Last week I got the chance to attend a preview for Assassin’s Creed Valhalla: Dawn of Ragnarok, the upcoming fantasy-focused expansion set for a March 10, 2022 release. In it, we were shown a hands-off demo, as well as some commentary from those working on the game. It’s clear from the get-go that while Dawn of Ragnarok serves to expand upon Assassin’s Creed Valhalla. The upcoming DLC’s approach to powers and skills could help set it apart and offer an interesting spin on the base game.
The demo showed off three main sections; there was a dangerous incursion into a Dwarven Foundry, a look at a palace-camp that towered hundreds of feet in the air, and a small hub area filled with Merchants and opportunities to bolster Havi’s skill set. A lot of different mechanics were shown off in the roughly 30-minutes of gameplay, including all-out combat, exploration, and the use of the new powers system.
These powers were undeniably the main talking point, borrowing smartly from past entries into the Assassin’s Creed series, and expanding player choice in meaningful ways. Through the use of an artefact called the Hugr-Rip, Havi can steal the powers wielded by enemies. These range from powerful hand-to-hand combat buffs, to the ability to shape-shift into a raven, aiding exploration. To gain the latter skill, Havi was shown shooting down a raven, before leeching the power from it. From that point on, the player could change into a raven and soar above enemy encampments, marking foes and opening up new infiltration opportunities. In a later section of the demo, Havi was shown upgrading this raven ability, adding in air-assassinations from above.
A handful of powers were showcased, my favourite being one that made use of social stealth. Social stealth has been a feature of Assassin’s Creed games on and off over the last decade or so, put to great use in AC Brotherhood’s excellent multiplayer mode. In Dawn of Ragnarok, you can kill certain enemy types to gain the ability to shift your form, allowing you to walk through well-guarded enemies unnoticed. AC Valhalla saw the return of social stealth with the addition of the cloak, so it’s great to see Dawn of Ragnarok double down on a feature that series veterans will recognise. It’s sure to put a smile onto the faces of ‘classic’ AC fans.
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The ability to rip the powers from the corpses of enemies is an extremely powerful advantage as you fight your way through Dawn of Ragnarok, but it does have its limitations. You can only hold a couple of powers at a time, so picking up a new one often means you’ll need to sacrifice one you are already using. This was shown off to great effect in the demo, during a mission that saw Havi busting a character called Fritjof out of an enemy stronghold. After picking up the Power of Rebirth, the player could reanimate fallen enemies, slowly building up an army that they then used to storm the gates. Once inside, they were greeted with a fork in the road. One path was clear enough, while the other was blocked by a pool of lava. Havi then had to make a choice, pick up fire-resistance from a fallen enemy, or push on with their army in tow. Picking up fire-resistance would have allowed an alternate route, at the cost of having enemies backing Havi up. It’s clear that Dawn of Ragnarok will be full of these small, but effective player choices.
Other than the new powers and play styles, Dawn of Ragnarok seems to be largely what you would expect from an increasingly fantastical take on Assassin’s Creed’s core experience. Those that played the Asgard storyline in Valhalla will know what to prepare for here in terms of vibe, though what we saw of the open-world did look pretty damn enticing. Giant boar mounts, hulking blue crystals that propped up cave entrances, and mountains capped with vast outcrops of gold littered the landscape. Lush greens gave way to deep purples as Havi went from rolling hills to dark dungeons. Floating lava chunks and towering palatial structures dotted the horizon, in what has to be the most varied Assassin’s Creed map yet.
Through the use of powers like the raven ability mentioned earlier, Havi is able to traverse the landscape with ease. It’s clear that by leaning even further into the realm of fantasy than what we’ve seen from AC over the last few entries, Dawn of Ragnarok has really had the space to expand and innovate, untethered from the fairly grounded fare of the base games.
Combat looked similar to the special-heavy brawling of Valhalla, with added visual flair through effects like lightning and lava. Weak spots can be hit to ensure instant-finishers, and AoE attacks seem to have got a boost through the new scythe-like weapon. Valhalla’s combat was simple, but undoubtedly fun. Dawn of Ragnarok looks to only improve on it further.
We're in the Endgame
From what we heard, it looks as though Dawn of Ragnarok will take around 35 hours to complete when it arrives March 10, 2022. Players will need to be at a power level of 340 to enter, positioning this expansion as endgame content. Ubisoft suggested that players would be able to ‘boost’ power level in order to access the DLC. Though, we did not get any further information on whether that boost would require additional payment through microtransactions.
Assassin’s Creed Valhalla: Dawn of Ragnarok looks to be as meaty an addition as you might expect, with added variety and depth as a result of its purely fantasy setting. We’ll have to wait and see just how deep the new power-ripping system goes, but for now it looks to leverage past mechanics that remain fan favourites to this day. I’m certainly happy to see social stealth return, at least. To stay up to date on the future of Assassin's Creed, visit our AC: Infinity Hub.