Assassin’s Creed Valhalla’s first expansion, Wrath of the Druids, takes Eivor to 9th century Ireland, with new scenery and characters but old, stale gameplay.
Okay, let’s start with the positives here. Ireland is a welcome change of sight from England, and while I don’t personally know too much about its history, I appreciate the franchise making its way in there. Visually speaking, the new map is about a quarter of the size of the base game’s map, and there’s a decent amount of new activities to get invested in. The lush greenery of Ireland is quite refreshing, as is the different architecture and culture on display. But then again, it’s the 9th century, so there’s plenty of open spaces as well, too much if you ask me.
Wrath of the Druids is a stand-alone experience, much like The Witcher 3’s Hearts of Stone expansion. You don’t need to have beaten the main game’s story in order to experience Eivor’s new adventure.
The new expansion will take roughly 10 hours or so for players to beat, which is plenty for the amount of new gameplay mechanics added here, which aren’t many. Alongside a new map, we also get a classic feature from the older AC games – pigeon coops! Yes, the ‘assassination contracts’ are back, this time in the form of royal requests by the lords of Ireland. They also constant optional objectives for extra XP, which doesn’t make any sense in the story and lore, but are a welcome addition nonetheless.
A new land also means new enemies, and Wrath of the Druids, for the most part, lives up to its name. The primary story replaces the order of the Ancients with the ‘children of Danu’ – religious cult hell-bent on attacking Flann Sinna, the lord of Ireland.
The story present here reminds me of the Blood and Wine expansion from The Witcher 3. A new map, new gameplay mechanics, and a rising monarch opposed by dark forces – sound familiar? However, where Wrath of the Druids falls short is in the development of those characters, and the new maps just feel like an expanded, mostly empty space. The primary gameplay loop remains quite similar to the base game, with the order of Ancients now replaced with the children of Danu. The druid cult has a few new enemy types which are fun to fight, but their actual origins and importance to the story feel underserved.
The new characters in the expansion consist of the high King Flann, Eivor’s cousin Barid and his son, as well as a new love interest in Ciara, who’s a former member of the villainous cult. Of all the new characters introduced, as few as they may be, Ciara is certainly the most interesting one, at least until the final quarter of the game.
Ultimately, Wrath of the Druids is an underwhelming expansion that only serves to add a few new mechanics and a new map that is almost virtually indistinguishable from the assets used in the base game. It’s certainly a character-centric expansion, and the few new additions provide for some interesting relationships with Eivor, whose development was the primary reason I powered through the new DLC.
If you liked Valhalla, which I did, and want more of it, then you’ll probably like Wrath of the Druids. But the sudden drop in quality of writing and insignificant gameplay additions adds less than I wanted or expected. Let’s hope the next expansion provides a better setting and properly explores the main game’s fallout.