When Assassin’s Creed Valhalla first released, fans were met with a game that bridged the gap between the old and the new. With more vicious combat befitting of its Viking-themed setting, it was an enjoyable if inconsistent Assassin’s Creed. Now, DLC pack Assassin’s Creed Valhalla: Wrath of the Druids looks to build upon the successes of the main title.
Assassin’s Creed Valhalla: Wrath of the Druids is the first of the major expansions to the core game. Leaving Britain behind, Eivor travels to Ireland at the behest of their cousin Barid, who is now King of Dublin. However, there our hero finds that power is not easily held, allegiances can be fleeting, and there’s a sinister group pulling the strings behind the scenes.
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If that sounds a lot like the plot of the base game, it’s not surprising. Wrath of the Druids almost feels like a pocket-sized version of the main Valhalla game, complete with a plot about gaining the trust of the powerful, taking down a secretive cult of villains, and building up a settlement through resource management and exploration. However, much like Assassin’s Creed Valhalla, Wrath of the Druids has a misses to go along with its successes.
For starters, Wrath of the Druids imports a lot of the busy work of Britain to its new location of Ireland, albeit in slightly different forms. Across Ireland, the player needs to open trading posts through clearing out enemies, tracking down the deeds scattered across the land, and raiding monasteries to get goods to add buildings to each post. These trading posts can then be used to better gather resources to build up the city of Dublin, which in turn unlocks some extra items for Eivor to use.
However, Dublin lacks the same attachment as Britain’s settlement of Ravensthorpe, a place that Eivor (and by extension the player) has an emotional link to. While Ravensthorpe was a solid diversion in the core game, since it was satisfying to see the player’s home grow with each success, outside of getting loot there’s not a lot that ties Eivor to Dublin from a plot perspective. In the end, it leaves Ireland feeling more like a place full of resources to plunder rather than a new location to explore in its own right. The gameplay is still enjoyable, but it lacks heart.
This is perhaps Wrath of the Druids‘ main problem, as it somewhat squanders Ireland’s deep cultural history and unique landscape. It is worth noting, for instance, that the first named Irish character the player meets in the game just happens to be drunk. Equally, although the plot centers around Assassin’s Creed Valhalla‘s druids, the culture and mythology is never truly explored outside of being a surrogate for the Order of the Ancients, while the game’s structure of wooing kings and taking forts leaves Ireland feeling like an extra part of Britain rather an a location in its own right. Certain side quests are a little better, but not enough to stop the sense that this is something of a missed opportunity.
Part of this is undoubtedly down to the content padding, such as the simplistic Royal Demand missions that add little to the experience. Players won’t help but wonder if more room could have been made for engaging missions, particularly given that Valhalla proved itself capable of making new areas feel unique through the excellent North American diversion in the core game. It’s still fun to play, and the character-driven plot is just as engaging as the political turmoil of the main game, but it could have been more.
It’s not all stumbles, though, and thankfully the minute-to-minute gameplay is extremely enjoyable. When Wrath of the Druids dives into its subject matter it excels, through tense battles against the druidic Children of Danu and a couple of excellent boss battles against mythical creatures such as the puca; Wrath of the Druids is the most Witcher that Assassin’s Creed has felt so far, and it’s all the better for it. It’s also a beautiful expansion at times, even if its iteration of Ireland feels a little too close to Britain for comfort.
This leaves Wrath of the Druids as a decent if uninspired first major DLC pack for Assassin’s Creed Valhalla. Its truly brilliant moments are worth playing, and those who enjoyed the core gameplay loop of the main game will be satisfied. However, elements like resource gathering and generic side quests could certainly have been cut to make way for more divergent design, to make use of Ireland and all its history.
Assassins Creed Valhalla: Wrath of the Druids releases 13 May 2021 for PC, PS4, PS5, Xbox One, and Xbox Series S/X. Screen Rant was provided with a PS5 download code for the purposes of this review.
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