Every time my viking hero Eivor dies in Assassin’s Creed Valhalla, she returns to life drunk. This is a known bug that the developers appear primed to patch, but in trying to just bear with it last night, I somehow made it worse. Though, in this case, “worse” also means “better.” And now I’m conflicted about whether I want this to be fixed.
Here’s how the glitch initially played out in Valhalla a couple of weeks ago. I’d load the save file on my Xbox and would see a loading screen. Then some part of 9th century England would appear, along with Eivor, who’d wobble. The graphics would get blurry, then sharpen. Then Eivor would wobble some more.
This was weird, but tolerable. The drunk effect fades quickly. Plus, the game’s designers at Ubisoft had indicated on Valhalla’s official support page that this was an unintended side effect of Valhalla’s new Yuletide celebration, a party Ubisoft added to the game’s central Viking settlement back in mid-December.
“Drunk status effect applied during and after loading screen?
Workaround: Meditating or sleeping in your bed should remove the status effect. (or you can just walk it off..)”
The celebration adds a big tree, a horde of revelers, an archery challenge, and an option for drunken brawling. Somehow all this drinking-based game code bugged out, but, I figured, it’d get resolved by the time the celebration is scheduled to end on January 7. Or so I hoped.
This perpetual mild drunkenness seemed, if not good, at least an interesting, fleeting inconvenience, something akin to a passing storm. It’s also an example of the kind of glitch that may prove more common as more games increasingly operate on a calendar of updates: the seasonal malfunction.
And that’s where I was last night, after I’d written a draft of this post in anticipation of sharing with Kotaku readers an amusing, harmless glitch. I planned to publish the article in the morning and that’d be that.
But last night, after I finished my work and put the kids to bed, I loaded Valhalla back up. I decided to explore the region of Hamtunscire, which is tailored for players at power level 340. My Eivor was a mere 170, but I figured it’d be interesting to explore.
On the outskirts, I found an enemy encampment to raid and spent a half hour trying to take it down. The enemies were indeed much heartier than my usual opponents. They killed me a bunch. Eivor kept coming back temporarily drunk, but eventually cleared the base out. In the process I shot all my arrows and didn’t restock. (This will be important).
I ventured deeper into Hamtunscire and spotted a marker for a side-quest. It involved Eivor taking a drink, except the drink was poisoned, and suddenly I got the most severe drunken effect I’d seen in the game. My screen didn’t just get blurry. It went black and white. As this happened, an enemy attacked. He was too high-level for me, but I drew my bow and aimed for a weak point, except…no arrows.
I ran. The black-and-white poison-drunk effect persisted. I kept running. The normal drunken effect would have faded by now. This had not. I jumped on my horse, galloped toward the city of Wincestre. The effect finally ended. The blur stopped. The colours returned.
I approached some of Wincestre’s guards. They didn’t like my face and killed me.
Eivor came back to life, but she wasn’t just drunk. She was — oh no! — poison-drunk. Everything was black and white and wobbly.
This wasn’t as funny. And it wasn’t fading away. At least, not quickly enough.
I had read that sleeping makes the regular drunken status go away, so I teleported Eivor back to her settlement, had her go to sleep. She woke up sober, the colours restored.
I fast-travelled back to Wincestre, told myself to play carefully, and climbed a tall building to survey the city.
Then I jumped off, hoping to land in a haystack, but misjudged and died.
Eivor came back to life on top of the tall building and, you guessed it, she was poison-drunk again.
This was annoying, but I had an idea. Maybe the game remembered my most recent state of inebriation. Perhaps if I got drunk (sans poison) I could at least come back to life wobbly, but without the world bleached of colour. But it didn’t work. She kept reviving from subsequent deaths in the poison-drunk state.
I could keep fast-travelling to the settlement for some shuteye after each death, but that was going to be too cumbersome. I could try dying less? I probably should have abandoned playing in such a treacherous region, but what’s the fun in that? No, I needed to find a way to quickly cure myself of being poison-drunk while I stubbornly played more quests I wasn’t ready for.
I made Eivor meditate. But that didn’t work.
Then I agreed to listen to a man talk about Jesus. That worked!
As I was doing all this, I noticed something unexpected. Whenever I was poison-drunk, Valhalla attained an austere beauty. The game looks great in general, but removing the colours lets its light more sharply define its protagonist and the scenery around her.
I started snapping more screenshots.
I snap a lot of screenshots of Valhalla, and usually do so using the game’s photo mode. I like to use that in-game tool to pause the action, reframe a scene, maybe zoom in or out, though I’d never used any of its filters, which include a black and white one. Instead, I just ran around with the whole game world in this poison-drunk black-and-white state, then paused to go into photo mode. As I lined up one of my shots I discovered how the magicians who made the game did this black-and-white trick.
The poison-drunk effect was an illusion. The game world hadn’t been turned black and white after all. The developers had just placed a filter between my character and the camera. And using the photo mode, I could see exactly how they’d pulled this rabbit out of the hat.
I could have fun with this. That filter could co-star in my screenshots.
It could also make for some cool/interesting GIFs:
Suddenly, I was having too much fun. I realised I’d miss this. I wouldn’t miss the game going wobbly, but I’d miss seeing it through this filter. I’d miss playing with an unexpected visual trick, and I’d miss the feeling I’d transgressed into the game’s code and found something beautiful in a glitch.
I would like Eivor to come back to life without the whole world being blurry, though. So bring on that patch.