Kiss Me, I’m Irish!
HIGH It feels so good to be back in this world.
LOW Some slight padding.
WTF Did a werewolf just maul me to death?
Any reviewer has likely experienced feelings of regret after something they write has been published.
Assassin’s Creed Valhalla came out last year and I wrote a fairly positive review of it, owing largely to how much I enjoyed its vast open world, the wonderful sense of exploration, and its meaty combat. I docked a few points off because I played on a base-model PS4 and had some technical dissatisfaction. Over six months have passed since that review went up, I have not only finished the main story but upgraded to a more powerful machine. Now, 80+ hours later and switching between 60fps and 4K resolution, Valhalla remains one of the best action role-playing games around.
While much of the controversy that plagued Ubisoft last year still lingers (including a lack of holding any executives accountable), I commend the team for masterfully streamlining western-RPG mechanics into something manageable, yet engaging. Even after the significant amount of time I had already put into it, I was more than happy to return and aid Eivor in another grand quest.
Assassin’s Creed Valhalla: Wrath of the Druids is the first of several planned expansions to the main game, which does not need to be completed in order for this add-on to be accessed. After completing the prologue and getting settled in Ravensthorpe, players meet a new character with a message from the King of Dublin. After sailing to Ireland and getting acquainted with the royalty, Eivor is thrust into a series of battles that take place in a more mythical version of the land than players might be used to.
When not battling, Eivor is tasked with building up Dublin’s reputation. This requires her to take on certain tasks from neighboring kings which usually involve clearing out bandit camps, assassinating specific targets and even stealing some precious items.
Mission structure is similar to the base game. Players explore a large, open world and complete quests while stopping for the occasional collectible or upgrade. Each mission also has specific requirements, like not being detected or avoiding unnecessary killing. What makes these conditions refreshing is that most of the early fights are relatively easy. I was at an incredibly high level after beating the campaign, so going into this DLC meant that I would absolutely destroy any enemy I encountered, so avoiding destruction of everyone I saw forced me to rethink my approach in combat scenarios. Sure, I would have appreciated more mission variety and a lot of the DLC involves completing random quests to cross a certain threshold before progression happens, but this this padding never stopped me from enjoying the ride.
Unlike the main campaign, ACV: WotD’s narrative is excellent. Eivor’s more personal connection to the king of Dublin as well as themes of religion, family and the agony of trying to fit in between two different worlds makes for a more compelling story. Even the writing is better, with a lot of smart dialogue and new choices that made me think about what I was saying to different characters. While players aren’t saving the world from destruction or overtaking England again, the smaller, more personal stakes hit me harder and I felt like I was making a mark on Ireland’s history.
Another major addition comes in the form of trading and smuggling. Scattered around the map are trading posts that Eivor can take over. After obtaining a deed, certain resources are produced in real-time and can be traded to other regions for XP and an increased reputation. Seeking out trading posts was enjoyable and upgrading them became a priority for me. As I raided other areas for supplies and raw materials, I used the spoils of my plunder to not only upgrade these posts, but to increase their productivity.
Overall, Assassin’s Creed Valhalla: Wrath of the Druids was the perfect excuse to return to one of my favorite games from last year. While there isn’t much new here to win new fans, returning players who couldn’t get enough of Valhalla’s rich world and exciting exploration will be right at home in the green fields of Ireland.
Disclosures: This DLC is published and developed by Ubisoft. It is available on PS4/5 PC, XBO/X/S and Stadia. This copy was obtained via publisher and was reviewed on PS5. Approximately 25 hours were spent in singleplayer and the content was not completed (still playing). There is no multiplayer. Approximately 85 hours were spent in the base game and the main campaign completed before playing the DLC.
Parents: According to the ESRB, this game is rated M for Blood and Gore, Intense Violence, Partial Nudity, Sexual Themes, Strong Language, Use of Drugs and Alcohol. The official ESRB description reads as follows: This is an action-adventure game in which players assume the role of a Viking mercenary (Eivor) who travels through England to forge alliances, lead raids, and defeat rival clans/rulers. Players explore open-world environments, perform missions (e.g., hunting for items, battling enemies), and use stealth to discreetly kill human targets. Players also use swords, axes, arrows, and siege weapons to kill multiple enemies (e.g., soldiers, mythic boss characters) in frenetic melee-style combat. Combat is highlighted by screams of pain and frequent blood-splatter effects. Some weapons allow players to decapitate enemies; zoomed-in sequences depict victims’ bones, organs, and muscles getting damaged by players’ blade. The game contains some sexual material: a mission taking place in a brothel; topless women straddling men; a character agreeing to “lay with” a man (kissing is depicted before the scene fades to black). A handful of sequences depict screen distortion/discoloration and impaired movements after players’ character consumes mushrooms or inhales mushroom-based fumes (dialogue states, “I may still be buzzing from these mushrooms.”). Players’ character can also engage in a drinking contests; later sequences depict the character stumbling as the screen tilts and blurs. The words “f**k” and “c*nt” appear in the dialogue.
Colorblind Modes: Colorblind modes are present in the options menu.
Deaf and Hard of Hearing Gamers: I spent most of my time playing the game on mute and found no issues. Everything has some visual cue and the subtitles could be resized. There is also the option to include closed captioning to clearly label every noise in the game world. This game is fully accessible.
Remappable Controls: Yes, the controls are remappable.
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