Sunday, April 4, 2021

Settling Down


I think I'm about done with Valheim. Well, at least until the next major update, which I hope and trust will be Heart and Home, the one with the focus on building and basemaking. 

I don't mean I'm going to stop playing altogether. I still have quite a bit of work to do in the Plains to open up all the available crafting recipes. The gameplay there, once again, reminds me intensely of EverQuest, so I'm nervously looking forward to it.

As Tipa pointed out, though, killing Yagloth, the last of the five current bosses, doesn't really add anything positive to the game right now. Unlike all the others, his death doesn't open any new tech lines or biomes. Worse, it reportedly unleashes the fuling horde onto the normally peaceful meadows. I can't see any good reason to do that.

If anything, it rather points up what I consider one of Valheim's few significant design flaws: the way the viking afterlife becomes less and less attractive the deeper you explore. It's something that makes a lot of sense when you look at the game as an rpg. Of course you'd want to make your character more powerful by taking on greater challenges and progressing towards some kind of narrative resolution. That's how the genre works.

In a builder or a simulation or even a survival game, though, it's not at all clear why you'd want to do any of that, something that goes doubly so for Valheim. In some ways Iron Gate have painted themselves into a corner with the sheer quality of their procedurally generated world. 

The first two biomes, meadows and black forest, have the potential to be so breathtakingly lovely it's not at all uncommon to come across places that look like they should have preservation orders slapped on them to ensure their natural beauty is sustained for future generations.

There are plenty of spots that look like suitable locations for the architect-designed homes of the super-rich, not hunting camps and lean-tos. It becomes increasingly difficult to see why any post-life viking would want to leave the lush, green meadows, with their abundant game and delicious berries and mushrooms all just there for the taking. A hammer, an axe and a few hours cutting down trees and you can have a home fit for a jarl.

The craft progression does provide good reason to explore the otherwise entirely unattractive swamps, the inhospitable mountains and the frankly terrifying plains. Iron and silver, flax and grain, they're all worth having but it seems to me that any viking worth his mead would choose to stage raids to sieze what they needed, then return with the spoils to their meadow or forest home.

There will be new biomes added as the game develops. We already know of three- Mistlands, Deep North and Ashlands. None of them sound even remotely like somewhere even an eternal viking would want to spend any longer than absolutely necessary. 

It's going to be very interesting to see how the developers try to balance progression into ever more hostile and unforgiving environments with an enhanced and expanded housing system. It's not just that there's so little incentive to set up home anywhere outside the first two biomes. It's also that, almost by definition, the more possible it becomes to build a truly comfortable, luxurious home, the less likely people are to want to move.

I'm already feeling that quite strongly. I spent most of this week building what I now expect to my final home in this iteration of Valheim. I'm no specialist builder but I've put twenty-five or thirty hours into this one and I'm pretty happy with the result. It's certainly the best home I've built from scratch in a game and I have quite a few more ideas for it even before we get the new building options.

On of the big attractions is the peace and quiet there. Except for the occasional raids, that is.

I'm at the stage now where I find troll or skelton attacks purely annoying. They serve no purpose other than to interrupt what I'm doing. Neither creature drops anything I want and they can't get past the stone walls so all an attack means is some noise pollution and a time-wasting check for minor repairs.

I never did figure out how the attacks work. The forest risings ended when Eikthyr died but killing Bonemass didn't put an stop to the "foul wind from the swamp" events right away. I haven't seen one of those for a while and neither have the surtlings raided since Moder died although I never understood how or if those two things were connected. 

The supposed drake raids never appeared at all but trolls and skeletons seem to carry on no matter which boss is currently next on the list. Based on past experience I really can't predict what effect killing Yagloth might have but since I do know there's definitely no actual benefit to ending his reign it seems prudent to leave him well alone.

There's another, potentially bigger problem with both housing and progression, one that stands outside the internal logic of the world. It rests squarely on Valheim's unstable pedestal in Early Access. Iron Gate have confirmed that when a new biome is ready to be added, everyone then playing will need to move to a new world to access it.  

That seems likely - indeed certain - to cause major headaches for anyone who's invested a lot of time in getting their home just so but there are potential solutions. It's already possible to move materials from one world to another by carrying them in your personal inventory. You should be able to tear down your existing home and re-use the materials to rebuild in the new world. Perhaps some form of bulk transport container could be created to make it less time-consuming and tedious.

Rebuilding would be a pain but Landmark had a blueprint system whereby you could copy a building and clone it at a new location. All you needed were the mats. I tried it a few times and while, like everything in that game, it was awkward and rough around the edges, it did work. With something like that it would be possible to move an entire castle across worlds in a few clicks.

Or, I guess, we could all end up keeping our original world as our home and going on expeditions to new ones to progress. Whatever happens I think we can assume it's going to be less than optimal until the game reaches whatever Iron Gate calls "launch". A couple of years at least, then.

All of which leads me to think it's probably time to back off a little. Or, at least, to change tack.

Before I call it a wrap, I do want to explore the plains some more. It's a shame they're so nerve-making to travel. The scenery is superb. If it was possible to clear the fuling and deathsquitos out of an area for good I'd say it would be worth making the effort just to set up a home there. 

Unfortunately, although the goblin settlements don't respawn when cleared, the wandering fuling patrols do. And deathsquitos are like deer and boars in the meadows, respawning constantly, with no regard to predation. I've picked up a few ideas on how to make a plains home secure but I can't see any way to make it truly welcoming.

The meadows, though, are peaceful and beautiful nearly all the time. Who wouldn't want to live there?

What's more, I've marked several really lovely meadow islands on my map as I've sailed in search of swamps and mountains. I could set up a network of island retreats linked by portals, all secure from attack by dint of their size and isolation.

And maybe I will. When the House and Home update arrives it would be nice to have a few places prepared and ready to benefit. 

Maybe I'm not quite ready to take a break from Valheim just yet after all.


  1. I agree with the current Final Boss in that not much reason to try and kill it at this point. Find what you enjoy and do that for a while. Explore the distant map and visit all those other meadows. I have some interesting ones i've found to later explore as well. Have some fun building something unusual as well.

    No real idea how it will work on map start over with the new biome release in future. I hope its made as disruption free as possible. You can restart on same seed i would think, just different name. At least then you knows where things are on your own charted map for referencing.

    I just for the most part neglected the mountains today and just did lots of sailing and exploring. I still contemplated it as i explored, but i was just having fun going off script and doing my own thing.

    1. Yesterday, I cleared out the only large fuling village on what's become my home island. That was really good fun. I have quite a lot of black iron now and somebarley but still no flax so the next project is to go to another island and look for some of that. Given the timescales for developing these kind of games I imagine Valheim is going to become something we all play in bursts, going back each time a major update lands, then putting it away again for a while.


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