It's been well over a year now since Ubisoft dropped the majestic Assassin's Creed Valhalla, our own personal favourite entry in the long-running franchise, and it's a game that's been well supported with supplementary story content 14 months down the line, with both previous DLCs, Wrath of the Druids and The Siege of Paris, offering up two beefy narrative-driven add-ons for fans of all things Viking to dig into.
Now sees the release of Valhalla's third slice of DLC, Dawn of Ragnarök, and it's by far the biggest and most extravagant expansion to date, a great big belter that serves up a total of around 40 hours-worth of campaign missions, fun side quests, challenging arena battles and more besides. We've had shortlived fantastical jaunts to Asgard and Jotunheim already in the main game's campaign, but this excursion to Svartalfheim is a proper all-out fantasy revenge quest that sees Eivor jump into the shoes of Odin/Havi as they head off to rescue their son, Baldr, whose been kidnapped by the Muspelheim warlord, Surtr (yes, we are sweating profusely from trying to spell all of this stuff correctly, thank you).
Of course, Dawn of Ragnarök is not included in the game's current DLC season pass and it carries a fairly hefty price tag, so we would expect nothing less than a pretty beefy offering here. Thankfully Ubisoft has delivered, not just in terms of the size of the thing, but in giving us a bunch of new abilities and powers to tool around with as we batter the absolute snot out of Muspels and Jotnars alike, traversing a huge new chunk of world map that takes in four distinct regions.
Let's start with those all-new powers, then, and early on you'll be gifted a fancy new piece of gear known as the Hugr-Rip, a Dwarven armband that allows you to suck one of five different abilities out of dead foes. You'll gain the power to transform into a bird, freeze and shatter opponents, walk through lava, disguise yourself as the enemy, hookshot onto special grapple points around areas and even raise the recently deceased to fight on your side in battle.
Your new moveset has also been nicely woven into the game's puzzle and dungeon elements, which make plentiful use of Eivor's lava-walking and grappling abilities to mix up the gameplay and give it a slightly different flavour from that of vanilla Valhalla and the two previous DLCs. These abilities also work well to freshen up traversal, with your new bird form enabling you to zoom up to synchronization points in a matter of seconds to open up new map areas - a neat touch that does away with quite a bit of slow climbing as you seek to remove the fog of war entirely from the vast new play area.
All of the Hugr-Rip's powers are upgradeable through two levels by collecting silica from doing raids with your trusty band of Viking warriors and, as you level them up, you'll gain access to slick new variants that add a bunch more abilities to your already pretty hefty base repertoire of attacks. It's a fantastic addition to the solid core action here and, most importantly, it breathes new life into combat that — if you've played through everything Valhalla has had to offer up to this point — could well have been growing fairly stale by now.
Speaking of how much of Valhalla you may or may not have played up until this point, and all levels of player — whether you've mopped up every available crumb of the game so far or have barely touched it since release — are catered to in this DLC with an automatic Destiny-style level raise available to instantly put you at 340, the level required to dig into Dawn of Ragnarök. Veterans can activate the new content from Valka in Ravensthorpe — so long as you've got your settlement at level 3 or above — whilst newbies can just choose to go fresh from the main menu with a pre-made character ready to roll out across Svartalfheim.
And what a place it is to roll out across. Valhalla is an absurdly good-looking entry in the Assassin's Creed franchise and Dawn of Ragnarök doesn't disappoint in this regard either, delivering up a fantastically varied playground that melds dense forests and foggy marshes, great big Dwarven mines and towns, dramatic rivers of lava cutting through icy snowfields, enormous Muspel forts, eerie floating rock formations and mountains made of solid gold. This is a huge new slice of map to dig into and in terms of activities, secrets, loot, collectibles and all of the stuff fans have come to expect, it delivers in spades. There are new abilities to learn from books of knowledge, all-new armour sets, skills, weapons, tough Valkyrie arena challenges, "Sinmara's Chosen" elite warriors to face off against, world events, contracts...yeah, just prepare to spend a lot of time wrapped up in this one is all we're saying.
Dawn of Ragnarök is pleasingly action-packed stuff too, with a boss battle against the main villain of the piece, Surtr, kicking things off and a fairly steady stream of excellent dust-ups against various members of his extended — and very angry family — to follow. You'll even get to fight a massive cat made of molten lava and fire, so you can check that one off your to-do list for this month. The world map is busy with large forts that need taking out if you're to get your hands on treasures and silica to upgrade your skills and weapons and, although new enemy types aren't hugely different from those we've seen before in how they go about attacking, your new Hugr-Rip abilities and a smattering of new weapon skills give the game's raids and combat a nice lift.
The story, which we'll not spoil for you here, also does a great job of providing plenty of twists and turns as it crams in a mention of just about every figure in Norse mythology that you may, or may not, have heard of. Eivor is on a proper revenge rampage too, we love it when she's angry, and there's a nice sense of gallows humour about the whole thing - dwarves certainly do like to use a lot of well-timed foul language during conversations.
So, with a huge new map to (ragna)rock around, new skills and abilities to give combat, traversal and puzzles a bit of a freshen up and a story that's a blast from start to finish, there's certainly plenty of good stuff here for players returning to the game. However, it's not all perfect with Dawn of Ragnarök, and newcomers especially may find things tough going in the beginning here. Valhalla already had a ton of combat options to wrap your head around with a plethora of weapon skills assigned to both triggers. With new Hugr-Rip powers added to the mix and a campaign that blasts you headlong into frantic action, newbies may well find themselves taking quite a pasting as they get to grips with everything and some grinding may be necessary to see you through the first handful of boss face-offs.
There's still a certain amount of jank too in how Eivor climbs and manoeuvres around objects too, with plenty of occasions when you'll find yourself stuck to some wall or piece of scenery, desperately trying to take control as a bunch of fiery Muspels give you an absolute roasting. None of this stuff is a huge deal, it's all a part and parcel of Assassin's Creed at this point, but it's worth noting that it's still an issue and it does still lead to frustration at times, particularly in the heat of battle.
These minor issues aside however, and Dawn of Ragnarok is a fantastic third slice of DLC overall. This really is a huge addition to the base game, one that dwarves (pun intended) the two previous DLCs in terms of scope and adds enough through those new Hugr-Rip abilities to make it worth dipping back in, even if you felt like you'd already had enough of this one by now.
Assassin's Creed Valhalla: Dawn of Ragnarök easily eclipses both The Siege of Paris and Wrath of the Druids, serving up a good 40 hours-worth of top-notch action, exploration and challenges across a huge new world map. Combat here is enlivened by Eivor's new Hugr-Rip abilities, skills which also freshen up the game's puzzles and traversal, and the fantastical nature of the story leads to some of the biggest and best boss face-offs we've seen in the series to date. Newcomers may feel a little lost to begin with, there's a lot to get your head around here, but fans of Valhalla should be delighted with this deliciously fantastical new addition to the base game.