‘Assassin’s Creed Valhalla: Dawn of Ragnarok’ preview: Odin to joy

Year 2’s first DLC is quite literally god tier

What kind of Assassin’s Creed player are you? Are you the one who solely embraces the historical playground side? The one who marvels at the layers of realism so accurate in these sprawling sandboxes that they’re now being used as educational tools in schools? Or are you more here for the aliens stuff? The Those Who Came Before lore…. Riding on flaming steeds… The Apples of Eden… The bits that the historical players ignore and go and make a cup of tea when the cutscenes start. Maybe you enjoy both, and, honestly, the sheer joy of this series is that there’s now ample room for us all. Forgive the lore-based pun but Isu-p to you.

What’s important to know for Assassin’s Creed Valhalla’s first Year 2 content though, is that we’re firmly in the supernatural realm now. Like AC Odyssey’s Fate of Atlantis DLC, the Animus is showing its fantastical side. Valhalla is already no stranger to godliness with the Norse realms of Asgard and Jotunheim available via Valka’s Hut in the settlement of Ravensthorpe. Here Eivor becomes Odin or Havi, King of Asgard. To explain the lore of it all would require more of that aforementioned tea, or maybe some strong mead so it’s better to just say that Dawn of Ragnarok takes Eivor to the dwarf realm of Svartalfheim. Here, Odin is hunting for his missing son, Baldr, and we get to try the powers of a god for size.

Assassin's Creed Valhalla Dawn Of Ragnarok
Assassin’s Creed Valhalla: Dawn Of Ragnarok. Credit: Ubisoft.

There’s no getting around it. Svartalfheim looks huge. Ubisoft Sofia says that there’s more than 35 hours of gameplay here and from the hands-off preview, the realm looks beautiful. Mountains with crags of gold glimmer under the sun, bats flutter in the entrances of enticing caves, and asteroid sized rocks with veins of flaming ore float overhead. It’s a striking landscape and, of course, not everyone is getting along. To the great displeasure of the dwarves, an invading force known as the Muspels have arrived, led by a delightfully villainous half-Jotun half-Muspel who goes by the charming name of Glod. He’s Eivor’s first hurdle on their way to the fire giant Surtr.

And thankfully, we’ve got some new powers to make the most of against this new set of Muspel enemies. Not only does Eivor have a new two-handed spear known as an Atgeir for precision prodding based death, but also a new tool called the Hugr-Rip. As painful as it sounds, this allows you to suck up the powers of your fallen foes and retain them for your own nefarious purposes. Enemies now have a symbol indicating their stealable power over their heads and in the preview we see Eivor use the Power of the Raven which lets them take to the skies in feathered form, the Power of Rebirth which brings fallen enemies back to life to fight for you, and the Power of Muspelheim which adds a crusty lava effect to your sneaking cloak, effectively disguising Eivor as a Muspel to get into areas undetected.

But, of course, there’s a limit to how much you can use these powers and you can only store two at a time, meaning you’ll need to juggle what you need on the fly. And, because it would make it far too easy to just spend eternity disguised as the enemy, you need an energy called Hugr to fuel each power. This is shown in a new Hugr dial at the bottom right of your screen which will run out over time as you use each ability. Indicated in bright Valhalla menu blue, Hugr can be found around the world in shrines and other areas and the devs suggest always keeping some on hand for vital moments.

Assassin's Creed Valhalla Dawn Of Ragnarok. Credit: Ubisoft.
Assassin’s Creed Valhalla: Dawn Of Ragnarok. Credit: Ubisoft.

The Power of Rebirth in particular looks like it will come in very handy. The Muspel forces look like formidable foes and expect to be using Eivor’s handy slo-mo dodge even more than usual to escape spewing lava. Clusters of these enemies will require some strategy too. A class known as Flame Keepers keep forging more enemies in pools of magma so you’ll want to take them out early and deal with the rest of the fiery horde. Brutes known as Ash Bringers look especially solid and satisfying to take down too with a few updated finishing moves.

The Hugr-Rip can also be upgraded as you explore the world. We see Eivor enter a vast underground dwarven shelter and speak to a blacksmith. Here you can upgrade your Hugr powers with added abilities using resources. The neat trick to be able to air assassinate while flying as a raven looks especially satisfying. With this Eivor can fly over an enemies head as a raven before plunging downwards for a signature Assassin move. Shout out to anyone who remembers doing something very similar in Assassin’s Creed 3’s Tyranny of King Washington DLC when Ratonhnhake:ton could transform into an eagle. Nope, just me?

Assassin's Creed Valhalla Dawn Of Ragnarok. Credit: Ubisoft.
Assassin’s Creed Valhalla: Dawn Of Ragnarok. Credit: Ubisoft.

Looking at the wider, now quite frankly intimidating Assassin’s Creed landscape, Dawn of Ragnarok looks like another solid addition to Valhalla’s significant DLC roster. Last year’s Wrath of the Druids and The Siege of Paris DLCs ticked the boxes for those looking for more Viking action – although less rats in future please – while Ragnarok takes us relentlessly deeper into lore territory. Ubisoft has also realised that we’re now in Destiny-style power chaos when it comes to levelling and, while it suggests Eivor be at 340, you can boost to get instantly to that and head straight to Svartalfheim.

Valhalla has become a sprawling base for AC content which might be a hint at the future and the much-teased Assassin’s Creed Infinity. Base games definitely aren’t going to be left to die after you have finished the story. Valhalla even has seasonal content which is ready for another spin around the sun in 2022. Late last year’s Crossover Stories was another indicator of what could be on the way. To see Kassandra’s first half of the story, we had to redownload Odyssey but a persistent Animus interface in future would remove the need for the devs to literally add bonus content into a four-year-old game. Regardless, whatever’s next might be a long way off but there’s plenty life left in Valhalla yet. Just mind your head on the axes and the lore..

Assassin’s Creed Valhalla: Dawn of Ragnarok is out on PlayStation, Xbox and PC on March 10.

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