Since Assassin’s Creed Origins, Ubisoft has supported their open-world titles as a live service with free content drops. Both Origins and Odyssey received updates such as weekly boss fights and interesting quest chains within months of their release, and Ubisoft has made similar plans for Valhalla as well.
However, where the additions that Origins and Odyssey received were fun bits of content that pulled players back in, that same level of creativity can’t be said yet for Valhalla.
Last week, Ubisoft released a major content update to Valhalla that is easily larger than its previous update, the Yuletide Festival. Dubbed as River Raids, this new activity takes the raiding mechanic of the main game and transplants it into its own independent bubble.
According to Ubisoft, River Raids promise to bring endgame level content that is highly replayable and challenging, and they do technically satisfy those promises.
River Raids kicks off with a new arrival to Ravensthorpe, Vagn. Vagn is an older Viking raider who offers Eivor an opportunity to pillage other parts of England for resources and treasure. From here, Eivor and his crew of Jomsviking can travel to three new regions to plunder.
As the name implies, your main form of transportation in the River Raids is by boat, so don’t expect to venture very far on land in this mode. The ability to summon your horse is even disabled, so you might want to get comfortable with Viking singing.
In a surprise twist, the River Raids update introduces rogue-like mechanics to Assassin’s Creed. While you can bring any of your gear on your journey, you begin with no rations. Should you die, all of the progress you made on your run will be lost. Even your crew isn’t safe; as should they fall and not be revived in time (which will cost you a ration), they will be out for the remainder of the run and will have to rest at Ravensthorpe.
The rogue-lite elements don’t end there either, as the more raiding and destruction you cause will draw more attention to you and your crew. In response, enemy encampments will become more fortified and river chains and barricades will be erected to heed your progress. The only way to reset enemy river defenses is to leave and spend time raiding other locations.
On paper, these elements do create a challenging mode with an interesting risk-reward dynamic: do you call it early and escape with your ill-gotten goods, or do you risk pushing yourself and your crew for more?
While Ubisoft has all the pieces of making a unique and challenging endgame mode, it just doesn’t come together in a fun package. Repetition sets in fast in River Raids as even though you have so many enemy outposts to raid, they all feel very similar. It’s great for players who want an excuse to dive more into the combat and stealth of Valhalla, but for those looking for something new, it will leave you wanting.
Another detriment to the mode is how underwhelming the rewards are in the River Raids. To be fair, this mode is a good way of making silver and upgrading materials in the late game but is lacking in providing a cool carrot on a stick for the player.
There are new abilities and a slick Templar-themed knight set for players to uncover, but after obtaining these unique items, there isn’t much reason to return to the River Raids. You’ll spend most of your time collecting a new currency, “foreign supplies,” which can be used for upgrades specific to the River Raids and Vagn’s shop. All of the items on sale at Vagn’s shop are purely cosmetic though, so it hardly seems worth the grind just to get some new tattoos and a different-looking ship.
Right now, the River Raids could provide players roughly around two to three hours of new content, which is nice for a free update. However, it is a mode devoid of the charm or mystery present in the base game.
Without any really enticing rewards or surprises, River Raids barely makes a splash in comparison to the free content drops that came with Origins and Odyssey. River Raids is technically more Valhalla, but it is not more of what made that game particularly special.