The Assassin's Creed franchise has typically relied on its story-based DLC to enhance the narrative of its games. This is usually done in one of two ways: As a means of filling in obvious holes within a game's plot (like Assassin's Creed II's Bonfire of the Vanities), or as a method of continuing a protagonist's story to further explain how they connect to other games in the series (like Odyssey's Legacy of the First Blade). The first of Assassin's Creed Valhalla's two post-launch story-driven DLCs, Wrath of the Druids, doesn't fit into either camp. Without much tying it back to the main story of Valhalla or the franchise as a whole, the DLC doesn't quite serve a distinct purpose and it's worse off for it.
In Wrath of the Druids, Eivor receives a letter from her cousin Barid saying that he wishes to see her again--as it happens, he's become king of Dublin, a major port town in Ireland. Upon arrival in Ireland, Eivor learns that Barid seeks to protect his crown by securing the trust of soon-to-be High-King of Ireland Flann Sinna, a man who desires to unite all of the country--whether they be Catholic or druid--under his rule. Eivor agrees to aid her cousin, also teaming up with shrewd economic chief Azar to increase Dublin's financial standing and by working with the mysterious bard and poetess Ciara to stop the Children of Danu, a cult hellbent on preserving the druid people by destroying the increasingly Catholic leaders of Ireland.
Tonally, this story feels odd. Though Wrath of the Druids releases months after Valhalla, its story is clearly meant to fit somewhere within the main game's campaign, not take place afterwards. The ideal power level for the DLC is 55, making it a great story to play mid-way through Valhalla in order to strengthen Eivor if you ever need to. But Valhalla doesn't have any obvious holes in its campaign, so Wrath of the Druids' story is structured to fit into it anywhere. Thus, there's very little momentum or character growth in this particular story arc. As I played the DLC after having completed Valhalla's campaign, it actually felt like Eivor had regressed in her development, saying and agreeing to things that didn't track with the Eivor I had come to create over the course of the main campaign--she didn't feel like my Eivor.
It certainly doesn't help that, other than Ciara, none of the characters in the DLC are all that interesting. I never cared about trying to fix the relationship between Barid and Flann, nor learning about Azar's backstory and how they came to lose their eye and business partner. Barid and Eivor supposedly share a deep bond, as his family took her parents into their home when no one else would, allowing Eivor to be born safely. It's a backstory delivered entirely through stilted exposition, missing the mark in establishing any sort of believable kinship between the two Vikings. The same sort of exposition regurgitation is used for Flann and Azar--Wrath of the Druids tells you to care about these people, but it never delivers a compelling reason as to why you should. Ciara, again, is the one exception. You spend a lot of the DLC with her, learning about why she, a druid, is choosing to side with a Catholic High-King like Flann. Additionally, she and Eivor share several moments together that establishes a repertoire between the two women; both left their home to escape unwanted fates, only to settle among people who view them as savages. The best music in Wrath of the Druids also comes from Ciara, who regails Eivor and the other characters with enchantingly beautiful songs at certain points in the DLC.
It's unfortunate that more of the characters aren't like Ciara, and are largely not all that fun to talk to and follow along, because the background to these conflicts are interesting. Eivor finds herself living through the moment where druid mysticism and Catholic faith are battling it out for supremacy over Ireland, temporarily sparking a war where the underlying question is whether it is even feasible for two wholly different cultures to coexist. Much like the other first DLCs of the prequel trilogy (Origins' The Hidden Ones and Odyssey's Legacy of the First Blade), Valhalla's Wrath of the Druids is presented to the player as an impactful event that plays a hand in shaping how the protagonist came to help found the Assassin Brotherhood. But the DLC never follows through on what it was setting up, instead delivering an uneventful story.
Although the majority of Wrath of the Druids is a smaller variation of what you get in the main game, this DLC does shift Valhalla's overarching gameplay loop in a few minor ways, most notably trading posts and royal demands. Both invoke aspects of Assassin's Creed that were abandoned when the franchise adopted its heavier open world RPG focus. Trading posts are a lot like the conquering aspect of Rogue and Syndicate--killing the enemies in certain areas, claiming them, and then investing into them. Royal demands, meanwhile, will likely remind you of missions in Brotherhood and Black Flag, putting optional objectives like don't take damage, or don't be detected on top of side missions. Both of these new additions serve the same purpose: they help you earn the necessary resources for helping Azar improve Dublin's trading routes.
I enjoy the royal demands far more than investing in trading posts as they naturally fit into your efforts to explore Ireland, popping up in places you're going to visit anyway and just providing a fun extra challenge to unlock some goodies. Trading posts, however, break the natural flow of Wrath of the Druids. Each trading post earns a single resource (or two if you upgrade them) a minute, which are then deposited into a chest in Dublin with finite space that you have to regularly travel to and empty. Similar to Ravensthorpe, it creates a loop where you're pulled back to your hub (in this case, Dublin) to empty your pockets and upgrade your gear. But unlike the main campaign, where this pullback to the hub naturally occurs in between each of Valhalla's self-contained arcs, the trading post mechanic is tied to the timer of resources being added minute-by-minute, encouraging you to stop doing whatever story mission you're on and return to Dublin every 45-60 minutes. You can, of course, ignore the trading posts, but unlocking most of the new armor and cool-looking cosmetics tied to the DLC will take longer if you're not regularly returning to Dublin to make room for more resources.
Combat in Wrath of the Druids is very satisfying, though. The new druid enemy types present an interesting challenge: They all behave one way normally, but transform into powerful, monstrous forms when immersed in a mystical green fog. For example, the trap-setting Wolf Sorceress will grow more aggressive and cast more powerful spells when under the influence of the druidic fog, even buffing her canine companion who will shapeshift into a werewolf--a very strong and somewhat annoying enemy that you'll want to avoid, pushing you to find ways to prevent the transformation. As a result, there's a little bit of a crowd control aspect to handling druid enemies. This is helped along by some brand-new abilities that can only be unlocked while you're in Ireland. Several of them are geared towards defense as opposed to the offensive abilities scattered around England and Norway. Smoke Bomb Arrow is my favorite, as attaching a smoke bomb to an arrow offers a new way to handle enemies both in stealth and open combat. It's helped me numerous times in slowing down druid enemies or causing a much-needed distraction during a royal demand.
Other than those additions, all of Valhalla's existing mechanics and features are intact. You're still raiding monasteries, aiding kings, fighting unreal monsters, finding loot, and hunting down members of a secret organization. That last one, however, has been disappointingly altered. Valhalla built on Odyssey's hunt for the Cult of Kosmos by more closely tying its hunt for the Order of Ancients to the main campaign--including Order members throughout the story and featuring confession scenes after assassinating each one to gain further insight into member's motivations. Wrath of the Druids strips much of that away; only a few members of the Children of Danu feature into the DLC's story and none of them have confession scenes. Hunting down the Danu is a shallow and unrewarding story experience. You at least get a cool boss fight that rewards you with an awesome weapon (both of which I love) for killing all of the Danu, but I didn't enjoy the process to get there.
If Valhalla is a love letter to the Assassin's Creed series, connecting each of the previous 11 mainline games and unifying their frayed plotlines into one cohesive thread, Wrath of the Druids is an unneeded and, frankly, unwanted postscript. It adds nothing worthwhile to Eivor's story and her overarching character arc of learning that there's more to life than subverting fate. And in terms of mechanics and features, it doesn't satisfyingly iterate on any of Valhalla's existing gameplay loops, providing another dozen hours of the same activities you'll already get from the existing 60+ hour main campaign. Those still playing Valhalla may find some benefit in going through Wrath of the Druids for some extra XP to boost Eivor's character level and find some awesome loot and combat abilities, but the DLC is a mediocre Assassin's Creed experience, even without comparing it to Valhalla's main campaign.