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Assassin's Creed Valhalla: Best Skills and Character Upgrades

The best areas to invest your experience points on Assassin's Creed Valhalla's massive skill tree.

An assassin must be a master in the art of stealth: dextrous, versatile, and capable of doing what needs to be done with the requisite finesse to leave no trace behind. A Viking invader, on the other hand, can afford to be a lot less subtle. In Assassin's Creed Valhalla, it's your choice which path Eivor chooses to take: the melee-brawling Viking warrior, the illusive assassin, or a cunning and dangerous mixture of the two.

Where Assassin's Creed Odyssey's skills and character upgrades were quite straightforward, Assassin's Creed Valhalla takes a much more sprawling approach to the system, with a celestial cosmos of minor stat increases to mull over. And that's before you even get to the skills themselves - powerful abilities which swing the tide of combat in your favour, alongside the regular swinging of your axe.

Across the Viking invasion of medieval England - given the violent nature of your intentions - there's a lot of battling. This means that getting the right combat skills to supplement your favored style of character build is vital to your smooth progress and enjoyment. Here are some of our picks for the best skills in Assassin's Creed Valhalla, as well as how to upgrade your character effectively.

Cover image for YouTube videoAssassin's Creed Valhalla hands-on gameplay: storming Tamworth

Earning XP and Skill Points in Assassin's Creed Valhalla

You do have an XP metre in Assassin's Creed Valhalla, but it's really just a means to an end of earning Skill Points.

You earn XP from completing story missions and puzzles throughout the game. Finishing a story mission will net you enough XP to earn two Skill Points; while completing puzzles (such as Standing Stone puzzles, Offering Altars, and Excalibur tablets) will earn you one Skill Point's worth of XP. XP is automatically converted into Skill Points once you fill up the metre.

Spending the Skill Points you've earned to unlock upgrades on the skill map will in turn increase Eivor's Power Level. Their Power Level is what actually determines their readiness to take on a combat challenge (a recommended Power Level is shown on the game's map for each region). Note that Power Level increases when the Skill Points are spent, not when they are earned, so it's worth checking in with your skill map regularly to distribute any Skill Points you have in the bank.

The good news is that which skills you choose for your Eivor are far less important than just continually increasing their skills overall. You can choose to have them specialise in one type of combat you particularly prefer, or build an Eivor who's a good all-rounder: it's up to you.

Spending Skill Points in Assassin's Creed Valhalla

Shrouded in smoke and boasting more percentages than a Wall Street stock ticker, the skill and character upgrade screen in Assassin's Creed Valhalla can be a bit of an information overload.

The skill map in Assassin's Creed: Valhalla is winding and interconnected, but it can roughly be split into three categories, which are helpfully colour coded and include an animal motif to help you tell them apart:

  • Yellow Raven category on the left-hand side of the screen. This branch focuses mainly on stealth and indirect engagement with the enemy.
  • Red Bear branch in the middle of the screen. This branch focuses mainly on close-quarters combat, such as melee attacks.
  • Blue Wolf branch on the right-hand side of the screen. This branch focuses mainly on ranged combat using the bow.

The good news is that Valhalla encourages you to be a spendthrift in this regard: each and every new skill only takes one Skill Point to unlock, so you don't need to save up in order to get the more powerful high-end ones. The only downside (if you can even call it that) is that you need to advance through each branch or offshoot in sequence, so you might have to sacrifice a few Skill Points on some less exciting upgrades in order to unlock the skills you're really interested in.

Furthermore, there's something vital which isn't immediately obvious from the start of the game: you can reset and redistribute your skills at any time during your adventure - completely free - so you don't have to agonize over every stat point you spend.

Assassin's Creed Valhalla Skills & Character Upgrades

There are two types of skills in Assassin's Creed Valhalla:

  • Active skills (also called main or major skills), which give Eivor powerful one-of-a-kind combat abilities.
  • Passive skills (also called character upgrades or skill nodes), which give Eivor permanent bonuses to health, damage, resistance, etc.

Active skills have a bigger icon on the skill map, and when you hover over them you get a short description and an animation demonstrating the skill in action. Passive skills have smaller icons and just give you a brief text run-down of the stat increase. Spending a Skill Point on either type will increase your Power Level.

There are 40 different active skills in total, and in practice, there are three things which determine where to spend your skill points:

  • Whether you want to favour melee, ranged, or stealth skills
  • Whether you want to make use of Abilities
  • Which animal affinity your current and favourite weapons are

Skill tree branches: melee, ranged, and stealth

As we've already covered, the three directions on the skill map can be very roughly divided into three categories: stealth (yellow, to the left), melee (red, up from the middle), and ranged (blue, to the right).

All three directions have their own bow skills (which is why I say very roughly): the predator bow in the Yellow Raven branch, the light bow in the Red Bear branch, and the hunter bow in the Blue Wolf branch. So if you choose to invest your points into the melee-oriented skills under the Red Bear branch, for example, you're not going to be a useless archer, so don't worry about specialising too much.

Think of each route more as a focus than the only thing you can use. This is backed up by the range of different stat nodes that you'll acquire whichever path you choose.

In the early game, there's a lot of raiding and brawling, so you'll probably want to go with the red melee skills, but you won't struggle if you don't.

How Skills work with Abilities

Your next choice is whether you want to make use of Abilities. Abilities work differently from regular skills. Instead of unlocking them in the skills map, abilities are learned from Books of Knowledge that you find throughout the world, and they cost adrenaline to perform.

There are 22 Abilities in the game: four are earned by delivering Order medallions to Hytham, while and for the remaining 18 there are two Books of Knowledge each that can be found somewhere in the game world. Check out our comprehensive guide to Book of Knowledge locations for more details.

If you like spamming these abilities, then you may want to look into building a mixed character with all of the adrenaline upgrades.

There's one at the bottom of the board underneath Last Chance Healing, one on the left next to Chain Assassination, and finally one up and to the left next to Berserker's Mettle.

How Skills work with Weapons

One more thing to consider: just like the skills in the skill map, weapons have a colour coded animal affinity. When you look at your equipped weapons in your inventory, above their name is a picture of an animal: again, this is either a red bear, a blue wolf, or a yellow raven.

If you find yourself particularly enamored with a certain variety of weapon, then you should consider taking your skills down the corresponding path.

For example, Varin's Axe is a red bear affinity weapon, so if you spend stat points going up from the middle of the upgrade screen - in the melee focused tree, some of the stat nodes will be specifically geared towards enhancing your ability with bear affinity weapons.

Since you can redistribute your points freely, you could change up your points to hit these nodes whenever you change weapons.

Assassin's Creed Valhalla Best Skills

Muddling your way through is all well and good, but it's much easier to pick the best Skills for you in Assassin's Creed Valhalla if you actually know what they are.

To help you start sifting through all the many skills on offer and see which appeal to you, you can check out the video below to see every single one of them in action:

Cover image for YouTube videoAssassin's Creed Valhalla Full Skill Tree

As a starting point to work toward, I usually go up to Stomp, then right to Parry Damage, both on the Red Bear melee branch. Then from the middle go left to Backstab on the Yellow Raven stealth branch, and on up to Brush with Death. This gives you a really capable melee character from the start, by which point you should have a grasp of where you want to go next.

As you progress, other great skills include:

  • Missile Reversal (stealth) - This Skill makes it really easy to cheese Zealots, because you can just run away and throw back their spears
  • Parry Damage (melee) - Parrying is vital to Assassin's Creed Valhalla's combat, and this is a great source of chip damage
  • Advanced Assassination and Chain Assassination (both stealth) - If you're going to try and be stealthy at all throughout the game, you'll want to pick both of these up. Otherwise you'll come up against elite enemies with no tools to take them down quietly
  • Counter Roll (stealth) - Similarly to the above, this skill gives you a more active option for dealing with a common issue in combat; otherwise you're stuck dodging
  • Stealth Recon (ranged) - Automatically highlights nearby enemies when Eivor is crouched undetected, greatly reducing your risk of being caught unawares
  • Auto-Loot (stealth) - A real time-saver for clumsy and/or forgetful Eivors, especially since I can't think of a circumstance under which you don't want to loot the corpses of your enemies
  • Adrenaline Slots (all branches) - I really like to spam abilities, so I usually unlock all 4 slots

Below is a full table of all 40 skills, what they do, and where they appear on the board so you can plot your path:

Assassin's Creed Valhalla Skills
Skill Name:Skill Effect:Affiliation:Location on upgrade board:
StompWhen an enemy falls, press R3 to stomp on them for extra damageRed BearUp from middle
Parry DamageSuccessful parries deal damage to the attackerRed BearRight from Stomp
Adrenaline FiendGain a damage boost and attack speed boost when 1 or more Adrenaline Slots are filledRed BearUp from Parry Damage
Arrow VolleyFire all loaded arrows from a light bow at once on an enemy for a stamina costRed BearTop right, right from Adrenaline Fiend
Perfect AttackPress R1 again during a weapon swing to have the next one do more damageRed BearUp from Stomp
Warrior TakedownPress R2 to perform a violent takedown on an unaware enemy - fills a bar of adrenaline for every enemy you alertRed BearUp from Perfect Attack
Sprint BashUpgrade your sprint to break through breakable objects and doors, as well as knock NPCs to the groundRed BearTop, up from Warrior Takedown
Dual SwapWhen dual-wielding, press R2 +R3 to swap the weapons in your handsRed BearLeft from Stomp
Berserker's MettleA partially filled adrenaline slot won't empty the first time an enemy hits youRed BearLeft from Dual Swap
Heavy Dual WieldYou can dual-wield two heavy weapons - but it alters the stats and handlingRed BearLeft from Berserker's Mettle
Light Bow ComboConsecutive shots with a light bow deal more damageRed BearUp from Dual Swap, left from Perfect Attack
TerrorAfter a Stun Finisher, weak enemies cower in fear and can be easily finishedRed BearLeft from Light Bow Combo
Battlefield CremationEnemies you kill with fire attacks stay burning and deal fire damage to other enemiesRed BearUp from Light Bow Combo
BackstabLanding a blow directly to an enemy's back does more damage and makes them staggerYellow RavenLeft from Middle
Advanced AssassinationUnlocks ability to assassinate high-level targets with a timed mini-gameYellow RavenDown from Backstab
BreakfallEivor automatically does a roll which negates some fall damage after a large dropYellow RavenDown from Advanced Assassination
Missile ReversalCatch and throw back "virtually any" projectile by parrying it with L1 just before it hitsYellow RavenDown from Breakfall
Brush with DeathDodging just before an attack lands slows down timeYellow RavenUp from Backstab
Predator Bow ComboConsecutive shots with the Predator Bow deal more damageYellow RavenLeft from Brush with Death
Counter RollDodge towards an enemy's Rune Attack just before it lands to vault behind themYellow RavenLeft from Predator Bow Combo
Guided ArrowPress R1 to control the arrow from a Predator Bow as it fliesYellow RavenLeft from Backstab
Explosive CorpseHold R3 to booby-trap dead bodies to damage enemies who investigate Yellow RavenLeft from Guided Arrow
MiasmaEnemies who die from your poison attacks release a cloud of toxic gasYellow RavenLeft from Explosive Corpse
Chain AssassinationAfter performing one assassination, throw an axe at a second NPC in close proximityYellow RavenDown from Guided Arrow
Auto-lootAutomatically collect the loot from a defeated enemyYellow RavenDown from Chain Assassinationq
Assassin's CantripAfter a parry, press Triangle to throw a smoke bomb and disappearYellow RavenLeft from Chain Assassination
Stealth Recon Automatically highlight enemies when crouchedBlue WolfRight from middle
Emergency AimHold L2 when being detected to snap your aim to an enemy for a chance to kill them before they raise the alarmBlue WolfUp from Stealth Recon
Hunter Bow ComboRelease an arrow just as you finish drawing it to make the next one draw fasterBlue WolfUp from Emergency Aim
Arrow ReinforcementLoosed arrows never break, so you can always pick them up from defeated enemiesBlue WolfRight from Hunter Bow Combo
Bow to Melee LinkAlternating between bow and melee hits deals extra damageBlue WolfRight from Stealth Recon
Stealth AdrenalineWhile in stealth, fill adrenaline slots by looting chests or picking pocketsBlue WolfUp from Bow to Melee Link
Bow Stun FinisherPress R3 while aiming at a stunned enemy to trigger a finishing moveBlue WolfRight from Stealth Adrenaline
Sprint AttackPress R1 while sprinting to do a special attackBlue WolfDown from Stealth Recon
Battleground BoltPress Triangle next to a discarded weapon to throw it at another enemyBlue WolfRight from Sprint Attack
Charged ShotFire two fully charged arrows with the Hunter BowBlue WolfRight from Battleground Bolt
GritRegain the "red portion" of your health bar when you hit an enemyBlue WolfDown from Battleground Bolt
Last Chance HealingWhen you reach critical health, time will slow down to let you heal or run awayBlue WolfDown from Sprint Attack
Adrenaline Upgrades+1 adrenaline slotBlue Wolf, Yellow Raven, Red BearThere's one at the bottom below Last Chance Healing, one next to Chain Assassination, and one next to Berserker's Mettle

For more advice on building the strongest possible Eivor in Assassin's Creed Valhalla, see our recommendations for Assassin's Creed Valhalla's best weapons for the early, mid, and late game.

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Assassin's Creed: Valhalla

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James Billcliffe

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With 7 years' experience, James (he/him) suffers so you don't have to, creating expert guides for the toughest games and reviews for the biggest blockbuster releases. He has a Master's degree in Journalism and a BA in Linguistics that he never got a chance to flex until Wordle came along.