Friday, March 26, 2021

How We Got Here

Yesterday, twelve days after I killed the third of Valheim's current roster of five bosses, Bonemass, I finished Moder, the fourth. Nearly two weeks and almost all of it in one way or another given over to the search, the preparation and the fight itself. Hours and hours and hours of my life.

Was it time well spent? I'm still not sure.

It's been six weeks since I bought Valheim. The title of the post I wrote after I'd played the game for the first time asked the question "Why Am I Doing This?" and I'm not sure I have an answer yet. It's compulsive, that's for sure. Addictive? Possibly. Healthy? I'm doubting it.

I guess I sailed too far north. So these are the Mistlands. Doesn't look so bad. Don't know what all the fuss is about.


An odd aspect of playing Valheim these past weeks has been the community that's grown up around the game. It's been supportive. Inclusive. Some might say enabling.

A slew of bloggers have been documenting their adventures. Some started earlier, some later. Some seemed enthusiastic, others reluctant. Some burned through the biomes so fast they were all but done with the plains before others were out of the meadows. Some started late and passed the pack as though it was standing still.

And everyone told their stories and all the stories were the same and yet none of them were. We all explored the same biomes, fought the same battles. Mostly in the same sequence. Even the outcomes all went the same way. And still, everyone's stories were decidedly their own.

Hmm. Got dark fast. I'm getting a bad feeling about this...


In a strange way the whole endeavor resembles some ad hoc art project; the seed of an idea passed around and iterated on until the results compile into a collage of impressions and experiences. The game is single player or it's co-op yet it feels like it's massively multiple because everyone's playing it at the same time. It's like some arcane experiment in asynchronous congruity.

And as with any experiment, everyone seems to feel the need to document what they've done. Normally in a post like this I'd link to all the people posting on the theme but by now everyone reading this knows who they are. We've all been talking about this game for weeks and it looks like most of us won't stop until we get that fifth and final boss down. Okay, I will link to that one.

The need to journal the experience is far from unique here. Every so often a game blows up, a lot of people play it, a lot of people write about it. What's rare is for so many to choose to write about it in such similar ways. And for the stories to stitch together so well.

Turn the boat! Turn it around! Now!!


I've learned a lot about playing Valheim from reading other people writing about playing Valheim. Their stories have made me think. Made me reassess my own experience. Made me change my mind.

My plan for today was to sit down and write a novelistic account of my fight with Moder. It started out mundane and ended up being epic. It would make a good tale. The Norn in Guild Wars 2 would absolutely love it.

Then I read Syl's post on her Moder kill and it made me rethink what I wanted to say. Yes, I still want to tell the story of the fight itself. I've been journaling my adventures in Valheim and the details need to be recorded if only for my own future nostalgic interest. This blog is a form of diary, after all.

Before the fight came the journey. I'd planned on skipping that part. I felt I'd already written enough of the preamble when I posted complaining about how long it was taking. Did anyone really need another lengthy description of a series of difficult sea voyages, where I got lost, blown off course, stranded, died a couple of times, nearly died a lot more?

Thank Odin! Daylight!


Probably not. And I wasn't sure I wanted to write all that, either. Between playing Valheim and posting about I'm starting to feel like I've lived little but that world these last few weeks and it's getting to me. In a couple of weeks from now or even sooner it looks as though I'll be back at work again. Do I really want to spend the rest of my time in lockdown trapped in Viking purgatory?

And yet it would be painting a false picture of how things went if I jumped straight to the fight. There's a dragon, of sorts, at the end but I'm beginning to understand that this isn't really about the big bosses at all. It's about the land and the sea and the journey.

I don't know a lot about vikings. How they lived. Just enough to understand it wasn't very much like the stories. I know something about those stories, though, and so do the people who made Valheim. They want us to live in the world of those stories, where everything is against us but we overcome through force of will and the occasional, capricious assistance of the gods. 

That's got to be it. Come in close to the coast and we'll find somewhere safe to land.


And like the heroes of those stories what we have to overcome, more even than the monsters and mythical creatures, is the world itself. The true bosses of Valheim aren't stags with antlers that hurl  lightning or huge conglomerates of slime. They're the elements, the wind and the waves. The fogs that roll in out of nowhere, hiding all. The storms that whip a placid sea into a chaotic maelstrom. The bitter cold that eats away all will.

I've fought four bosses so far and none of them was really all that hard. It was the world that made it so. The night that fell when Eikthyr was summoned. The forest around The Elder, filled with trolls and falling trees. The unbearable, fetid, infested waters of the swamp, where Bonemass feasts on withered bones. And for Moder the bleak, vertiginous, fatal grandeur of the mountains.

Between them all lie countless miles of uncharted ocean, fathoms deep and deadly. The true test of the viking doesn't lie in set-piece duels with summoned foes. It rests where it always did, with the weather and the land. 

Okay... I'm just going to stand on this rock until it gets light. Fulings can't swim this far, can they?


It's exhausting. Let's look at it clearly. It's harrowing. It's hard. It can be repetitive. It can feel frustrating. It can even turn into something close to a routine. If it's a challenge, as often as not it's a challenge to our patience as much as to our skills. Determination sees us through.

Is it entertainment? Maybe. Have I had enough? Perhaps.

There's still the story of Moder to tell. I'll get to that. Maybe tomorrow.

For now, let's celebrate the journey. It's all about the journey. We often say that but this time, for once, it's true.


  1. I very much agree.

    Over the years, I've read dozens of accounts of explorers and tales of shipwreck/escape/survival. What I've found compelling about reading these accounts isn't the descriptions of the places they've visited or the exact circumstances of their predicament (although the setting is essential to their tales), but rather the mental journey of the individuals involved. The story of their experiences in those places is what is compelling. Tales of discipline, perseverance, doubt, frailty, fear, resolve, deprivation, the unknown, etc.

    Valheim seems to deliver those experiences and provoke people to share them as well. As you say, not the destination so much, but the trials and tribulations of their own journey, without and within, all along the way. All are similar, but no two are the same. Great stuff.

    1. As may be apparent, I'm really at the point now where I'm wondering how much longer I can go on. Or, more accurately, should. It's always a bad sign when you find yourself asking yourself if your having fun rather than just having fun. Of course, the question after that is whether it's fun you want. Not everything has to be about fun, after all.

      And working through the process is a kind of fun in itself.

    2. @potshot, very well said indeed and much agree.

  2. One of the very first posts I ever posted on my blog was about the journey being the reward, the winding road and the allure of mistery. The best games are experiences, the best worlds feel like real, breathing things that are beautiful and harsh. Psychochild talked about the grim satisfaction that could be derived from such challenges as much as the more lighthearted whimsical fun. I think it takes both and Valheim is really good at delivering it.

    1. And here we are again. It's a sort of existential crisis. I keep going back to EverQuest. This is what it was like there at the start. And a good few times later on. Whether it's what I want is another thing. I didn;t know then and I'm not sure I know now. I kept playing ,though, so I guess there's a clue in that.

  3. I started reading this post while i was at the drive thru at Starbucks on my way home from vehicle inspection at the auto dealer. I didn't get to finish it until i finally got home and pulled it up on my desktop to further ponder it's perspective. I didn't listen anything else on the drive home, just lost in subconscious thought... pondering the words and perspective of things. And so i must say, it's really one of the best if not best blog gaming post i've read in a very long time, probably ever in perspective. As i can't remember back far enough too remember another to compare. It's probably why my mind was lost in thought simmering on it till i finally finished it.

    The Journey is not and never about the end, but the journey and reflections of all that is that takes place all the way to the end.

    Yes, it is an interesting perspective that so many of us across the blogosphere and as players play this game Valheim, and to each their own reasons. We all share the same tasks, we all arrive at the same place, yet our journeys, perspective and outlook are all different in how we all get there. Some deciding to also get there faster than others. But that in itself is an interesting thing to consider and shape out experience of the game and how we all enjoy it differently as well.

    One of the things I pondered as i was thinking about the post on the way home is that you couldn't get the same feeling from a blog post like this if it was Youtube and i enjoy that content medium also. That medium playing and watching exist in the instant that it is happening if your just watching. The person is playing in the now or being funny for entertainment of their viewers. There is not much self reflection, not much examination of what your really doing or time to really consider things much in perspective on the journey thus far. The game session will have passed when your often at that point to just consider and honestly reflect on things. And that's where writing still has an advantage in having the time to consider ones actions, thoughts and reflecting on your own journey. As well reflecting on the shared journey, experiences of others all on the same path, even if they all get there a different way to your own. It's a lot to think about from the post. We are all sharing a journey of what happens in between two points via our own experiences despite doing it alone or with a few others.

    The fun is remembering the Journey that takes place along the way. The Bosses are the momentary obstacles to be overcome.


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