July 14, 2024

Assassin’s Creed Valhalla is my favorite Assassin’s Creed game to date, with refined gameplay, captivating story, and stunning visuals. Although the game was not at all lacking in terms of content, Ubisoft has given fans a reason to return to the game anyway. Wrath of the Druids, the first major expansion of the game brings with it a ton of new content and gameplay mechanics.

You don’t need to finish the main story to access or understand Wrath of the Druids, and nothing from the main story is spoiled by playing the DLC. There’s a couple of winks and references here and there, but you’re not really going to find yourself missing a whole lot. The DLC content becomes available right after you settle down in England when you receive an invitation to Ireland.

There’s a whole new cast of characters to meet and interact with, most notably your charming cousin Barid. Like any Assassin’s Creed game worth its asking price, the DLC serves as a loose recollection of history. This time around you are introduced to High king Flann Sinna and the newly settled Vikings, Irish politics, and the cult of radicals called The Children of Danu. Of course, like the previous games, there is a bit of liberty when it comes to retelling this story, and this time around we’ve got Werewolves, so yeah, I would say there’s a fair bit of liberty taken here.

The DLC story takes a different approach to the narrative and doesn’t drag around too much, and you can expect to be done with the story bits in around 15-18 hours. The identity of different cultures, the mixture of customs, and racism are concepts that are present in the main story, but they were reduced to a couple of secondary missions that many probably avoided, or did not have enough weight to be memorable. Wrath of the Druids on the other hand takes these themes to the forefront. From the first moment Eivor lands in Ireland, we can see how the Vikings have begun to change their practices to become part of this society that is just forming. On the other hand, we have the Druids, a people divided between the pagan customs that have characterized them so much and the Christian practices that have gained strength in Ireland. In addition to suffering similar problems to the Vikings in this section, this society is affected by a certain degree of racism. Because The Children of Danu are part of this culture, the people and kings of Ireland despise any pagan who does not choose to submit to the church of the cross.

Although the themes are quite interesting and certainly better represented than the main game, the structure of the story does not give them enough screen time to have enough impact on Flann Sinna’s journey taking the spotlight for most of the time.

While in the main game of Valhalla we can go through various regions of Scandinavia and the east of England, Wrath of the Druids decides to take us to Ireland, to be more specific, to the center and north of this country. Although at first glance, the new locations don’t seem all that different from the main game, continued exploration proves otherwise. From great castles to treacherous swamps and emerald forests, Ireland is a gorgeous place. It is apparent that Ubisoft has paid extra attention to details, owing to the reduced map size.

Although you can’t see the entire island of Ireland, this is still a large map, the size of two or three English territories from the main game. With its druidic ruins, extremely green color palette, and gorgeous purple sunsets, Ireland certainly has its own look. The weather also makes a surprisingly big difference with the near-perpetual rain giving the adventure a gloomy feel.

Unfortunately, character movement and facial expression still remain a bit wonky and wooden. I did not run into any major bugs, but I did get stuck on a basket once and had to spam the dodge button in order to get free. The game is however much-better-optimized thanks to the host of patches that have arrived since launch.

A big map would mean nothing if it was empty. Thankfully the DLC is peppered with the kinds of activities returning players would expect. There are combat trials to conquer, artifacts to find, and bandit camps to destroy. Trading posts are dotted around the map, and by capturing them, you can develop Dublin’s trade network, which is a big new addition to the game that allows you to build your own trading empire. More trade means more goods allowing you to unlock a wide range of new weapons and armor sets. 

Even though the game doesn’t prevent you from accessing the DLC early on, it’s highly recommended that you are at least above 55 before tackling the newly added content. Unless of course, you have no issues with sticking to the shadows and constantly running away from combat. The newly added abilities are all cool, as their names would suggest: Eye of the North, Cold Rage, and Intense Rage. These abilities are focused on making you become more resilient in combat, allowing you to take damage without flinching and being interrupted in combat.