TO GREENER PASTURES
In Valhalla, you play as a male or female Viking warrior named Eivor and travel with your clan from your ancestral Norwegian home to conquer and settle England’s fertile fields. Though more temperate than frigid Norway, England is no less perilous. Whether it’s Anglo-Saxon barbarians, trained soldiers under a king’s command, or untamed wildlife, England has many trials to challenge your Viking crew. To survive, Eivor and the clan must forge alliances with other Vikings and Anglo-Saxon allies.
Establishing and growing your settlement is one of Valhalla’s main features. By building and expanding structures such as a stable, forge, granary, barracks, and items shop, you’ll gain access to additional weapons, gear, warriors, horses, and other items. Unlocking and upgrading your settlement also opens up new missions. These, in turn, reward you with experience points, weapons, lore, and a chance to get to know your settlers better.
You’ll need sufficient supplies and raw materials to upgrade buildings, but the process is as simple as walking up to a structure and selecting “upgrade.” Assassin’s Creed: Brotherhood and Assassin’s Creed: Revelations featured a similar base-building mechanic. But those games’ settlement mechanics didn’t feel as intimate as Valhalla’s, because you upgraded buildings from a bird’s eye view similar to real-time strategy games. In Valhalla, you live inside your settlement and see it and its inhabitants mature over time.
Good old-fashioned raiding is the best method for finding settlement materials. When you’re near a monastery, military fort, or enemy-controlled town while sailing down a river, the game prompts you to raid them. Running into a village with a horde of Vikings at your back makes you feel as powerful as an Asgardian. Battles are incredibly frantic affairs as enemy and friendly forces clash. During the slaughter, you can ransack churches for precious building materials, silver, weapons, and other items. You can attack only soldiers or warriors, which somewhat diminishes the feeling of being a blood-thirsty Viking who indiscriminately kills. Still, lopping off enemy limbs and heads is a joy.
Assassin’s Creed Valhalla (for PC)
Massive detailed open world that’s bursting with activity. Distinct, powerful weapons. Strong, character-focused narrative,
Struggles to maintain 60 frames per second in the open world.
Assassin’s Creed Valhalla continues the series’ recent winning streak. This stellar entry boasts an expansive world, many exciting missions, and a tight, character-driven plot that make it one of 2020’s best games.
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Boston Dynamics' Spot Robodog Finds Work on a BP Oil Rig
Boston Dynamics’ four-legged canine-inspired Spot is by no means an old dog, but that doesn’t mean it can’t learn new tricks. The 55-pound robot, unveiled in 2016, has boarded BP’s Mad Dog oil rig in the Gulf of Mexico, where it will master tasks including reading gauges, finding corrosion, mapping the facility, and sniffing out methane, according to Reuters.
CAN THIS AI HELP SMOKERS QUIT?
While COVID-19 remains an occupying force in our world, and a viable vaccine is still out of reach, dealing with the pandemic comes down to mitigating health risks while coping with stress. If you’re a smoker, that’s going to be tough on both accounts. This isn’t the Mad Men era; everyone knows the risks of tobacco use, but cessation of addictive substances isn’t easy.
Assassin's Creed Valhalla (for PC): Another Winner
The Assassin’s Creed series has taken us to numerous historical settings since its 2007 debut, including Ancient Greece, Renaissance Italy, and Revolutionary War-era America. The newest installment, Assassin’s Creed Valhalla, details the Viking invasion of 9th Century England from the perspective of history’s most notorious raiders. Though Valhalla doesn’t introduce anything wholly new to the series, it’s an excellent PC game that follows in the footsteps of its equally exceptional predecessors, Origins and Odyssey.
Microsoft Xbox Series X: An Impressive Console
The newest Xboxes are here, packing plenty of power into boxier frames than ever. Microsoft’s entries into the latest console generation are the Xbox Series X, reviewed here, and the Xbox Series S ($299).
2020's Most Common Passwords Are Laughably Insecure
Chances are that if a password is easy for you to remember, a hacker can easily crack it. And despite years (and years) of tech companies warning consumers to use hard-to-crack passwords, plus two-factor authentication, people are still using laughably insecure codes.
THE BEST PRODUCTS OF 2020
It’s been a weird year.
Virtual Movie Night: How to Watch Netflix With Friends Using Teleparty
Many of us are facing a long winter indoors, thanks to the ongoing pandemic. And though we have video streaming to distract us, watching shows and movies is more fun with friends. You could get everyone on Zoom and press play at the same time, but there’s an easier way: Teleparty (formerly known as Netflix Party).
Apple Mac mini (M1, Late 2020): Most Polished, Potent Tiny Desktop
The Mac mini doesn’t get upgraded often, but when it does, it makes an impact well out of proportion to its trim dimensions. The 2018 Mac mini was a PCMag Editors’ Choice pick for its pep, connectivity, build quality, and limited upgradability. A slight variation on the same sheet music, played with little fanfare earlier this year, pumped up the two base models’ SSD capacity. The real update of this iconic little desktop is this one, and it’s a big-band extravaganza. Apple’s own highly integrated system-on-a-chip (SoC), the M1 brings the Mac mini to new performance highs, and while a few fundamentals have changed, the peppy performance, the reasonable mix of connectivity, and a new lower $699 starting price combine to make it one of the best values in compact computers, period. It easily earns our Editors’ Choice nod.
Optoma HD39HDR: Bright, Low-Lag Projector
Designed for gaming and for watching movies and TV, the Optoma HD39HDR is one of a growing number of 1080p home projectors that can accept a 4K UHD (3,840-by-2,160-pixel) HDR signal and downconvert the resolution to 1080p. Some projectors in this category accept the input without really offering any of the benefits that high dynamic range promises for a wider color gamut or range of brightness levels. Others, including the Optoma, make good use of HDR. In my tests, the HD39HDR delivered more-vibrant color and far better shadow detail when I played the 4K HDR versions of movies on my Blu-ray player than when playing the 1080p SDR versions of the same titles.
Samsung Galaxy S20 FE 5G Review: Perfect Balance of Power and Price
The Samsung Galaxy S20 FE is everything you need and nothing else. Samsung pared down its flagship S20 series to a more palatable price, and the result is a value-minded standard-bearer to properly face up against the forthcoming iPhone 12 line. With fast performance, solid cameras, and often substantial discounts at major wireless providers, the S20 FE 5G becomes our default Android phone recommendation for 2020 as well as our Editors’ Choice.
My Travel JOURNAL
How DAYS’s Thaao Penghlis (ex-Tony/Andre) learned the concept of “the arrogance of a loser” during a trip to Greece
MICROSOFT PLANS $1 BILLION DATA CENTER VENTURE IN GREECE
Microsoft has announced plans to build three data center sites in greater Athens, providing a badly needed investment of up to $1 billion to the Greek economy which has been hammered by the pandemic.
A Light From Within
The only one who’d ever been afraid of me was me. Then came Bronwen
Sharing the story behind his latest exhibition in cannes.
VOTING DAY around the World
When it comes to elections in the United States, it’s pretty certain that most people will be voting on a Tuesday. The custom of voting on a Tuesday in November was established when many Americans were farmers. By November, the growing and harvesting seasons were over making it easier for farmers to leave their work and go vote.
PPID DIAGNOSTIC TECHNIQUE ADVANCES
Year-round diagnosis of pituitary pars intermedia dysfunction (PPID, also known as Cushing’s) just got easier, thanks to the joint efforts of equine researchers in England and mathematicians in Australia.
Testing New Brass and IMR Powders
IT'S THE LITTLE THINGS
Go slowly, look closely, and killer nudi shots could be your reward
SOME LIKE IT HOT...SOME PREFER NOT
When the promise of Caribbean sunburns and crowds have lost their luster, it may be time to head for cooler climates further north.
KATE GETS BACK TO WORK
REPORTING FOR DUTY! AFTER THREE MONTHS OUT OF THE SPOTLIGHT, KATE MIDDLETON IS EAGER TO BE A HANDS-ON ROYAL AGAIN.