Ubisoft isn’t done updating and expanding Assassin’s Creed Valhalla. The latest and biggest expansion, Dawn of Ragnarok, is out today across all major platforms. And unlike the previous DLC packs, Ragnarok is entirely focused on the game’s more fantastical elements. It tells a new story about Odin, Loki, and all the other Norse gods and monsters, previously featured in the main game’s side-adventure. While this new expansion at times feels like a whole new game, it also feels clunky and creaky. It’s almost like the base game is tearing at the seams as Ubisoft crams yet another huge world and DLC inside it.
That basic setup is that you play as Odin, who is also Eivor, the main character from Valhalla. (No, sorry, I’m not going to explain that here. Go read this instead. It might help make sense of all this.) Odin is looking for his son, Baldr, who was kidnapped by Surtur, the leader of the fire demons. Surtur, his children, and his army of magma warriors have invaded Svartálfar, the homeland of the dwarfs. After a failed attempt to save Baldr at the start of the expansion, Odin teams up with the remaining dwarfs to help them free their world of the demon army, kill Surtur, and save Baldr.
I’ll be honest with you all, (unlike how I usually lie to you all in most of my blogs) I wasn’t excited about this new expansion. After already completing Valhalla’s main campaign, most of the side content, and two previous DLC expansions, the idea of going back to the Viking-stabbin’ simulator that is Valhalla seemed like a terrible future. But as Kotaku’s resident Assassin’s Creed expert, I knew that I had no choice. The curse of being a video game blogger.
At first, I wanted to rip my hands off and tell my editors I can’t play this DLC. Ragnarok starts off with so much boring walking and talking and walking and talking. Eventually, I just ran ahead, past the slow-moving NPC dwarfs and fellow Viking-gods, because I was so bored! Not a great first impression. But past that dreary and dreadful intro, the game opens up into a massive fantasy-themed adventure, featuring dwarfs, ice giants, lava warriors, and new magical powers.
If you’ve played Assassin’s Creed Valhalla, you’ll be familiar with Ragnarok. You run around, sneak into places, stab some folks, climb towers, and use different skills to fight off enemies using axes, swords, and shields. The big new addition in Ragnarok is the ability to absorb various magical powers from dead enemies, and use these powers to solve puzzles, explore the world more easily, or more efficiently take out baddies.
For example, you can find a power that will let you turn into a raven and fly around for a bit, allowing you to get to out-of-reach spots without needing to climb. A more useful power has you disguise yourself as a demon warrior covered in lava, letting you both slip into their camps undetected, and also letting you walk across lava without taking damage. (This is very useful as lava pools and rivers dot the large new open-world environment found in Ragnarok.)
You can only have a select few of these powers stored at one time, so if you need a new power you’ll need to find an enemy with it and go grab it again. It’s a bit annoying, but luckily the game provides you with plenty of power-infused enemies to kill. You’ll always have a few powers within stabbin’ distance.
The thing is, while this new expansion features a beautiful and fantastical world, and new, magical powers, this is still Assassin’s Creed Valhalla. The storyline of the expansion and even the side quests don’t break much new ground. And similarly, the gameplay feels a bit old and tired. I also encountered lots of tiny issues with Eivor getting stuck on the landscape, enemies not pathing correctly, and powers seemingly not working as intended. The whole experience feels strained and yet barely contained. I swear, if Ubisoft adds another sword or mount to this game, it might actually explode into a digital mess of code and splattered quests.
If you haven’t played any Assassin’s Creed Valhalla…well, I’d still recommend playing the main game first. Then, maybe, this expansion afterward. Jumping into this expansion first, without the main context of the original game, seems doable, but I’d advise against it. And if you are someone who, like me, has sunk over 150 hours into Valhalla, then search your own feelings. If the idea of playing more of it sounds terrible or tiring, then trust your gut. You aren’t getting paid to do it.