On face value, Assassin’s Creed Valhalla
’s Wrath of the Druids
post-release addition to the base game can be seen as a new world to discover and conquer in equal measure. And, depending on your success in Valhalla proper, a new mine to pull riches from in a continued effort to build the best Eivor
you can from the game’s progression and item management and upgrade system. In truth, however, WotD is a new gameplay playground featuring all the same equipment you’ve played on before, maybe just painted in shiny new rainbow colours.
That’s not to say there isn’t content here to absorb, but much like Odyssey
before it, Valhalla’s additional exploits are built entirely off known systems and structures. Gold, White and Blue orb map markers that give you a pretty good idea of what to expect as well as synchronisation points to unlock the game-world map. A new world riddled with the same resources and familiar enemies, though some of whom are playing a game of smoke and mirrors dress up. What is new here, is the DLC’s rich, rich story and an art-heavy look at an ancient land filled with mystery. Ireland may be a neighbouring stomping ground to England
, but that doesn’t mean they’re like for like in the biome department.
"The disparate pagan groups of Ireland (and England) are still loath to wholly embrace the Christian tide of change and progress, seeing both at each other’s throats and entirely untrusting of one another...”
In Wrath of the Druids we get new characters of pagan and Christian backgrounds and a world on the brink of change. The disparate pagan groups of Ireland (and England) are still loath to wholly embrace the Christian tide of change and progress, seeing both at each other’s throats and entirely untrusting of one another. It’s in this unbalance we’re introduced to Eivor’s cousin, Bárid
, who asked for your presence in the Emerald Isle in the first place, to join him at his court of Dublin
, where he is king. Eivor quickly learns his cuz is a respecting person uncaring of peoples’ backgrounds, but this acceptance has rubbed more than one group of people the wrong way and before you know it, you’re back to the age old jobs of vikingr courier, fixer, lover, surveyor, builder, archaeologist, cult specialist, animal tamer and rock layer. Among many other trades.
Ireland’s rabbit hole history is an interesting one, not too unlike that of the vikings. Most information we know in modernity stems from stories and traditions that live on, mostly, as oral in origin, and therefore open to accuracy conjecture. But as with any fiction, there’s magic and mayhem that stems from this unsteady stream of knowledge and Ubisoft has seen fit to explore the story of Ireland, a land seeded in mystery, fae, wylds, magic and worlds beyond worlds to its fantastical fullest. And Wrath of the Druids’ entire narrative arc is woven from this history with poetic license thrown in, and it’s honestly one of the best reasons to jump in, if you’re not already nestling into a brook or glen somewhere by way of Valhalla’s Season Pass.
"There’s heaps of resources in Ireland, so if you’re still in the frame of toughening up gear and your Eivor, there’s a lot to farm here...”
If it means forking over new Silver Coins to play, I should tell you I came into the new content having 100% completed the base game. That’s every Achievement and every activity completely finished. My power level was a respectable 409 and my weapons and gear (all Thor gear) were maxed and sporting all powerful Runeage. This means, at least for the first half of my adventuring, I came across little-to-no trouble and almost never lost a damage bar below five (usually for trying to be too fancy). There’s heaps of resources in Ireland, so if you’re still in the frame of toughening up gear and your Eivor, there’s a lot to farm here. For me, none of it was needed though, which did impact a lot of the need and want to explore, and really highlighted for me one of the bigger missed opportunities here on the whole.
As a traditionally spoiler-free site, I won’t give too much away save to say Ubi’s penchant for fantastic storytelling in the Assassin’s Creed series, particularly in the Origins and onward phase, is sublimely presented here. The fantastical elements too, don’t rely exclusively on proactively taking hallucinogenic medicine to conjure spaces like Valhalla
. And it all mixes incredibly well with the fae-heavy wylds landscapes, where Wrath of the Druids’ art-direction is concerned. So truly, if story is your bag, this shouldn’t be missed.
"As too is just getting around the land through foot, horseback of the good old Fast Travel option. Bandit camps, strongholds and more are all also reskinned from Valhalla, and while the context is definitely different, it’s difficult to not just shrug and remember you’ve pretty much been here before...”
Those missed opportunities though, come by way of simply reskinning Valhalla activities and disguising them as something new in Wrath of the Druids. The Order of the Ancients is replaced with the Children of Danu cult, for example, but uncovering them is exactly the same method as it was in the base outing. As too is just getting around the land through foot, horseback or the good old Fast Travel option. Bandit camps, strongholds and more are all also reskinned from Valhalla, and while the context is definitely different, it’s difficult to not just shrug and remember you’ve pretty much been here before. In short, it just would have been good to see and experience more differences from Valhalla.
There are some departures though. Trade is the first hook thrown at you, and so opening up Trade Posts across Ireland is an activity that also nets resources such as Ivory, Texts, Clothing and more (contextual to the surrounding lands) to help build the right reputation and grow your progress. It has shades of RTS added in here, and might be a slight glimpse of a new system to be more fleshed out in a future game or AC entry, and it’s really cool. Though like so many Ubiosoft towers, building and growing these is easy, with the only real ‘gameplay’ part being that you’ll need to uncover each Trade Posts lost deed in order to claim it and get it up and running.
"In concert with their place in Valhalla the activities and that context I’ve mentioned throughout doesn’t make doing them some sort of drag...”
As awesome as Valhalla was, and as great as Wrath of the Druids is, there’s a sincere lack of emergent gameplay in these outings that could have been addressed here, alongside some of the checklist-heavy rinse-repeat objectives that simply become too repetitive. This is dampened further because
of the history at play, and the luscious world Ubisoft has built here -- it just screamed out for more, and more effort in differing up the experiences. Don’t get me wrong, while repetitive, in concert with their place in Valhalla the activities and that context I’ve mentioned throughout doesn’t make doing
them some sort of drag, or chore but I’d definitely have preferred to discover
more as I played, rather than just expecting what’s over that next crest.
So what you’re left with is a stunning new place to explore, an excellent story and expansive deep-dive into Celtic mythology and some new systems. But this is mostly driven by familiarity and a lack of anything truly dynamic or emergent. If you loved the formula of Valhalla, this is a bit of a no-brainer, but if you were hoping for something completely different or new, you’ll largely only find that in this fae tale.