Assassin’s Creed Valhalla is the last game that needed any extra content right now, but this week it got some anyway, and since I’m still fresh on the game I thought I’d jump back in and check it out.
That content arrived in the form of “River Raids”, a new game mode that adds three new, small areas of the map for you to explore, all in spots on the Western side of Great Britain where the base game never ventured. Actually, “explore” is the wrong word here, because you’ll be doing almost none of that.
Instead, these new areas are all built around thin corridors of river, designed to take the main game’s monastery raiding system and crank it up, lining the banks of these rivers with farms, military bases and, yes, more monasteries to hack your way through. There’s loads of river, a thin strip of land to put these raiding targets on, and that’s about it. Indeed there’s so little land that you can’t even summon your horse.
River Raids aren’t a thing you can just do in the middle of your existing game. Rather, they exist as their own standalone game mode, accessible by building a couple of unique structures related to it in Ravensthorpe, then hitting the option to embark on one (kinda like leaving to go to Vinland).
It’s an interesting concept. River Raids are supposed to be a never-ending game mode, where you can just hop into your boat and steal some stuff whenever you like, because even if you burn a site to the ground it’ll soon be rebuilt and you can loot it all over again.
My issues with this, though, come from the fact there’s almost nothing compelling you to do that. The only notable items available here are a complete set of armour and weaponry modelled after St. George, with the armour scattered randomly in chests found in military camps, with a sword as your prize for beating a “champion” in an underwhelming battle found at the end of the third river.
Once that’s all been found, and it took me only 3-4 cruises to do it, I had no interest in returning to the mode. I didn’t need the resources you can farm by repeatedly raiding the same locations, and it’s a bummer that many of the raids focus on a certain resource type—“foreign supplies”—that can only be used to buy cosmetics and upgrades in River Raid mode (though if purchased here you can later apply the cosmetic ones to your regular ship at least).
There’s no story to be expanded upon outside of some brief chats with River Raids’ mascot and instigator Vagnor, and like I’ve said, with the three new maps so small and bereft of anything aside from raiding targets, there’s little exploration either.
Plus raiding was never that fun in the first place? The real strengths of Valhalla’s gameplay were its stealth encounters, its environmental puzzles and its larger siege battles. Raids felt like a mix of all three that fell short on all three accounts, and that’s even more so here since many of these raids are smaller and less interesting.
Indeed it feels at times like the only reason this exists is to giving sailing some more time in the spotlight, since it was used to little in the main game (outside of, surprise, raids).
Look, River Raids is a free update, there’s no harm in trying it out and seeing if you’re more into it than I am. But more grind for the sake of grind is the last thing this game needed.