Last year’s Assassin’s Creed: Valhalla has been a mixed bag so far. Arguably the most beautiful and scenic game in the Assassin’s Creed (AC) series so far, Valhalla has taken elements from older AC games and mixed them with a newer direction that pretty much ignored its stealth-based roots. The Siege of Paris is the second downloadable content (DLC) title for the first AC title that will have DLCs even two years after its actual launch.
On the one hand, the Siege of Paris is better and more interesting than Wrath of the Druids, the first DLC. On the other, it follows the same, somewhat tired, approach Ubisoft has taken to storytelling in this edition. I mentioned this in the reviews of the Wrath of the Druids (the first DLC) and the main game too: compared to Assassin’s Creed: Odyssey, the predecessor to this game, Valhalla pales in terms of storytelling.
This is quite disappointing, given the importance of the actual viking Siege of Paris in world history. Some of the central characters, like Count Odo, the viking Toka and others haven’t been developed enough. Even the mission that has you live through the Siege of Paris doesn’t do justice to its historical accounts, not that we were expecting accuracy. But a little more work would have been great.
With just about 10 hours of gameplay, this DLC often feels rushed and repeats most of the gameplay elements we have seen before. The French region, for some reason, looks like a more colourful version of England. In fact, it often feels like Ubisoft has left vast patches of fields and swamps on the map simply to make it feel bigger. I lost the will to explore really fast, choosing instead to travel using fast travel points whenever possible.
In fact, at one point in the game, the central character, Eivor, laments to his Raven about how tired he is of meeting new kings and continually having the experiences he has had so far. I couldn’t help but relate at that point. Siege of Paris, to me, felt like a DLC that I would happily ignore if it wasn’t for the fact that I work from home all the time nowadays and need more distractions.
It does nothing to extend the central story of Assassin’s Creed. Ubisoft could pull a fast one by tying the main game, Wrath of the Druids and Siege of Paris together with its third DLC. But at this point, I’m not too hopeful. That would perhaps be the only reason to buy these two DLCs, because they really don’t justify the price otherwise.
Valhalla, and everything about it, has depended solely on just taking the most loved aspects of the franchise and trying them together. It’s beautiful, has Origins and Odyssey’s simple yet fun fighting mechanics and a really large map to explore. But where Odyssey’s DLCs took the storyline forward, and actually gave us an ending to the story, Valhalla’s so far haven’t.
There is one aspect of Siege of Paris that does make it more worthwhile than the Wrath of the Druids DLC. It reintroduces the 'Black Box' assassination system, which will come as a welcome addition for those who have been missing the franchise’s stealth-based roots. It was first introduced with Assassin’s Creed: Unity, which coincidentally was centered on France as well.
These missions put you in a location with one primary target to assassinate. The player has to explore the location, find clues and decide how to carry out the assassination. In the end, you either choose to take the finesse route, where you deftly assassinate the target when they least expect it, or you run in killing everyone in your path. The Siege of Paris has only a few of these missions though, but here’s hoping Ubisoft introduces more such missions in future DLCs and games. It’s a great way of keeping both new and older AC players happy.
It also shows that Ubisoft is listening, at least to some extent, to criticism about dropping the game’s roots. The original launch for Valhalla too, introduced older stealth features -- like blending into your environment by walking surreptitiously with a group of monks, and sitting in a corner nonchalantly. And these are all good things, as long as Ubisoft could fix the lazy storytelling, which made this franchise big enough to get a movie that starred Michael Fassbender, however poor that movie was.
In the end, the Siege of Paris is quantity over quality, like the rest of this game. It can be ignored if the game’s lore is what keeps you interested. If not, you can skip it for now. The gameplay time is small enough so that you can buy it later, assuming the third DLC somehow ties all the others together.