Assassin’s Creed Valhalla: Dawn of Ragnarök Review (PS5) – Havi A Good Time

Assassin’s Creed’s redemption story/upward trajectory continues with the latest expansion for Valhalla. Dawn of Ragnarök is an unabashedly wild and full-on fantasy addition to the Assassin’s Creed canon and one that throws reality out of the window in favour of some truly wonderful additions to combat, storytelling and gameplay mechanics.

Set in the dwarven realm of Svartalfheim, Dawn of Ragnarök takes place in a vision/dream/memory of Eivor’s. Players take control of Havi/Odin who is on a quest to rescue his son Baldr from the clutches of unkillable musphel Surtr.

We’ve already seen the dream realm, Asgard and Aesir in Valhalla but we haven’t seen quite anything like Dawn of Ragnarök. This is Assassin’s Creed with the restraints totally and utterly removed. This is full-on, hardcore high-fantasy complete with dwarves, jotun, musphels, magic and more.

Dawn of Ragnarök Review

Early on in Dawn of Ragnarök, Havi is gifted the Hugr Rip which grants him the ability to steal powers from his enemies. The powers available are the Power of the Raven, Power of Jotunheim, Power of Winter, Power of Musphelheim and Power of Rebirth. Each of these powers dramatically alters how you play Assassin’s Creed and could only exist inside a fantasy setting. These new powers also require the use of a new resource called Hugr, meaning life-source.

Hugr can be refilled by collecting it from special flowers and/or by killing any living creature, thus stealing their Hugr. When you activate a power, it lasts for roughly 30-seconds before it ceases, however, if you’re able to have acquired enough Hugr before it finishes (or you’ve unlocked the second Hugr slot) you can reactivate your chosen power before it finishes to keep it going. The exception to this is the Power of the Raven as this transforms Havi into a bird without any combat abilities, although there may be a way, later on, to fill your Hugr without killing anything…

The Power of the Raven is the biggest game-changer in Dawn of Ragnarök. Being able to transform into a bird and take flight at any moment is so stupidly good, you’ll wonder why more games haven’t included the mechanic before, especially those in this series. Once you unlock the ability to assassinate enemies from the air you’ll start to really get a kick out of being the raven. It does weirdly undercut the staple synchronise points though. Since you’re a bird you can literally fly up to them and sync each one with ease, though you also wonder why you even need to bother doing so, since you can just fly around. Dawn of Ragnarök may break all the rules, but it doesn’t stop being a slave to the franchise’s mechanics.

The remaining powers are two versions of transformations into enemies. The Power of Musphelheim and Rebirth are based on the Musphels and Jotunheim and Winter off the Jotuns. The Power of Musphelheim and Jotunheim fully transforms Havi into the respective race from that realm. Doing so allows him to pass by enemies undetected as well as to walk through lava (Musphelheim) and teleport brief distances (Jotunheim). Being able to change Havi’s appearance to hide in plain sight reminded me of the criminally overlooked and underplayed Assassin’s Creed III: Liberation; also developed by Ubisoft Sofia. In that game, Aveline would need to change her appearance by choosing the appropriate outfit for whichever region of the game she wanted to visit.

When Havi transforms into a Musphel, he can walk through their lava fields without taking damage which is very necessary since the Musphels have invaded Svartalfheim and done a hell of a lot of molten rock-based redecorating. Similarly, the Jotuns have also invaded and although Havi can walk on ice and snow without any issue, the Power of Jotunheim offers up something far tastier. While in Jotun form, Havi can aim at enemies with his bow to teleport-assassinate them as well as teleport to special markers to gain access to otherwise unreachable areas. The best part about the Power of Jotunheim is that as long as Havi remains undetected, any assassination refills the timer, so you can remain in disguise indefinitely.

The final two powers allow Havi to raise the dead to fight for him and inflict ice damage respectively. Both are quite useful in certain situations, but I found myself drawn to Jotunheim, Raven and Musphelheim. Especially since you can only keep two powers equipped initially and eventually find a way to equip three. And with my three favourites in play, I was able to fly between map markers, assassinate a goon on arrival, shapeshift into a Jotun or Musphel and then casually stroll around murdering everyone without being noticed. Beautiful stuff.

Svartalfheim itself is also beautiful and surprisingly massive with tonnes of hidden areas, underground puzzle chambers and places to explore. It fully embraces the fantasy nature of the expansion and features enormous golden mountains, floating monoliths and Yggdrasil’s roots off in the distance. It also feels densely packed with stories though you need to seek them out yourself. Exploring in Svartalfheim uncovers notes and conversations with its inhabitants who flesh out the invasion by the musphels and life in the realm. It doesn’t directly tie into Dawn of Ragnarök’s narrative arc, but there’s a great level of detail and lore to be found for those who want to find it.

Other new additions in Dawn of Ragnarök are the Atgier weapon class, an enormous pole-arm, and the Divine Class for weapons and armour. Atgiers are a fun inclusion though I long ago made my decision to stick with twin axes and I’ll be damned if I’m going to use anything else at this point. A new class of weapon and armour is a nice addition too but again, once I updated my chosen gear, I wasn’t really going to need all of that platinum I was collecting. The best part of having Divine gear is that once you are fully equipped you no longer take any fall damage, sadly this is only active in Svartalfheim and not England or Asgard but still, it’s a lot of fun to jump from the game’s highest point and not die on impact.

Dawn of Ragnarök is a chunky, lengthy expansion but a self-contained one. It relates very little to the main game beyond the character of Havi and it doesn’t impact Eivor’s world in any meaningful way. That being said, there’s a tonne of great stuff to see and do in Dawn of Ragnarök and just by existing it gives me hope for the future of Assassin’s Creed. If Ubisoft continues to be willing to throw the rulebook out and experiment with the IP, we’re in for some very good times indeed.

Assassin’s Creed Valhalla: Dawn of Ragnarök was reviewed on PS5 using a digital code provided by Ubisoft Australia.

Dawn of Ragnarök
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Leo Stevenson
Leo Stevenson
I've been playing games for the past 27 years and have been writing for almost as long. Combining two passions in the way I'm able is a true privilege. PowerUp! is a labour of love and one I am so excited to share.

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