Assassin’s Creed Valhalla was, for the most part, more of Ubisoft’s reimagined Assassin’s Creed gameplay. For some people, that’s more than enough. It had the biggest launch of any game from the franchise, after all. If you’re one of those people, the Wrath of the Druids expansion gives you more of Valhalla with a few new tweaks.
Eivor’s new adventure is meant to be played at any point in the story and fits cleanly into a self-contained story arc set in Ireland. Once again, Eivor heads into a new region to meet a noble and help them consolidate power over their land by resolving petty squabbles. In this case, Eivor is invited by their previously unmentioned cousin, Bárid mac Ímair, who’s ended up running Dublin. One thing leads to another and they’re helping Bárid curry favour with the emerging High King of Ireland, Flann Sinna.
Game reviewed on a Ryzen 5 3600, ASUS RTX 2060 Super and 16GB of RAM
The plot is set against the backdrop of a complicated situation where the dominant Church is threatening the extinction of the traditional Druids, navigated from the perspective of a Pagan Dane distrusted by both sides. The leading characters in the story, Flann Sinna, Bárid and the poetess Ciara ingen Medba add their own perspectives to the situation to flesh out and explain the motivations of each group.
On the one hand, the general themes of religious tension and the need to adapt old traditions to fit new circumstances aren’t new to Valhalla. Christians resisting Pagan faiths were pretty common in the base game. As were Norse families trying to integrate themselves into English societies.
On the other, seeing it happen in Ireland is quite different. Eivor doesn’t have as much invested in the fate of the Druids. The fate of the Raven Clan isn’t at stake and Bárid’s sole objective is to be accepted by Flann Sinna, something that he had already embraced the Chirstian faith for. Because of this, the conflict between Druids and the Church is something that you can approach as an observer. The detachment changes the context of this well-worn conflict enough to feel fresh again.
The detachment changes the context of this well-worn conflict enough to feel fresh again.
Ireland itself sets the plot apart from England’s stories. The country feels far more magical than England does. While England had its Roman ruins and deep forests, Ireland’s setting lets it lean far deeper into fantasy.
A quick journey from one objective to another might reveal misty forests filled with Druid encampments oozing poison gas. One town exists in a miasma within a forest that seems to addle the minds of its inhabitants. Ancient Ringforts sit atop imposing cliffs, visible from miles around.
Ireland’s own geography plays a part in the difference. It’s own iconic topography like the rock formation Ben Bulben is in the game. Thanks to Ubisoft’s fantastic weather rendering, it can be seen shrouded in mist turning it into something right out of the Lord of the Rings books.
Riding through Ireland is almost magical and is distinct from exploring England, despite both countries being mostly green, grassy hills.
For the most part, yes. The setting does a great job for establishing character motivations and making them believable. While the overarching objectives are straightforward, the setting sets up plenty of drama. Some plot moments aren’t very surprising either through being really predictable or by, once again, opening a menu and being observant. Overall, though, the story is good. Not excellent or mind blowing, but good.
What isn’t so good is the quest structure the expansion relies on. While there are a couple of exciting quests that nearly cement Eivor as a one-person army of Mary-Sueness, most of the quests involve listening to, mostly, well acted exposition with some investigation. What’s most egregious is forcing the player to do Royal Demands, essentially Skyrim’s random quests, to progress the plot. They’re given a reasonable justification in the plot though they feel so incredibly disconnected that it’s blatantly obvious that Royal Demands were added in just to pad Wrath of the Druids’ length.
it’s blatantly obvious that Royal Demands were added in just to pad Wrath of the Druids’ length.
Wrath of the Druids’ plot also introduces a new enemy faction called the Children of Danu that act similarly to the Order of the Ancients. The Children don’t bring much to the table. They’re implemented in almost exactly the same way as the Order and are much smaller. The only good thing about this group is that they allow Eivor a window into Irish mythology. While many aspects of it are mentioned in exposition throughout the main story, the uniquely Assassin’s Creed melding of sci-fi with ancient pantheons isn’t as dominant in this storyline.
It feels a little disappointing that Irish mythology didn’t get a larger role in the story. It’s not as well known as the Norse pantheon that most of the main game focuses on and would have been interesting to explore. Still, the brief glimpses into it are interesting enough.
On the combat side, there are a few new abilities thrown into the mix. One ability grants the ability to summon an Irish Wolfhound which feels like a reskin of the existing skill that summons a wolf instead. Another lets Eivor give out a devastating headbutt that stuns their unfortunate target which isn’t so much of a reskin and is satisfying to use.
There are also some new druid-themed enemies. These new foes have different movesets and abilities from most bandits which adds some much needed variety to the combat. They’ll throw out clouds of poison gas, sic werewolves on you and toss you around the map.
The new enemies and abilities keep things fresh while clearing Ireland.
There is a new mechanic in the form of a trade system. Eivor is able to clear out abandoned trade posts and restore them in order to collect new resources. These can be spent on trade missions across the globe, bringing back armour sets from the trade targets. It's reasonably grounded in reality and has the added benefit of opening up new builds to experiment with thanks to their unique bonuses.
Like the base game, Wrath of the Druids is reasonably well optimised with the game having little trouble staying above 60fps with some tweaks to the settings. Unfortunately, the game isn’t very stable and crashed multiple times during the playthrough. While there was no major loss of progress, the crashes were frequent enough to make me reinstall the game on an SSD to cut down on the load times.
Unfortunately, the game isn’t very stable and crashed multiple times during the playthrough.
It is, very much so, so long as you like Valhalla. It doesn’t shake up the formula Ubisoft have been refining. If you enjoyed Valhalla and want more adventures with Eivor, the expansion will deliver on that, no problem. If you were more on the fence about the base game, it might not be for you. Wrath of the Druids has inherited the same flaws from the base game and the new features probably won’t change your opinion on the game.