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Assassin's Creed Valhalla: Dawn of Ragnarök Is A Fantastical Yet Comfortable Advancement

Assassin's Creed Valhalla: Dawn of Ragnarök Is A Fantastical Yet Comfortable Advancement
Images: Ubisoft

Written by 

Joseph Kime

Posted 

3rd Feb 2022 16:05

Assassin's Creed has undergone a lot of change over the years. Our first experience with the Animus was stepping into the shoes (sandals? We never really saw his feet) of Altair Ibn-La'Ahad in a stealthy and murdery adventure through the Third Crusade, and moving through franchise icon Ezio Auditore da Firenze for a string of titles. We've met new characters along the way, and with each guide through the unintentionally educational series, its shape has changed.

Now, Assassin's Creed's shape is set to change perhaps more than it ever has before. Delving deeper and deeper into the Norse mythology that served merely as a pencil outline for the Viking escapade, the new Dawn of Ragnarök DLC follows Wrath of the Druids and The Siege of Paris as the newest post-game additions to Valhalla, and it looks to be massively shifting the series to allow for more magical and mystical gameplay. We were invited to a hands-off preview of the new DLC, and we must say - this DLC could very well change the Assassin's Creed franchise forever.

Dawn of Ragnarök - Far From Anglo-Saxon Home

Assassin's Creed Valhalla: Dawn of Ragnarök Is A Fantastical Yet Comfortable Advancement

Dawn of Ragnarök sees a return for Valhalla's leading force Eivor Varinsson (or Varinsdottir, depending on your character selection) - chief of the Æsir, the reincarnation of Odin, and a character whose male option sounds eerily like an American Werner Herzog. Now embracing their destiny as the Norse god of all, the expansive new DLC follows them on a journey to rescue their son, in a journey across the Dwarven realm of Svartalfheim that will see you tear through frost and flame giants alike. 

Though the main game has flashes of the fantastical, we've never before seen it on such a scale as this - the realm of Svartalheim is just as grand as it is daunting. Mysterious floating plinths hang in the air with foreboding, and the sacred tree Hyddrassil's roots pour out of the soil and collapse over the landscape. The new realm is intimidating, but the attention paid to the sprawling landscape and crystalline caves, though even in an early build, is impressive to say the least. Plus, most interestingly, this isn't particularly jarring to the often very realistic Valhalla gameplay. The mythical additions to the game feel incredibly diegetic to the aesthetics of the game thanks to the magical sprinklings peppered through the main game that bounced off of the politics of Britain's dark ages.

Dawn of Ragnarök - Power Of The Gods

Assassin's Creed Valhalla: Dawn of Ragnarök Is A Fantastical Yet Comfortable Advancement

New mechanics are rife in Dawn of Ragnarök, with the abilities of the gods in the palm of your hands. New abilities allow you to transform into a Raven and perform stealth kills from the skies, walk over molten lava with ease, and more crucially to the ongoing gameplay, the ability to harness Hugr, and claim the life force of your fallen foes.

It's Hugr that influences your combat the most, acting as a stand-in for Mana and allowing you to grow stronger with every life you take, allowing you to truly fight and feel like a god. The gameplay system incentivises players to take on the biggest and baddest foes in a horde last, charging up abilities in time to take them on and making them feel like a satisfying cap on your battles.

Plus, there's more to these abilities than their explicit definitions - the power of Musphelheim allows you to disguise yourself as a Muspel and blend in with enemies to walk through heavily populated areas - but it does more than it says on the tin, as it will also allow you to reset combat in overwhelming engagements, letting you re-engage on your own terms.

The game also introduces the Atgeir weapons class, a long polearm that allows the player to keep some distance while still landing some lethal critical hits by performing a mixture of heavy and light attacks. Every weapon class can be upgraded to 'Divine' quality, letting you hang onto your favourite weapons found on your quest and improve them until they're absolute killing machines.

Dawn of Ragnarök - Something Special Is Brewing

Assassin's Creed Valhalla: Dawn of Ragnarök Is A Fantastical Yet Comfortable Advancement

The thing that leaps out the most about this DLC is that, despite its huge scale and shift into the fantastical, the world and gameplay look like a natural step for the hacking and slashing that Assassin's Creed has been leaning into for the past few titles.

Taking on Frost Giants and traversing the deeply atmospheric Svartalfheim isn't too far a leap from the gritty and belligerent Viking gameplay of the main game, and it serves as a testament to the remarkable design of the world. It doesn't stop there though, as the new god-like abilities and weapons class will give players more than enough to take back to the mortal realm with them and keep them busy.

There's no question that this is Assassin's Creed at its most ambitious, and though we only got to see a glimpse of a DLC that remains a work in progress, Dawn of Ragnarök could prove to be something incredibly special that finally sees the franchise develop a fresh voice all over again. Even if it'll still appeal to God of War fans more than it does to Ezio Auditore purists.