ASSASSIN’S Creed: Valhalla is, without a doubt, by far and away the most successful game in the entire franchise, to the point where it’s still getting significant new content added nearly 18 months after it first released.
There have been a few expansions for the game already – notably Wrath of The Druids, The Siege of Paris and A Fated Encounter – but the latest expansion, Dawn of Ragnarok is really blurring the lines between “DLC” and “a standalone game”.
While the previous expansions still took place in what was ostensibly ‘the real world’ (complicated Animus malarkey notwithstanding), the framing device here is that the events of Dawn of Ragnarok are a vision/dream Eivor is having regarding events in Asgard (as seen in the base game) – where, due to complicated reasons it turns out that Eivor is a reincarnation of Odin and is, for additional reasons, calling himself “Havi”.
The expansion really needs an (optional!) “Norse Mythology: A Quick Refresher” and a “Previously in Eivor’s Weird Asgard Dreams” element because honestly, I’m just not up the details at the best of times and given I’ve been playing the base game sporadically for coming up on 18 months now, simply can’t remember it all – admittedly not helped by the fact I didn’t love the Asgard sections previously and generally skipped them.
Despite my lack of enthusiasm for Norse Mythology, I still enjoyed the Dawn of Ragnarok expansion, for the most part, however.
Expansion doesn’t really seem like the right word, though – this is basically a standalone game in its own right, with something like 30+ hours of new story and content to complete, along with several new powers Eivor can wield.
There are five, but I only found myself using two of them – one which let me turn into a raven and fly around (although only for 35 seconds at a time, evidently to stop you from flying from one side of the map to the other, sadly) and another which made me immune from fire and lava and also sneak past enemies known as Muspels (useful for a stealth-based approach). There was also a third power I used sometimes which meant anyone I killed was resurrected to fight alongside me until the power’s effects wore off, which was quite helpful in some of the larger battles.
The biggest issue I have is that it’s really not Assassin’s Creed anymore at this point.
I say this because the Assassin’s Creed games have had a strong “real-life” historical focus and while the “Assassin” thing has been on the back-burner in the past three games (the Vikings were famously not noted for subtlety in combat) leaning right into the “Asgard” thing really seems to be a step too far away from the core premise of the games to me.
The whole thing just seems like it would be a great standalone but complementary IP, much like Immortals: Fenyx Rising (which took all the work the Assassin’s Creed team had done with Odyssey and turned it into a separate thing).
That’s not to say the experience Dawn of Ragnarok offers is bad – far from it – it’s just that it really felt to me the devs wanted to use the current-iteration Assassin’s Creed mechanics to make an action-RPG fantasy game and this represented a pre-made way to do it while also gauging if there’s potential for a new action-RPG fantasy game franchise (not necessarily Norse-themed) generally.
The story in Dawn of Ragnarok is generally fine. It’s nothing particularly exciting or original (Havi/Odin’s son Baldr has been kidnapped, Havi/Odin must rescue him and fight off blue ‘giants’ invading the Dwarven realm of Svartalfheim while saving the Dwarves etc), but it’s let down by uneven pacing near the denouement, when suddenly it all just seems to sort of conclude unsatisfyingly yet simultaneously obviously being set up for another expansion/adventure too.
The main problem is that, ability to raven-assassinate people or lava-walk aside, there’s nothing new here. It’s all the same stuff we’ve been doing for well over 100+ hours in the base game and previous expansions.
There’s some narrative inconsistencies in things in this expansion, too – like why are my ‘real-world’ Viking Longship crew here, available for raids? Why are my ‘real-world’ consumables being used in a dream? Why do I need coins to buy things when there are literal piles of golden treasure just lying about everywhere in this Dwarven shelter?
I think how much you’re going to enjoy this significantly depends on how much you’ve enjoyed the previous Asgard elements of the game.
If you really like them, then having another 30+ hours in that world will be a welcome addition to what must surely be one of the biggest open-world single-player video games in history at this point, and it is pretty cool to feel like a Norse warrior-god as you travel around the realm smiting people foolish enough to get between you and that quest marker.
If, however, you find the mythological aspects of the game to be a bit ‘meh’, you can safely pass this one over – I mean, it’s not like there’s a shortage of stuff to do/find/explore in the rest of Assassin’s Creed Valhalla, after all.