Assassin’s Creed Valhalla brings the familiar series trappings into a new, icy landscape set in the Viking age. But while it is fairly similar to the two most recent Assassin’s Creed games, Origins and Odyssey, it makes a big change to how you obtain skills, stat boosts, and special abilities. In fact, Skills and Abilities are entirely distinct from each other this time around and are developed in different ways. Here’s a primer on how the two systems work and how to get the most out of both of them.
Skills in Assassin’s Creed Valhalla become available soon after a brief tutorial, and you’re awarded more skill points both early and often. The familiar leveling system from previous Assassin’s Creed games has been streamlined to award you skill points for each time you fill your EXP meter. That’s in part because there are many more skills to buy in Valhalla than in the prior games, thanks to a broader skill tree that’s full of stat buffs and new moves. To start, you’ll have a choice to invest in one of three directions.
Way of the Bear (melee)
Way of the Bear is the big aggressive brawler type, and awards you with skills to make you a fearsome and front-facing warrior. You get benefits toward melee combat like duel-wielding two-handed weapons, the ability to scare away weaker enemies with your attacks, along with damage resistance and fire resistance. You’ll also get combat counters that let you do more damage at different points during combat, like knocking over enemies while running or dealing damage during a parry.
Way of the Wolf (ranged)
Way of the Wolf is aimed at ranged damage, giving you finishing moves, and making your arrows more plentiful and durable. Since this build isn’t made for close-range combat with hearty buffs like the Way of the Bear, you also get some boosts to survivability like the ability to slow down time or regain lost health with a timed melee attack.
Way of the Raven (stealth)
Way of the Raven is the sneaky stealth-focused tree, most closely resembling the series’ classic roots. You’ll get boosts to your stealth combat like assassination damage, along with access to poison attacks, traps, and perks to your predator bow. Since you mostly try to stay out of sight, your survivability gets enhanced with evasion abilities like catching arrows from the sky or throwing down smoke bombs.
Each of these trees leads to its own constellation of skills, a mostly linear progression path that gives you more buffs to similar traits and leads to other constellations. For example, investing in the stealth-focused Raven path gives you access to more nodes with passive buffs to stealth, while the ranged path gives you more nodes devoted to aspects like your critical hit chances at range.
Additionally, each path contains perks to improve the overall stats of its corresponding armor. For example, investing in certain perks in the Way of the Raven tree will boost the power of Raven armor or weapons you have equipped. You can see which category your weapons and armor fall into by using the inventory screen.
Some of the capstone skills are set in the middle of constellations and must be retrieved to continue through a path, while others require a little detour. Either way, each constellation connects with a few others, and after a while you’ll begin to see them bleeding into each other, even allowing you to have new pathways to capstone skills. The added upside of these alternate pathways is that your passive skills don’t become too lopsided, even if you’re concentrating primarily in one kind of build. There doesn’t seem to be a limit to the number of skill points you can earn, so theoretically you could eventually unlock the entire tree in every direction.
That said, you can reset all of your skills for free anytime you want. This lets you revise your build easily, but more importantly, you can also use it to defog the constellation map. By investing your points down a single path, you’ll uncover more constellations and get a better idea of where they lead. Then you can reset your skills and do it again for another path, and so on, while retaining the defogged constellation you had previously invested in. That may help you plan your skill selection long-term, since you’ll be able to see where the multiple options lead.
The one thing missing from the Skills menu are the flashy, game-changing abilities that get bound to specific buttons. For that, you need to gain Abilities.
The Abilities menu is more like what you may expect from Odyssey, though some of the passive enhancements are now found in the Skills menu. Abilities are big, flashy moves that cost you Adrenaline to use. These range from different stealth, ranged, and combat abilities. One might let you play dead to attract enemies to your corpse for a surprise-attack, while another might launch you into the air and come down on your enemies like a valkyrie.
Unlike the Skills menu, which unlocks naturally early in the game, this menu doesn’t appear until you find your first Ability. For most players, that will be when you sail to the kingdom of Rygajafylke, a few hours into the story.
Abilities are found in Books of Knowledge. These powerful artifacts are marked in gold and considered part of an area’s Wealth rating. In Rygajafylke, you’ll see a conspicuous golden book icon signifying a Book of Knowledge, which requires you to solve a simple puzzle. Most of the time they’re found through Viking raids. The higher the Wealth rating, the more likely you are to find a Book of Knowledge laying around. They’re especially common in military complexes or churches. When you find a Book of Knowledge, it will unlock a specific, named ability. If you find another copy of a Book of Knowledge that you already have, it will upgrade to a stronger version. Each ability has a base version and an upgraded version, and the books are set in specific parts of the world rather than randomized.
There are 11 ranged and 11 melee abilities to obtain in all, and you can bind up to eight at a time–four of each. Once they’re mapped, you can trigger them by holding a shoulder button and then triggering them with the face button you’ve mapped. Keep in mind that since they expend Adrenaline, you’ll need to carefully plan when you trigger them.