Following a successful slate of DLC additions last year, Assassin’s Creed Valhalla is about to put forward its biggest addition yet. Dawn of Ragnarok, which is set to bring with it about 35 hours of fresh gameplay to expand on Eivor’s story, will be arriving next month, and thanks to Ubisoft we were able to attend a hands-off preview event to check out some gameplay ahead of the release. From what we’ve seen so far, this is no ordinary expansion.
Rather than putting the player directly back into the shoes of Eivor as we know them, Dawn of Ragnarok centers around their embodiment of Odin, the Norse god of Battle and Wisdom who also plays a large role in Valhalla’s main campaign. Odin, the powerful All-father is having some family issues. His son, Baldr, has been taken prisoner by the angry unkillable fire giant Surtr, and they’re not looking to give him up easily. So of course, he must launch a rescue mission – one that requires him to take on a heap of new foes and battle his way through hostile territory and call on some new allies to save Baldr (and, presumably, the day). This story seems like it’s going to show a much deeper side of Odin and reveal some personality traits that we haven’t seen yet in the main game – and I’m definitely excited to see how these new motivations shape this iteration of his character.
With this new expansion comes the inclusion of some opponents those familiar with Norse mythology might recognise, including the Jotnars (from Jotunheim) and Muspels (from Muspelheim), fire and ice enemies who now occupy the world of Svartalfheim where this journey takes place. Thankfully, Odin (as a powerful god) has a whole new slew of tricks up his sleeve for taking on these new threats – or at least, he has the ability to gain new tricks, with a little force. His ability to “aquire” (read: steal) powers from fallen enemies means that taking out opponents can open up new strategic options for our hero – and some of them seem like they really might change the way some people fundamentally approach encounters in this game.
In the short section we experienced, we saw Odin adopt the ‘Power of the Raven’, which (unsurprisingly) allows Odin to shapeshift into a raven and take to the skies, so that you can attack your enemies from above, and the ‘Power of Rebirth’, which Odin can use to resurrect his slain enemies to fight alongside him, necromancy style. All of these powers can be upgraded, so just like in the main game’s skill tree you can choose where you want to focus your energy, but not all powers can be equipped at once. You need to make choices about which ones will be most beneficial to you in the moment, which adds a layer of strategy to these nifty new powers. To use them, Odin must use a resource known as ‘Hugr’, or ‘life-force’, which he can replenish by doing neat things like sacrificing himself to… himself. I’m keen to see how he pulls that one off.
The new powers are the expansion’s biggest addition, but they’re not the only new thing that Dawn of Ragnarok will bring. It also introduces a new weapon, the Atgeir, which seems to be a spear-like weapon that’s best used by combining light and heavy attacks, along with the ability for players to further upgrade all their gear to a higher ‘divine’ quality. We’ll be able to test all these new skills and the power of their new gear in a new game mode, the ‘Valkyrie fighting arena’, which the devs suggest will be a good place to experiment with new character builds and approaches. If you want to make things a little harder, you’ll be able to use difficulty-increasing boasts, which are challenges that will bring with them extra rewards.
It’s pretty safe to say that what I saw of Dawn of Ragnarok has me excited. A whole heap of new powers to play with (all of which looked great in the gameplay we were lucky enough to view), some new unexpected allies like the dwarven refugees who are now forced to live in areas called ‘Shelters’ after the invasion of Svartalfheim, and some new enemies like Surtr’s wife Sinmara and his half-Jotun, half-Muspel son Glod, who both look appropriately fierce. With this expansion, it really looks like Ubisoft are taking advantage of the rich Norse mythology available to them, and now that I’ve had a glimpse of what’s possible it feels like it would have been a waste for them not to have gone down this path. The groundwork for something a little more magical was laid in the base game, so why not go all in?
While this expansion is designed to be played at a higher level to provide an extra challenge for existing and returning players, Odin’s quest will also be made available to lower level players who just want to take a level boost and jump straight into the action. So, whether you’re going to be new to Valhalla and Eivor’s adventures or this is going to pull you back in, Svartalfheim is ready for you.
Assassin’s Creed Valhalla: Dawn of Ragnarok will be available on March 10th, and can be pre-ordered now.