For over a decade, Ubisoft Sofia has been behind the scenes, building pieces of various Ubisoft open worlds. The 250-person team from Bulgaria worked on the Curse of the Pharaohs expansion for Assassin’s Creed Origins and created several main campaign areas of Assassin’s Creed Valhalla (Wessex and Jotunheim).
His biggest project to date was Assassin’s Creed Rogue, the oft-overlooked naval sequel to Black Flag that remixed the series’ popular pirate entry in different ways. And there’s a similar feel here at Dawn of Ragnarök, which remixes Valhalla gameplay and adds some fresh flavors to the mix.
For the uninitiated, Dawn of Ragnarök is slated for March as part of Valhalla’s second year of post-launch content, designed as a meaty mythological expansion weighing around 40 hours. As the name suggests, it focuses on the Odin part of Valhalla’s story and takes place before the endgame of the Viking God (as far as how this might tie into Valhalla…we’ll keep spoilers at a minimum here). Still, things certainly kick up a notch as the expansion begins, with the fiery realm of Muspelheim invading the peaceful dwarven home of Svartalfheim, where the expansion takes place. (Expect a brief appearance from Viking Eivor to set things in motion and react to his revelations, but otherwise it’s very much Odin’s story.)
A 20-minute demo Eurogamer saw last week showed how Dawn of Ragnarök breaks free from some of Valhalla’s Viking shackles and heads to town with powers more worthy of a Norse god – while still keeping tactical gameplay . The expansion’s systems and gameplay revolve around a new dual-power loadout system, with abilities scavenged from fallen enemies and swapped at will as you face different situations.
Surtur’s son, right, is a key player.
This system is called the Hugr-rip, because it literally extracts enemies’ abilities from their bodies. (Hugr is used here as a rough equivalence for the Norse concept of a soul.) So, for example, there’s the power of Muspelheim, which you can wrest from fallen, fiery Muspel enemies. This makes Odin immune to lava and fire, and means he can also impersonate a Muspel via social stealth, making it easier to get out of combat. (A very good thing, as Valhalla’s combat could often drag on forever.)
The power of the crow, meanwhile, is acquired from giant birds. This allows Odin to transform into raven form and fly through Svartalfheim by air, then quickly land on any scaleable surface. Every Hugr-rip power can be upgraded and your raven ability can be upgraded to include Raven Assassination. Unfortunately, that doesn’t mean you can peck your enemies to death. Instead, it lets you Air Assassinate enemies as Odin straight out of your flight state, while also disabling the power.
There is gold in these hills.
We’ve also seen The Power of Rebirth, shot from large enemies, which immediately reanimate fallen enemies to your side for as long as your Hugr meter allows. This new gauge limits the effective time of your divine powers, but can be supplemented by any living creature in the world, including certain plants, or altars where Odin can sacrifice health for a Hugr fix. There’s also a tactical side to it all: picking the powers you want for a particular situation, or for your particular playstyle, then keeping your Hugr topped up by timing and chaining kills and use of your abilities.
“I like to play stealth and stay hidden,” Ragnarök creative director Mikahil Lozanov, a 15-year Ubisoft Sofia veteran, tells me. “So most of the time I play with the crow power which allows me to escape or infiltrate quickly, as well as the Muspelheim or Jotunheim powers which allow me to blend in socially.”
Eivor appears briefly, but Odin is the star.
As our demo begins, Odin seeks help in an underground Dwarven shelter, a cave deep in a mountain filled with glowing green crystals. We are in Svartalfheim because Odin’s son, Baldr, has been kidnapped by Muspel’s boss, Surtur, who is also hanging around somewhere, although Odin is currently busy helping the locals. I enjoyed some of the dialogue here, as Odin clearly has a history with these people, even though this is our first stop in the realm of Valhalla. While we’re under cover, we can also stop by a dwarven blacksmith to upgrade Odin’s Hugr-rip gadget, the thing that activates our new suite of powers.
Gameplay wise, though very pretty, it’s so far, so Valhalla. But as we emerge from the cave, Lozanov flexes some of the expansion muscle – transforming into a crow to investigate a nearby dwarven city taken by Muspel’s forces. In a rush, we fell, transformed back into Odin right on top of a Muspel leader and immediately assassinated him, before heading into battle using the new polearm atgeir which provides a new set of new attack finisher areas. The Muspel are just one faction of enemies in Svartalfheim (the Jotuns are also there, along with other mythical beasts) and fighting them is a big deal – lava flowing from their chests as you walk away. Quickly, using the power of rebirth, we see Odin conjure up all the enemies he’s just knocked down to advance them into the next fight on his side, accompanied by a molten mini-army.
Teleport arrows allow another combat evasion technique.
A little later, Odin discovers the person he is tracking. We venture into a cave filled with lava but our exploration is limited here as we don’t have the power of Muspelheim active. Lozanov says that’s part of the idea behind the powers, which aim to expand the game beyond combat and provide choice in how to approach certain areas.
For those who have completed the Valhalla story, Ragnarök will expand on the Odin story revealed (and it takes place after the Jotunheim arc). For those who haven’t yet, it’s playable without any prior knowledge of the game, although Lozanov tells me there will be plenty of additional layers here for those who are up to date on the game – and others. franchise games. (So yes, for those looking for it, expect more Isu knowledge.)
Outside of Ragnarök’s main campaign, there’s a Valkyrie Arena, with Boast modifiers you can stack for tougher fights. And, of course, there’s your typical, beautiful world to rummage through, with plenty of bits and pieces to find if you venture off the beaten path. Ragnarök doesn’t come across as a reimagining of Valhalla, but there’s enough here that when I finally play it myself, I can’t wait to see if it feels new enough. Ubisoft Sofia did it with Rogue, and looks set to do it again here.
Article source https://www.eurogamer.net/articles/2022-02-10-ubisoft-sofias-ambitious-dawn-of-ragnarok-looks-a-fun-remix-of-assassins-creed-valhalla