Since Assassins Creed Origins, Ubisoft has supported its open world titles as a live service with free content drops. Origins and Odyssey received updates such as weekly boss fights and interesting quest chains in the months following their release, and Ubisoft has made similar plans for Valhalla as well.
However, where the additions that Origins and Odyssey received were fun pieces of content that grabbed players, that same level of creativity cannot be said for Valhalla yet.
Last week, Ubisoft released a major content update for Valhalla that is easily larger than its previous update, the Yuletide Festival. Dubbed River Raids, this new activity takes the main game’s raid mechanic and transplants it into its own independent bubble.
According to Ubisoft, River Raids promises to bring highly replayable and engaging end-level content, and they technically live up to those promises.
River Raids begins with a new arrival in Ravensthorpe, Vagn. Vagn is a former Viking raider who offers Eivor the opportunity to plunder other parts of England in search of resources and treasure. From there, Eivor and his Jomsviking crew can travel to three new regions to loot.
As the name suggests, your primary form of transportation in 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, you may want to familiarize yourself with Viking singing.
In a surprise twist, the River Raids update introduces rogue-type mechanics to Assassins Creed. While you can take any of your gear on your trip, you start without rations. If you die, any progress you made in your run will be lost. Even your crew is not safe; as if they fall and are not revived in time (which will cost you a ration), they will be absent for the remainder of the race and will have to rest in Ravensthorpe.
The rogue-lite elements don’t end there either, as the more raids 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 accommodate your progress. The only way to reset enemy river defenses is to go out and spend time attacking other locations.
On paper, these elements create a hard mode with an interesting risk-reward dynamic: do you call it early and escape with your ill-gotten possessions, or do you risk pushing yourself and your crew for more?
While Ubisoft has all the pieces needed to create a unique and engaging endgame mode, it just doesn’t come together in a fun package. Repetition sets in quickly in river raids, because even though you have so many enemy outposts to attack, they all feel very similar. This is great for players who want an excuse to delve more into the combat and stealth of Valhalla, but for those looking for something new, it will leave you behind.
Another downside of the mode is how disappointing the rewards are in River Raids. To be fair, this mode is a good way to make money and upgrade materials late in the game, but it lacks a fresh carrot on a stick for the player.
There are new abilities and a set of Templar-themed knights for players to discover, but after obtaining these unique items, there’s not much reason to go back to raiding the river. You will spend most of your time collecting new currency, foreign supplies, which can be used for specific upgrades at the River Raids and Vagns store. All the items for sale in the Vagns Shop are purely cosmetic so hardly worth getting new tattoos and a different looking ship.
Right now, River Raids could provide players with around two to three hours of new content, which is fine for a free update. However, this is a mode devoid of the charm or mystery present in the base game.
Without any truly enticing rewards or surprises, River Raids barely makes a splash compared to the free content drops that come with Origins and Odyssey. River Raids is technically more Valhalla, but that’s not more what made this game particularly special.