Dawn of Ragnarok is the third expansion of Assassin's Creed Valhalla. The latest iteration of the decade-and-a-half old franchise takes a bold step towards shaping the franchise's future, which might leave the fanbase even more divided.
My first introduction to the Assassin’s Creed franchise was with 2013’s Black Flag. I was amazed by the title throughout my playthrough, from sailing the Caribbean and listening to sea shanties to seamlessly parkouring across towns and forests and assassinating unaware guards from the shadows.
Once I was invested, I went back and experienced all the previous entries as well as all the sequels of the Assassin’s Creed franchise. Throughout the hundreds of hours spent across the franchise, I witnessed it evolve.
From a story focusing on historical facts entangled in a century-old secret war between two factions to a mythological saga inspired by the Iliad and Odyssey featuring supernatural powers that sometimes require suspension of disbelief, the franchise has evolved drastically.
Dawn of Ragnarok, the latest face of that evolution, has taken a bold new step for the franchise, unlike any expansion before.
So how was my time becoming Havi in Svartalfheim and facing off against Surtr? Let’s discuss it in-depth.
Assassin’s Creed Valhalla: Dawn of Ragnarok review - Unique interpretation of the millennia-old mythology
Dawn of Ragnarok is the third major expansion of Assassin’s Creed Valhalla, and it is far greater in scope than either Wrath of the Druids or Siege of Paris. With Dawn of Ragnarok, the franchise is doing its second year of content for the first time. The maturity of the content is displayed across the title.
Assassin’s Creed Valhalla gives players two options to play Dawn of Ragnarok. Either play from the beginning of the base game as Eivor makes her way to England and then experience Dawn of Ragnarok organically (where they’ll also be boosted to level 340), or start with Dawn of Ragnarok and play only the expansion.
Players who play Dawn of Ragnarok will also be upgraded to level 340 and unlock major gears, skills, and abilities at the highest rarity.
Following the second method, I started a new save and played Dawn of Ragnarok. Starting a new save for Dawn of Ragnarok gave me access to some pretty good gears, skills, and abilities, but I felt like I cheated as I didn’t play and earn them in the base game.
Even if there is an option, my advice would be to take the time and play the title from the base game and organically experience Dawn of Ragnarok.
Become Havi, the lord of Asgard, to save Baldr
Dawn of Ragnarok starts strong with Havi (Odin) traveling to Svartalfheim with Frigg to look for his son Baldr, imprisoned by Surtr. The player's first meeting with the fire giant happened right at the prologue, only to face defeat. Throughout Dawn of Ragnarok's campaign, the story explores the personality of Havi, freed from the shackles of connecting to the story of Eivor.
Havi's character is quite in contrast to that of Eivor. The developers brilliantly touched upon the dark side of Havi and his pride in being the High One of Asgard. Havi's blatant ignorance towards the Dwarven empire of Svartalfheim and his reluctance to save them while working purely out of personal interest is quite an exciting and apt take on Nordic mythology.
While he did not leave a significant identity imprinted like some previous Assassin's Creed protagonist, his darker, selfish, and prideful take was something unique and quite entertaining to experience. However, I must point out that sometimes it felt like the developers consciously held back Havi's character to thoroughly explore the dark side and maintain the facade of the "good guy hero" protagonist.
Svartalfheim, a mythological world brought to life
Ubisoft is known for its massively picturesque open-world, and that fact is once again displayed in Dawn of Ragnarok. Unbound from the shackles of the real-life historic open-world, the developers have designed a unique world where vast grasslands, high mountains, gold-littered streets, and lava floors seamlessly blend in to create a beautiful Svartalfheim.
The story of Dawn of Ragnarok is experienced through the arcs of Svartalfheim's three regions. Gullnamar, Vangrinn, and Svaladal are each occupied by Dwarven Settlements. To start the story arc of each region, the player first has to discover each of the region's settlements by following clues. Then one has to follow the narrative journey to take down one of Surtr's family members and liberate the area.
The beautiful world does share some design elements from that of Assassin's Creed Valhalla but elevates it to a new level with Nordic mythological influences. The world is littered with unique flora and fauna, ranging from Hugr Bloom to hostile metal boars.
While the world might feel a tad bit big for some players, I immensely enjoyed my time in Svartalfheim, riding a reindeer across the vast lands that come across Muspel camps, and then sneaking in to loot platinum ingot to upgrade my armor to Divine.
Dawn of Ragnarok also brought back the raids from the base game. Instead of Eivor raiding the monasteries for supplies and her jomsviking, Havi raids Muspel stronghold for silica along with his einherjar.
All in all, the world of Svartalfheim is a beautiful sandbox. The living and breathing world feels like a distinct character, making it one of the most fascinating aspects of the expansion.
The Dwarven Empire
While the pre-release trailer and other marketing materials presented Dawn of Ragnarok as the big confrontation between Havi and Surtr, the real characters of the expansion are the Dwarves of Svartalfheim. They are not brave warriors or exceptional fighters, but they are hard workers who enjoy life in their own way.
Early on, Havi commented regarding the dwarves by saying,
“If this is how they live, they probably can’t wait for Ragnarok (the world ending event of the Nordic Mythology)”
But throughout the almost 20 hour long campaign, one realizes how wrong that notion is. Dwarves may not live a lavish life surrounded by a grandiose entourage, but they live a happy and peaceful life, carving beautiful creations out of metal and stones.
During a particular mission, Havi comes across a dwarf named Tyra when he is looking for Fritjof. Even if she is not a warrior or can’t communicate due to the language barrier, she doesn’t hesitate to lead Havi into a Muspel stronghold urging him to save Fritjof.
The selflessness of the dwarves is further contrasted with that of the egoist nature of Havi. As such, the dwarves from the true characters of Dawn of Ragnarok.
Surtr and the Muspel
The primary antagonist of Dawn of Ragnarok is the fire giant Surtr, along with his family, including his wife Sinmara, his Daughter Eysa, and his son Glod. While Surtr does portray a strong character gameplay-wise, narrative-wise, he somewhat falls short.
During my playthrough, Surtr mostly felt like a 2-dimensional mastermind. He wasn’t a bad antagonist at all, but somewhere failed to meet the expectations. Either that or my expectations from Ubisoft antagonists have been pushed to unrealistic heights by Far Cry.
As for the Muspels swarming across Svartalfheim, they do bring a few new varieties of NPCs to shove my hidden blade through, but nothing precisely groundbreaking. The Muspel stronghold was covered in lava on the floor, which was an interesting contributing factor in my movement across the stronghold.
While the main game of Assassin's Creed Valhalla has Zealots, Dawn of Ragnarok brings 3 Sinmara's Chosen, powerful opponents that require high skill to take down. All in all, the opponents serve their purpose, creating an obstacle to overcome, but does not bring anything revolutionary. However, considering Dawn of Ragnarok is an expansion and not a new title for the franchise, it wouldn't be fair to assume adequate enemies a shortcoming.
The Hugr-Rip and its powers
The biggest new addition to Dawn of Ragnarok is the new Hugr-Rip and its power. Forged by the dwarves, the Hugr-Rip allows Havi to steal different powers from his fallen enemies. Five different powers, ranging from the Power of the Muspelheim that lets Havi imitate a Muspel and walk on lava to the Power of Rebirth, allow Havi to raise the defeated enemies and make them fight alongside him.
I was disappointed with the fact that social stealth has been incorporated into the new mechanics, further limiting it from its already determined state. This meant I crouched in the bushes and whistled instead of putting on my cloak. I slowly walked up to an unsuspecting enemy to shove my hidden blade through his chest.
The Hugr-Rip uses Hugr, which can be gathered from the Hugr Blooms across Svartalfheim, but unless upgraded with silica and other resources, the Hugr-Rip is quite limited at the start.
The Hugr Rip never became a natural part of my gameplay. I only used the powers where I had to. Despite the powers being stealth-oriented, the limitations made me choose other options, never fitting in organically with my stealth playthrough.
Dawn of Ragnarok is not only Assassin's Creed Valhalla's most ambitious expansion but that of the entire Assassin's Creed franchise. Altogether, forgoing the historical aspect and instead focusing on the mythological direction allows the developers to expand the series in bold new ways that may shape the franchise's future.
Dawn of Ragnarok is worth experiencing for any Mythological or Assassin's Creed fan. However, the best way is to experience it properly through the Valhalla story.
The expansion closes the year-and-a-half-long content of Assassin's Creed Valhalla, setting the stage for the franchise's next iteration.
Assassin’s Creed Valhalla: Dawn of Ragnarok
Reviewed On: PC Ubisoft Connect (Review code provided by Ubisoft)
Platforms: PlayStation 4, PlayStation 5, Xbox Series X|S, Xbox One, Windows PC
Developer: Ubisoft Sofia
Release Date: March 10, 2022