Ubisoft is not done updating and expanding Assassin’s Creed Valhalla. The latest and greatest expansion, Dawn of Ragnarokis available today on all major platforms. And unlike previous DLC packs, Ragnarok is entirely focused on the more fantastical elements of the game. 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 feels like a whole new game at times, it also feels clunky and grating. It’s almost as if the base game is tearing at the seams as Ubisoft crams yet another huge world and DLC inside.
This basic setup is that you play as Odin, who is also Eivor, the main character of Valhalla. (No, sorry, I won’t explain it here. Go read this instead.. That might help make sense of it all.) Odin is looking for his son, Baldr, who has been 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 dwarves. After a failed attempt to save Baldr early in the expansion, Odin teams up with the remaining dwarves to help free their world from the demonic army, kill Surtur, and save Baldr.
I’ll be honest with you all (contrary to how I usually lie to you in most of my blogs), I wasn’t thrilled with this new extension. After having already finished Valhalla main campaignmost secondary content, and two previous DLC expansionsthe idea of going back to the Viking-stabbin’ simulator which is Valhalla seemed a terrible future. But like Kotaku’s resident Assassin’s Creed expert, I knew I had no choice. The curse of being a video game blogger.
Read more: Let’s recap the messy modern history of Assassin’s Creed
At first I wanted to tear my hands out and tell my editors that I couldn’t play this DLC. Ragnarok begins with so many walks and boring talks and walks and talks. Eventually I just ran ahead, past the slow NPC dwarves and other Viking gods, because I was so bored! Not a good first impression. But after that dreary and ghastly introduction, the game opens with a massive fantasy-themed adventure, featuring dwarves, frost giants, lava warriors, and new magical powers.
If you played Assassin’s Creed Valhallayou will be familiar with Ragnarok. You run, sneak around places, stab people, climb towers and use different skills to fight enemies using axes, swords and shields. The great novelty in Ragnarok is the ability to absorb various magical powers from dead enemies and use those powers to solve puzzles, explore the world more easily, or take down bad guys more effectively.
For example, you can find a power that will allow you to turn into a crow and fly around a bit, allowing you to access inaccessible places without having to climb. A more useful power allows you to disguise yourself as a lava-covered Demon Warrior, allowing the two of you to slip into their camps undetected, and also allowing you to walk through the 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 few of these powers stored at a time, so if you need a new power, you’ll have to find an enemy with it and go get it again. It’s a bit boring, but luckily the game gives you plenty of powerful enemies to kill. You will always have some powers within dagger’s reach.
The thing is, even though this new expansion features a beautiful, fantastical world and new magical powers, it’s still Assassin’s Creed Valhalla. The scenario of the extension and even the secondary quests do not innovate much. And likewise, the gameplay feels a bit old and tired. I also had a lot of small issues with Eivor getting stuck in the landscape, enemies not moving properly, and powers apparently not working as intended. The whole experience feels tense and yet barely contained. I swear if Ubisoft adds another sword or another mount to this game, it could actually explode into a digital mess of splattered code and quests.
If you haven’t played any Assassin’s Creed Valhalla… well, I would always recommend playing the main game first. Then, perhaps, this expansion thereafter. Jumping into this expansion first, without the main context of the original game, seems doable, but I would advise against it. And if you are someone who, like me, has sunk more than 150 hours in Valhalla, then research your own feelings. If the thought of playing more sounds dreadful or tiring, trust your instincts. You are not paid to do this.