In addition to our main Game of the Year Awards 2021, each member of the PC Gamer team is shining a spotlight on a game they loved this year. We'll post new staff picks, alongside our main awards, throughout the rest of the month.
Assassin's Creed: Valhalla got two new DLCs this year: Wrath of the Druids, and The Siege of Paris. Both took Eivor and the Raven Clan further afield as I got to explore Ireland and the city of Paris in all their glory. While Dublin is a bustling city filled with folk from different creeds, Paris is a dismal, grey, and rat-infested mess that Charles the Fat—otherwise known as Charles the Mad—rules with little love for his people. In short, they are both pretty spot-on in terms of historical accuracy, if that's your jam.
It's nice to take a break from fighting the English to tackle the surprisingly difficult enemies roaming the lands in Ireland and France. Druid battles use a lot of poison and fire, and enemies seem to shift around you at a wild pace. The wildlife seems to hate you a bit more in Ireland, but it's a lot of fun to run around the emerald hills on the back of a lynx. Meanwhile, the new Frankish Knights in Paris won't topple off their horses no matter how many axes you throw at them, and they can easily mow you down in a few blows. Plagues of rats will now pursue and eat you alive if you're not careful, so make sure you've got a weapon to hand so you can shoo them away. What is this, A Plague Tale?
You're still playing the kingmaker in each DLC—It seems the whole of Europe needs Eivor's assistance at this rate—but there's little in the way of choice in both; it's more of an illusion this time. Wrath of the Druids' enemy is hidden in plain sight, and it's only after convincing High King Flann Sinna to turn his eyes away from the Danes that he realises his trust in Abbot Eogan is misplaced. It's the kind of betrayal we're used to seeing in Valhalla, though the battle at the end may catch you by surprise. Friends becoming foes is a common concept in Assassin's Creed games and as always, this one ends with a definitive choice to make.
The Siege of Paris works a little differently, introducing black box missions to Valhalla at last. It has several key enemies that you can defeat in different ways. You can go in all axes-blazing or take a stealthier approach, letting the environment do most of the work for you. New rebel missions see you arming the French local resistance to attack Charles' men, which is fun but a little repetitive. You do get some cool armour, though, and you can french kiss with Pierre if you're lucky.
Eventually, you'll need to decide whether France deserves a more levelheaded ruler, like Odo, or if Charles' illegitimate young son should take the throne. There are no real winners in The Siege of Paris—someone has to get let down or, you know, killed. It does feel underwhelming at points, but there are some pretty decent side missions to complete and it does offer a cheese-throwing competition, and I do so love me some cheese.
I enjoyed following Ciara around and listening to her sing between fighting the rather creepy and mysterious druids and exploring parts of Ireland I'm familiar with. Paris, while grim, is exciting to explore, and there are lots of little secrets and stories to overhear as you try to escape swarms of rats. There's also an achievement about finding all the orange cats—now, who could resist that?
There's plenty to do in both DLCs, and they perfectly set up the next adventure, Dawn of Ragnarök. Hopefully, it will come with more black box missions, too, as it'll be pretty awesome to cut about as a stealthy Odin.