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Assassin’s Creed Valhalla: Wrath of the Druids Review

A familiar yet enjoyable Irish romp.
Assassin's Creed Valhalla: Wrath of the Druids Review

Did you know that Dublin was a Viking settlement at one point? My American education is likely to blame, but I’d only known of the Viking’s history with England up until I played the first expansion DLC for Assassin’s Creed Valhalla, Wrath of the Druids. Turns out the Northmen were pretty darn involved in Ireland, though Wrath of the Druids is certainly not an accurate historical representation.

For example, the King of Dublin just so happens to be Eivor’s cousin. Turns out having a bloodthirsty Viking raider in the family has its perks, so King Barid requests Eivor’s help dealing with a local dilemma. It’s this basic conceit that propels us out of England and into the rolling green gales of Ireland proper. From there it’s a tale of power, betrayal, and honor. You know, a standard Valhalla tale.

Wrath of the Druids is more of the same, for better and for worse.

After Eivor meets and runs an errand for the foreign merchant Azar they’ll be given passage to the misty green isle, and upon setting foot upon the Dublin docks players will find themselves embroiled in a plot involving the newly crowned High King of Ireland, Flann Sinna, and group of radial pagans called the Children of Danu.

I like to avoid spoilers in my reviews, so I’ll summarize the tale as thus: it is very, very similar to the other regional narratives in Assassin’s Creed Valhalla. It is largely self-contained and has little impact on the main narrative. It features a wholly unique cast of characters, and one of them may or may not actually be one of the bad guys.

It’s a solid, fun yarn overall and a fine diversion from the main game. Wrath of the Druids feels like a natural extension of the core experience that launched in November of last year, and this feeling carries over into the land of Ireland itself and what you’ll do therein. The expansion takes place in roughly the northern half of the island, and in total it’s about a quarter the size of England’s map. The usual fare of additional tasks dot the maps, from resource-laden Wealth markers to the standard run of Mysteries we’ve played to death in the regular game.

While the overall design and flow of Ireland isn’t any different than from say Cant or Wessex, it is perhaps one of Ubisoft’s best maps visually. The vibrant green glens and forests break way to towering crags and sheer cliffs, making Ireland perhaps one of Assassin’s Creeds more vertical maps, and I’d argue it’s one of the best areas in all of Valhalla.

Say what you will about Ubisoft’s recent obsession with generating obscenely large open-worlds, but Ireland easily ranks as one of their best. It’s gorgeous, well laid-out, and the size is just right for a twenty-hour experience. Sure, it still takes a while to navigate Ireland on either foot or horseback, but the scenic route is well worth taking (you’ll swiftly learn why rainbows adorn damn near every stereotypical Irish decoration).

Mechanically, Wrath of the Druids is more of Assassin’s Creed Valhalla, and I’m not saying that to be reductive. By and large the core gameplay loops that make up the base game are here and present in the expansion. There are a couple of wrinkles though, like the Trading Outposts and Trade system that are a cross between your settlement development and traditional Ubisoft outpost liberations.

You’ll still perform raids in Ireland (though your doing so doesn’t exactly jive with the main story), but this time you’ll use the resources to upgrade the several Trading Outposts scattered across Ireland (after you’ve liberated them, of course). These outposts generate one of four trade materials unique to the expansion, which are then redeemed at Azar’s shop for cosmetics, further supplies, and to increase Dublin’s trade rank, which unlocks additional “trade partners” for further rewards.

There are about four armor sets tucked away within the Trading system, making it ideal for new players looking to round out their armory early in the game. Other than that, it’s a decent way to earn some silver once the major rewards have been redeemed, so while it’s not entirely exciting for returning players, it does help them generate some relatively passive income.

The new Royal Demands are less exciting. Part way into Wrath of the Druids story you’ll unlock these randomized missions, and they’re a decent way to farm up resources if you’re bored. They come with additional secondary objectives, called King’s Pleas, that will double the rewards earned if completed. These Pleas tend to focus on precise stealth gameplay, so for those of you out there looking for a proper reason to run a stealth build in Assassin’s Creed Valhalla these Royal Demands may scratch that itch.

Wrath of the Druids really is just more of the same

Other than those two things and three new abilities that can be found, Wrath of the Druids really is just more of the same. You even unlock a small assassination tree set exclusively in Ireland that works exactly the same as the Order of the Ancients mechanic in the base game. The points of interest are mostly all the same as they are in England, though without the entertaining mini-stories. There’s a new Trials of the Morrigan event, but it’s really just a handful of combat trials against the new druid faction.

Which is itself . . . s’okay. They are fast, brutal attackers that are fine to battle in small groups, but are a stun-locking nightmare in larger numbers. Since Assassin’s Creed Valhalla’s combat has a tendency to trip over its own animations, fighting the druids can sometimes feel like a true test of patience over skill. They’re a fine new set of enemies, but Valhalla’s combat can’t always keep up with their constant unrelenting assaults.

acv-ireland-rainbow

The Verdict

Overall, Assassin’s Creed Valhalla: Wrath of the Druids is a solid first expansion. It doesn’t reinvent the formula or introduce anything radically new, like the DLC for Ubisoft’s other recent open-world title, Immortals: Fenyx Rising, but it does what it sets out to do, and does it well.

If you are still enjoying Valhalla then Wrath of the Druids is worth a gander. Hopefully the Siege of Paris expansion breaks the mold a little, but for now this first expansion acts as a serviceable excuse to revisit Assassin’s Creed Valhalla, if nothing more than to tour about 9th century Ireland.

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Assassin's Creed Valhalla: Wrath of the Druids

  • Score: 4 / 5
  • Available On: PC, PlayStation 4, PlayStation 5, Xbox One, Xbox Series X|S, Stadia
  • Published By: Ubisoft
  • Developed By: Ubisoft Bordeaux and Ubisoft Montreal
  • Genre: Open-World RPG
  • US Release Date: May 13th, 2021
  • Reviewed On: Xbox Series X
  • Quote: "If you are still enjoying Valhalla then Wrath of the Druids is worth a gander. Hopefully the Siege of Paris expansion breaks the mold a little, but for now this first expansion acts as a serviceable excuse to revisit Assassin's Creed Valhalla, if nothing more than to tour about 9th century Ireland."
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