Late to the Party: But was it a fun party?
I have long been an Assassin’s Creed fan. Been playing since the first game, and I have beaten every mainline entry that the series has put out. I have rolled with the punches, story-tone changes, playstyle differences, bad modern-day crap, nickel-and-dime DLC schemes, XP boosters, and glitchy messes. I love the historical murder-tourism and generally I have enjoyed several of the changes that have happened with the curren batch of AC titles. While I miss the sprawling urban playgrounds of Ezio’s day, and especially the zipline utopia that was Victorian London in Assassin’s Creed Syndicate, I came to enjoy the forays into the truly ancient history that AC Origins, Odyssey, and Vallhalla have put forth. While the latest entry, Valhalla, is probably the title I have enjoyed the least, it still presented enough new story beats, and a general mood that justified its existence. Does the first larger DLC pack, Wrath of the Druids justify its existence in the greater game? The short answer is no, no it does not.
Ireland, like all the other landmasses presented to the player in the last 3 Assassin’s Creed titles, has been a marvel of ancient beauty. Not since AC Syndicate have we seen a distinctly urban landscape, and Wrath of the Druids continues that trend. It is an island of rolling emerald hills, color, water, and natural majesty. It’s a great travel ad for ancient Ireland. Once one gets over the picturesque beauty of it though, is there anything new to do? Not really. You can stack rocks on other rocks, you can destroy cursed objects, and you can…gather trade materials to increase the renown of your homebase. Does this sound familiar? It should. There is a trading system that involves you taking over outposts that generate Irish Resources, that you trade across the world for stuff, whether that’s new armor, boat stuff, it’s not compelling. You can run through the stuff pretty quickly, and after that you’re just trading the resources for extra silver, which is nice, as it gathers on its own anyway.
The story…is there. It is a story that would feel fine in any Assassin’s Creed title from the last couple games, but that’s because it follows that same formula. You’re playing king-maker, and there is an organization lurking behind the scenes that you need to murder so your king becomes the king of kings. In this case, the Children of Danu present maybe the least compelling cabal since this system started in AC: Origins. The targets are often not fighters, and even if they are, they bring nothing new to the game. Even the druidic enemies are lackluster, usually employing a hallucinogenic gas that makes Eivor see the human enemies as other-worldly. That seems unnecessary though, as AC as a franchise has already leaned very heavily into things that are straight-up otherworldly. Also, because Eivor is a murder-machine, there is no added terror to these enemies, they just get slightly more annoying to kill when they can kind of teleport.
Now I sound very negative when talking about this expansion, and I think largely it is not a worthwhile addition to AC Valhalla. However, I still liked it, because I do like the checklist nature of these games. People often complain about open-world bloat, and tons of icons being on a map. I personally love making lots of icons disappear from an open-world, it is relaxing to me. This is an action game where I make my own fun, and that fun is making the map clean. Is it the best use of my time? Probably not, but it makes me smile, and I think there are many people out there like me. If there were not, these games probably would not sell as well as they do. So really should someone buy this expansion? On its own, probably not. It’s part of the Season Pass, so if you have it, and liked the base game, you will find this is a perfectly fine, smaller-scale version of England, that while fun to play, offers nothing unique from the base experience of Assassin’s Creed Valhalla.