowledge (one of which lets you learn the ability to summon rats by firing an arrow). Similarly, there are treasures, mysteries, and artifacts found in four regions on Francia’s world map (Paris, Melunois, Amienois, and Evresin). You may battle three noblemen who lost their status due to the arrival of the Vikings, as well fight a Barn Bull in an open field. There’s also a Hidden Ones bureau somewhere in the region, rewarding you with a powerful sword once you’ve unlocked it. Lastly, a free update includes some worthwhile tweaks and new skills such as self-regeneration and a running knee strike.
If you’ve enjoyed Assassin’s Creed Valhalla thus far, then The Siege of Paris expansion provides more hours to continue Eivor’s journey. But, if you’re looking for game-changing additions or something that blends the supernatural or mythological, then this expansion won’t meet your expectations.