It seems like Ragnarök keeps coming around more and more often lately. Marvel did it with Thor a few years ago. Sony is about to do it with the God of War franchise. Neil Gaiman won’t stop writing about it. And now, Assassin’s Creed is taking on its own version of the Norse end times with the “Dawn of Ragnarok” expansion to Assassin’s Creed Valhalla. Experience through, Eivor, visions of Odin’s quest to rescue his son Baldar from the grasps of Surtr, who has invaded Svartalfaheim with the combined might of the Muspels and the Jotun.
“Dawn of Ragnarok” is Assassin’s Creed’s biggest DLC yet, bringing players to an entirely new, large, and truly unique world. The DLC is basically a continuation of the Asgard and Jotunheim Sagas from the base game, bringing players to the land of the dwarves as Surtr conquers their realm and Odin fights to stave off his visions of Ragnarök. But things were already set in motion in the previous stories and Baldar’s kidnapping does not bode well for the continuation of the cycle. It’s a tad confusing to follow if you’re thinking too hard about it. You’re playing a video game where you control a character in modern types who uses a machine to relive the history of a long-dead Viking who, with the help of magic potions, is reliving her past life as the Norse High God Odin. Who, by the way, is actually an ancient being called an Isu and I won’t even try to explain any further from there because I will probably get something incorrect, it’s so complex.
But if you’re not an Assassin’s Creed lore enthusiast, don’t worry. The DLC really can stand on its own completely. In fact, one could wonder why this was released as an Assassin’s Creed Valhalla DLC and not a stand-alone project when it doesn’t even pertain to the main character of the game you’re playing. To that I say, let me get back to that later. But for the game as it exists, the story is easy to jump into even if you haven’t finished the other Odin stories in the base game. It’s also one of the strongest stories in any Assassin’s Creed DLC yet.
The tale of father and son is instantly rife with emotion. You’re thrust into the role of Odin as he and Frigg seek out their missing son. I’m often disappointed with how Assassin’s Creed stories set up great emotional stakes and fail to follow through because they’re too busy throwing in last-minute lore (ask me how I feel about Assassin’s Creed Unity). But here, we have an isolated story that certainly fits within the larger mythos but isn’t distracted by it from one end of the story to the next. This also gives other characters old and new, especially Eysa, time to grow on you in a way that side characters in the base game often just felt like means to a quest’s end.
“Dawn of Ragnarok” also adds ample new gameplay elements, especially the Hugr Rip. This new doohickey allows you to essentially harness the spirit of your fallen foes and use it in one of five magical powers. Each of them is distinct and serves repeated value in combat, stealth, and exploration. I actually found myself really craving these powers when I finished the DLC and returned to playing in the base game. I appreciate that they’re all unique and have repeated value rather than feeling like gimmicks the way so many of the new skills and weapon types have over the previous DLC. They’re fun to play with and made finding all of Svartalfaheim’s secrets the most fun it has been in a while.
Of course, Svartalfaheim itself is a huge draw as well. It’s a vibrant new world filled with mountains of gold, crystalline caverns, and great stoneworks that fill the landscape with something new at every corner. The enemy Muspel look epic with the fiery hair and the Jotun have a major upgrade to their appearance over the base game. The main characters all look downright amazing with truly unique designs and appearances.
Unlike Francia of the previous DLC, it feels well worth exploring every inch of the map, including its newly accessible skies. Some of the World Events are rather fresh as well and the Hugr powers really help mix up the puzzle-solving compared to the very repetitive previous several hundred hours of gameplay. The Valkyre arena is also a nice addition for those who want to challenge themselves to earn the best new armor set in the game.
One of my main issues though is I wanted more. For such a large price tag, my just over 20 hours completing nearly everything was fun, but not necessarily sufficient. I suspect this may not yet be the end of Assassin’s Creed Valhalla just yet, in which case, I say great. I love the game and how just utterly immersive it is in a highly enjoyable time period. It has some of the best exploration integration into quest-finding the series has done yet. But like I said. Ragnarök has been coming around quite often these days. And the reality is, Assassin’s Creed Valhalla has a rather weak combat system that makes it hard not to draw comparisons to Ragarök’s other contemporary iterations. There are some truly epic-looking bosses and theoretically awesome fights.
But even playing on the absolute highest difficulty I found most of it a breeze. Perhaps I’m over-leveled or just have played too many hours of this game? But the ease with which I beat even tough bosses left me lamenting my lack of a PlayStation, let’s just say. Assassin’s Creed isn’t known for its intricate combat, but I maintain that the combat in Assassin’s Creed Odyssey felt more challenging than the mere button-mashing this game tends to encourage.
I don’t play this game just for the combat though, I play it for the emersion and the story, and fortunately “Dawn of Ragnarok” brings them both in spades. It’s an epic family tale with great emotional weight. I am very pleased with the direction this expansion took Assassin’s Creed storytelling, absolutely hope that Havi’s saga continues and allows us to experience the end of times firsthand, perhaps explains a bit more about the Isu, and continues the franchise’s knack for blending incredible environments with one-of-a-kind historical storytelling.
Assassin’s Creed Valhalla: Dawn of Ragnarök is available on Xbox, PlayStation, PC, and Stadia March 10th.
Assassin's Creed Valhalla: Dawn of Ragnarök
- Rating - 7.5/107.5/10
Dawn of Ragnarok has rich emersion and story in its epic family tale with great emotional weight