After putting in around one-hundred hours across the base game and its two previously released expansions, you’d think that I’d have had enough of Assassin’s Creed Valhalla at this point. What more could it do to make me want to invest even more hours into the massive open-world adventure? Well, it turns out that putting me back into the shoes of Odin and sending me on a mythological adventure to save my son was more than enough incentive for me, with the newly-released Dawn of Ragnarök expansion offering another enjoyable escapade in the Norse universe.
Sure, it doesn’t re-invent the formula and some gamers might find it too samey when compared to everything else that came before it, but it offered enough new ideas to make playing as Odin feel more varied than the countless hours that I’ve already spent with Eivor.
Check out a gallery of screenshots down below:
Assassin’s Creed Valhalla: Dawn of Ragnarök puts players in the role of Odin as he rescues his son Baldr from the fire giant Sutr. This means travelling across the Dwarven realm known as Svartalfheim, where he must also form an alliance with the invaded Dwarves in order to defeat their common enemy. There’s a lot of mythological depth to be found across the tale (and some things that those more in the know with Norse mythology will appreciate), with plenty of characters to interact with as well as the foreshadowing of events that could affect Asgard down the line.
Returning players will feel some sense of familiarity with Assassin’s Creed Valhalla: Dawn of Ragnarök almost immediately. Whilst there is a sizable new region to explore that brings with it plenty of its own fascinating sights, the core gameplay loop of travelling between missions on the map whilst engaging in a variety of side tasks remains the same. Sure, some things have changed up to suit the Norse mythology setting (Monasteries are replaced by Mylnas for example), but a lot of it feels the same.
That might be off-putting to some, especially those who have already put a LOT of hours into the game. Fortunately, Assassin’s Creed Valhalla: Dawn of Ragnarök brings plenty of its own unique ideas into the world to help make it feel different enough that the roughly twenty-hour adventure never drags its feet or feel too samey.
“The new powers genuinely add a unique and fun way to approach both combat and exploration in the game, with Odin equipped with a more diverse repertoire of skills when compared to Eivor.”
Odin brings new abilities to the game that are tied to his Hugr-Rip bracer, which essentially allows him to absorb the powers of enemies that he has vanquished. These powers are unlike anything else seen across Assassin’s Creed Valhalla, with Odin able to transform into a raven to soar through the skies (and make it easier to reach those super high areas), transform his skin into magma to not only blend in with his enemies but traverse lava ground, unleash an arrow that allows him to teleport to specific points in an area, or even resurrect fallen enemies to fight alongside him, to name a few. They genuinely add a unique and fun way to approach both combat and exploration in the game, with Odin equipped with a more diverse repertoire of skills when compared to Eivor. A balanced and clever use of these abilities is required to simply progress through the game, with an additional sense of complexity found in the puzzle design that relies on both use of the powers and some smart thinking. It’s good stuff.
The world itself feels wondrous too, with a greater sense of verticality found in the almost magical surroundings that makes the base game’s England simply feel ordinary. We saw in Immortals: Fenyx Rising that Ubisoft thrive when crafting worlds based upon mythology, and wow, they really upped the ante here. With plenty of awesome sights to uncover as well as some perilous areas that’ll give players a genuine sense of danger, it’s hard not to be in awe of the world design. Of course, it all looks stunning on the PlayStation 5 too, with the game featuring plenty of fancy bells and whistles to make it feel even more luscious on modern platforms. It all helped make exploration feel fresh, even IF I’ve already travelled hundreds of miles across the main game already.
It’s this blend of new abilities and a more enchanting world that helps make Assassin’s Creed Valhalla: Dawn of Ragnarök feel different to the base game. Whilst players explored Asgard the first time around and even witnessed Valhalla, there’s something about Svartalfheim that makes it feel more mesmerising to explore. There are some impressive boss encounters too, though it was a shame that some of the standard enemies felt a bit more ordinary to take on given the game’s more mythological-inspired setting.
“It’s this blend of new abilities and a more enchanting world that helps make Assassin’s Creed Valhalla: Dawn of Ragnarök feel different to the base game.”
Of course, there are some caveats to be found within the experience. The fact that you can only equip two abilities to your Hugr-Rip bracer felt limiting, for example, especially since the powers themselves are one of the best features of the expansion. It isn’t simply a case of re-equipping powers either; instead, you have to beat the enemy that has that power in order to absorb it again, which felt like a bit of an unnecessary hindrance that works against the player.
There’s also the fact that burnout in Assassin’s Creed games is a very real thing, and especially so with Assassin’s Creed Valhalla which is the biggest game in the series yet. For all of the really cool things Dawn of Ragnarök does, it doesn’t do enough different to make it feel like a big step above the base game – if you’ve already had your fix and need something REALLY different to make you jump back in, this might not do enough. Even I’ll admit that I felt a bit too much familiarity at times, especially after clearing everything in the base game and previous expansions.
You know what, though? It didn’t stop me from loving the game. I haven’t even touched upon the new weapons, side tasks, upgrades, and creatures to hunt down either, all of which flesh out the experience and give the player a few other neat things to do. The Assassin’s Creed series has never shied away from mythological elements or magic in the past, but Dawn of Ragnarök feels like its most meaningful and impressive use yet. It’s worth noting that it’s possible for players to drop in and play regardless of their power level or where they are in the main game too, so there’s no limitations based on your previous progress.
Assassin’s Creed Valhalla: Dawn of Ragnarok
Assassin’s Creed Valhalla: Dawn of Ragnarök’s brilliant world and new player abilities make it feel like a breath of fresh air for the series. Don’t get me wrong, it still FEELS like an Assassin’s Creed game and it doesn’t re-invent the core gameplay cycle, but the new powers at your disposal as well as the mythological setting do go a long way in making it the most impressive expansion released across the entire franchise.
It might not do enough to sway players who are feeling a bit of open-world burnout, but for everyone else, it’s definitely worth checking out.
Platform(s): PlayStation 5 (Reviewed), PlayStation 4, Xbox Series X|S, Xbox One, PC