When I set down Assassin's Creed Valhalla after I finished it for review, my only real complaint was that the base game's main story was a bit too long, crowded by a few less interesting regions in the middle sections. While I loved my time with it, I was hoping that the DLC packs, the first of which is Wrath of the Druids, would offer something different that would entice players to come back to Valhalla. While adding a few different mechanics in settlement management, the trip to Ireland leans on the familiar gameplay loop of the base game. However, it still offers a healthy new variety of enemies, locations, and interesting boss fights that make it worth revisiting Valhalla.
Eivor is approached by a mysterious missive from Ireland, telling them that they've been summoned by the King of Dublin by name. After some confusion, as Eivor does not know the King of Dublin, you'll set off to destroy a barricade that blocks the route to Ireland. Upon arrival, the King is revealed to be Eivor's cousin Barid, a real historical figure who ruled over Dublin in the 9th Century.
After the reunion, the premise is set - Barid wishes to gain the favor of the Irish High King Flann, who is distrustful of Danes like himself. To repay a debt to Barid's parents for taking them in as a child, Eivor pledges their axe to him. Only later does the true story involving a powerful forest cult called the Children of Danu begin to manifest, with their reach seeping into every aspect of society. Aided by a feisty drunk poetess named Ciara (who I initially disliked but is growing on me), Eivor sets out to find what horrors the druids have pulled from the deep reaches of the wood.
If asked to estimate, I'd say the playable landmass of Ireland is roughly 1/5 of England's size from the base game. It's composed of four large regions, one of which is Dublin, and is breathtakingly beautiful. To my eyes, the region of Gloucestershire in the base game is one of the most beautiful locations in all of video games. The quiet, murky fog of the forests; the shadows of otherworldly beasts in the distance; the shimmering of dimly lit ponds hidden away in the woods; the cackling of witches from deep in the brambles; the little Hobbit hole residences; and the shadow of the enormous wicker man as it watches over pagan rituals and strange stone carvings. This aesthetic was so wonderful I wished it had been used more, and I got my wish; 9th Century Ireland is largely all of the aforementioned.
The rolling green hills, dotted with pink and purple flowers, are a joy to explore under the hazy blue skies. Simply being in this place feels nice, and that's an understated strength of many video games. The erratic weather cycles of Ireland provide everything from bright, sunny rainstorms to six-inch visibility fog. Plentiful wildlife and strange carvings, stone formations, and altars from the Celts fill out the world. Speaking of which, one of my biggest sticking points about Valhalla, the lack of mythological monsters, has finally been rectified a bit; players will come face to face with the Púca, a shapeshifting monster from Celtic myth, that has come into the service of the Children of Danu cult. Fighting mythological monsters in the Assassin's Creed Origins and Odyssey DLCs was a delight, and I hope to see more of this from Valhalla as the story continues.
As I mentioned, mechanically, the gameplay loop of Wrath of the Druids is mostly identical to the base game, with a few notable exceptions. Eivor now works to gain the favor of King Flann, and so sets forth to solidify trade agreements with neighboring kingdoms and faraway lands alike. Although you're attempting to raise the renown level of Dublin (as you did with Ravensthorpe), your actual operations are distributed around Ireland in outposts that you take over and populate.
For outpost supplies, you'll need to continue raiding the new monasteries in Ireland as well as complete favors for the King. One shake-up I enjoyed is that the favors come with additional conditions of success called a King's Plea - for instance, you're tasked with clearing out a bandit camp, and the King's Plea asks that you not take damage. If you complete the King's Plea, you'll earn double rewards for that mission. Outpost supplies are used to, what else, build your outposts. There is a handful scattered around the world, and they show up at a good pace.
Here's the interesting part - Wrath of the Druids sort of turns into a mobile idle game here. Your outposts generate trade supplies at a specific rate, starting at one per real-time minute. Bolstering your outposts and expanding their capabilities results in faster production, more variety of trade supplies, and more weapon/armor customization options. I was averse to this at first, but I ended up liking the system a lot. Go out, do a few King's Favors, and return to find a few hundred trade supplies waiting for you. These trade supplies are given to a merchant named Azar, who I quite enjoyed talking to, and she completes your trade transactions. At the end of the day you're still mostly raiding camps, retrieving something or killing someone, and then returning, but even this small difference is a nice change of pace.
To my surprise, the cultist system from Odyssey makes a triumphant return and has been streamlined. There are only 9 cultists, and looking at the map of the Children of Danu leaders is so much less daunting than the 40+ characters on the base game map. I might actually hang about and knock them all out at this point, and I've never been one for collectibles. There are also amber pieces to collect that have a special ritual purpose in-game, so completionists will have plenty to do in this expansion (I'd estimate 25 hours worth). Following context clues in notes leads you from one to another, and completing side quests in the open world will sometimes drop hints about where to start looking. I've enjoyed the Children of Danu as enemies mostly because of their use of spears and scythes as weapons. It provides something a little different, although combat is still mostly the same.
Overall, I really enjoyed my time with Wrath of the Druids, but that's really only because I enjoyed my time with the base game. Still, I couldn't help but be a bit disappointed that Ubisoft had chosen not to give the DLC a bit of a shake-up from the main game like the Origins DLC Curse of the Pharaohs or the Odyssey DLC The Fate of Atlantis. I think it's most similar to what The Champions' Ballad DLC did for The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild - it's simply just more of an already great game.
If you felt like Assassin's Creed Valhalla was already too jam-packed with stuff, this is probably not going to change your mind. However, it does focus on the best parts of the base game and is still a ton of fun. Plus you'll encounter a slew of monsters from Celtic mythology and maybe, just maybe, fall in love with a drunk redhead along the way. I cannot understate how beautiful the countryside of Ireland is. If you liked your time with Valhalla, I highly recommend coming back to see what Wrath of the Druids is all about.
TechRaptor reviewed Assassin's Creed Valhalla: Wrath of the Druids on PlayStation 5 with a free code provided by the publisher. Assassin's Creed Valhalla is also available on PlayStation 4, Xbox One, Xbox Series X|S, PC, and Google Stadia.
- Gorgeous Landscapes With Lots to See
- Focus on Mythological Monsters and Magic
- Satisfying Core Gameplay Loop
- Basically Just More of the Base Game