Paola's Castle vs in-game castle from 'Paola's Dream' mission

Side quests in AC Valhalla come in three basic varieties - Wealth, Artifacts, and Mysteries. Wealth and Artifacts are both map markers where you can find various in-game treasures that may require a bit of creative problem-solving to access. Mysteries are more like actual side missions where you interact with NPCs who ask you to complete a certain task or challenge. 

Players who travel to the Sciropescire region of the map can encounter a character named Jason and his wife Paola building a castle in the countryside. As far as quest completions go, this one is a cakewalk - just talk to Jason and let the cutscene play out:

This seems like a completely random, possibly even pointless extra quest that feels like padding until you realize that Jason and Paola are based on a very real couple. 

In fact, the castle shot at the end of that cutscene is actually an in-game recreation of one of the last paintings ever created by Paola, an avid gamer who passed away from cancer (Acute lymphoblastic leukemia) in 2018.

Paola's Castle vs in-game castle from 'Paola's Dream' mission

Credit: Deviantedge / Ubisoft

In a very touching Reddit thread, Jason (who goes on Reddit and Twitch as Quebber) revealed that Paola had struggled with her disease for 21 years and the couple sought refuge in games as a way to escape the confines that Paola was physically limited to. They'd especially developed a fondness for Ubisoft's 'The Division' and the 'Assassin's Creed' franchise. 

Paola's passing on November 20th, 2018 absolutely devastated Jason. He'd spent the last two decades caring full-time for his beloved wife, and in the days to come, he would receive a diagnosis for bowel cancer which ultimately resulted in the removal of roughly 40% of his bowels. 

Jason and paola wedding picture

Jason and Paola on their wedding day

Credit: Deviantedge

Heartbroken and physically weak from his medical procedures, Jason hit rock bottom. He'd always told Paola "I only need to live one day longer than you," and he contemplated ending his life. He decided to do a farewell tour of sorts to all the games and gaming communities he and his wife had loved together, which included a walk through the virtual neighborhoods of 'The Division.' An ad for 'The Division 2' popped up just as he was getting ready to log out. On a whim, Jason decided to purchase the game and give it a go.

The next morning, Jason found himself actually wanting to game again. He took to Reddit to share that excitement and found a lot of supportive commenters who encouraged him to start his own gaming channel. In a heartfelt Reddit thread, he explained how gaming essentially saved his life. 

Credit: r/AMA

Jason's story eventually caught the attention of podcaster Scott Jones, who interviewed him for an episode of 'Heavily Pixelated.' That's where Jason met Ashraf Ismail, then-creative director for the AC franchise, and got to share Paola's story with him - particularly her love of archaeology and history and the ways in which AC games like 'Origins' were able to let her live out those passions vicariously.

Paola was also an avid painter, but as her health started to fail, she was only able to paint for a few minutes at a time before needing a break. When she painted the castle, she told Jason that she'd like to live in a castle and that the two little figures at the bottom of the painting represent the two of them. 

Paola's castle painting

Credit: Deviantedge

Jason eventually sent that painting to Ashraf Ismail, who hung it up in Ubisoft's Montreal offices as a reminder to design teams of why games matter so much. While working on 'Valhalla,' the folks at Ubisoft let Jason know that the painting would be included somewhere in the game, but said they wanted him to find it himself. 

Needless to say, it was an incredibly moving gesture. Jason says he knows that Paola would have loved exploring the beautiful landscapes found throughout 'Valhalla'. 

Valhalla is such a beautiful game world to explore, bugs will be fixed, tweaks will be made but I know Paola would be just exploring all the hills, forests and special places if she was here, The team already know what this means to me, they didn't tell me exactly what they had put in just that one part was early on and another later, they wanted me to find them myself.

Credit: r/assasinscreed

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