One day while in Ravensthorpe, a visitor arrives, mentioning a letter for Eivor from an Irish king. Insisting they don’t know any kings in the north, Eivor does recognise the name and heads off to Dublin, Ireland. There, in the green lands and mighty woods, something sinister lurks, hateful of change. Good thing Eivor brought the jomsvikings.
The first substantial DLC for Assassin’s Creed Valhalla is here, bringing an expansion-sized jaunt to the almost impossibly green, muddy lands of Ireland. The map is made up of four regions, full of beautiful vistas, impressive megaliths and rainbows. The countryside is wet and verdant, with some craggy mountains and ravines that look like they were carved by gods or giants. In this land there are many kings, all meant to serve under a high king. But between having multiple kings vying for power, Ireland’s real battle is a religious one. Many follow the old ways of druidism, while Christianity has set down strong roots. The high king respects the old ways and is a devout Christian, but both factions seem prickled by this. After foiling an assassination attempt, it is up to Eivor to win the trust of these many kings and to find the reasons and people behind the plot.
Sometimes when playing a DLC, developers go in brand new directions, leaving behind what made the original game so special. Other times they give you a “core game redux” which takes most of the stuff you loved, but all compressed from 60 hours to about 15. Wrath of the Druids sits firmly in the latter category, giving you a jaunt across the isles while hunting down members of a dangerous sect of druids, raiding for riches and generally hunting for treasure while killing a path across the countryside. It is a completely self-contained story and can be done at any point in your adventuring across England, netting you some new gear and resources before heading back home.
Perhaps it is just because I am playing this hot on the heels of Resident Evil Village, but I was hoping for a bit more spookiness in Ireland.
I enjoy when an expansion gives me more of what I was enjoying in the base game already, though I must admit that the killing of the Children of Danu, the expansion’s replacement for going after members of the Order, lost some of its bite. Your kills don’t have the death chat like they do back in England… I guess Odin doesn’t care to preside over their judgement, which means unless you read up their character bios, often you have no idea who they are or why they are so terrible. It loses that personal touch and sometimes I wonder if Eivor was killing them because they were evil and twisted, or because it would benefit her family to do so.
That being said, the new enemies you face are quite fun to deal with. The druids bring some interesting new archetypes to the battlefield, from hulking bardiche swinging foes that can take a fair amount of punishment, through to fire breathers and highly evasive poisoners. The people of Ireland add to this, with strong warriors that parry and counter or those who wade into battle with two greatswords swinging. The druids love to use all sorts of poisons, one which fogs the mind. In the fog, their skull masks get glowing red eyes and sometimes werewolves attack, dangerous lunges and counter-attacks sending you flying… and looking for more rations to survive the brawl.
I enjoyed settling back into exploration mode, finding new mysteries, artifacts and wealth in new places and just enjoying my surroundings. Is there something there where I see smoke rising? What lurks at this circle of stones? Assassin’s Creed has always given me a calm joy in just moving from place to place, looting people blind and getting new pieces of gear before seeing something on the horizon calling to me.
Full of beautiful vistas, impressive megaliths and rainbows.
Perhaps it is just because I am playing this hot on the heels of Resident Evil Village, but I was hoping for a bit more spookiness in Ireland. I never got lost in a forest or stuck facing something I couldn’t damage. I would have loved to explore more of the legends and mythos of Ireland, but most of it is provided in texts and notes you discover in the world. While I certainly enjoyed my time, I wanted more. While it is nice to have nicely isolated stories so that anyone can hop in and enjoy the content, I miss the added layer of depth or nuance that could have occurred, like in Origins when a DLC tied to an event in the main game, or moved things along, like in Odyssey.