Say what you like about Assassin’s Creed, but if there’s one thing that the franchise never fails to get right it’s the location of each of its incredibly detailed sandboxes. From the deserts of Egypt in Assassin’s Creed Origins to the vast Mediterranean oceans of Assassin’s Creed Odyssey, Ubisoft’s greatest work has always been seen in the worlds that it creates.
Last year’s Assassin’s Creed Valhalla was no different, showcasing not one but several new lands for players to explore. While Norway and Asgard were smaller locations with stunning detail, it was Valhalla’s focus on merry old England that was in the spotlight, showing off lush parts of the country filled with scenic vistas juxtaposed by imposing castles.
A few months later, and Valhalla is ready to set sail once again. This time the destination is Ireland, and much like England’s neighbor is in real life, Valhalla’s take on the land is a mythical and awe-inspiring recreation of the fabled Emerald Isle.
If you were expecting Wrath of the Druids to be more of the same groove that Assassin’s Creed Valhalla dropped last year just in time for the launch of the Xbox Series X and PlayStation 5, well…you’re kind of bang on the money then. Wrath of the Druids doesn’t stray too far from that template, as Valhalla’s protagonist Eivor finds himself caught in a new Irish plot involving the Children of Danu cult, Ireland’s new high king seeking to secure his kingdom, and familial loyalty.
Just like Valhalla’s main quest line of uniting these kingdoms by doing favours for the kings of the land, it’s not long before Eivor becomes involved in matters of the state, lending a hand to people in need and forging new alliances along the way. To its credit, Wrath of the Druids is still the same but smaller and more focused.
All the usual hallmarks of a Ubisoft game are there, but this time it’s done in a way that doesn’t drown a player in an infinite number of activities, the smaller focus creating a world that you actually can explore for a good chunk of time before you have to worry about getting any fatigue. Trust me, I should know: I’d played 77 hours of Assassin’s Creed Valhalla and my map still looked like a swarm of fireflies had just finished having an orgy.
But with Wrath of the Druids, players instead get a map that’s roughly the size of one of Valhalla’s regular regions, with each location being within a short horse ride of each other. That brevity plays to the strengths of the DLC, which took me around ten hours to complete with a little bit of faffing around on the side.
While the story itself wasn’t exactly worth writing home about, it’s the atmosphere and attention to detail that sells this expansion. Ubisoft’s Ireland is stunning, a collection of rolling green hills, untamed forests, and pagan legacy. There are swamps of danger, druidic cults hiding in mind-bending halluciongenic fogs, and secrets a’plenty to uncover.
It’s worth doing just that, as a number of new techniques can be unlocked for Eivor along the way. My particular favourite being the Viking handshake, which is perfect for stunning slow-moving enemies and opening them up for some brutal offense.
If there’s a downside to this expansion, it’s that Wrath of the Druids doesn’t focus enough on its primary threat, instead forcing players to focus on more mundane matters. It’s a pity, because when Wrath of the Druids throws supernatural elements at players it truly stands out. Ireland may be famed for its beauty, but it’s a land filled with the maddest of legends, monsters, and myths, each one licensed to traumatise entire generations of children with its spooky fables.
That’s not to say that those elements aren’t present, but they’ll require going off the beaten track to find and immerse yourself within them. Trust me, if the main campaign doesn’t hook you, the wealth of side-quests and other activities certainly will.
Beyond that, one of the other big elements in Wrath of the Druids is a new trade system that players can unlock. These fast travel hubs require obtaining a deed for them through some bloody act of violence, and once unlocked they’ll create a steady supply of resources which can be used for other activities. Players looking for a challenge can even take on missions from other kings in Ireland, each activity being the usual round of violent retribution with a few added optional objectives to up the challenge.
It’s a fine idea, but given how stealth is still completely broken in Valhalla’s particular slice of gameplay, almost impossible to actually accomplish successfully.
For what it’s worth though, Wrath of the Druids is still more of the same but somehow more focused. Less waffling about on doing every single activity in a map that’s way too damn big, more getting right down to business, and being gently encouraged to do other activities when you find the time to do so.
Last Updated: May 12, 2021