Over the past few years, Ubisoft has been moving away from semi-annual releases and towards a model which extends the life of current titles. The reception to this has been mixed, with some gamers frustrated by the heavy emphasis on the microtransactions and DLC used to support this. For myself, this manifests in the three Far Cry 6 DLC releases which should have been stand-alone releases (why, yes, I am still annoyed by that, why do you ask?) Others have enjoyed the longevity this has afforded select titles, and not needing to start from scratch with each new release in a franchise. This is showcased best in the newly released Assassin’s Creed Valhalla Dawn of Ragnarok expansion. Since Ragnarok is not included in the game’s season pass and comes in at a hefty $39.99, it has quite a bit to prove in regards to its value.

Dawn of Ragnarok brings you back as Hávi (the title Odin uses) as he travels the nine realms. Although you are playing as Odin you will continue to bear the equipment and likeness of Eivor, the Viking warrior you spent most of Valhalla as, since this is supposed to be a dream sequence Eivor is experiencing. You do not have to have completed the base game to jump into Ragnarok, but you do have to have progressed far enough to unlock the dreamer’s hut in your village. Even though you can’t jump immediately into Ragnarok as a new player, once you are able to, the game will provide you with temporary gear and skills to bring you up to Ragnarok‘s level minimum. You don’t get to bring these back with you into the base game, but any equipment, money, and experience you earn will. Notably, the fields and mountains of Svartalfheim — the realm of the dwarfs Ragnarok takes place in — are loaded with iron and furs which can help you upgrade equipment rapidly. Almost all equipment can also be upgraded to a new tier which gives higher base stats — premium gear from the store or giveaways can be upgraded for free, and other gear costs a new resource. All of which is to say, if you haven’t completed the base game or the prior expansions you can easily skew the difficulty curve in your favor for when you do tackle those.

As the name and setting of Dawn of Ragnarok imply, the story here delves heavily into Norse mythology. I consider this a good thing since the base game was really at its best when it was drawing from the tales of Odin and his kin. That said, Assassin’s Creed as a franchise has suffered from weak narratives for a while now, and this is no exception. The core story is fine, but it lacks the emotional resonance that it should have. In theory, the plot revolves around saving Baldur, but even the few times the story remembers to bring that up it doesn’t feel impactful until near the end. By contrast, you will spend part of the story trying to track down the child of Surtr, your foe, and that person’s arc feels much more fleshed out and engaging. Amongst the expansion’s myriad side-quests there are a few tales that stand out — a father searching for his missing wife and daughter in the ruins of his village has stuck with me — but most use a lot of the short-hand common in Ubisoft games. A single trait or quirk gets exaggerated to an extreme level, and that substitutes for personality. In many cases, this makes the characters annoying or obnoxious rather than interesting. In fact, there were several dwarfs I would have been perfectly happy killing myself if the game had allowed me to do so. There are few truly bad quests in the game, but the vast majority are simply utterly forgettable. There are none that make you forget you are doing a quest for resources.

In terms of gameplay, there is little change here from the base game. You get six new abilities that you can use for puzzle-solving or combat advantages, but they come with their own power meter that you have to fill in order to use them. It’s this latter point that holds them back – since their use becomes severely limited by having to constantly seek out sources of this energy. Thankfully, this isn’t that prevalent a problem, but when it happens it can be quite vexing. It’s not helped by the fact that you can only hold two of these six powers at a time, though the game is good about making sure powers that you need for puzzles are conveniently placed — to the point where if you see a large cluster of these powers in one-spot it’s a safe bet you’re going to need it.

Otherwise, things are pretty much the same. Combat is as you remember it, and a large portion of the gameplay is still visiting all the dots on your map to find whatever loot or targets are at them. River raids even work their way into the game, and a combat arena has been set up by some disgruntled Valkyrie. Interestingly, this arena provides some of the best stories in the game since Odin narrates his old exploits during the fights. Stealth has been de-emphasized in general (again), but several of the new powers allow you to do assassinations without much need for proper stealth. As a fan of the series since the Ezio trilogy, I do miss the stealth gameplay, but that’s an issue with the series as a whole and not specific to this expansion.

Assassin’s Creed Valhalla Dawn of Ragnarok Review Final Thoughts:

At $39.99, the Assassin’s Creed Valhalla Dawn of Ragnarok expansion is going to make a lot of people blanch, and for good reason. The thing is, it does provide a significant amount of value. Svartalfheim is a large area, and there are many things to find and do outside of the core story. I’ve put about 10 hours into the expansion, which was enough to complete the story and clear about 50% of the map’s collectibles. Compared to the normally expected playtime of a full Assassin’s Creed game that’s not a whole lot, and it is comparable to the other DLCs for Valhalla, which were cheaper. That said, the Svartalfheim map is impressive and a lot of new assets were added to the game, as well as some new abilities and an entire class of weapons. It’s difficult to decide if it’s worth the base cost for Dawn of Ragnarok, but my gut leans towards waiting a little bit for a sale. This will depend on how much you want more Assassin’s Creed, and if you liked Valhalla you’ll find plenty to enjoy. If you haven’t completed Valhalla, or don’t mind waiting a bit while we’re in the midst of a deluge of good games, then Dawn of Ragnarok will still be here when you’re done with those.