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Assassin's Creed Valhalla - Review Thread
Game InformationGame Title: Assassin's Creed Valhalla
Genre: Action-adventure, role-playing, open world, Vikings
Platforms: Playstation 4/5, Xbox One, Xbox Series S/X, PC, Stadia
Media: - Opening Hours Gameplay | Norse Mythology
Cinematic TV Spot
Post Launch & Season Pass Trailer
New Gameplay Walkthrough | Deep Dive Trailer
Official Soundtrack Cinematic Trailer | Eivor’s Fate - Character Trailer
Gameplay Overview Trailer | UbiFWD July 2020 | Official 30 Minute Gameplay Walkthrough | UbiFWD July 2020NA
First Look Gameplay Trailer
Cinematic World Premiere Trailer
Developer: Ubisoft Montreal Info
Price: Standard - $59.99 USD (contains microtransactions)
Gold - $99.99 contents
Ultimate - $119.99 contents
Release Date: November 10, 2020
PS5 - November 12, 2020
More Info: /assassinscreed | Wikipedia Page
OpenCritic - 84 | 92% Recommended [Cross-Platform] Score Distribution
MetaCritic - [PS5]
MetaCritic - 85 [XBSX]
MetaCritic - 85 [PC]
MetaCritic - 82 [PS4]
MetaCritic - 82 [XB1]
Viciously arbitrary compilation of main games in the Assassin's Creed series -
|Entry||Score Platform, Year, # of Critics|
|Assassin's Creed||81 X360, 2007, 77 critics|
|Assassin's Creed II||90 X360, 2009, 82 critics|
|Assassin's Creed: Brotherhood||89 X360, 2010, 81 critics|
|Assassin's Creed: Revelations||80 X360, 2011, 77 critics|
|Assassin's Creed III||84 X360, 2012, 61 critics|
|Assassin's Creed IV: Black Flag||88 PS3, 2013, 36 critics|
|Assassin's Creed Rogue||72 PS3, 2014, 53 critics|
|Assassin's Creed Unity||72 XB1, 2014, 59 critics|
|Assassin's Creed Syndicate||76 PS4, 2015, 86 critics|
|Assassin's Creed Origins||81 PS4, 2017, 63 critics|
|Assassin's Creed Odyssey||83 PS4, 2018, 86 critics|
|Website/Author||Aggregates' Score ~ Critic's Score||Quote||Platform|
|Kotaku - Zack Zwiezen||Unscored ~ Unscored||Overall, it feels a lot of care and thought went into making Valhalla feel less like a checklist of things to do and more like a world to organically experience.|
|Polygon - Nicole Carpenter||Unscored ~ Unscored||Valhalla’s most intriguing story is one about faith, honor, and family, but it’s buried inside this massive, massive world stuffed with combat and side quests. That balance is not always ideal, but I’m glad, at least, that it forces me to spend more time seeking out interesting things in the game’s world.||XB1|
|Rock, Paper, Shotgun - Alice Bell||Unscored ~ Unscored||For fans of the series it’s really entertaining. It might not set the world on fire, but you can set some virtual bits on fire yourself if you want.||PC|
|IGN India - Shunal Doke||Unscored ~ Unscored||Its new skill system promotes experimentation with different builds, and gear has been streamlined in a way where you’re not constantly chasing bigger numbers every single moment. Level grinding has all but disappeared, and the new setting just oozes atmosphere and theme. Boring protagonist aside, Valhalla is definitely the strongest of the new Assassin’s Creed RPG trilogy.|
|ACG - Jeremy Penter||Unscored ~ Wait for Sale||Some amazing changes to the way the game is presented, all for the better, can't get out of the way from somewhat weightless combat, bugs and other issues.||PC, XB1, XBSX|
|Eurogamer - Tom Phillips||Unscored ~ Recommended||Valhalla is another enormous Assassin's Creed saga, lavishly designed, with its sights set on story direction over narrative choice.||XBSX|
|Daily Star - Tom Hutchison||100 ~ 5 / 5 stars||Assassin’s Creed Valhalla is another success in the series.||PS4|
|PowerUp! - Leo Stevenson||96 ~ 9.6 / 10||Assassin's Creed Valhalla is the best Assassin's Creed ever. Fully embracing its new genre and giving players so much choice and freedom has paid off handsomely. There's not really much more to say. You simply have to experience it for yourself.||XBSX|
|Gamers Heroes - Blaine Smith||95 ~ 95 / 100||Assassin's Creed Valhalla is the best tale the franchise has ever told, featuring the most varied and rewarding gameplay the series has seen in years. Valhalla will forever dine in Odin's Hall as one of the greatest RPGs of this generation.||PS4|
|Vamers - Edward Swardt||95 ~ 95 / 100||It is, undoubtedly, the best Ubisoft has to offer at this stage in time, and will forever be regarded as one of the greats in the Assassin's Creed franchise.||XBSX|
|Game Informer - Joe Juba||93 ~ 9.3 / 10||Assassin's Creed Valhalla is full of interesting stories and fun interlocking systems, making it an engrossing world you can easily get lost in||XBSX|
|Impulsegamer - Stephen Heller||92 ~ 4.6 / 5||A intriguing change of pace that gives the Assassin's Creed series the breathing room it has so desperately needed for eons, without making any compromises on content. Well worth you time to enter the gates of Valhalla.|
|PC Gamer - Steven Messner||92 ~ 92 / 100||Bloody and captivating, Valhalla is Assassin's Creed at its best.||PC|
|Critical Hit - Darryn Bonthuys||90 ~ 9 / 10||A saga for the ages, Assassin's Creed Valhalla is a breathtaking journey of discovery that has a cold charm to it. It is both serious and ludicrous in equal measure, an RPG that has added more than it has removed from its core experience while delivering a game that feels familiar and completely new at the same time. Skal!||XBSX|
|Digitally Downloaded - Matt Sainsbury||90 ~ 4.5 / 5 stars||That being said, as far as the gameplay is concerned, this series is going nowhere interesting at this point there while there will be more, and I really implore Ubisoft to take a good, hard look at the bloat and consider whether a more streamlined approach that doesn't get in the way of the best feature (the history and narrative) would not be wiser next time around.||PS4|
|DualShockers - Cameron Hawkins||90 ~ 9 / 10||Assassin's Creed Valhalla is a combination of everything that made the series great up to this point while cementing all that it needs moving forward.||XB1|
|Game Rant - Joshua Duckworth||90 ~ 4.5 / 5 stars||Assassin's Creed Valhalla is a love letter to fans of the classic action-adventure titles as well as the newer role-playing mechanics.||XB1|
|GameZone - Mike Splechta||90 ~ 9 / 10||As an Assassin's Creed fan who has stuck by the series through its high points, and was certainly disappointed by many of its low points, I can confidently say that what Ubisoft has crafted here was not only crafted with an immense amount of love and respect for the series, but for its fans as well. Assassin's Creed Valhalla is one Viking adventure you certainly don't want to miss.||PS4|
|Gamer Escape - Eliot Lefebvre||90 ~ 9 / 10||Like I said at the beginning, you kind of want these games at some point to stop working, but… Assassin’s Creed: Valhalla really works. It works in all the ways it wants to work. It takes the bones of its predecessor and improves the overall gameplay significantly, giving players plenty to do, characters to invest in, and a satisfying core gameplay loop that’s been refined down to a careful formula at this point.||PS4|
|GamesRadar+ - Louise Blain||90 ~ 4.5 / 5 stars||With a sprawling world to conquer and gory combat but also the chance to use that iconic hidden blade, Assassin's Creed Valhalla brings a triumphant balance to the series.||XBSX|
|GamingBolt - Shubhankar Parijat||90 ~ 9 / 10||Assassin's Creed's third crack at the massive open world RPG formula is also its most confident, making for a streamlined yet sprawling adventure that ranks as one of the best the series has delivered since its inception over a decade ago.||XB1|
|Glitched Africa - Marco Cocomello||90 ~ 9 / 10||Assassin's Creed: Valhalla may be an even further step away from the traditional Assassin's Creed recipe but it is still a great game. Besides the addictive combat and fantastic skill tree, I loved how it fixed the pacing issues from Odyssey. I had a purpose this time around and knew where I was going and what I was doing. The Viking setting is refreshing too and delivers some decent tales to experience while exploring a breathtaking world.||PS4|
|Noisy Pixel - Azario Lopez||90 ~ 9 / 10||Assassin’s Creed Valhalla takes the advancements of the series found in Odyssey and applies it to a whole new setting. As brutal as the period of Vikings is, there’s something beautiful about this adventure. Every action is rewarded with some great moments of storytelling, and aside from a few narrative roadblocks tied to the player’s level, there’s an amazing world here just waiting to be discovered.||PS4|
|Press Start - James Mitchell||90 ~ 9 / 10||Assassin's Creed Valhalla blends old and new to create a unique experience and one of the best Assassin's Creed experiences yet. It combines series-best combat, a compelling story, and mesmerizing locales to dually offer a definitive Viking and assassin experience.||XBSX|
|Pure Playstation - Chris Harding||90 ~ 9 / 10||Ubisoft delivers another open-world epic, but this time it's a focused and streamlined affair. The graphical overhaul works to announce the end of one era and the beginning of another as Assassin's Creed continues its ongoing evolution as an accessible action-adventure for the long-time fans, while still offering a deep RPG experience for those introduced via Origins and Odyssey.||PS4, XB1|
|Rocket Chainsaw - David Latham||90 ~ 4.5 / 5 stars||It’s hard to find flaws in Valhalla unless you’re a die-hard Assassin’s Creed fan.||XB1|
|Stevivor - Ben Salter||90 ~ 9 / 10||Like Origins, Valhalla benefits from a year off with a fresh audience. It doesn’t reboot this time, but instead improves upon the duo it’s following, introducing proven elements from some of the best in the business.||XBSX|
|TechRaptor - Nirav Gandhi||90 ~ 9 / 10||Assassin's Creed Valhalla streamlines the best parts of Origins and Odyssey while trimming the fat, though is hampered consistently by bugs and technical problems. Still, it's a journey well worth taking.||PC|
|Video Game Sophistry - Andy Borkowski||90 ~ 9 / 10||This is not a tactical assassination simulator - it's a complicated, crafted and nearly perfect open world experience that (if you give it a chance) it will win you over|
|WellPlayed - Adam Ryan||90 ~ 9 / 10||Valhalla brilliantly mixes brutal combat with satisfying stealth to offer up a package that ticks many open-world boxes that are so often missed||PS4|
|Sirus Gaming - Jarren Navarrete||85 ~ 8.5 / 10||Eivor's tale is an interesting story to experience and the gameplay that comes along the journey is liberating without being repetitive. With that, we recommend the game fully. It's not without its flaws. Even under the shadow of its predecessors, Valhalla is certainly a game that stands on its own.||PS4|
|Wccftech - Francesco De Meo||85 ~ 8.5 / 10||Assassin's Creed Valhalla is a definite step up for the series, thanks to the many tweaks made to the RPG mechanics that powered the previous two entries in the series, better storytelling, great atmosphere, and meaningful side-content. Even with the tweaks, however, Assassin's Creed Valhalla is still an Assassin's Creed game at heart, so those who are not into the Ubisoft open-world game design will hardly change their opinion with the game.||PC|
|Cubed3 - Drew Hurley||80 ~ 8 / 10||Fans of the series are going to adore Assassin's Creed Valhalla. Origins and Odyssey felt like Ubisoft trying something new, stretching out and seeing what worked, and Valhalla takes what was learned there and expands upon it. Some things, like the combat, don't feel quite there yet, still, but other elements absolutely have evolved for the better. There's a lot to love here, and not just in the frankly absurd amount of content available. The story is fantastically enjoyable, with Eivor really shining throughout (play Female for what feels the canon story!) - they are truly deserving of standing alongside the icons of this long-running series. This is a legendary tale and an addition to the franchise that is good enough for the gods.||PS4|
|GameSkinny - Jordan Baranowski||80 ~ 8 / 10 stars||Assassin's Creed: Valhalla builds its world around a familiar formula, but with a compelling story and plenty of things to do, it's a game series fans will find inviting.||PC|
|GameSpot - Jordan Ramée||80 ~ 8 / 10||Though its campaign takes time to get going, Assassin's Creed Valhalla brings a satisfying finish to the current saga of the franchise.||XBSX|
|Hardcore Gamer - Chris Shive||80 ~ 4 / 5||Assassin's Creed Valhalla brings quality of life improvements to the new Assassin's Creed model but doesn't stray too far from familiar territory.||PS4|
|IGN - Brandin Tyrrel||80 ~ 8 / 10||Assassin's Creed Valhalla is a massive, beautiful open-world fueled by brutal living and the dirty work of conquerors. It's a lot buggier than it should be but also impressive on multiple levels.||XBSX|
|PlayStation Universe - Michael Harradence||80 ~ 8 / 10||Assassin's Creed Valhalla is everything I hoped it would be, and more. It sells the Viking fantasy flawlessly, is brimming gorgeous locations, vistas and interesting characters, and will keep you busy for 100 or so hours if you want to grab everything on offer. It's buggy in places, and the grinding is overwhelming at times to the point where it spoils the feeling of exploration and progression. However, these shortcomings can be overlooked if you're willing to stick with it. And you should, because Eivor's journey is one worth soaking up.||PS4|
|Shacknews - Bill Lavoy||80 ~ 8 / 10||Ubisoft is known for their fun open worlds, but it appears that experience and previous stumbles have seen them take big steps forward, making Valhalla one of their best Assassin's Creed games in recent memory.||PC|
|The Digital Fix - Seb Hawden||80 ~ 8 / 10||Assassin's Creed Valhalla is fun, with its many activities and a rewarding gameplay loop. There is nothing better than rocking up to a monastery with your raucous crew and robbing them blind.||PS4|
|Windows Central - Jennifer Locke||80 ~ 4 / 5 stars||Assassin's Creed Valhalla provides a gorgeous playground to explore with excellent combat. Though the story seems unnecessarily long, it's a fun Viking tale mixed with the series' own flare and sci-fi elements.||XB1|
|Screen Rant - Rob Gordon||70 ~ 3.5 / 5 stars||Enjoyable, but struggles with scope.||PS4|
|USgamer - Reid McCarter||70 ~ 3.5 / 5 stars||Assassin's Creed Valhalla's vision of ninth-century England is a beautiful place to explore, populated with a great cast of characters who make up for the bland new protagonist, Eivor. Nevertheless, the tired overarching story of Templars and Assassins, and a design ethos that overstuffs the setting with side activities, add unnecessary bloat and distractions to the experience. Valhalla's a solid action-adventure game that does well to capture the turmoil of its historical era, but it's weighed down by the increasingly ponderous legacy of the series it represents.||XB1|
|Destructoid - Brett Makedonski||65 ~ 6.5 / 10||But I also found myself making excuses for Assassin's Creed Valhalla until I couldn't any longer. It mimics the Odyssey formula but takes a step backward in almost every way. It sacrifices story for scale. It's designed to discourage stealth in favor of epic battles. It's true to the Viking experience, but it isn't true to the Assassin's Creed experience. That's why it comes off feeling like the least essential game in the whole series. Impressive in some of its accomplishments, but inessential all the same.||XB1|
|Worth Playing - Chris "Atom" DeAngelus||65 ~ 6.5 / 10||Assassin's Creed: Valhalla is a mostly solid, if somewhat unambitious, Assassin's Creed game that is dragged down by a shockingly poor PS4 release. I look forward to seeing how it runs on a PS5, but the last-gen version is hard to recommend due to the sheer amount of issues that I encountered while playing through the game. If you discount those issues, Valhalla would be a comfortable 8.0, but one can't just ignore those issues. Fans looking to continue the franchise's story should wait until Valhalla receives a series of patches or until they can pick up a next-gen version.||PS4|
|Gadgets 360 - Akhil Arora||60 ~ 6 / 10||Assassin's Creed Valhalla is too much of the same thing, and it's not nearly engaging enough.||XB1|
|Game Revolution - Michael Leri||50 ~ 2.5 / 5 stars||Obsessing over playtime and Content™ at the cost of innovation and depth puts Valhalla‘s ability to actually get into Valhalla in question, as it doesn’t quite earn the kind of glory that only the best Vikings achieve.||PS4|
Thanks OpenCritic for the review export
What Could Have Been: Gaolang Wongsawat vs. Yumigahama Hikaru
"AND IT'S GAOLANG!"
Long-dead Mt. Godslayer seemed fit to erupt. Katahara Sayaka's bellow, bolstered by the Dome's truly monstrous sound system, struggled vainly against the thousands-strong roar as Thailand's most lethal export strode towards the ring. Spotlights and camera flashes danced across narrow creeks of sweat as they rolled down his ever-placid face, countless screens blaring highlights of his storied career in the ring.
And, as his teammates chattered about who should serve as their vanguard, Yumigahama Hikaru asked himself whether spiting his former co-workers was worth trading hands with the greatest boxer on Earth.
He laughed to himself. Yes, obviously.
Hands in his pockets, he stepped towards his team's stairs, only for a skeletal hand to clack against his chest. His brow furrowed as he turned to his smallest teammate.
"What's the big idea, Carlo-"
His nose exploded before he could finish his sentence. A hand instinctively shot up to staunch the bleeding, and Carlos Medel took the opportunity to saunter towards the ring in his place.
Part of Yumigahama insisted that it wasn't worth causing a scene, that he'd have other opportunities to further insult Dainippon Bank. Another, much louder part wanted to crush that little fucker.
As Carlos opened his mouth to make some snappy quip of his own, Yumigahama clamped down on his shoulder and spun him around. "El Dorado's" sunken eyes met "The Traitor Fang's" furious glare.
"Tenemos un problema, Yumigahama?" said Carlos, his bantamweight frame exuding heavyweight malice.
"No sé, amigo," Yumigahama hissed through his customary rictus; he'd taken a short online course in Spanish for the express purpose of torquing Jose before their rematch. "Que piensas?"
None of their teammates seemed inclined to get between them, though Nicolas Le Banner had pulled out his phone at some point and was gleefully recording. Naidan Monkhbat sighed, turning to Toa Mudo.
"And it looks like Purgatory's taking their time in choosing their fighter!" came Sayaka's voice before he could even ask the Maori giant to pull them apart.
"Not surprising," Jerry Tyson chimed in. "The first fight can easily set the tone for the whole tournament. You pick wrong, and you might never recover."
Carlos and Yumigahama opened their mouths for a fresh burst of invective, only to freeze at the sound of "Enough" from the back of the room. Every fighter present, save an apathetic Alan Wu, turned to the figure seated against the wall.
"If you're going to act like children," Lolong Donaire began with the air of a disappointed schoolmarm, "do it on your own time. Not when you're representing Purgatory."
The feuding pair snapped their gazes back towards one another, banishing the momentary fear in their features in favor of their previous expressions. Carlos raised a fist, smiled at Yumigahama's flinch, and brought his other hand beneath it palm-up.
Yumigahama snorted. "Against you and your foresight bullshit? Not a chance."
"Then what do you suggest?"
"I'm thinking of a number between one and 100," Nicolas chirped. They turned to him, bewildered. "Whoever guesses closest gets to fight."
"43," said Carlos.
"44," Yumigahama replied.
"And Yumigahama wins! It was 64." Nicolas clapped his hands, a patronizing smile shining beneath his sunglasses. "Go get 'em, champ~"
With a short bark of laughter, Yumigahama shoved Carlos aside. The spotlights latched onto him as he emerged to a chaotic chorus of cheers and boos, and as he climbed the stairs, Naidan looked at Nicolas.
"What was the actual number?"
Nicolas declined to answer in favor of chasing an enterprising butterfly.
Shiina Alisa, undaunted by the expressionless Gaolang or the leering Yumigahama, rattled off her customary pre-fight instructions. She was loud enough, and the Kengan room close enough, that the team heard her in stereo.
"Man," said Okubo Naoya, leaning on the railing. "It didn't really hit me 'til I saw him next to Gaolang, but that's one big boy."
"Shouldn't be anything new for Gaolang," Hayami Masaki replied, not looking up from his book. "He unified the heavyweight titles as a natural cruiserweight."
"Yeah, true enough." Okubo rested his chin on his clown-sleeved arms, watching Yumigahama refuse to touch 'em up, then looked back at Kanoh Agito. "I know you and Misasa wanted a piece o' that guy. You fine with Gaolang fighting him instead?"
The Fifth Fang pondered quietly for a moment. The sight of Yumigahama mockingly winking at him drowned beneath memories of fists as hard as stone, of an eight-limbed auger boring into him to unearth long-forgotten motes of fear. Then his lips quirked up in a slight smile.
"I trust Gaolang Wongsawat to avenge The Master."
"No complaints here, either," said Misasa, smoothing an imperceptible wrinkle from his suit. "Means I get to pick on someone my own size instead. Or close enough to it."
"A'ight then." Okubo blew out a breath. "Public martial arts versus Fangs of Metsudo, take three."
Shiina extended her arms palms-out, eyes flicking from one fighter to the other. Gaolang had lowered his left arm into his customary "Hitman" stance, letting it swing idly from side to side as he stared at his opponent from above a cocked right fist. Yumigahama held a more neutral stance, his hips low and his hands high.
"Ready..." she began.
"Think I could have one of your belts once you wake back up?" Yumigahama said with faux sincerity. "Maybe the WBA one? You know that one's not worth shit."
"I much preferred your predecessor," Gaolang replied. "At least his talk wasn't empty."
Yumigahama barreled forward with shocking speed, sending a wild right hand lashing at the his opponent. Gaolang caught it on his shoulder and turned it aside, only for Yumigahama to crash into hips, the big man's hands scrabbling for purchase on his shorts.
"Yumigahama's already looking to grapple!" Sayaka shouted.
"Not even Kanoh Agito could overpower Gaolang on the feet," Jerry added. "Time to see what kinda ground game the Sixth Fang's got."
He was too close for a knee, but not deep enough to stop a sprawl. Gaolang launched his feet back and dropped every ounce of weight onto the back of Yumigahama's head, forcing his face into the concrete as underhooks denied him a proper grip.
They remained in that awkward position for several seconds. Gaolang, knowing any opponent worth their salt would do everything in their power to avoid a pure striking match, was more than seasoned in defensive grappling. He knew better than to rush things and leave himself open. Instead, he thumped at Yumigahama's midsection as he waited for the man to turn the corner, pull guard, hunt for a new grip, any sort of transition.
His toes skidded on concrete, and he realized with a start that Yumigahama had no intention of completing a traditional takedown. Yumigahama's massive legs strained until the musculature was visible through his baggy pants, forcing Gaolang back foot by foot.
"Incredible! He's actually pushing Gaolang from that position!"
Yumigahama picked up speed with every step, bulldozing through 91 kilograms of resistance as the edge of the ring fast approached. Gaolang attempted to turn him with his underhooks, but found Yumigahama's white-knuckle grip too tight to dislodge. From that angle, Gaolang could just make out the edges of his foe's smile.
"You know," Yumigahama gritted out, "at first I figured I'd just knock you out. Then I thought to myself, 'wouldn't it be hilarious if I just shoved his ass out of the ring?'"
Gaolang was running out of ground to give. Yumigahama had picked up an unstoppable head of steam, and the man's strength seemed insurmountable. The world seemed to slow as Gaolang scoured his arsenal for something, anything to stand between him and the pending humiliation.
Sweeping aside years of ingrained boxing habits, he found it.
The crowd's rumble, previously growing in inverse proportion to the fighters' remaining real estate, stuttered. The building cacophony gave way to a indistinct jumble of noise before returning twofold.
"DOWN! HE'S DOWN IN THE FIRST 30 SECONDS OF THE MATCH!"
Straightening his shorts, rolling his shoulders, Gaolang Wongsawat walked away from Yumigahama Hikaru's unmoving body without a glance. Shiina's count pierced the omnipresent roar as blood dripped ponderously from the Sixth Fang's unkempt mane.
"He got him already?!" Yamashita Kazuo yelled, jaw slack.
"Shit," Okubo said with a whistle. "If those were allowed in Ultimate Fight, I'd never shoot another takedown."
"That can't be it, can it?" Rihito's eyes rapidly bounced between his teammate in the ring and his teammate beside him. "One elbow to the back of the head and it's over?"
"One elbow to the back of the head from the strongest Nak Muay of all time? That he didn't see coming?" Okubo replied. "You should be more surprised that he's still breathin'."
"Why didn't he use that earlier?" Rihito asked.
"Guy's spent the last chunk of his life gettin' told over and over that he can't hit people in the back of the head. Hell, I almost pulled back when I soccer kicked Kanoh at the tournament."
"Still, isn't this kinda anticlimactic?"
"What, would you prefer he got back-"
"AND HE'S UP! Yumigahama beats the count!"
Every head in the locker room, even Hayami's, snapped to the previously prone figure shakily rising to its feet. Bloodshot eyes glared daggers at Gaolang, who seemed only mildly surprised that his job wasn't finished.
"Jesus fuckin' Christ," Okubo breathed, "what's he made of?"
"Now you're sounding like Adam," Yamashita deadpanned.
Yumigahama Hikaru was angry.
This was not a new sensation. Anger at everyone and everything that had ever or would ever potentially wrong him always bubbled just beneath his surface-level arrogance. This, however, had transcended standard-issue retributive fury, becoming a fiery pillar that nearly propelled his desire to murder Gaolang beyond his desire to keep his fight purse.
He desperately, desperately wanted to charge in and start breaking digits one-by-one. Self-preservation, a reasonably accurate assessment of his own abilities, and a need to pay back the humiliation, however, offered a different suggestion.
Gaolang quirked an eyebrow as Yumigahama turned side-on, lowering himself into something almost resembling Karate's kokutsu-dachi stance. Then he went lower, open palms closing as though around the haft of an invisible weapon.
"You appear to have forgotten something," Gaolang said as he retook his stance. "Perhaps I hit you too hard."
"You really think I need a weapon to kick your ass?"
Gaolang looked pointedly at the splotches of blood slowly dripping from his right elbow.
Yumigahama's hairless brow twitched in profoundly unpleasant fashion. Without a word, he surged forward, leading with the bent knuckle of his lead thumb. Gaolang once more set his shoulder to intercept. Yumigahama's spearpoint slammed into the meat of his lead arm and skidded off.
Taking a teaspoon-sized chunk of flesh with it.
Gaolang missed a step, giving Yumigahama room to hop back and reset his feet. As Gaolang assessed the damage, sending out half-hearted Flashes, Yumigahama brought his blood-spattered thumb to his lips and took a lick.
"Big surprise, the piece of shit tastes like shit." He sank even lower, giving the air of a sprinter at the starting line. "Betcha the next one takes an eye."
His eyes widened a fraction as Gaolang took the initiative, slipping inside the reactive spear thrust and unleashing a ferocious series of jabs. That immovable grin swayed back just out of reach, and a stabbing pain above his right eyebrow left Gaolang unable to press the advantage.
Yumigahama held up his own crimson fingertips, prompting a frown from Gaolang. From a minimalist spear to a discount Devil Lance in one motion. He was no stranger to cuts, so the rivulets running from his head failed to bother him, but this new development looked troubling.
No matter. Cutting, stabbing, crushing, it was all striking in the end. And he, Rama's sword, stood at the apex of striking.
Team Purgatory watched in silence as mixed martial arts turned into fencing. Gaolang pressed forward, searching for angles that would carry him around the snakelike edge of Yumigahama's spear, while the latter took full advantage of the ring's considerable real estate to keep him at bay. Only the occasional kick to Yumigahama's trailing lead leg managed to answer the steadily growing collection of cuts marring the world champion's sweat-streaked face and chiseled frame.
The crowd, meanwhile, offered its opinion on the match freely.
"STOP BEING A PUSSY AND FIGHT!"
"YOU'RE MAKING THE GLADIATORS LOOK BAD!"
Liu Dongcheng sighed. "We're off to a great start."
"It's working, though, isn't it?" Fei Wangfeng chimed in. "Gaolang hasn't landed a clean hit on him since the knockdown."
"I'm not saying it doesn't work, just that it sucks."
"A win's a win," said Arashiyama Jurota. "Yuko, waza-azari, ippon, all that matters is what's on the scoreboard."
"We're still going to give him shit for it, though, right?" Liu asked.
"It's not gonna work," Carlos suddenly chimed in from his spot against the railing. "Keep watching."
Watch, they did. Slowly, imperceptibly to the untrained eye, Gaolang was closing the distance. Clean thrusts became glancing blows as he seemingly nailed down Yumigahama's bizarre timing, and the mounting leg kicks were adding critical milliseconds to Yumigahama's side- and backsteps.
What team members were actually invested in the outcome drew a collective breath as Yumigahama bit on a feint, giving Gaolang a clean shot at his head, then let it out as the big man's rear hand carved a divot out of Gaolang's forehead.
Before Gaolang could react to the sudden shift in style, a spear thrust to the solar plexus knocked him back, once more giving Yumigahama room to operate.
"Kamijo-style spearmanship at long range, Kokuji dual-sword style at medium range, constant movement to keep him out of short range," Lolong said by way of explanation. "More strategic than I'd expected out of you, Yumigahama."
"He's gotten faster at switching between styles, too. And he's targeting Gaolang's face to speed up the bleeding and affect his vision," Terashi said with a nod.
"Still not gonna work," Carlos insisted. "You should've stopped him from going out."
"Why isn't it..." Liu began as Lolong gave the slightest nod. His face curled into a pout. "...you're just going to tell me to keep watching, aren't you?"
Carlos' face matched the calavera on his shorts.
As he watched his bloodied foe wipe a fresh stream of blood from his eye, Yumigahama snuck a glance at Kanoh Agito, hoping to savor the inevitable frustration on the robotic bastard's face. Instead, he found the ghost of a grin.
Before he could puzzle that out, Gaolang's face filled his field of vision, having slipped past the initial spear thrust. Yumigahama brought his knuckles up for another gouge and prepared to backstep.
His subconscious mind kept his feet where they were, and as Gaolang loaded up his right hand, Yumigahama realized he'd run out of room.
Pure instinct allowed him to partially slip the incoming cross, and even the glancing impact felt less like a human punch and more like a sledgehammer. Up came his swords, only to crash harmlessly against Gaolang's guard as the Thai champion stepped past their minimum effective range.
Yumigahama had failed to properly understand that punches weren't the true treasure of Gaolang's boxing experience.
Blending traditional Muay Thai with boxing was nothing new; Dutch kickboxers had turned it into an art form years ago. What made Gaolang's Muay Thai such a unique and fearsome hybrid was his incorporation of boxing footwork into the traditionally static Thai style.
The massive ring was far more difficult to cut off than the traditional squared circle, but with the damage Gaolang had inflicted to Yumigahama's lead leg, he'd managed it.
Just as Yumigahama had planned.
His grin grew feral as he wrapped his massive arms around the oncoming destroyer's upper body. The first elbow had instilled a deep disinterest in lower-body takedowns, but he didn't need them. Instead, he went for a recently purloined technique: a bokh throw. With Naidan's shout of "YOU PIECE OF SHIT" ringing in his ears, he turned to heave Gaolang out of the ring.
The Thai God of War didn't budge.
"You didn't forget that Muay Thai isn't just strikes, did you?" he said with utter disdain.
Gaolang's hands snapped around the back of Yumigahama's head, his forearms resting on his collarbones. With a jerk and a foot sweep, he forced Yumigahama to stumble, then drove a tamping iron of a knee into his midsection.
Yumigahama retched, tasting blood. The second knee caught him in the face. Something cracked loud enough to drown out the announcers' explanations of Thai clinch fighting.
Yumigahama's back muscles showed through his loose shirt as he desperately straightened up, only for an elbow to catch him on the jaw. He instinctively ducked back down, where another knee was waiting.
On one side: a rock. On the other: a hard place. Everything in between: on fire. Yumigahama was spiraling.
It takes a certain amount of self-deception to maintain one's confidence in the aftermath of defeat, and Yumigahama's five losses under Purgatory's banner had turned him into an expert. A small part of his mind flailed for an excuse, any excuse, to explain away the ongoing mauling.
A bigger part smashed those thoughts into the dirt, driven to a frenzy by the desperate circumstances. His hands, previously trying and failing to prevent the onslaught of bony meteors, grabbed Gaolang's head in return. He reared back, over 130 kilograms of feral colossus preparing to drive his forehead into Gaolang's shredded mess of a face.
Afterwards, spectators compared the sound to a gunshot.
Gaolang Wongsawat lowered his knee from the grotesque indentation it had left in Yumigahama's face, driven by both his own strength and the diverted momentum of the Traitor Fang's desperate headbutt. He released his grip and let the limp mountain of muscle crash to the ground.
"That was your final move? Do you even know who my rival is?"
The world exploded into noise, louder than any three of his title defenses put together. Even then, he could hear Saw Paing's distinctive howl rise above it. Shiina Alisa's unnecessary count was lost in the cacophony.
"I'll admit," said Gaolang, mentally acknowledging the absurdity of speaking to an unconscious man, "I was angry on Kanoh's and Misasa's behalf at first, but I am glad you decided to face me. It would have been terrible to waste a Fang on the likes of you."
"AND IT'S OVER! YOUR WINNER IS GAOLANG WONGSAWAT!"