A good expansion builds upon the foundation laid by the base game while remaining connected to the core experience. When players come along years later, DLC should blend in with such ease that the game would feel incomplete without it. Wrath of the Druids, the first major expansion for Assassin’s Creed Valhalla, looks to continue Eivor’s journey in Ireland where the Viking legend must uncover mysteries and help High-King Flann Sinna bring stability to the war-torn country.
Pack your bags
Wrath of the Druids begins with Dublin’s economic guru, Azar, arriving at Eivor’s settlement in England. Azar is looking to bring trade to England from Ireland and has a letter for Eivor from their cousin Barid, who just happens to be the King of Dublin. Soon Eivor is off to see what this long-lost relative needs, kicking off an adventure that features loads of new story content, an engaging trade network, Children of Danu assassinations, Royal Demands quests, and loads of new locations to explore and gear to obtain.
Eivor’s visit to Ireland begins in Dublin, a city with several shops, including a Blacksmith and Overseas Trading hub that was a focus throughout my time in Wrath of the Druids. The story gets rolling in this first visit, with Eivor helping Barid gain favor with the High-King of Ireland by acquiring a rare gift through this new trade network. It seems like a straightforward task but sets in motion a series of events that will drastically change the political landscape of 9th century Ireland.
A worthy adventure
Throughout the expansion players must locate trading posts and clear them of hostiles, then find the deed and rebuild it. Each location specializes in a specific item that will be sent to the Overseas Trading hub in Dublin. It’s here players can collect their goods and trade them for gear and cosmetics from far-away lands. While I found the loop of clearing Trading Posts and finding their deeds a bit tedious at first, there’s some seriously good gear to be obtained and it didn’t take long for me to get fully engaged in this new activity.
It’s not the only new activity, though. Royal Demands are new quests that see Eivor doing favors for the kings of Ireland in attempt to gain favor with them. These objectives are straightforward, normally asking for targets to be killed or something retrieved. Each Royal Demand comes with a Royal Plea, a secondary objective that, if completed, will increase rewards. These objectives can include only killing targets, not being spotted, or not taking damage. They’re fun to try at first, but I was soon bored with how they slowed me down and just smashed everything, Royal Pleas be damned.
Drinking with kings
Wrath of the Druids’ story isn’t much different from the base game. It’s filled with new characters and locations and there are subtle shifts, but Eivor is still running with kings and helping the right person gain control and put down their opposition. Where Wrath of the Druids separates itself is with the mysteries of Ireland and the very compelling druidic cult. It’s not unlike the Order of the Ancients from the base game, but druidic enemies bring a spice to Valhalla that takes things up a notch.
For starters, druid combat features a hallucinogen that fogs the mind, which is well conveyed through the gameplay. It feels like being intoxicated and can be disorienting. Eivor can train against this hallucinogen through the Trials of Morrigan activity found throughout Ireland, but players are in for a shock the first time they take on a group of druids in their camp. I don’t want to spoil all the druid’s tricks, but there was a sense of relief when I was able to shake the hallucination each time.
Let’s take a walk
My time in Ireland poked at my curiosity the same way England did in the base game. It’s a beautiful land full of castles and hilly countryside. I found myself lingering at the tops of mountains to enjoy the views and hop into Photo Mode, and the music continues to complement each situation in a way that’s subtle and appreciated. It’s never overpowering and instead helps to tie the experience together. I wouldn’t say the sights and sounds are drastically better, worse, or even different from the base game, but they don’t need to be.
Every location has something to see, do, or collect, and sometimes all three. I found chests locked behind collectibles, and little puzzles are everywhere, waiting to be solved so players can grab some wealth or gear. While I do appreciate these little puzzles and their cleverness, having to figure out how to open a door locked from the inside gets old after a few dozen instances. Wrath of the Druids features these the same way the base game does, and I’d by lying if I didn’t say tiny-puzzle fatigue kicked in.
What helps to balance this out is the loot and materials found in Wrath of the Druids. It’s glorious. Eivor not only gets to explore mysterious lands and locations for new weapons and armor sets but can also obtain them through trading. Players will be happy to know that high-end crafting materials and runes are also found in Ireland, allowing for build experimentation. The system lacks grind, and I can’t state enough how I appreciate that Wrath of the Druids lets players focus on gameplay rather than a grind for materials.
Eivor left Norway to establish a settlement in England, then left England to help a cousin in Ireland. The genius of Valhalla and Wrath of the Druids is that everywhere feels like home. Every new piece of content feels like a new branch on a familiar tree. The trade network weaves beautifully into the heart of Valhalla, and the story content holds up well, giving players more of what they already fell in love with. Nothing is out of place. Wrath of the Druids is as natural to Assassin’s Creed Valhalla as an axe is to a Viking.
These impressions are based on a PC key provided by the publisher for coverage consideration. Assassin's Creed Valhalla: Wrath of the Druids launches on May 13, 2021, for Xbox One, Xbox Series X, PS4, PS5, Google Stadia, and PC.
Bill Lavoy posted a new article, Assassin's Creed Valhalla: Wrath of the Druids impressions - Fit for a king