Dawn of Ragnarök is the largest expansion to date for Assassin’s Creed: Valhalla, kicking off the second year of new content. With a larger map to explore than offered in the Wrath of the Druids and Siege of Paris expansions that came before, Dawn of Ragnarök also introduces more meaningful new abilities and gear than the early pair of expansions.
Taking place in the mythological dream world that serves as the core skeletal structure of Valhalla’s lore, Eivor is transported once again into the role of Odin, referred to as Havi. Tasked with rescuing your son, Baldur, from the fire giants, Odin must forge an alliance with the dwarves of Svartalfheim to prepare for a battle of the ages against the mighty Surtr and prevent Ragnarök – the end of all worlds.
With access to abilities that embrace the firey abilities of the Muspel’s and icy strength of the Jotuns, the combat has evolved into its most mythologically inspired iteration, yet which is enjoyable, varied and fun to experiment with when using the six new abilities to solve puzzles as well. A fantastical setting rooted in Norse mythology, fun boss fights and an excellent new suite of abilities result in a familiar yet engaging expansion to Eivor’s own evolution as they follow in the footsteps of a god.
The core gameplay remains unchanged from the base game, as does the mission variety for the most part throughout the near 8-hour story. The narrative starts slow, as does the pace of the early quests that have Eivor having to follow dwarven characters that move slower than what seems possible. Sprinting past them doesn’t encourage them to pick up the pace like some of these quests do in Valhalla’s base game, leaving the player having to barely push the joystick forward to be able to stay alongside them. Moving too far past them will cause them to stop and will only resume when returned to, instantly bogging down the sense of urgency that Odin must save his captured son, Baldur. Majority of the less than a dozen quest missions consist of following a character, finding keys or other items of interest, and a handful of boss fights. Mission variety certainly leaves a lot to be desired as it kills any sense of pace or urgency which undermines the driving force of the narrative to save the life of your son.
The Muspels and Jotuns that occupy Svartalfheim have some interesting characters in their ranks that keep the key story beats intriguing and dangerous, culminating in a story that ultimately portrays Odin in his most critical moments. The drama and emotional weight of his quest to save Baldur drives the story forward and adds layers to the character that is only briefly touched upon in the base game.
Dawn of Ragnarök opens and closes with a battle against Surtr and by doing so it is able to capture the journey of Odin in between, showing the emotional toil his search for Baldur has taken and the growth he has made a warrior in such a short time span. Surtr is visually menacing and monstrous, an appropriate foe to square off against the mighty All-Father of Asgard with stakes as high as they are in regard to the potential end of the world.
Despite the brevity of the story the large, open, explorable world of Svartalfheim is full of optional quests, collectibles to find and objectives to complete. Unfortunately, they too feel familiar and tried, sending players on a familiar path to climb, infiltrate and solve basic puzzles to find the treasures hidden around the admittedly diverse and visually striking landscapes. Having done these things so many times in Valhalla and both of its previous DLC expansions it’s a shame to see a lack of innovation with its quest structures. The Raids have been slightly altered, requiring players to topple Silica structures to have its resources for upgrading what is easily Dawn of Ragnarök’s greatest new feature, the Hugr-Rip, a mystical bracer that allows players to absorb up to two powers, from a total of six, from fallen enemies. The powers are temporary, and only two can be held at one time but their effects are enjoyably varied and certainly make combat more experimental and entertaining.
- The Power of Muspelheim ability prevents fire or lava from damaging the player and avoids detection from Muspels until provoked. The duration of this power is 25 seconds
- Upgrade #1 – Muspelheim Fury – Performs an explosion with use of a heavy attack within a 5-metre radius, breaking the player’s disguise if they were previously undetected
- Upgrade #2 – Muspelheim Endurance – Increases the duration to 35 seconds
- The Power of Rebirth ignites the player’s weapon and can set enemies on fire. Defeated foes are also resurrected to fight alongside you, turning the tides in large combat encounters. The duration of this power is 40 seconds
- Upgrade #1 – Instant Horde – Activation of the power resurrects all defeated enemies within a 10 metre radius with the exception of boss enemies
- Upgrade #2 – Shield of the Draugr – Damage received is reduced by 20%, eliminating interruptions when attacked by an enemy though damage is still taken
- The Power of the Raven shapeshifts the player into a raven that can soar to new heights and land on flat surfaces. The duration of this power is 30 seconds or until you land
- Upgrade #1 – Raven Assassin – Enemies can be air-assassinated. This counts as a landing however and the power will be deactivated upon use
- Upgrade #2 – Raven Endurance – Increases durability to 50 seconds, deactivating upon landing or whichever happens first
- The Power of Jotunheim grants the ability to shoot World Knots with the bow that teleport the player while dodging or rolling will also cause teleportation. Jotuns will not attack unless provoked while this ability is active. The duration of this power is 25 seconds
- Upgrade #1 – Jotunheim Incarnate – As long as the disguise is not broken by detection, each undetected assassination will increase the duration of the power by 15 seconds
- Upgrade #2 – Enemies can be teleported to when attacked with the bow, teleport-assassinating them
- The Power of Winter – Deals 30% more damage to Muspel giants, typically freezing them. Frozen enemies can be shattered. The duration of this power is 20 seconds
- Upgrade #1 – Winter’s Wrath – Shattering frozen enemies triggers a frost explosion that effects enemies that are close
- Upgrade #2 – Stabbing Cold – Damage is increased by 10% and enemies freeze at a faster rate
Use of these powers is also required to reach certain areas such as traversing lava with the Power of Muspelheim which would otherwise rapidly burn the player to death, infiltrating Muspels or Jotuns with the Power of Muspelheim or Jotunheim respectively or landing in trees that can’t be climbed with the Power of the Raven. Adding puzzle solving and exploration elements to the combat-focused nature of each of the powers is fun and challenges the player to decide which two to carry, as once a new power is picked up, the one discarded will need to be found and collected again.
These powers can all be upgraded at a blacksmith by using a combination of resources that are new to Valhalla. Silica is obtained from Raids, Giant feathers are obtained by killing the giant ravens which also drop the Power of the Raven power, Magma Blood and Living Sparks which can be obtained by killing Muspels as random drops though some enemy types always drop them and Jotun Seidr and Frozen Blood which is obtained in much the same way as Magma Blood but from Jotuns instead. The upgrades will award the abilities as listed above.
The new Atgeir weapon type is a polearm that offers little more variety than spears, failing to feel worthwhile unless your preferred weapon is already that type. A handful of new outfits can be found and unlocked but perhaps the best new addition to gear is the Divine level that gear can now be upgraded to. This increases gear rank from Legendary to Divine when upgraded, boosting stats, and allowing the addition of new powerful types of runes. Gear can, as always, be upgraded at a blacksmith in exchange for Platinum Ingot resource materials. Any gear the player may have purchased via the in-game store is automatically upgraded to Divine level which is a nice little way to appreciate our continued support of the game through purchases.
Aesthetically, Svartalfheim is stunning and hosts an array of jaw-dropping vistas that encompass many supernatural and mythological elements to make it feel grander. Large, floating, fiery stalactite looking rock formations pepper the horizon in striking fashion, as do the gold-laden mountains, lava filled ruins and ice-covered villages. Assassin’s Creed has always looked beautiful and Dawn of Ragnarök wonderfully infuses these mystical visuals with an incredibly vibrant, lush, and gorgeous natural landscape that is reminiscent of some of earth’s natural beauties as well.
Tony Allan (DAYNE)