Platforms: PC, PS4, PS5 (reviewed), Xbox One, Xbox Series X/S, Stadia
Price: $40 (as part of Season Pass)
Release Date: May 13, 2021
Genre: Open-world action/adventure
Assassin’s Creed Valhalla: Wrath of the Druids is an expansion that incorporates most of what works about the original game. Then, just for good measure, it incorporates most of what doesn’t work from the original game, too. There’s still strong core gameplay, an interesting narrative and a beautiful country to explore. There are also repetitive side missions, an unbalanced combat system and a whole lot of bugs.
Generally, though, Wrath of the Druids is extremely easy to recommend — or to recommend against. Have you finished Assassin’s Creed Valhalla, but feel that it could have used another 10 or so hours of content in a slightly different location? This is the expansion for you. Did you bounce off of the first game because of you got tired of the gameplay loop after a while? Wrath of the Druids is more of the same.
If you’re considering this add-on for one of the best PS5 games, our full Assassin’s Creed Valhalla: Wrath of the Druids review has more details.
Assassin’s Creed Valhalla: Wrath of the Druids review: What’s new?
For the most part, the gameplay in Assassin’s Creed Valhalla: Wrath of the Druids is identical to that of the base game. As such, instead of rehashing every aspect of this open-world action/adventure game, we recommend checking out our Assassin’s Creed Valhalla review, then coming back to learn what’s new in the expansion.
Like the base game, Wrath of the Druids casts you as Eivor: a Norse Viking who’s come to settle in England. Family business brings him (or her) to Ireland, where Eivor’s cousin, Bárid mac Ímair, has declared himself king of Dublin. From there, you’ll embark on a 10-plus-hour quest to secure a throne for Irish king Flann Sinna, making your way across four huge areas, and stopping to fight druids, climb towers and raid monasteries along the way.
In other words: It’s pretty much the same as Assassin’s Creed Valhalla, in ways both good and bad. The open-ended Mystery side quests are still a lot of fun, and the main plot missions have a lot of variety. Sometimes, you’ll ride from town to town and work your way into devious enemy lairs; sometimes, you’ll siege mighty castles after sneaking in to soften up the opposition; sometimes, you’ll put together clues to unearth and assassinate the conspirators in yet another evil cult. It all pretty much worked last November, and it all pretty much works now.
At the same time, that also means that a lot of the side content is still pretty repetitive, particularly hunting down Wealth (powerful items and skills) and Artifacts (collectible doodads). Ireland is a gorgeous country to explore, but geographically, it’s pretty similar to England in this game, which means a lot of green, rolling hills and modest church towns. Similarly, there’s still a huge focus on open combat over stealth. If you were hoping for a more traditional Assassin’s Creed experience, you’ll have to keep hoping for now. (Some missions do give you extra rewards for staying stealthy, though, so that’s a nice touch.)
Assassin’s Creed Valhalla: Wrath of the Druids review: Trading posts
In addition to new side quests, a new explorable country and some new gear (including a delightful sickle weapon), Wrath of the Druids also introduces Trading Posts. These are easily the most substantial part of the expansion.
Scattered throughout Ireland are abandoned trading posts, each of which can produce a certain resource: clothing, texts, delicacies and luxuries. As you occupy trading posts, you’ll see resources trickle in over time. Back in Dublin, you can trade these resources for rewards, including supplies that help you improve the trading posts. It’s a virtuous cycle that encourages you to occupy as many trading posts as you can — and to raid monasteries for even more supplies to improve them.
Not only are the trading post rewards worthwhile, but they tie a number of disparate gameplay systems together, just like building up the town of Ravensthorpe in the first game. It’s not a substantial enough system to completely reinvent Assassin’s Cred Valhalla’s gameplay, but it is a convincing argument that Wrath of the Druids has a few substantial improvements to offer.
Assassin’s Creed Valhalla: Wrath of the Druids review: Story
The other main reason to pick up Assassin’s Creed Valhalla: Wrath of the Druids is because of the story. This doesn’t continue the core Valhalla narrative, but rather acts as a companion piece to it. That’s good news for the 75% of you (based on achievement stats) who didn’t finish the base game. Ireland has a default power level of 55, so players who’ve finished the first few areas in the base game should be fine; the game also adjusts quest difficulty upward for players who are further along.
(For players who have already finished the base game and maxed out their equipment, Wrath of the Druids is going to be very easy, even taking a handful of powerful boss fights into consideration. Since the expansion isn’t really calibrated for postgame characters, you can either turn the difficulty up, or just accept that the game isn’t going to be much of a challenge.)
In any case, the story here is another bit of medieval statecraft, this time documenting Flann Sinna’s rise to power. Sinna wishes to unite Ireland’s squabbling nobility under one High King, and Eivor finds himself in the middle of it, mostly to help out his cousin Bárid. A group of evil druids are plotting against them, and it’s up to Eivor to end the conspiracy, one assassination at a time.
This is all pretty standard Assassin’s Creed stuff, but the expansion has a likable cast, particularly the Irish poetess Ciara. Not only is Ciara a smart advisor, but she’s also a thoughtful poet and passionate musician, filling Wrath of the Druids with a healthy amount of Irish lore and song.
Assassin’s Creed Valhalla: Wrath of the Druids review: Visuals and sound
Assassin’s Creed Valhalla looks about the same as before, although Ireland has a lot more greens and blues, compared to England’s browns and grays. There’s one especially gorgeous effect where rainbows often appear right after rainstorms, then slowly dissipate into the clouds. If you’re playing on next-gen consoles, you can also choose between Performance and Graphics modes, each one of which has some very pretty visuals on offer.
The music is also gorgeous, with haunting Irish melodies for harp and voice. Whenever Ciara sings, you’ll want to just put down your controller and listen for a while.
Unfortunately, Assassin’s Creed Valhalla: Wrath of the Druids leaves a lot to be desired when it comes to performance. This is the buggiest game I’ve played in a while, and not all of the bugs are just harmless glitches.
The most common problem was that during raids, my fellow Vikings would routinely fall through the floor while trying to help me open chests, leaving me to run around the area aimlessly until they randomly reset positions. A whole contingent of friendly soldiers once spawned right on top of me, preventing me from moving a platform I needed to solve a puzzle. Important NPCs will sometimes just stand still and stare at you rather than following you, or mounting horses and riding to quest markers. Once, after I drew my bow, the arrow assets stuck to Eivor’s hand for the next four or five hours, making him look positively ridiculous during both combat and cutscenes (albeit with no detriment to gameplay).
Ubisoft is no stranger to launch-day bugs in high-profile games, but Wrath of the Druids is far too buggy, considering how long the base title has been out.
Assassin’s Creed Valhalla: Wrath of the Druids review: Verdict
Assassin’s Creed Valhalla: Wrath of the Druids is an easygoing expansion with nothing to prove. It has basically all the same strengths and weaknesses as Assassin’s Creed Valhalla, with just one substantial addition. I can’t imagine that series fans will be talking about this one for years to come, but I also can’t imagine that they’ll walk away disappointed.
If you’ve got $40 to spare and are eager to see what the Season Pass will bring next (Wrath of the Druids is the first of two major expansions; the next is called The Siege of Paris), Wrath of the Druids is a fine investment. If you already tried sinking dozens of hours into Assassin’s Creed Valhalla and bounced off before the end, though, Wrath of the Druids probably won’t lure you back in.