Thursday, February 10, 2022
In Assassin’s Creed Valhalla: Dawn of Ragnarök, you inhabit the role of Odin (aka 'Havi') once more, picking up right where you left off as Eivor, embarking upon your spirit quest, venturing forth into the inhospitable lands of Jotunheim, home of the Frost Giants. This time, Havi's voyage takes you to the dwarven realm of Svartelfheim, a place where the Muspels of Muspelheim have reared their fiery heads, invading at the behest of villainous fire demon Surtr, who also happens to be holding Odin's son, Baldr, captive. Your goal, therefore, is simple – save your offspring, and extinguish Surtr and his army of magma-blooded minions.
As I was shown a hands-off gameplay demo by developer Ubisoft Sofia, it's immediately evident that the upcoming 35-hour+ expansion (recommended for players at a 340+ Power level) brings a few of its own ideas to Assassin’s Creed Valhalla. As Odin, you can unleash godly powers that give you an edge against formidable foes, while the new Atgeir polearm weapon unlocks all manner of combo-based combat opportunities. Who among us hasn't always wanted to transform into a raven and then aerially assassinate an enemy from the sky? Well, you'll be able to do just that. But it's the possible combinations of divine powers that you can unleash that makes Odin's forthcoming adventure exciting.
“You can activate one power at a time and it will have a certain effect or certain ability that you can do. For example, one of my favourites is the 'Power of the Raven', which very much embodies the shape-shifting nature of the All-Father in one of the sagas,” Creative Director Mikhail Lovanov explains. “So, you can be stealthily flying, observing, and then assassinate someone from the sky. And then another combination that I like to play with is the 'Power of Muspelheim', where I do this (air assassinate), and then I immediately turn into a Muspel, and everybody's like, 'what happened?' This empowers you and really makes you feel like a god.”
Lovanov expects players to discover their own unique power combinations as they play Dawn of Ragnarök, the two slots granted by the dwarven artefact gifted to Havi enabling you to mix and match abilities and create your own strategies. Lovanov's example of being able to drop into an enemy encampment as a raven, then assume the guise of a Muspel, is the tip of the iceberg; Odin will have a range of godly abilities to call upon, a particularly useful one we’re shown being the 'Power of Rebirth'. This enables any foes you've vanquished to be resurrected, forming an army that will follow you anywhere and fight for you, until the power expires by running out of life force known as 'Hugr', or until you activate another one. Hugr can be gained by sacrificing yourself at dwarven shrines, a trade-off you'll need to carefully consider.
Our hands-off demo picks up during Havi's quest to rescue Baldr, following clues to one of numerous subterranean dwarven shelters you'll be able to track down. This one is the Grenhellir shelter, and, like the others, it's lined with unique crystalline structures and looming, brutalist dwarven architecture. Havi's current objective is to uncover the whereabouts of Surtr's son, Glod - a warrior known to have torn dwarves clean in half – his location is revealed by a dwarf named Gunborg, who happens to know of a treacherous dwarf named Einar, who's working for Glod. Off Odin goes, then, atop his steed, to face Glod and edge ever closer to a showdown with Surtr.
Of course, Glod's Muspel henchmen prove to be stiff opposition, offering a golden opportunity for Havi to break out the Atgeir, and tear through them. Except, it's not entirely straightforward, with hulking Flame Keepers providing support, reigniting fallen Muspels and causing them to explode. The best strategy is to prioritise and dispatch the Flame Keepers as quickly and efficiently as possible, but, then again, perhaps a better strategy would have been to use the Power of Muspelheim, and slip past Glod's minions unnoticed, strolling through bubbling lakes of fire without arousing suspicion. Sometimes, the path of least resistance makes more sense, unless you fancy mashing up some baddies.
When you're not on the fiery trail of Surtr, you'll also be able to flex your combat muscle and put your combo prowess to the test in new Valkyrie Arenas, using game modifiers to keep things interesting. The addition of a new Divine Quality rune slot will also enable you to further improve your gear, so you can take the fight to the Muspels better equipped. On the basis of what we've seen thus far, then, you couldn't accuse Ubisoft Sofia of being short on ambitious ideas for Dawn of Ragnarök, the Assassin's Creed Rogue studio leaning into its extensive experience with the franchise to create a worthwhile epilogue to Odin's saga and endgame content for seasoned players (new players can still jump in by using an option to boost their gear) – and there's going to be more to come, too. Eivor's saga is “far from over,” Ubi assures, and it seems that Assassin's Creed Valhalla: Dawn of Ragnarök will be a rainbow bridge to whatever's next.
Assassin's Creed Valhalla: Dawn of Ragnarök launches on 10th March.
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