Assassin’s Creed Valhalla: Dawn Of Ragnarök review: the Assassin’s Creed you like in a fun new fantasy world
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Assassin’s Creed Valhalla enters its endgame phase with its final DLC Dawn Of Ragnarök, the very concept for which is kind of a big honking spoiler, so consider yourself forewarned.
The series as a whole is still electing to carry on with that subplot about super-advanced precursor god-people, like a chill friend who you ask to party knowing that they will, univited, bring along their mate who is really into a specific genre of sci-fi and will not stop derailing conversations to talk about it. In Valhalla this manifests as protagonist Eivor, Viking raider and big blonde buff meat sculpture, being the reincarnation of Odin, one of the aforementioned god-people. Dawn Of Ragnarök is Eivor dreaming that they are Odin for about 35 hours of adventuring and son-saving in the magical realm of Svartalfheim. That’s a pretty intense nap.
As a player, of course, you’re just playing as Odin, known to the dwarves of Svartalfheim as Havi. He’s kind of a dick but in an endearing way, because he already knows that he isn’t fated to die until Ragnarök, and until that specific moment he enters most situations kicking over furniture and yelling “WHATS UP, MOTHERFUCKAAAAAS!?” – spiritually, if not literally. The situation in this DLC has made him a bit more circumspect, in fairness, since Baldr has been kidnapped by Surtr and his fire giants, and so you are treated every so often to short monologues about how Havi knows he’s doing bad stuff, but he has to if he wants to save Baldr’s life, etc. and so on.
To aid you in this endeavour you get some magic. The dwarves, who rightly object to being invaded by Surtr, have gone into hiding in a few underground shelters, and give you a magic bracer that absorbs powers from downed enemies. There are five spells on offer, but you can only equip two powers at once, so you can change things up as you enter new situations. I liked the Power of Jotunn, which disguises you as a frost giant and lets you teleport to little warp points the frost giants build around their camps, and the Power Of The Raven gets style points ‘cos you turn into a big white bird and can dive bomb people.
The time limit on the spells, and the extra bar for mana – called hugr – are nice spins on the AC formula, but these, two are generous. Even if you run out of hugr you can get it from killing things, or big magic flowers that litter the world. There are special shrines where you can sacrifice your health for more magic, but I never needed to use them. Theoretically you’re supposed to adapat and overcome, and switch out your spells regularly.
Practically, though, you’re going to use the Power Of Muspel the most, so end up keeping that one on hand all the time. It makes fire giants anti-sus of you, and it’s very generous in the margins for that. My favourite trick was to turn it on right after I’d murked a few giants, so the ones left were like “Well I just saw him headshot Steve, but I guess he’s cool.” But it also lets you walk on lava, and since lava is the most common barrier in story missions and raids, the spell is kind of a no-brainer.
The Muspels themselves are a cool enemy. They’re big and shouty. The mob types are variations on what you’ll see in the main game – beserkers, lads throwing explosives, really big bois with slow axes – but in groups they all buff each other, getting stronger and more firey. This results in some clutch moments, but for the most part you’re not going to find the DLC too challenging. While Muspels are the main enemy in DOR, you’ll also smash around some of the ever-popular frost giants and the local Svartalfheim fauna, including some very angry crows, but nothing is going to make you quake in your big Viking booties.
But what I think does deserve a special shout out is the world itself. Svartalfheim is less God Of War mythic playground and more Lord Of The Rings low-fantasy epic. The place just feels like it’s a world of fertile earth, the dark deeps disgorging amazing things. The grass is very green, the flowers are very blue, and everywhere are huge erruptions of golden rock, forming mountains. Even the trees have guilded trunks. There are huge, cuboid statues of ancient kings, and a huge dam. The ice and fire giants leave snow and lava scarring the landscape side by side. Very Icelandic. Less transformative and weird than the Odyssey DLCs, maybe, but quietly very good at its own assignment.
And the world design has taken another step away from the traditional Ubi-formula that people like to make fun of. While there’s not no hand-holding, the DLC proper starts with Havi being left on a cliff edge and told to do whatever, I dunno, you figure it out. You have to explore and find dwarf shelters using visual clues, where someone will put you on the scent of a quest to weaken Surtr. The traditional area clues to find the next map blip on your mission are more vague. There’s a bit more of a sense of wonder, and more weird things to run into around the place. It’s not going to impress Elden Ring fanciers, but it’s probably the most engaging world in Valhalla, and proof enough in my book that Ubisoft Sofia are ready for a crack at a full game.
For the most part, though, Dawn Of Ragnarök is more of the AC Valhalla you like: more boating around singing, more armour, more raids (in which I kept getting referred to as Eivor but we’ll let that one go). More NPCs with UK regional accents. More sub-bosses for different areas, leading you towards a big boss. A big new weapon and new, grim ways to instakill enemies. It’s not game changing but it does feel game subtly-altering, and if you had to get one Valhalla DLC it should be this one. I think the best endorsement of Dawn Of Ragnarök is that it’s fun, and it made me want to play Valhalla more. Job done.
A group of current and former Ubisoft employees, under the name ABetterUbisoft, are still calling for the company to meet their demands in the wake of allegations of widepsread sexual harrassment and discrimination. They have a public petition which has been supported by over 15,000 people. ABetterUbisoft have frequently voiced support for Activision Blizzard employees going through a similar situation, and their employee group, ABetterABK.