Assassin's Creed Valhalla is a big game. Not only does the Viking saga stretch all across Anglo-Saxon England, the story itself is around 70 hours long. It's also one of the best entries in the Assassin's Creed franchise -- thankfully for Xbox Series X|S owners, since its arguably the top launch game on the new platform -- and it's one of the few games I've been happy to sink that much time into.
The story itself goes to interesting places -- so many Saxon puppet kings to install on thrones, so little time -- and it can be easy to get caught up in the drama of it all. However, the world of Valhalla is teeming with worthwhile encounters, valuable collectibles and fun things to do.
Here are some must-dos as decided by me, a person who has done nothing but play this game for two weeks straight.
Note: Light spoilers below.
Don't forget Mysteries
Side quests have been replaced by "Mysteries." These are shown as glowing blue dots on your map and in HUD. There are many different types -- so many that I'll just list them for you here:
World Event: World events are "chance" encounters initiated by NPCs that add another dimension to Valhalla. You may stumble across a Norseman with an axe stuck in his head, complaining about a bit of a headache. Other times, you'll have to convince a father not to sacrifice his daughter to the gods or recreate the sensory experience of a viking raid so a couple can, err, reconnect. (Yes, this is the first known instance of a battle kink.)
Offering Altar: Sometimes you'll stumble upon an altar that requires an offering. It could be coins, material or a specific fish. Completing one of these altars unlocks another World Event.
Flyting: This is essentially a rap battle, but Medieval. Make sure to identify rhyming patterns to help you pick the right answer. Winning will increase your charisma, which unlocks extra dialogue options in quests.
Legendary Animals: I'm too much of a baby to complete these but, hey, if you're a fan of hunting animals, this one's for you. If you build the Hunter's Lodge in your settlement, you can unlock cool schematics and skill points for killing these beasts.
Lost Drengr: Oh no, it's an old Norse warrior and he's survived every battle in his life so far. That's not good at all -- this man needs a ticket to Valhalla ASAP. This is an easy fix: Simply kill him in battle. Except it's not so easy, as these warriors put up difficult fights. The XP is worth it, though.
Daughter of Lerion: The three daughters of a cult leader who practiced dark magics but was killed by the powerful families of England. His daughters now roam the country, itching for combat with any poor soul that comes too close. Sometimes that's you! They're challenging miniboss fights, but there's a good reason to find them: Each sister carries a piece of Thor's armour set and you need to defeat all three to unlock the final piece of the set. Worth it.
Standing Stone: These are visual puzzles found on stone circles (like Stonehenge). Using Odin's Vision will highlight a pattern on the stones, and it's just a matter of looking at them from the right angle for it to form a complete image. Solving these grants XP and 1 skill point.
Cairn: Stacking stones. You just stack stones. It's surprisingly calming and always features a charming view.
Mysteries are voluntary and can be easily ignored. At the beginning of my playthrough, I often did ignore them out of sheer laziness. But there are some real treasures hidden in these Mysteries (both literally and figuratively).
This is how side missions should be. With a game as massive as Valhalla, the quest log and map can become overwhelming. And in 2020, who has the energy to put effort into things? We're just trying to get through the days. Mysteries are brief, interesting glimpses into Valhalla's world that carry real challenges as well as funny or even touching moments.
If the conquering business gets a bit tiring, these Mysteries will pep you up.
Collect the legendary Treasures of Britain to make Excalibur yours
One aspect of the game that deserves a special mention is the Treasures of Britain Mysteries. On your map, they appear to be little doors with anchors on them. Why? I don't know. It took me far too long to understand what they were -- 11 tablets scattered throughout England. If you find all these tablets, you can unlock the legendary blade Excalibur, one of the most powerful weapons in the game.
Investigate Animus anomalies and blend past and present
Another Mystery in the game are Animus anomalies. These glitches in the space-time continuum are identified with a triangle icon on your map or a literal glitch in the world. Once you investigate these glitches, the present day protagonist Layla is pulled into the world. To get back to the present, Layla has to finish a glitch-tastic parkour course like a time-traveling Sonic the Hedgehog.
They're a nifty little puzzle to play with, and completing each one unlocks a cool mystery about the Assassin's Creed universe. Hell yeah, lore.
Build Valka's hut and unlock the Asgard quest arc
Valka is the clan seer. She's also your friend and confidant. A bit into the game, Valka joins you in England and asks you to build her hut right away. You'll think: All right, diva, everyone needs a hut built. We're living in tents. Why are you so special?
Well, it turns out that building Valka's hut opens a quest line that takes you to literal Asgard -- as in "home of the Norse Gods" Asgard. As you can imagine, it's beautiful and fun. That's all I'm going to say.
That was a lie, I will say one more thing: In Asgard, your horse is an elk. An elk! You're like Santa Claus.
Raid for supplies to build your settlement
In order to build Valka's dream hut -- and the rest of your settlement, as it's the main goal of your England adventure -- you must find supplies and materials. When in your longboat, you can stop by military camps, bandit camps and abbeys to have some jolly good fun. Get ready to slice and dice soldiers while setting fire to thatched roofs.
These raids serve a purpose beyond pure chaos, however. It's the best way to find the supplies needed to build the buildings in your growing settlement. Look for the golden barrel icons on your map, And here's a hint: Hit the abbeys for the best stuff.
Find tattoo designs, armor sets and Roman artifacts all around England
You're not a fearful dregnr (warrior) without some powerful tattoos and armor sets. You can buy tattoo designs in shops, but you can also find some cool designs in the wild. You find them by catching flying papers, usually in high places. You'll realize that once you approach these mysterious flying papers, they'll fly away. You have to chase them.
Good luck, they're pretty tricky. If you manage to catch one, don't tell me because I haven't and they're a source of constant frustration.
Armor sets and Roman artifacts are easier to find. Armor sets are the golden armor icons on your map. Collect all five pieces of the set to unlock special bonuses. There are 10 sets to find in total, so get hunting.
In Ravensthorpe, a man in Roman garb (which is weird to see at first) opens a little museum under the Roman ruins of your settlement. Now, it's just up to you to fill it with Roman treasures. They're usually just mask-looking collectibles. It's a little feature that's easy to ignore, but hunting for these artifacts can lead you to some cool places -- like Jorvik (York), an expansive sewerage system that hides a good amount of treasures. Look out for easily breakable wooden planks on the ground of the cemetery next to the Jorvik theatre and a breakable wall at the water's edge to the side of the big bridge.