Wednesday, March 09, 2022
No one could ever accuse Assassin's Creed Valhalla of being light on content, but in case you're someone who has managed to do everything in developer Ubisoft Montreal's colossal open world, there are even more quests, narrative beats, and places to explore in the hefty Dawn of Ragnarök expansion. Picking up once more with Eivor's vision quest from the base game, in which you inhabit Odin's memories, Dawn of Ragnarök sees Assassin's Creed Rogue studio Ubisoft Sofia taking the reins, introducing divine powers via the 'Hugr-Rip', a wrist-mounted artefact crafted by dwarves and gifted to the All-Father. And it’s good fun.
As Odin, you'll venture forth into the dwarven realm of Svartalfheim, on a mission to rescue your captive son, Baldr, from the clutches of fiery god Surtr. Of course, you'll face resistance from a vast army of fire-fleshed Muspels, but you've plenty of options at your disposal to turn the tables against the invading forces. Armed with the Hugr-Rip, you're able to extract powers from fallen foes, though only two at any one time can be equipped, and they're limited by the amount of Hugr spirit you have accumulated.
Much of Dawn of Ragnarök has been built around these new abilities, whether it's the Power of Muspelheim allowing you to temporarily adopt the guise of a Muspel and walk through lava, or the Power of the Raven granting the ability to take to the sky as a graceful white bird, replete with gold-tipped feathers. Later powers enable you to teleport in for an assassination, or pass as a Jotun Frost Giant, while the Power of Rebirth has you resurrecting enemies to raise your own army of spectral allies. The Hugr-Rip is a neat addition to Valhalla's suite of skills, and no doubt you'll miss the various godly properties it grants upon returning to the relatively less fantastical realms of England and Norway.
With two uses of the Hugr-Rip only ever available at any one time, powers need to be used judiciously, and part of the fun lies in determining which combination of abilities works best for any given situation, or, indeed, mixing them up. There's seldom a shortage of Hugr life force around, though, with slain enemies and Hugr Blooms freely granting the shimmering energy, while sacrificing about half of your health bar at an Yggdrasil Shrine fully replenishes both cells of the Hugr-Rip. Not that this is ever a real sacrifice – there are almost always health-giving 'winter chanterelles' to snaffle close by, or popping a quick ration will immediately see you fighting fit.
But then why would you want to impose stringent limits on divine powers, when they're as fun as this? Similarly enjoyable is the new Atgeir polearm, a spear-like bladed weapon with plenty of reach, ripe with potential for swift and devastating combos. Along with your armour and other weapons, the Atgeir can be upgraded to a new 'Divine Quality' level, and best of all, a complete set of Divine armour will unlock the ‘Divine Landing’ ability, so you can fling yourself from a cliff edge (as in Assassin's Creed Odyssey) without fear of death – it's a shame you can't take this into the base game.
Beyond the storyline, Dawn of Ragnarök introduces new raids, where you'll find Silica Inciters to topple for yellow crystals that can be taken to a blacksmith for Hugr-Grip upgrades; a Valkyrie arena, where you can relive Odin's greatest triumphs, equipping optional 'Boasts' gameplay modifiers to earn currency towards unlocking the All-Father armour set; and a range of new World Events, some of which have the same esoteric humour present in the main game, like the outcome of one dwarf's quest to destroy a cursed ring. Additionally, you have 'dwarves in distress' to rescue from captors, who will give you clues as to the whereabouts of Suttungr's Outriders, high-ranking Jotun leaders you'll need to dispatch.
Like Valhalla's Zealots, the 'chosen' of Surtr's wife Sinmara also roam Svartalfheim, awaiting battle, so there's no shortage of other stuff to do within Ragnarök's open world, beyond the main questline. Traversal is also aided by the Power of the Raven, enabling you to efficiently cover long distances from the air, and, should you happen to hover above an enemy, you can swoop down and assassinate them. Ostensibly more of the same it might initially seem, then, but after exploring every corner of Svartalfheim, it's abundantly clear that Dawn of Ragnarök is a thoroughly engaging gratifying hunk of DLC, with enough new mechanics and devices to warrant delving back into Assassin's Creed Valhalla, even if you've already sunk well over 100 hours into the base version (like I have).
There is one caveat, however, and that's despite claims from Ubisoft that Dawn of Ragnarök is a 35-40 hour DLC, I was able to beat it in roughly 16 hours, and that's with a lot of time spent deviating from the critical path, beating side quests, collecting armour pieces and weapons, playing around in the Valkyrie arena, and clearing every raid on the map. Perhaps there is another 20-something hours to be found, but I'm not entirely sure where they've been tucked away, having completed every story quest and the majority of the expansion's additional content.
But I'm not going to gripe about Assassin's Creed Valhalla: Dawn of Ragnarök being too short – it's nice to enjoy something as generously proportioned as this without growing weary of the grind, being able to finish the story without feeling like it's being stretched far too thin. Dawn of Ragnarök is exactly as long as it should be, resolving its narrative without dragging it out, albeit with a more than adequate smattering of side stuff and secrets to unearth. As retellings of sagas from Norse mythology go, Dawn of Ragnarök accomplishes a lot within the confines of a relatively compact and highly entertaining DLC.