DLC REVIEW: ‘Assassin’s Creed Valhalla’ – “Yule Season” (Xbox One)

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Yule Season Event - But Why Tho?

Ah, Yuletide. Everyone’s favorite time of the year for murdering domestic cows to prove your manliness to your crush, snow isolated to a small village an nowhere else, punching goliaths so hard while drunk they glitch, and dragging barrels of alcohol across large swaths of land only to have them disappear without a trace. No? Not the Yuletide of your wildest Viking dreams? Well, me neither, but this is what Assassin’s Creed Valhalla‘s free Yule Season update delivers, so, skal!

One of Assassin’s Creed Valhallah‘s unique post-launch traits among its franchise compatriots is its promise of free seasonal events to enjoy. In a game as huge as this one, I appreciate the effort to spice things up over time. Previous Assassin’s Creed games had timed events of different sorts or occasional free content drops with seasonally flavored missions. This is a whole level up for Assassin’s Creed Valhalla developers Ubisoft Montreal.

While the Yule Season event is the only one announced concretely to date, it promised an opportunity to see your settlement decked with winter-themed ornamentation and a new expansion to your growing village filled with holiday revelers. It will only last three weeks, but in this new encampment, you’ll find drinking games, fighting tournaments, skill arrow shooting, and a holiday shop where Yule Tokens earned from these games can be spent on decent and winter-themed armor as well as settlement decorations. There are also two small quests that net you nice sums of tokens for completing them.

In theory, this event is pleasant. I like the snow effect in Ravensthorpe, it does feel like the game’s England is lining up with real-life as I write this review beneath several inches of snow myself. And while I jest about the awkwardness of observing the dramatic lack of snow outside of the village when looking at it from above or across the river, when ensconced it its wintery embrace, the snow is really nice.

Unfortunately, little else about the event is worth the trouble. It is glitch-ridden and time-consuming in a way that left me wishing I had just skipped most of it. There are three mini-games to play, none of which are new. The drinking game is exactly the same as any other drinking game and as easy to win as ever. It’s a fun mini-game and I enjoy the drunken effect you’re left with for a time after, but it’s nothing special. The arrow shooting game is a breeze, too long, and had dramatic framerate drops several times. Then there was the fighting ring.

At first, it was pretty novel. You get increasingly more drunk as you fight each of what felt like endless rounds. Eventually, you even lose your ability to focus and your swings are harder to land. But since the game’s fighting mechanics are repetitive to me on a good day, this quickly lost its luster as the fights got not necessarily harder, but certainly longer. Then, I fought a Goliath class enemy. I hit him so hard that I knocked him out of the little area set up. He respawned inside, but so did two random other denizens. When I won the fight, the next round completely froze and left me unable to continue. Because it was in the middle of a cutscene, I wasn’t able to pause the game and fast travel out of the situation. My only recourse was to quick to the menu and reload the game. My ten or so minutes were wasted and my morale too trampled to try again for the glory of drunk-punching supremacy.

Then there were the two quick Yule Season quests. The first sets Eivor off on a mission to help recover some beverage the brewer seems to have lost somehow. Upon finding it, a literal barrel in the middle of an enemy village, I did what I thought the game wanted me to do. I picked it up and started walking toward the objective marker for where to bring it. However, it was rather far away. I couldn’t latch it onto my horse and running is slow while holding objects, especially across long distances on the game’s huge map. When I came to a river, I called my boat, set down the barrel, swam to my ship, brought it to shore so I could place the barrel on board, and turned around to find it had completely disappeared. Was I not supposed to take the barrel across the land? Did going in the water trigger it to disappear? I went on my own to the objective marker and only found a cursed objected obscuring my vision and no place to fulfill my quest. I abandoned it from there.

In the second Yule Season quest, I was tasked with literally hunting down some domestic cows because the person whose job it was was afraid to kill them and they had run off, or something. So I had to murder these cows with arrows, harvest their meat, and leave their corpses to rot. I know. It’s a video game. I have a tendency to be overdramatic about the way fauna are treated in video games. But this quest felt both anti-Yul season and completely ridiculous. Of all the ways to celebrate the season, why this? Couldn’t I go on some fetch quest to find the missing tree ornaments or something more quaint and cottagecore? Personal quibbles aside, it just wasn’t a fun quest.

The worst part of all to me though is that the two coolest cosmetics being released this season are locked behind a paywall. A skin for your raven and horse that I would gladly have spent time playing the lame mini-games over and over to earn enough tokens to buy can only be purchased with Helix Credits, a premium currency that costs real-life money. It’s a shame that the best gear is locked behind microtransactions, but I suppose ’tis the season.

I do truly hope that future seasonal updates will be bug-free and give the same sense of emersion Yule Season aimed for in its revelries and did honestly deliver in its snowy Ravensthorpe bubble. However, this three-week event is a buggy bust for me, and while I may enjoy returning to my village just to play in the snow and keep building my unfinished buildings, I will not be revisiting any of the festivities.

Yule Season is available for free and will last through January 7th.

Assassin's Creed Valhalla - Yule Season Event
5/10

TL;DR

I do truly hope that future seasonal updates will be bug-free and give the same sense of emersion Yule Season aimed for in its revelries and did honestly deliver in its snowy Ravensthorpe bubble. However, this three week event is a buggy bust for me, and while I may enjoy returning to my village just to play in the snow and keep building my unfinished buildings, I will not be revisiting any of the festivities.