Valhalla is at its best when it ignores the hallmarks of Assassin’s Creed games, which are hostility and confusing everything that happens around. Dawn of Ragnarok is proof that the series should cover the mythology of the cultures it explores, and Ubisoft did a good job of that. Sometimes games don’t need any other tricks – good dialogue, fantastic lands, powerful weapons and some polytheism – that’s what makes Valhalla so special.
Dawn of Ragnarok, the latest addition to Valhalla, is a more serious fantasy adventure, but a fun one nonetheless. This is the largest of the three expansions so far, but the only one where you play almost exclusively as Xavi. While it was cool to play Kingmaker in England, Ireland, and France, as is the way Ubisoft handles real historical events, I prefer to dabble as a Supreme before gouging out one eye for knowledge.
Myths and legends
This version of Odin, Xavi, the Allfather – whatever you want to call it – is a more emotional version than we’ve seen before. He’s obviously a pretty pushy guy – you can’t just let Tyr rip his arm off to tie up a giant wolf for no reason – and the tension inside him is palpable throughout Doc Ragnarok.
While searching for his son Balder, he makes it clear that he will destroy the Muspell and destroy Svartalfheim if he needs to – anything to get his beloved son back. You can see very real and raw love pouring out from Javi as he searches for and eventually stumbles upon an unfortunate end, especially when playing as a female Eivor. The story was more emotional than the vanilla Wahalla half, and while it makes me cringe to say so, exiting the final battle arena to a great Scandinavian soundtrack after the destruction of Surt was cool.
The main serious idea of Dawn of Ragnarok is that, despite our best efforts and intentions, sometimes we don’t see the forest for the trees and don’t always get the desired result. While this is a lesson worth learning, I have to talk about something more important: hitting enemies with a fiery blade on a stick and how magical Svartalfheim looks.
You can climb golden cliffs surrounded by beautiful dwarven structures and said dwarves will sing about you in their hideouts as you perform heroic deeds. Even the fortresses of Muspel, soaring high in the sky, look impressive like the Reapers when they rise above the horizon. All this pales next to the premonitory roots of Yggdrasil in the background, reminding you that Svartalfheim is full of secrets and wonders. This is a welcome change to the “real” map, where exploration can be summarized as: church, farm, church, dreary village, crumbling castle, before finding yet another church.
While the storyline in Dawn of Ragnarok is rather dark, it feels oddly light-hearted. There’s a lot of unintentional humor in the way Eivor/Javi delivers some of the lines, and listening to the Muspels moan about something or something while you slip between them is a lot of fun. It reminds me of the NPCs in The Witcher 3 who chatted pretty well about current events, chatting with Geralt as he ran past while the kids sang songs; all this makes these fantasy worlds more interesting. There are some really fun quests and moments throughout the visits to the worlds, whether it’s one of the Norse gods delivering a witticism or a jotun pretending to be a fish to protect his scaly brethren. It’s just stupid fun.
While historical accuracy is very interesting to someone like me – which is the reason I played Crusader Kings 3 a lot – it’s nice to have a Viking fantasy based on actual Norse mythology. Thor isn’t a sexy dude with rags, Loki isn’t a polite Englishman withgreasy hair, and the Hulk doesn’t seem to be spinning either. Javi is just as arrogant and powerful as they are, always making sure everyone knows he’s in charge. It’s refreshing to be able to play a Viking game that doesn’t have a hint of the comics, or that focuses solely on the deeds of Ragnar Lothbrok. Dawn Of Ragnarok isn’t just about raiding, looting, or appointing new leaders; we are talking about a father who took revenge and destroyed a large fiery giant in a mythical country. And, of course, turns into a bird to bomb people.
Delving into Norse mythology is absolutely the right direction for Valhalla. Asgard was a beautiful place with a cool rainbow bridge and one of the most interesting storylines in the entire game, while Jotunheim was just a big party where you could fight a huge cat. Given that this is the second year of Valhalla, I hope we visit more of the nine worlds and close out Eivor’s story with a big bang of Ragnarok. I want more Atgeir weapons that set enemies on fire, I want the Hugr-Rip to be available in the base game, I want more armor with blindfolds – you get the idea. Yes, it’s fun to roam England and beat nobles with your hammer, but I would rather ride a flaming cat to a golden mountain and find tattoo designs everywhere somewhere in the other world.
One of the unexpected twists in Dawn of Ragnarok that influenced the main game was that Eivor faced a wolf that bit her and she’s afraid of it. Up to this point, the opening scene where she gets bitten by a wolf on her neck seemed pointless, so for her to confront that fear and deal with her trauma, it feels like we’re just starting a new chapter for Eivor. This change allows her to experience Xavi’s memories in Svartalfheim again, so I hope to see a difference between Eivor and Xavi in future updates. Maybe they’ll both get a little softer, or maybe since Basim is technically the one who’s “playing” Eivor right now, they’ll both be a couple of terrible bastards.
Basically, I want more silly viking fun where I can brandish my silly little weapon and run around with my silly little eye patch. Eivor as Xavi is my favorite thing about Valhalla – watching her flaunt as a god is a lot of fun, especially since she’s one of my favorite main characters. The opening at the end of the Dawn of Ragnarok story hints at a few new storylines, mostly involving Loki and Fenrir before Ragnarok, and I’m really looking forward to it – unless there’s some Animus or Assassin’s Creed bullshit involved.