Assassin’s Creed Valhalla: Dawn of Ragnarok – Impressions
Almost a year and a half after its release, we’ve finally got the mythology-focused expansion for Assassin’s Creed that we’ve all been waiting for – and it’s a big one. After getting a look at a preview just over a month ago I was excited to see some new weapons, powers and features in action as I stepped back into the shoes of Eivor-slash-Odin, and for the most part, it didn’t disappoint. If you wanted more mythology-focused content in the original game, this will be a real treat for you. The “vision” sections of Valhalla were never my favourites, but this content made me feel like I would have enjoyed them more if they’d been more like this. In short: this DLC is good. And it gives you armor that’s actively on fire, which instantly makes you look way cooler. What’s not to love?
It feels inevitable at this point that when you have an IP focused on Norse mythology, it will explore the epic series of events that is Ragnarok in some form. From Thor: Ragnarok in 2017 to the upcoming sequel to God of War, it’s becoming a staple of the Norse setting. But with good reason. Even though we’re already living in what feels like an apocalypse, we still crave the excitement that these apocalyptic threats can bring to a series. Here, in Dawn of Ragnarok, as the name suggests, the threat of Ragnarok is looming, but not yet imminent. While it weighs on Odin’s mind through this tale dedicated to his character development, it isn’t his main focus. Instead, his main focus is the rescue of his son, Baldr, who has been taken prisoner by Surtr, an unkillable fire giant, and who isn’t looking to let him go free with his life or soul intact. Without spoiling too much about Odin (or Havi, as he is often referred to)’s journey, the all-father needs to enlist the help of several past friends, foes, and complicated exes (he has many) as he tries to get Baldr, all with the threat of Ragnarok quietly looming.
If you have any familiarity with Norse legends, you will recognise some of the characters who make an appearance – and it is pretty cool to see these slightly different interpretations of them. If you have no familiarity at all, you might struggle a little, but this is a problem I had with the Odin storylines in general. It assumes a base level of knowledge that many won’t have in order to follow along with its often somewhat complex storyline, and while codex entries can help you to brush up on your mythology, having to go elsewhere to learn about the characters you’re meeting just to have the right amount of context to understand what’s happening can take you out of the action a little. That said, there is plenty of enjoyment to be had here if you take the approach of “I know these characters have greater importance, but I only care about their relevance in this moment”, which is pretty easy to do. It’s an exciting story, no matter your level of understanding, but you’ll obviously get a lot more out of it if you have previous knowledge.
It feels rare that DLC not only offers a whole new adventure for its protagonist(s), but also introduces a whole new set of mechanics, but it is this new set of mechanics that forms the core of Dawn of Ragnarok. Odin, being the all-powerful god that he is, obviously has some neat skills that Eivor doesn’t – and he’s finally willing to show more of them off. Using the power of a new tool called the Hugr-Rip, Odin is able to use powers stolen from the enemies he’s slain to approach battles in cool new ways. The Power of the Raven, for example, lets him take on the form of a raven and gain an advantage by flying to otherwise inaccessible places. Or The Power of Rebirth, which lets him basically raise an undead army, can be used to even the odds in a fight. He can even go undercover as a Muspel or a Jotunn and become immune to flames or gain the ability to teleport short distances. There are a lot of cool tricks here. They’re a lot of fun to use, but they do feel a little underutilised in the main quest. I wish I’d spent more time required to use them to approach problems, and less time escorting NPCs across the map, which, while interesting for the purpose of exposition, did get a bit tiresome pretty quickly.
The other thing that shakes things up in this latest expansion is the introduction of the Valkyrie fighting arena, which lets Odin gain experience and new upgrades by re-enacting the battles of his past under the guise of telling them as stories to try and impress the Valkyrie warriors. Given the Valkyries are positively badass warriors, having to work hard like this to try and tell stories that would impress them makes total sense, and it definitely adds an incentive to spend more time back in this world.
Of course, as in the main storyline, Odin just looks like Eivor for the duration of his adventures, which can add a little confusion (especially when playing as female Eivor), but you get used to it. The crossover means Eivor gets to be decked out with some hardcore looking armor, which you can take advantage of even if you don’t want to change your actual armor build. You’d better believe I changed the visual appearance of most of my items to maximise the amount of flames coming off me at any given time. There’s also a fun new weapon, the Atgeir, which is particularly great if you’re a fan of two-handed weapons – it packs a hell of a punch.
Overall, I had a great time with this DLC. It has some small pacing issues, but it shows off how the Odin sections of the storyline probably should have been all along, and it made for a welcome foray back into the world of Valhalla. It’s still Valhalla at its heart, but with a bunch of new toys to play with, so it’s definitely worth jumping back in for if you were a fan of the base game. For newcomers, it isn’t a great place to start (it isn’t supposed to be), but if it’s right up your alley, it’s also worth trying the game for. Do it for the flames.
Player 2 was given access to Assassin’s Creed Valhalla: Dawn of Ragnarok using a code kindly supplied by Ubisoft Australia.