Monday, February 15, 2021

We All Make Mistakes

When you play without guides, wikis or walkthroughs you'll end up doing things wrong without even knowing it. It's a sign of a well-designed game that you can still find yourself having a thoroughly good time all the same. 

Maybe you don't know what to do next. Maybe you have no idea what it was you just did. What you do know is you're having fun and other than that you don't really care.

If that's true then I have to say Valheim must be a very well-designed game indeed. I'm having a great time and so far I've only had to go to Google once. I only did that because the game is in Early Access and it looked like I might have run into a bug. I wanted to check if it was a known issue or whether I was being an idiot.

Guess which it was?

In almost thirty hours I have yet to see a single glitch, let alone a full-blown bug. I haven't even managed to get myself stuck on scenery, something I do at least once a week in some games I could mention. Valheim has to be one of the least buggy games I've ever played. Not just in beta or early access. Period.

The problem I was having turned out to be entirely of my own making. Quite literally, in fact. I'd been so excited to get all the materials to finish my smelter I didn't even wait for daylight to place it. In my haste and in the darkness and the pouring rain I'd placed my brand-new smelter very badly indeed: back-to-front and jammed so tight up against the kiln I couldn't even see the opening where you shovel in the ore, far less get to it. My fault entirely.

How was I to know? Do I look like a blacksmith? Don't answer that.


Let's back up a few days. It all started when I found a Burial Chamber deep in the forest. I'd beaten Eikthyr and gone searching for the Black Forest because... well, I wasn't entirely sure. Hugin the raven had appeared and told me I'd find my next target there although he didn't really go into details.

As it happened, I'd stumbled across the Black Forest in my first few hours of play. It's not a specific location, more a general description. Every time you enter a new biome in Valheim you get a message telling you what it is. So far I've been in Meadows, Black Forest, The Ocean and Mountains. 

I've heard there are also Plains but so far I haven't happened on any. According to the Steam store page, that's all there are in the game right now, those five biomes. Well, there are five biomes with four more to come. It doesn't name them. I'm assuming it's those but who knows? Anyone who's read the wiki, I guess. So, not me.

After I killed the forest god I didn't have any other plans so off to look for Black Forest I went. I thought I remembered where I'd seen it but long before I got there I ran into an ominous structure deep in the woods beside a river. A pile of stone slabs that had "Tomb" written all over it. 

Not literally, although Valheim does have quite a few slabs of stone with glowing runes carved into them. Runic messages the game helpfully translates, most of which tell me things I already knew, like how to build a house or how dangerous the forest is. 

This tomb didn't need a sign, anyway. The three skeletons that came charging at me the moment I moved in close made the point more effectively. I despatched the restless dead and havered over whether to go in right away or secure a spawn spot nearby first for my inevitable demise. Because of course I was going in! There was never any question about that.

Not going to miss that in the dark.

In the end I went for the secure spawn option but I decided to build it from scratch right next to the tomb. I didn't feel confident of finding the place again if I went back to the nearest safe spot. I didn't know then that you can mark locations on the map (Thanks eeickythump!). I wasn't carrying anything too unreplaceable and if I died at least that would place a marker. I'd be able to find my grave. Which would be in the tomb. It made sense at the time. Not so much now.

Inside, the tomb was plain, atmospheric, claustrophobic. Simple but effective, like most things in Valheim, as I'm coming to appreciate. I'd prepared myself with a torch but I also set a campfire inside the first room, partly so as to have a place to rest and recover but mostly in the hope if I got lost down there in the tunnels I'd be able to make my way back to the light.

The next quarter of an hour felt extraordinarily similar to gaming sessions twenty or thirty years ago. A smoking torch, wooden doors, earthen floors, skeletons with swords, shields and bows, chests, mysterious markings... All it needed were a few traps and a secret door or two and I could have been playing Eye of the Beholder

I looted everything I could carry, naturally. I don't know whether vikings had any issues with desecrating tombs but gamers certainly don't. There were some questions raised by the things I found, too. I ended up pocketing rather a lot of gold coins, which suggests some kind of economy somewhere down the line. Unless I'm expected to smelt them for the metal.

There were also gems, amber and rubies, again hinting either at some form of trade or a jewelcrafting skill. Perhaps both. And there were glowing red things on stands: surtling cores. I had no idea what those were but I figured I'd found out. And I did.

Don't need to tell me twice!


I can't remember now whether the information appeared when I looted the first surtling core or whether it happened later but somehow or other I worked out I needed them to make a smelter and a kiln. I wanted to do that. I'd been wondering how the next stage of crafting might open up and now it looked like I knew.

Well, kind of. It took a lot of running through the forest before I really found out how it all works. I'm pretty sure if I'd wiki'd it I'd have saved myself a lot of time, trouble and terror in the night. But where would be the adventure in that, eh?

It was the middle of the night when I got home from my first and so far only successful mining trip in the Black Forest. I'd been travelling for days. I'd somehow managed to get lost. Really badly lost. So lost I ended up having to camp out by a river one night and sleep in a bee-infested shack the next. 

There was the night I killed a skeleton in some ruins and barricaded myself in until a Greydwarf Shaman squeezed through a gap and tried to poison me. Twice I had to hole up in delapidated buildings I'd partially refurbished just to have somewhere safe to sleep. Another time a twelve-foot tall troll waving half a tree-trunk chased me into a river and very nearly drowned me.

Before I could even get started I'd had to go back to the altar and summon Eikthyr to kill him a second time. The first go round I'd somehow come away without the shards of his antlers you need to make your first pickaxe. If it hadn't been for Wilhelm mentioning it I wouldn't even have known what I was missing. I'm not sure how or if I'd ever have muddled my way through that one.

Craft first, eat later.


I've not heard anyone mention farming the bosses for body parts but I can confirm you can if you want. I put another couple of deer heads on the altar, Eikthyr came charging out, lightning playing round his horns, and I killed him all over again. This time he dropped three pieces of antler and I made my pickaxe.

By then I already had enough surtling cores for one of the new crafting stations. I meant to make the smelter but I got confused and made the kiln by mistake. Oh, well. They work in tandem anyway. One's not much use without the other unless you plan on sitting by the fire for hours burning raw meat into coal. You can do that but I wouldn't recommend it.

I primed the kiln with wood so it would turn out coal while I was away (shades of My Time At Portia although the kiln is actually a thousand times quicker) then off I went to find another tomb, loot more surtling cores and maybe mine some ore if I happened to find any. I'd seen a few copper deposits when I didn't have the pick so I knew what they looked like.

Finding tombs is a matter of pure luck unless someone knows otherwise (if so, don't keep it to yourself!). My method is to roam around the forest until a skeleton jumps out from behind a rock or I stumble over a pile of stone slabs. And be careful what holes you go down. I went in one very large, impressive cave and it turned out to be full of trolls. That was a fun corpse recovery, I don't mind telling you.

Gosh! I wonder who'd live in a hole like this?

All things told, I'd had some adventures getting those cores. I was damned if I was going to wait until morning to get the smelter up and running. When I finally got back to my old house it was pitch dark. All the torches I'd placed had gone out. I'd have put up some more but I made the mistake of picking up the coal from the kiln and now I was encumbered, which in Valheim is very inconvenient.

What with one thing and another I ended up placing the smelter in such a way I could barely use it even after I'd been to the wiki and found out what I'd done wrong. I thought about moving it but as far as I know the only way to move things you've placed is to destroy them and re-make them and I wasn't sure I'd get my cores back if I did. Barely-useable was just going to have to do.

And then guess what? I took my copper bars, made a forge and placed it where the only way to get close enough to use it is to jump. It's stuffed behind the smelter and the kiln and I can't get through the gap! 

Once again, it happened because I was I was too excited to see my forge up and running to stop and think first. That's another mark of a good game. You mess up because you just can't wait to see what comes next.

I guess some people don't enjoy that but I do. 

Until I don't. 

But that's not yet.


  1. You seem to get a full refund on the cores if you deconstruct or destroy them. We had a troll attack and smash ours and we got the cores back from the pile of wreckage.

    1. I was hoping that would be the way it would work. Even so, I'll gather another five cores before I destroy my smelter...just in case.


Wider Two Column Modification courtesy of The Blogger Guide