Assassin's Creed Valhalla won't pump the brakes on the story by hitting players with level barriers, according to creative director Ashraf Ismail.
Ismail discussed Valhalla's EXP system in an interview with Kotaku, which asked him about lessons learned from the two chief EXP complaints spawned by Assassin's Creed Origins and Odyssey. Namely: story missions abruptly jumping in level and thereby forcing players to level up by doing side quests, and the presence of EXP boosters which could be purchased for real money.
"So we’ve reflected a lot since Origins on progression and what that means for players," Ismail explains, "and we have a new take on progression in this game. We have more the concept of power, power that is gained through, let’s say, the player gaining skills."
Ismail stressed that Valhalla is avoiding "any kind of big progression walls" like the aforementioned level barriers that occasionally delayed story missions in Origins and Odyssey. Valhalla will no-doubt have a wealth of side content available, but if you just want to press on with the story, it sounds like you'll be able to.
As for those controversial EXP boosters: while Ismail didn't directly confirm or deny whether Valhalla will offer a similar consumable, he did maintain that the team wants to "earn every single penny that you're going to pay" for the base game. We've already seen a suite of cosmetics offered through the various editions of Valhalla, so you can bet that the game will be monetized for the long run, but whether Ubisoft's strategy includes more than cosmetics remains to be seen.
Valhalla will revive some of the older aspects of Assassin's Creed, including social stealth and a proper one-hit-kill hidden blade.