My viking crew needed supplies, and that monastery just around the corner was looking a tad bit unguarded. We crashed our longship into the shore, I blew a horn, and Eivor and her viking clan stormed the monastery. A few axe swings and broken skulls later and we had secured the goods. We headed back to a nearby outpost and put the supplies to good use, upgrading the peasant’s hovels and building a supply depot.
These sorts of raids are probably familiar to you if you’ve played any of Assassin’s Creed Valhalla. But this raid didn’t take place in one of England’s many counties. The pillaging and plundering happened across the North Channel in Ireland as the inaugural raid in the Wrath of the Druids DLC. Besides the change in scenery, the actual raid was nearly indistinguishable from all the ones I had performed in England. As I spent more time in Ubisoft’s rendition of Ireland, I found that this sentiment held firm. Wrath of the Druids offers players more of the same content available in the base game, with few substantial additions and many that detracted from the experience.
The story itself is fairly straightforward. Your long lost cousin, Barid, sends a courier to your settlement, Ravensthorpe. Turns out Barid has done pretty well for himself in his absence, and is King of Dublin over in Ireland. Eivor heads over to Dublin to discover that Barid’s rule is in question, and offers to help him curry favor with Ireland’s High-King, Flann. Along the way, Eivor uncovers a secret order of Druids set on destroying Flann’s newly Christianized Ireland.
But actually following the story is a slog. Engaging quests are unnecessarily punctuated by what amounts to side quests disguised as mainline. Every now and then Flann announces a big move—a siege of a fortress, or a killing blow against an enemy castle. Eivor then announces their readiness for battle, only to be told that three bandit camps need dealing with, or some jewels need to be recovered from some very different other bandit camps. The game’s justification for this is that completing these arbitrary tasks will win over other kings to Flann’s cause, who will help in the big battles. But being taken out of the action every other quest to run all across the map just isn’t as interesting as the main story.
It really is running across the entire map, too. One of the highlights of Assassin’s Creed Valhalla when I previewed it last fall was the order it brought to the chaos of open world games. Valhalla introduced a snaking river system throughout the entire map, and organized the content of the open world around it. This, coupled with a ship equipped with autopilot, allowed players to easily and organically see all of the content that the game had to offer without having them wander around aimlessly. For sections of the map that were inaccessible by boat, an always-on-standby horse was available.
Wrath of the Druids seems to have largely ignored this design aspect. It wasn’t long before I found myself running in a straight line towards an objective, unable to make use of the boat or horse. There’s also far less to look at or do in Ireland while on these beelines, and rarely would anything interesting come up.
These sorts of moments become even more common once you begin hunting down members of the Children of Danu. The Children of Danu are the druids mentioned in the DLC’s title, and Eivor is tasked with locating them all. Each member has a certain number of clues that the player must find to reveal their location. These clues are not marked on your map, however, and instead the player must read their description and attempt to find a place on the map where the clue might be found. They then have to trek out there and manually check for the clue, often fairly far from the nearest fast travel location.
There were some interesting fights and locations in the game, but walking to and from them killed any joy they gave me. Outside of a few unique enemies and the change in locale, many of these fights also felt remarkably similar to the ones in England.
As an expansion of the already long base game, Wrath of the Druids offers players more of the same to play. The actual content will scratch the itch that completing the base game may have left you with. But there’s a clear disparity between the amount of content present and the size of the map it’s contained on. This, coupled with a main questline with frequent hiccups, makes Wrath of the Druids a slow burn to play through. Still, if Assassin’s Creed Valhalla was your thing, Wrath of the Druids probably will be, too.
Nicolas Perez is a freelance writer and opinion co-editor for New University. He’s rambling on Twitter @Nic_Perez_._