**This review contains spoilers for Assassin’s Creed Valhalla**
Assassin’s Creed Valhalla continues its post-launch content with a new expansion DLC. Unlike the previous two, The Wrath of the Druids and The Siege of Paris, Dawn of Ragnarok brings you back as Odin in his quest to save his son Baldr from Surtr, warlord and chief of Muspelheim and one of the harbingers of Ragnarok. This DLC further continues the trend of the Assassin’s Creed franchise going full on with the myth part of the story, so your interest in this expansion might depend on whether you are liking Ubisoft’s recent full-on focus on the mythological aspect of the series. As a long-time Assassin’s Creed fan, I did find the expansion to be quite a fun ride, but it also left me wondering when we would be able to go back to the good old Assassin versus Templar storyline again.
Dawn of Ragnarok introduces new gameplay mechanics to push your character ever forward to the path of divinity. Your gear can now be upgraded into “Divine” status which, if you wear five Divine armor, nullifies fall damage (similar to one of Kassandra’s skills in Odyssey). The most significant addition, however are the new Hugr-Rip abilities that allows you to use the powers of your enemies for a limited time. For example, the Power of Muspelheim not only makes you look like a Muspel but also grants you the ability to walk on lava. The Power of the Raven allows you to transform into a (duh) raven and allows you to cover distances or reach heights faster than climbing. Power of Rebirth raises the dead to fight for you like in the game Middle Earth: Shadow of War. There will be puzzles that will require the use of one of these powers (like the Power of Jotunheim) to solve them, and certain boss fights almost require you to activate the Power of Muspelheim making it the most useful of the Hugr abilities.
As wonderful as these new powers may sound, while they are very welcome, they do not add anything particularly major to the gameplay, the core of which is very much the same as the main game. Although it could be argued that Dawn of Ragnarok is merely an expansion so this shouldn’t be an issue, one would think that a paid DLC would offer more. The mission objectives themselves aren’t fundamentally different from the main game. In fact, the biggest difference is that the enemies are either Muspel red or Jotun blue and with very distorted voices.
Another issue that I encountered is that while Svartalfheim looks straight out of Tolkien, I wasn’t too keen in navigating around the map which just happens to be my same problem with the Asgard and Jotunheim locations in the main game. The landscape in the Norse myth arcs felt weird and disjointed, and traveling around them felt like a chore. While I concede that the architecture is impressive, the land itself isn’t a joy to travel on compared to other Assassin’s Creed games or even vanilla Valhalla. I’m the type of Assassin’s Creed gamer who occasionally takes a stroll down the street and I do that a lot especially in the bloated world maps of Valhalla. I just don’t feel the same for those myth arcs.
In typical fashion, Dawn of Ragnarok also comes with new weapons and armor. The Aetgir (which looks like a sword-staff or a Norse version of a Japanese naginata) which already has impressive stats upon obtaining is fun to use. But there are some really cool armor sets in this DLC. Look out for the Dwarven and the Hriedmar armor sets with cool perks and even cooler designs. There is also the Allfather armor set if you want to really role-play as Odin, but it’s really the Dwarven and Hriedmar armor that satisfied the casual Tolkien fan in me.
My biggest criticism for the game however, would have to be the narrative. While I am admittedly not a big fan of the mythology arcs in Assassin’s Creed Valhalla, I understood the underlying meaning of those stories and how they help further develop Eivor’s character. While Dawn of Ragnarok’s story missions are straightforward, easily understood, arguably a huge improvement over the The Siege of Paris‘ storytelling, and overall fairly enjoyable, it felt like the whole ordeal has no bearing with either Eivor or the franchise lore. Like there was no point to it. Maybe after months and months of overanalyzing it, the Assassin’s Creed fandom as a whole can unravel the secret messages and symbolisms in this DLC if there are any. I just couldn’t figure what it is at the moment. In the main game, Eivor’s visions are actually Norse Mythicized representations of what happened in the past between the different groups of ISU, the term used to refer the many precursor civilizations. The significance of those visions is that Eivor is a reincarnation of one particularly important (and grumpy) Norse ISU and how she ultimately broke herself free from his influence and prevented him from taking over.
For Dawn of Ragnarok, no such context seemed to exist. The whole point of showing the ISU storyline is to push forward the plot. This DLC didn’t, or rather, its ramifications are yet unclear. My theory is that a specific artifact (you’ll know it if you play the game) is a narrative plant that could potentially be used to revive the long dead protagonist Desmond Miles whose consciousness is currently in the Yggdrasil. But that’s just a theory: I have absolutely no idea what Dawn of Ragnarok has to offer to the franchise’s already disjointed and convoluted lore. The mythological aspect of Assassin’s Creed used to be a mere plot device to move the story forward and add a layer of mystery and gravitas to the supposed ancient war between the Assassins and Templars. But the last three games literally have half-Gods or reincarnations of Gods that the franchise feels like it has lost the plot and have no idea how to get it back.
I guess what I’m trying to say is, I strongly feel that Ubisoft might need to clear all the unnecessary baggage in the Assassin’s Creed lore by making an endgame and working towards it. Assassin’s Creed no longer feels Assassin’s Creed. Right now, it is a Norse mythology game using base Assassin’s Creed mechanics with some modifications. Ubisoft has fully embraced the mythological stories that clearly are not narratively connected to Assassins or Templars, but at the same time the game is using Assassin’s Creed mechanics in a story within an Assassin’s Creed story. It is a clusterfuck of identities that’s much worse than the bleeding effect.
At this point, I would like to make it clear that my frustration with the narrative direction of the series as of late doesn’t mean that I find Dawn of Ragnarok to be bad. Far from it. You can definitely enjoy what it has to offer: the story missions are straightforward, the world events are sometimes funny, and the combat is interesting at least. Even though Odin is sometimes a bit of an ass-hole making him difficult for me to like, the game at least makes you understand how high the stakes are for him. After all, he is a father trying to rescue his son, even though he’s unnecessarily grumpy and mean towards the people who were more than willing to help him if he can help them first. The new abilities, and the weapons and armor, definitely make you feel like a deity for once, and let’s face it, they really look that cool. Simply put, if you do not treat this DLC as an Assassin’s Creed game, but rather a Norse mythology game set in the Assassin’s Creed universe you will enjoy it.
So, is Dawn of Ragnarok a worthy purchase? I find myself wrestling with this question, and I’m not sure if I can give a straightforward answer. I personally enjoyed it but I am a long-time Assassin’s Creed fan. Just think about it: this DLC is not included in the Season Pass so you would need to purchase it separately. Plus, you’d have to really like Norse mythology or at least play the main game to get a handle of the story. If you’re a casual Assassin’s Creed fan, it might be worth it for the new abilities, weapons, and armor, but it doesn’t really offer much else in terms of narrative. My personal take is that while Dawn of Ragnarok is a good DLC that promises a relatively short but fun time in the world of Norse myth, it’s unfortunately not for everyone. Hence, I recommend this only to those who have played and enjoyed Assassin’s Creed Valhalla. Anybody else, you might want to check playthroughs first to decide.