Sunday, March 14, 2021

I Built A Tower

I don't like long boss fights. I get bored but worse I get claustrophobic. Once you're in you can't get out. I feel trapped. It's the literal opposite of having fun.

I didn't always feel that way. Guild Wars 2 trained me. The awful, attritional, tedious-beyond-imagining finale to each and every Living Story episode for the best part of three years. They taught me to dread and fear these ill-judged, supposedly climactic clashes. 

Beating those bosses never felt cathartic or glorious. The only emotions I ever felt were relief it was over coupled with shame that I'd allowed myself to be gulled into wasting another half-hour of my life on something so utterly joyless.

It's no surprise, then, that I'm not a big fan of Valheim's episodic progression in which each tier of technological advancement is tied to a big boss fight. That I'm doing them at all speaks volumes to the appeal of the rest of the game.

The first two bosses weren't that bad. Eikthyr was a simple tank'n'spank of exactly the kind I favor. It was all over in maybe ninety seconds, tops. The Elder was a lot more challenging but once I'd geared up I found that I was able to brute force it effectively in fairly short order.

Only figured out how to activate these powers last night...
Bonemass sounded different. Since the start I've been making one exception to my practice of working everything in Valheim out for myself. I've been reading strats and watching videos for the boss fights. I don't want to be doing them at all so I have no qualms about spoiling my own fun there.

Everything I read about the third boss suggested he was going to be trouble. People said things like "This will be a way harder battle than the previous two" and "the Bonemass encounter tends to be tougher compared to anything you’ve experienced so far in Valheim". Some guides even suggested Boney would be the most challenging of all five boss fights currently in the game.

Well, that's great. Just what I wanted to hear.

Reading further, it became apparent preparation was going to be the key. All the guides stressed it. So I began my prepping early.

In hindsight I concede I took it a little too far. I decided I'd need to have all my gear fully upgraded. That meant another big mining run, taking iron out of the swamp and shipping it back to where I could process it safely. That alone took a couple of days.

I read that Bonemass was weak to blunt damage so I also needed to make an iron mace and since I happened to have a Draugr Elite trophy stashed away somewhere, I decided to make the big two-handed iron sledge hammer as well.

(Here's a tip: make the sledgehammer! It's fantastic. You can clear entire sunken crypts with it without needing to face any of the creatures inside because the impact goes through walls. It also works to explode whole gangs of skeletons and greydwarves when they mob you outdoors and the best part is you don't need to target anything - just whack it into the ground. It even clears small trees!).

As well as gearing up, all the guides emphasize the need to have plenty of poison resistance mead on hand. That one I could have told you already. As soon as I discovered the stuff I never go swamphunting without it. It's easy to make and each shot lasts ten minutes so I have it up constantly when I'm there. It renders blobs, oozes and leaches utterly trivial rather than mostly deadly, as they would be without it.

Some guides also suggest taking medium healing mead, another thing I always carry, and even stamina mead, which I'd never used before. I made all of them. Gathering the ingredients took some time and brewing each batch takes a couple of in-game days but eventually I had all the potions I could carry. 

I also had a couple of dozen strings of sausages, a stack of cooked meat and a batch of carrot stew. I even had a stack of honey because one guide mentioned it has the highest per-tick health regeneration in the game right now, something that would easily counteract all of Bonemass's poison damage that might bleed through the resisistance mead.

All I had to do now was find the altar.  There were two choices: one deep in the south, one in the far north. I'd already tried and failed to get to the southern one, which turned out to be right next to the plains. The northern marker was much further than I'd ever ventured but I decided to give it a try anyway.

At first it went well enough. I was very sensible. I put all my best gear in chests and dressed in troll hide. I only took things I was willing to lose. I put a couple of stacks of wood and the makings of a portal into my pack and set off.

The wind was set fair for the north and my longship all but flew across the waves. It was a long trip but the weather stayed fine and before dark I was nosing the ship into the shallows of a swamp. I'd passed a couple of giant turtles on the way but I'd had the self-discipline not to stop.

Fairly close to the Bonemass marker on my map I could see two sunken crypts, one right at the tip of a promontory. I figured I could fortify one of those for a base. I got the longship settled and nothing immediately attacked me although I could see draugr moving through the trees not far away. 

I jumped out, waded to the crypt entrance and put down a workbench. Before I'd gotten the walls up a bunch of skeletons arrived and started trying to knock them down. Then some draugr joined in. There was a running battle but I got them pacified somehow. 

By the time I'd managed to get most of the walls done night had fallen. Under the threat of attack I'd had to throw my barricades up as best I could. There were gaps and it was cramped. I was fiddling around trying to find a space bige enough to place the portal when something began attacking me through the walls.

I didn't even see what it was. It killed me before I could target it. When it attacked me again I realized it was a wraith. They are nasty. That was much later, though. First I had to come back from where I'd woken up, which I quickly realized was going to be a problem. 

Call this a boat? Oh, yeah, okay. I guess it is a boat. Call this a ship?

I hadn't had time to get a bed down and rebind so I woke up back in my castle half a world away. Worse, my longship was still floating next to my corpse. I was not best pleased but luckily I remembered I still had a karve parked somewhere. It took me a while to work out where I'd left it, which turned out to be on the wrong side of an island even further away. 

Fortunately it was at my treehouse, which has a portal. I ported there and thought about how long it would take to sail the karve all the way back to my longship. Then I smashed the karve to matchwood with an axe, put the bits in my bag and took a portal to the northernmost house in the network. Saved myself at least an hour!

Wrestling the karve back north on the final leg of the journey, I was amazed to find just how bad a ride it feels compared to the longship. I'd completely forgotten. Compared to the longboat, the karve feels scarcely more seaworthy than the raft. It was a stressful and unpleasant trip even in good weather. I dread to think what would have happened if a storm had blown up. It didn't. I got there. Eventually.

Recovering my body was easy and this time I was sure to get the portal up immediately. Then I started building. I built around the crypt and then I built on top of it. I constructed a tower with an enclosed room at the top and I put a second portal inside that, just in case something got in downstairs and destroyed the first one. Then I ported home to fetch the makings of a third portal, came back, put up a stockade in another location and stuck it inside. Off-site redundancy I believe it's called. 

I'll make this place a safe harbor if I have to cut down every last damn tree in the swamp!

By this point my behavior was becoming openly paranoid but I was aware it was also displacement activity. I was doing all kinds of things to avoid actually having to do the fight itself. I hadn't even been to see the altar yet. So I did that.

It turned out I'd landed in the most dangerous part of the swamp for miles. There were bone piles and draugr towers and oozes and blobs and that blasted wraith. I got my revenge on him then I cleared the whole lot out, along with all the leeches in the water. 

 I died once, storming a grave site that had two draugr body heaps and a skeleton bone pile in it. I was so crazed by then I didn't have the sense to back off when I ran out of stamina. That big hammer isn't so effective when you can't lift it any more. I was annoyed for the skill loss but with my portals getting going again was no problem.

Once the swamp was quiet as far as the eye could see I went to the marker on the map. Bonemass's altar is a giant, green skull. To summon him you throw withered bones into its mouth. I have to say Valheim does a great job with atmosphere when it comes the boss fights.

I didn't throw any bones. I didn't have any with me. I'd deliberately left them behind just so I couldn't have a mad moment and decide to "just go for it". Self-awareness, they call it.

I guess this is the place.

What I did was flatten the entire area around the skull with my hoe. Then I built a good-sized hut, put in a bed and a fire, then went back and moved one of my three portals to the new compound. Then I built an outer wall around it all. 

Even I could see this was getting ridiculous. But it was going to get more ridiculous yet.

At this point my plan was still to melee Bonemass using the iron mace and the big two-handed hammer. I'd seen videos of it. It looked horrible but doable. People talked about the fight taking anything from ten minutes to half an hour. 

But there was another possibility. Bonemass is all but immune to most kinds of damage other than blunt trauma but he can't cope with frost. Supposedly, if you can somehow come up with a couple of hundred frost arrows you can range him down. Better yet, if you can contrive to do it from somewhere high above him his melee attacks can't reach you and neither can all the adds he calls.

I really wasn't looking forward to half an hour of attritional melee combat with a boss who regenerates health if you die and have to run back. I had no idea how to make frost arrows other than that it involved getting something from the mountains but I guessed this might be the time to learn.

Ah, that cool, clear mountain air.

So that's what I did. I expected it would be a waste of time. I thought I'd most likely get killed trying to do it and end up having to melee Bonemass anyway but at least I wouldn't have to do it yet. I read that for frost arrows you need a gland from frost drakes and obsidian, which you can mine. Oh, what the hell, why not?

To cut a very long story short it all went about a thousand times better than I ever could have imagined. I already had a stack of frost resist mead and one of my main homes is right next to a huge mountain range. I ported down there, drank some mead and went looking for drakes. 

I thought the first I found would be my last but it transpires that frost drakes are all screech and no bite. I'm not sure if they're generally feeble or whether the frost resist mead works on their attacks too but if they did me any damage at all I never noticed. 

I picked several off with my bow. They have a predictable attack pattern. The hardest part is finding where the frost gland they drop has fallen. It all went so well I ported over to the forge and made another hundred iron arrows so I could kill more.

As I roamed around the mountain-tops hunting drakes wolves sometimes appeared out of the snow to try their luck. All met the sharp end of my axe. Wolves bite hard but they die fast. They also seem to be stunned for a few seconds every time you hit them, which makes killing them more like an execution than a fight.

I found obsydian everywhere and mined more than I could carry. I spent a couple of game days in the peaks and came back with enough glands to make nearly four hundred frost arrows, twice what everyone reckoned was needed. Also twenty wolf pelts and some fangs. A good hunt, for certain.

Once I'd made the arrows I decided that was the way I'd go. It's a cheesy way to kill the boss, assuming it was going to work. It's what we used to call "perching" in the old days, finding a spot where a mob can't reach you and killing it with ranged attacks. You could get banned for it in EverQuest but this isn't EQ

In one video I watched the guy just climbed up the giant skull and stuck three ladders on top. It looked precarious and inelegant but it worked. I started off to copy him but then I got ambitious. Once I was on top of the skull it seemed too good a foundation to waste. So I built a tower. With fortifications and battlements on all sides. And stairs and ladders and rails so I wouldn't fall off. And doors I could close so nothing could get in.

I even tried to put a roof on it so I could light a fire and keep warm and dry during the fight but for some reason the game wouldn't recognize anything I built as "shelter" so I gave up on that idea. I knew I was just prevaricating, anyway. Either it was going to work or it wasn't. Being dry wasn't going to make a difference one way or the other.

I know it's not going to win any design awards...

With no way of putting things off any longer I told Mrs. Bhagpuss not to come in and interrupt me for a while because I was doing something really important. When she'd finished laughing I sat down at my desk and threw my bones into the maw. Then I scuttled around the back of the skull, shinned up the ladder and slammed the door behind me.

Bonemass was awake by then. He looked up at me and I put a frost arrow between his eyes. He didn't seem to like it much. He moved around to the side and for a moment I was worried he'd get himself into a place I couldn't see. Luckily, he was too big for that. 

We settled into a rhythm, he and I. He'd sink down then rise up, staring right at me and waving his arms. I'd pump arrows into his head until he ducked down again and then I'd pump them into his shoulder instead. 

From this point it was inevitable.

He called his blobs and draugr to attack but they couldn't find any way up to me. Some blobs got stuck in the floor below (You don't think I only built one storey, do you?) and their poison reached me, as did Bonemass's, but with the poison resist mead and the honey it had no appreciable effect.

I kept pinging arrows at him and his health kept dropping. After a while I was convinced it was going to work. Then it became inevitable. The whole thing lasted about seven or eight minutes. I'm not guessing, for once. I can see it from the time left on my Rested buff in the screenshots I took.

When Bonemass finally keeled over I still had nearly two hundred and fifty frost arrows left. The whole thing was something of an anti-climax and I couldn't be happier about that. I'm very much not playing Valheim for the boss fights. I'll take the easiest win on offer and just be glad I got there before someone nerfed it.

He never was, much.

After I'd picked up my loot and talked to Hugin I ported home and went to try out my wishbone. I felt so relaxed in the mountains. Too relaxed, in fact. I overstayed my time there and managed to get myself eaten by wolves. They're meaner at night and they come in bigger packs. 

A minor inconvenience. I found some silver and refined it so now I have new recipes. The wolfhide armor looks like it will be great. It starts at the same armor class as the fully upgraded iron and it protects you from cold so I won't need the mead once I've made myself a set.

It feels very good to have the pressure of the next boss lifted. Fourth comes a drake called Moder but it'll be a while before I have to think about that. For now all I need to concentrate on is farming wolves for fur and following my wish bone to find silver.

That's going to feel almost like a holiday.


  1. LOL thank you for this hilarious read! xD
    I love how you over-prepped for this but the frost arrows are a great tip am taking on board! I dont use blunt weapons thus far and have no wish to skill them just for this boss.

    Grats on your inglorious kill! :D Guess I'll check out those mountains sooner than I thought.

    1. Glad you enjoyed it. Compared to the swamp the mountains are positvely pleasant. Also I found it pretty calm and quiet there... until I started mining silver. That seems to send everything into a frenzy and it's all I can do to get a few chunks before I have to sprint clear and let them all calm down again.

  2. Our efforts were very much parallel to yours, though we build more of a tree house rather than a tower. A post to come this week, when I finally get to it. Lots of build up to something of a damp squib though.

    1. I was a little torn between disappointment the final fight was so one-sided and delight at how quick and painless it was. On balance I'd definitely take the easy win rather than some protracted epic battle, even if in the end I was victorious.

  3. Ymir flesh! Of course. That's what I was missing. Great read as usual. We seem to be living parallel virtual lives.

    I have a tendency to over think and over compensate as well but planning is almost as much fun as doing it.

    1. I think the Draugr Elite trophy is the sticking point for that hammer. I've killed a good few of them now but I've only ever seen the one head drop.

  4. Here I am thinking I'm really prepped and read this. Looking back I think I'd have given range a better chance. Its super powerful at higher skill levels.

    Good golly the amount of crypts you must have mined! Wait til you reach the plains, for some reason it requires tons of iron again. Keep some obsidian stocks... you're going to need a LOT of arrows.

    1. I'm working on my bow skills. It's really enjoyable once you get the hang of the ballistics. I'm not happy to hear I'll have to go back into the swamp - I was thinking I was done with that. It's good design, though, keeping all biomes relevant as you open more. At least by then most of the monsters there should be trivial.


Wider Two Column Modification courtesy of The Blogger Guide