Assassin's Creed Valhalla

Assassin’s Creed Valhalla is an enormous game that has a seemingly unending list of things for players to do. Some of those things are really, really fun, like hunting down members of the Order of the Ancients to assassinate them, or searching for chests filled with treasure. Or just laughing at some of the more outrageous glitches in the game.

Some things in Valhalla, however, are not fun at all. Perhaps the worst offenders are the cairn challenges, which ask you to balance a given set of stones to reach a certain height.

These actually don’t seem bad at first. The early challenges are fairly easy, and you get some audio flashbacks of Eivor’s relationship with his/her parents. In fact, when I first heard Eivor’s mother say, “You win by playing, and a calm mind is your reward,” I was onboard 100%. I could certainly use some stress relief in these trying times. Give me some stones to stack!

Now, with this in mind, the cairn challenges should have been super easy. This would be keeping in the mindset of “this is a stress-relieving activity.” In fact, to have a really easy, really simple stone-stacking activity to retreat to after assaulting a bandit camp filled with two dozen psychopaths would have been a really great balance between tension and stillness — a balance that Assassin’s Creed Valhalla never quite pulls off.

But later in the game, these challenges become absolutely infuriating. You’ll have to stack several rocks so that they’re lined up the tall way — and these are rocks that have rounded edges, making this oftentimes feel impossible. Some of the later cairn challenges took me more than an hour and a half. No joke.

Look at this insufferable madness:

Assassin's Creed Valhalla

Or this gravity-defying feat of will:

Assassin's Creed Valhalla

These challenges actually expect you to perform pristine acts of balance that would be nearly impossible in real life — and they feel nearly impossible in the game as well.

What’s the point of all this, Ubisoft? To waste the players’ time? You definitely don’t have to worry about that. I’ve spent more than 200 hours in this game so far — there’s plenty to do here already.

If the point is to relieve some tension, like the audio implies, well, this is an enormous failure. A couple of these challenges stand out as the most stressful parts of the entire experience (game-breaking bugs aside, of course).

So as much as I love Assassin’s Creed Valhalla, I could really have done without the cairn challenges. And having browsed a few reddit threads about the topic, I’ve learned that I’m certainly not alone here.

I will say, for the record, that I have completed all of the cairn stone stacks at this point. There’s just a part of me that wishes I could get some of that time back. And I’m kind of terrified that we’ll see more of these once the Season Pass DLC starts landing. The last thing I want to be doing in Ireland and Paris is stacking stupidly high piles of stones.

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