Title: Assassin’s Creed Valhalla: Dawn of Ragnarok Released On: March 10, 2022 Genre: Action-Adventure Reviewed On: Xbox Series X Developer: Ubisoft Montreal Publisher: Ubisoft MSRP: $39.99 USD / $49.99 CAD
In what is possibly the most highly anticipated DLC for an Assassin’s Creed game ever, the latest major expansion Dawn of Ragnarok has brought Eivor (Havi) back to the Nine Realms of Norse mythology. Following the events of Asgard and Jotunheim, Havi must stand together with the Dwarves against Surtr and the Muspels who have invaded from their Muspelheim and waged war upon Svartalfheim. It is a powerful story of loss and vengeance, which follows Havi on their quest to find Baldr and help the Dwarven inhabitants of the plane fight back against the Muspel invasion.
Assassin’s Creed Valhalla: Dawn of Ragnarok is the third major DLC for the game, but the first that can be experienced as a standalone installment. Dawn of Ragnarok has a suggested power level of 340, and anyone who has completed the main game or delved substantially into Paris or Ireland will likely have already reached this threshold. It’s not an adventure to be taken lightly, and is full of some of the most dangerous enemies that you’ll have faced during your adventures in Valhalla.
Luckily for those who want to jump right into the action, there is an option to start a new game and head straight for Svartalfheim. It is not something that I would personally recommend, unless you are only looking to experience the final arc of the mythological narrative in Valhalla. While there are no major spoilers for the core storyline of the game, there are some key plot points that you experience “In Dreams” that lay the foundation for Dawn of Ragnarok.
For these reasons, and to keep the experience of both the DLC and the main game fresh for newcomers, this review will be spoiler-free apart from the necessary plot points to lay the foundation of the story.
In Dawn of Ragnarok you play as Havi, another name for Odin, the Lord of Asgard and the mythical incarnation of Eivor. As such you can once again be the male or female version, or let the Animus decide for you. Similar to the main game, there are some plot points that strongly suggest that Havi is a male character, hearkening back to the core mythical narrative of Valhalla, although in many instances Havi is referred to as “they”. As I play with the female Eivor/Havi, it was a little odd to be referred to as “him” in one sentence, and “they” only moments later. A small detail, but one that occasionally pulled me out of the narrative.
You won’t be pulled from the action for very long though, as Dawn of Ragnarok is also arguably one of the most difficult experiences that I have encountered in Assassin’s Creed Valhalla. This is not least of all because of some impressively challenging boss rights and new Raids that make the rivers of England seem altogether peaceful. These raids are important to upgrade Havi’s new abilities, the largest change to the gameplay that we experienced in Dawn of Ragnarok.
While combat has remained relatively unchanged from the base game, the addition of some godly powers befitting of the Lord of Asgard can completely alter how you choose to engage with enemies through stealth assassinations or overt combat. Using a newly acquired bracer, a Dwarven gift bestowed upon you shortly after arriving in Svartalfheim, you can absorb the power of fallen Muspels to absorb their Hugr. aptly named the Hugr-Rip.
You will immediately gain The Power of Muspelheim upon being given the bracer, which will undoubtedly be one of Havi’s most useful tools in your war against the Muspels. This power gives Havi temporary immunity to lava, fire and explosions by transforming them into a Muspel; at least as far as anyone else can tell. This functions similarly to wearing your cloak in guarded settlements in the base game; you can trick enemies into thinking you are one of them so long as you don’t take any high-profile actions while in disguise.
While the Power of Muspelheim is arguably the most versatile ability that you can utilize, there are four other powers that you can unlock in Svartalfheim through absorbing the power of enemies, which truly make for some entertaining gameplay. These include the ability to transform into a raven to reach locations unavailable even to a master climbing Assassin, and a power that enables you to convert the dead into temporary allies. Havi can’t have all of these powers equipped at once however, so you have to choose which abilities will suit your current endeavor.
The world of Svartalfheim is as lively and enthralling as it is beautiful to behold in its Dwarven splendor. It is an absolutely massive map, and you’ll experience lush forests and snowy mountains, to lava-filled caverns and an intricately constructed city full of mysteries and puzzles. Dawn of Ragnarok is easily the largest DLC, in both its massive scale and the length of time it takes to complete, that we have ever experienced in an Assassin’s Creed game, and there is an impressive verticality to the landscape as well. Each of the four major regions has a number of Mysteries to get absorbed in, as well as wealth and artifacts to collect.
The map is absolutely massive, and your quest to re-unite the Dwarven clans that were fractured in the invasion will lead you to all corners of Svartalfheim, as well as deep into the silica mines. I was taken aback at the impressive world-building that went into creating the lush over-world above deep ravines that hid mining settlements, Jotun ruins, and Dwarven shelters that the fractured clans have been forced to retreat into.
There are the usual assortment of side quests scattered throughout the map, and Ragnarok has taken some typical storytelling tropes and turned them into entertaining quests. One of my personal favorites was the story of the Jotun who was in love with a dwarf, and shapeshifts into a wolf so as to not draw attention. Much like Eivor, Havi has a troubled past — and future — involving wolves, so it was an entertaining story to behold. The steadfastness and humor of the dwarves made for a unique atmosphere that was much different from England, and coupled with the spectacular new soundtrack, it created an experience that was as enchanting at times as it was invigorating during combat.
There are additionally some new puzzles that you’ll have to think your way through in Dawn of Ragnarok, including some that are necessary to obtain some of the best gear in the DLC. The new light refractor puzzles, which require you to direct beams of light and bounce them off multiple spheres to open a door, often have multiple steps and require some deduction to determine how to progress them. Similarly, working your way through Jotun ruins to break a curse takes some quick thinking, and possibly the help of some special abilities.
Between all of the activities you can partake in while in Dwarven settlements, and the expansive map dotted with activities and collectibles, it’s a very organic transition from the base game to Dawn of Ragnarok. It’s a transition that brings many new experiences, but is simultaneously one that makes you feel right at home; even though you’re quite far from it.
Dawn of Ragnarok legitimately could have been its own game, and while it thematically still makes more sense as an expansion to Assassin’s Creed Valhalla, it was smart to allow players to enjoy it as a standalone adventure. There is easily over 30 hours of content to experience between the core storyline and the wealth of sidequests, puzzles and activities, and Ubisoft has done a fantastic job giving us yet another world to become completely lost in.
Final Score: 9/10
Dawn of Ragnarok sets a high bar for future expansions, not just for the Assassin’s Creed franchise but for open-world action adventure games on the whole.
The review copy of this game was a digital code provided by the publisher.