Dawn of Ragnarok signals the first big DLC of Assassin's Creed Valhalla's second year of endgame content and it's a big one. I got a first look at the godly expansion last week, and from the banging new soundtrack to the new abilities you can acquire as Odin, I'm super excited to jump back into Valhalla.
This time you're off to Svartalfheim, the home of the dwarves. Rather than play as Havi and appear as Eivor, you'll be playing the All-Father himself on the hunt for his son, Baldr. As Odin, you'll have a host of new skills and abilities to acquire, as well as new Atgeir weapons, which are sort of like big polearms that deploy massive damage. Combos will make or break your chances of success in a fight—no more throwing your hammer around for the sake of it.
You'll be able to find new gear and enhance your existing kit to divine quality and upgrade your rune slots. All of this will enhance Odin's godly nature, letting you become a dangerous foe indeed. The best new addition to Valhalla's combat, however, is the ability to acquire powers from fallen enemies. You can do this thanks to a new upgradable item, the Hugr-rip. You can acquire Power of the Raven which—you guessed it—lets you fly about as a raven, should you want to avoid scaling cliffs like a common Viking. There's also the incredible Power of Rebirth which lets you reanimate slain foes and have them join your side—plus a power that lets you shapeshift to look like the enemy, letting you socially stealth your way through foes should you not feel like whipping out the polearm.
Many powers have a dual function, too; the Power of Muspelheim protects you from fire and lava, but it also transforms you into a Muspel, letting you walk by enemies unnoticed. You can use this power when escorting allies, for example, or listening for key information. It also lets you reset conflict if you find yourself in a sticky situation, or you might think "enough of the subterfuge!" and decide to start a riot. The choice is yours, but be mindful of how much Hugr you have left as nothing lasts forever.
Instead of dethroning English kings or building up resistance factions, you'll be fighting against the Muspels in Ragnarok, as well as Surtr the fire giant, his wife, Sinmara, and his son, the half-Jotun, half-Muspel giant Glod. Fire and lava are everywhere in Svartalfheim—though one of your powers does make you fire-resistant, which is good. While smaller enemies can be defeated easily, you'll want to take care when around the Flamekeepers, as they can ignore the lava and have a fearsome warcry that powers up other enemies. They can also reanimate their fallen brethren and you can become overwhelmed really easily, so keep your eye on these beardy fire boys.
The key message from the Ragnarok demo was that strategy is going to become your new best friend. You can acquire and change these new powers on a whim to adapt to the situation around you, and you'll need to rack up combos to get the most from your new weapons, such as devastating finishers and AOE attacks. In the hands-off demo, we got to see such a situation where players would need to decide whether to keep their small army of Muspels or change their power to allow them to cross a river of lava. These reanimated allies will take care of any enemies, leaving you free to explore where you can, gather loot and focus on larger enemies.
As you'd expect, Svartalfheim is full of tall architecture, labyrinthine caves and hideouts and the suitably massive scared tree, Yggdrasil. The realm is quite brutalist in nature, which is a nice change from the English countryside and shiny rainbows of Asgard. There's a much more serious feel to Ragnarok—in the demo, Odin was demonstrably less funny than Eivor, so hopefully, we get to see more of his godly personality emerge throughout the story. You'll still be liberating areas as you do in the base game, this time by seeking out Dwarven shelters and helping their inhabitants. It's in these shelters that you'll find various vendors who can upgrade your Hugr-rip, weapons and armour, as well as progress along with the main story.
For an even bigger challenge, players will be able to face off enemies new and familiar as part of the Valkyries challenge. I didn't get to see or hear much more about these arena challenges, but they sound hard as balls, so I'm in. As you increase the difficulty the enemies will become more powerful but as ever, the greater the challenge, the greater the reward.
All Valhalla players can jump in at launch and for those of you who haven't played over 100 hours and don't have 340 power, there's the option to automatically boost your gear and stats to that level. Assassin's Creed Valhalla: Dawn of Ragnarok comes to PC and consoles on March 10.