Ubisoft’s latest addition to the popular Assassin’s Creed franchise has arrived with Valhalla’s Dawn of Ragnarök. Now, you may be thinking “surely you mean the latest DLC?”. Well I do and I don’t. See, Ubisoft are pushing and marketing this add on / DLC as a standalone experience. You can also purchase the game “physical” via a code in a box, confusing things even further.
The last time we saw this was with Freedom Cry, way back on last gen consoles. As an add on to Assassin’s Creed IV Black Flag, Freedom Cry started life as a DLC, and ended up receiving a standalone version that did not require the base game to play.
Dawn of Ragnarök currently requires (I say currently as I fully expect a standalone version to drop) access to Assassin’s Creed Valhalla to launch. Complicated, sure, but I wanted it all laid out before we begin.
BEWARE MINOR SPOILERS AHEAD FOR VALHALLA AND DAWN OF RAGNAROK
Before you start the Ragnarök campaign you have options, you can either build the Valka’s hut in Ravensthorpe and access the DLC with your current Eivor build, or you can start a new game in the title menu and select Valhalla or Ragnarok as the game type.
Begin a new game, select Ragnarök and the game provides you with a prebuilt level 340 Eivor and gives you some weapons and gear. However, this means you cannot use weapons and gear obtained from Valhalla. It also means you cannot visit any other map location outside of Svartalfheim.
Gameplay in Ragnarök (as with the vision quests in Valhalla) is exactly the same as within the real (Animus) world. These areas were given a fantasy-like lick of paint and characters were shared between the realms. For example Basim the hidden one became the god Loki on Asgard or your brother Sigurd who became Tyr. Personally I adored the look into Norse mythology and welcomed the distraction from dealing with kings and jarls. Sure it also replaces kings and jarls with gods and demi gods but you get the picture.
The main story is set in the kingdom of Svartalfheim and you take control of Havi. For players who haven’t yet built the seer’s hut in Ravensthorpe this may come out of left field. You see fellow Assassin/Viking, when Eivor visits the seer she gives you a potion to drink. A potion that allows you to experience visions/life as Havi. You are still in the body of Eivor but are actually a reincarnation of the god Odin.
Havi must rescue his son, Baldr, from fire giants and their leader Sutr. Yup, these hulking monsters have taken your boy and it’s time to get him back. Just to really drive their point home they kill your wife as you lie helpless watching. By allying with the dwarves of Svartalfheim, you must utilise their assistance and fight back against the fire demons. Each area is divided up like in Valhalla with their own chapters, and missions, making the game feel more like an extension of what was already there rather than an evolution.
You use new temporal powers to fight your way across these lands. The new powers are a really neat addition, a genuine highlight of the DLC. Havi is granted the power Hugr Rip, this enables him to rip the very soul out of enemies and utilise abilities or take their form. I wish the ability to transform into a raven was in the main game as well. This makes traversing the land slightly less soul draining (pun intended), as many a time playing through the main campaign in Valhalla, I wished I could have just warped to wherever my raven had flown when checking out areas.
Character relationships between the dwarves are very well fleshed out. Each has their own thoughts on what current events mean and interpret them in their own way. The enemies also have their own motivations for what they are doing and have well written scenes when they fill the screen with fire filled rage. The narrative in Dawn of Ragnarök is definitely another strong point. It puts the cherry on the top of Eivor’s vision quest missions and adds depth to Havi’s story.
New enemies in Dawn of Ragnarök are really just reskins of the enemies in the main game, except on fire. Talking of fire, they can also ignite weapons they are using, increasing damage dealt to Eivor/Havi. Also hindering your progress is their war cry ability, when in large groups the cry resurrects their fallen brethren. Weapons are all the same as we saw in Valhalla except for one – The atgeir, very much like the scythe we saw in the previous Paris DLC, albeit slower; a missed opportunity for a whole new arsenal exclusive to Ragnarok.
Svartalfheim, like the countryside of England before it, is a beautiful landscape. Rolling hills and giant statues fill the landscape as you explore each area. A giant fire tree with tentacle-like branches fills the centre of the map here. While exploration varies from the tight crevices of dwarven mines to scaling mountains (including one made of gold). It really feels like you are in a landscape pulled right out of Lord of the Rings or even Elden Ring. Looking good has never been an issue with Assassins Creed and Dawn of Ragnarök does not disappoint in the beauty department.
Treasures, world events, viewpoints and various other “map cloggers” all return here and besides the new light based puzzles (which are few in number) everything plays as it already had for 100 plus hours in Valhalla. It is quite disappointing to have this wonderful new landscape to explore only to go through all the same tropes Eivor has been through already, albeit with a new molten lava skin modifier.
Near to the end of the DLC you unlock the valkyrie arena, which enables Havi to test his mettle in combat trials. Perhaps having the arena nearer the start of the DLC itself to serve as a practice ground would have been more fitting as Ubisoft are pushing this as a standalone experience. Nevertheless the inclusion could easily add on a few extra hours to the more dedicated players game time.
It continues the narrative you experience playing as Havi from the main game, and allows Ubisoft to dip their toes into the fantasy elements present in the series expansions since Assassin’s Creed 3. Some people may find these fantastical additions a turn off, I have always really enjoyed what they provide. Vastly different from the main story of the brotherhood/hidden ones, they occasionally can be silly, sure. Given a chance however, you may just see that they are actually some of the most creative game content out there.
For players who have finished the main campaign, Ragnarök fits well as substantial endgame content rather than just another side quest. Ubisoft have said the DLC is thirty-five hours long, making it their biggest DLC ever. Time spent will vary player to player, as from my experience Ubisoft’s time is very much based on 100% completion. Twenty to twenty-five hours is more realistic based on playing through the campaign and some side missions. This still places Ragnarök way higher in length than early Assassin’s Creed titles, and adds weight to the idea of it being a stand alone title.
For fans of Assassin Creed Valhalla’s gameplay, being able to mess around once again in the world by adding “what if” scenarios is the very definition of Valhalla. You will know if this is for you or not based on how much enjoyment you had in the main game. Dawn of Ragnarök has inherited all the flaws of its older sibling Valhalla.
Traversing enemy camp to hideout and taking out foes can be a tired trope for some after sinking 100 plus hours into the main game campaign. Using the same tactics and moves (new Hugr Rip abilities aside) can be tiresome, so I do understand where a lot of criticism will come from.
Looking at it from another angle though, the players who enjoy the new style of Assassin’s Creed understand exactly what they are signing up for. Dawn of Ragnarök does not try to break this formula, it simply tries to add to the experience by providing a new playground. I found the vision quests from the main story some of the best sections of the game, so Ragnarök was the icing on the cake for me.
If you love the mythological setting, sweet new armour sets and ability to turn into a bird, then Assassin’s Creed Valhalla: Dawn of Ragnarök may be one of the best expansions in the series. However, if you feel a bit of burn out after Valhalla and have no desire for more of the same with a new setting, it’s maybe best to avoid this trip to the beyond.
Personally I hope we see more of these fantasy style DLC additions in the future.
Assassin’s Creed Valhalla: Dawn of Ragnarök is available at the Xbox Store