Assassin's Creed Valhalla's new Tombs of the Fallen update heads back to the series' roots via a series of fun and mildly challenging puzzle platforming dungeons - and a sprinkling of intriguing new lore.
I played through the new content, added to Valhalla in yesterday's free 1.4.0 update, in around three hours last night. You get started by heading to the docks in Ravensthorpe, where villagers point to a disturbance across the water.
Fans had long suspected there was a mystery behind the various rocks scattered across Valhalla's world with symbols on them - dubbed Odin Runes. And, indeed, Eivor discovers she now has the power to make these rocks vanish, uncovering complex cave systems to explore.
The first cave by Ravensthorpe acts as a kind of hub for the new Tombs of the Fallen update. Its here, via a giant map, you can see where the other currently-accessible tombs are. It's also here you'll get clues as to how they came to be made, and to a larger mystery players will need to wait a little longer to uncover.
Checking this map is the only way to see where the other tombs are located (apart from checking the internet). Three are currently accessible. But there are other Odin runes out in the world, too - suggesting more tombs will follow.
Each mini-dungeon feels a bit like the Ezio-era platforming tombs of old, with a handful of physics puzzles inside courtesy of later influences like Breath of the Wild and Immortals: Fenyx Rising. Several times you'll need to unlock doors using weights carried some distance through obstacles in the cave system. One section includes a fun/frustrating ice maze with traps waiting behind some panels.
Each tomb is clearly Isu in origin, but poke around and you'll find notes from someone named Manius Calvisius, who served as engineer to Roman emperor Nero. Manius recognises the tombs were built by someone other than the primitive local Britons, but is more concerned with the fact they were currently being used as places to gather and celebrate local anti-Roman heroes.
It's explained that the local Britons were using the caves as grand tombs for their own fallen heroes - locals who stood up to the Roman occupation, such as East Anglia's infamous Boudicca. Manius is told by Nero to keep the Britons out of the caves and under control.
But rather than destroy the tombs and risk riling up the Britons more, Manius created their elaborate puzzle-filled inner workings you now play through - effectively sealing them from most who'd try to venture in.
Completing each tomb will unlock a brief encounter with the local British hero buried within (yes, including Boudicca) during Roman times, and also a piece of a new Isu-era gear set. Its initial rusted look is quite striking, though the fully-upgraded appearance is nice too.
Each tomb also hosts a bonus item fragment to find - again, clearly Isu in design. When picking each up, Eivor involuntarily utters a word in a language she cannot understand - "hàsm", "rhobtoràs" and "oænosôd" - but which presumably will become clear in the future. (My initial thought was this was a spoken snippet of the hidden Isu language fans had painstakingly managed to translate this year.) Regardless, there's no way to use these item fragments yet, and there are still further Odin Rune rocks which do not currently allow Eivor to pass through them.
The suggestion then, is that a further round of tombs will become available in the future with more story, more fragments, and a way through the giant stone door lurking in the initial cave just outside Ravensthorpe. (Just as Ubisoft has released a second dollop of extra content for its River Raids mode, and is due to add more to its combat map Mastery Challenge activity in the future.)
Speaking of Valhalla's combat maps, one interesting Easter egg can be found here in the tomb of Venutius - messages from the mysterious Hideran, who led/tricked Eivor into discovering the Eye of Odin item for her. Hilderan has also explored these tombs in the past, and there's clearly a larger story going on here with her and the Isu we'll have to wait for future updates to uncover more of.
And that's it for the Tombs of the Fallen, for now. Next up for Valhalla is a slightly-belated spooky seasonal event - the festival of Oskoreia - which begins tomorrow. This delves into the origin of the Wild Hunt myth, which was initially based on an Odin-led hunting party causing havoc. Sounds fun. All of that comes before the game's next paid expansion, details of which keep popping up even if its not expected to release until early next year.