Saturday, March 20, 2021

Pick It Up And Pack It In

For weeks now I've been nothing but positive about Valheim. It's probably past time I mentioned something I don't like. The inventory.

I count myself something of an afficionado, if not an expert, on lugging stuff about in games. I consider inventory management to be a significant gameplay element in its own right. I'm on record as someone who spends whole Sundays sorting their banks and loves it.

The last time I remember having this much trouble with my bags was in the Allods beta. Even the stingiest free to play titles, the ones that rely on bag sales in the cash shop to keep the servers up, don't stint on space the way Valheim does.

Thirty-two slots is all you get. It's possible there are games with fewer but I'm willing to bet that in none of those games does every piece of armor you're wearing and every weapon you're weilding take up one of your valuable slots. 

Let's look at what's in my bags right now. I haven't prepared this. I just logged in, took a screenshot of what was there and logged out again. 

Top row

Slot 1 - Poison Resist Mead. Absolutely essential to have on a hot key if you're venturing into the swamp. You do not want to be opening your inventory and scrabbling around looking for a potion just as the last one runs out and an ooze appears out of the gloom right next to you.

Slot 2 - Bow - Arguably you might manage without hot-keying the bow since it's situational but I like to have mine handy so I can take down trolls and drakes as soon as they attack. I also like to pop every deer that doesn't see me coming, since I can never get enough meat (ironic, since I've not eaten meat in real life since the late 1980s).

Slot 3 - Mace - This is one I could swap for something more useful. I made it to fight Bonemass but then I never used it. And I've never used it since, either. 

Slot 4 - Axe - Until I made the Silver Sword, the axe was my main weapon. Even now it's almost as good and of course it also cuts down trees. I'm always going to need my axe close at hand.

Slot 5 - Hammer - It has to go there because that's where it goes. Same applies to the axe and the pick. I've played so many hours of Valheim I have strong muscle memory for the tools and weapons I use most. If I try putting them inside the pack I just keep pressing the old keys before I'm consciously aware I'm going to do it and whatever's in those slots gets used instead. Which is very annoying if it happens to be a consumable.

Slot 6 - Silver Sword - I was loathe to stop using the axe but when you move from iron to silver there's no new axe recipe, or not that I've found. When I looked at the sword and saw it did the same damage at level one as the iron axe does at level four, plus extra "spirit" damage on top, I knew I'd have to make one and learn how to use it. 

The main problem was where to put it. Until then slot six had always belonged to my hoe. I still end up waving my sword about when all I mean to do is flatten some ground. It's infuriating.

Slot 7 - Pickaxe - See Slot 5.

Slot 8 - Iron Sledge - This is a slight indulgence. I could probably get away with having the sledge deeper in the pack because once again it's situational. The thing is, it's also fun to use, extremely effective on skeletons and blobs, highly efficient on gangs of greydwarves and good for clearing brushwood and small trees. If I put it away I'd only keep getting it out again.

Second row:

Slot 1 - Obsidian arrows - If you're going to use a bow you're going to need to carry arrows. Highlighted in blue because I've selected them as the ones I want to use.

Slot 2 - More obsidian arrows - Usually I only carry one stack but I'd just made some new ones and these were left over.

Slots 3 - 7 - Free space!

Slot 8 - Medium Health Mead - Always carry some of these. If for any reason I get out of my depth or a blob jumps me in the meadows (it happens) one of these can save my life. And has. Many times.

I would, obviously, prefer to have my health potions on a hot key but when I did I kept drinking them by mistake. I used to keep them in the top row, slot three, where the mace is now, but my fat fingers would sometimes start me glugging when I was aiming to grab my axe or my bow, so I reluctantly had to put them deeper in the pack. I always keep them in the current position so I don't have to waste a moment searching for them in an emergency.

Third row:

Slot 1 - The miner's helmet thing. I forget the Norse name for it. I was using it constantly in the swamp but not so much now I'm mostly in the mountains. Still not going to go anywhere without it, obviously.

Slot 2 - Wishbone. I thought I'd only need this when I went looking for silver. Then I found out you can find sunken chests with it in the meadows and iron in the swamp. I'm at the annoying stage where if I'm not wearing it I feel like I might be walking right over something. Even though what's in the chests isn't all that interesting I'm not ready to give it up just yet.

Slot 3 - Sausages - Always need sausages. Nuff said.

Slot 4 - Cooked Meat - See Slot 3.

(At this point I should mention that both those meat products are in the wrong place. I usually keep whatever three foods I'm using in the bottom row on the right, where the raspberries are. I must have moved them for some reason. I'll put them back where they should be when I log in).

Slot 5 -6 - More free space!

Slot 7 - Cultivator. I'd really prefer to hotkey this. I use it a lot and it's very annoying to have inside the pack. I have to open inventory, select the cultivator, close inventory, then right-click to select function to use it. Then to stop using it I either have to select another tool (even if I don't need to use one) or re-open inventory and de-select the cultivator. It gets on my nerves.

Slot 8 - Hoe. See slot 7.

Bottom row:

Slots 1 - 4 - Armor. Never not going to need that.

Slot 5 - Strength belt. I always used to have this selected. Then I got the wishbone. You can only use one magical doodad at a time so it's a choice between the two of them. I tend to have the wishbone on until I hit the three hundred weight limit then swap to the belt. 

Slot 6 - Raspberries. My third food. Just happens to be raspberries because I was exploring and that's what I was able to forage along the way. 

Slot 7 - Coal. The one thing in this snapshot that totally should not be there. I imagine I happened to walk in range of the kiln at some point and some coal flipped itself into my bag without me noticing. Or I burned some meat and didn't spot it when I picked it up. Or maybe I killed a surtling somewhere. Whatever, it shouldn't be in my bags.

Slot 8 - Crypt Key. Essential during the iron age for getting the gates open on sunken crypts. Arguably I could keep it in a chest somewhere now I'm on silver but it's surprising how many times I end up in a swamp without meaning to. It would be very awkward to run into a crypt to escape a horde of draugr and find I couldn't get the gate open.

So there it is. Out of thirty-two possible slots I'm carrying twenty items I'd consider to be essential and a couple more I'd really rather hang onto, thanks. It means I'm operating at all time with an effective free inventory of just ten slots.

In almost any other game I've played, all my armor, my trinkets, the weapons I was using and any ammunition they needed would be stored on my character doll, not in my inventory. In many games there would be dedicated, non-general-inventory slots for crafting tools, potions and food as well.

And yet, even if we had all of that in Valheim, the game would still have the meanest space allocation I've ever seen! Thirty-two slots! Even if more than half of them weren't being taken up with things that should never be there in the first place, that's pathetic!

I might (might...) accept it if it was done as a point of principle. If there was some gameplay intent behind it, like the way Darkfall supposedly made players rummage through their inventory so as to add tension to PvP. Or if it was in the service of "realism", as in those games where objects have both weight and size and you have to fiddle around trying to get them all to fit.

But Valheim doesn't do any of that. You can walk around with enough wood to build a couple of decent-sized houses and a longboat if you want. Or enough stone to build a tower. Realism has absolutely nothing to do with it.

I think it's just bad design, pure and simple. The game needs a proper paper doll for the character and it needs more basic inventory space. 

In gameplay terms it would also benefit hugely from character inventory being included in progression. We should be able to make packs that increase our carrying capacity the way we can already make bigger chests to increase static storage.

I imagine all of this will come in time. Valheim seems so finished, so feature-complete, it's very easy to forget it's not just in Early Access but that even Early Access has only just started.

There are plenty of things about Valheim I don't look forward to seeing change as the demands of more and more players mean compromises are made but I do look forward to having more room in my bags. 

That can't come soon enough.


  1. My top bar is torch, weapon (mace), shield, hammer, bow, axe, pick, with 8 generally open unless I have a need for a hoe. I also eschew the light, the cultivator, and the swamp key unless I really need them. When I scouted our last big harvest swamp, I did it with the key in hand, unlocking all the crypts as I mapped them, then went back and cleared them without they key on me.

    I also carry 3 stacks of food (sausage, meat, nek tail), the weight belt, and two stacks of arrows, usually one wood (with the upgraded Dragur's Fang bow most everything dies to just wooden arrows) and one obsidian (just in case I need to hit hard.)

    And, with that, I still run out of space often. First items overboard tend to be useless trophies (nek, boar, deer, skeleton, etc.), bones, and greydwarf eyes.

    1. I stopped using the torch the moment I got the miner's helmet. The torch is far brighter but it seems to break all the time.

      As for the shield, I might do a post about that. I started out using one and also blocking and dodging but within a few days I gave up on all of that. All I do is attack attack attack in every situation and it almost always works. Indeed, the further I progess, the more successful berserking seems to be.

      The Draugr Bow is another of those things I keep hearing about but have never discovered. I'm at the point where I think I might look it up because I'm thinking I probably missed something obvious along the way.

      As for the trophies, you say you ditch the useless ones... are there any useful ones? Apart from the one-time summoning of bosses, I haven't figured out what the point of them is. I was wondering if hanging them up increases the Comfort buff. I think they look hideous on the walls so I haven't put any up after I tried one to see how it worked. I guess if they have some practical function I could hang them in a closet and shut the door.

    2. Drake, wold, and Dragur elite heads are all used in crafting. Deer heads as well, though we're well past the Stagbreaker now.

      I think the key item for the Dragur bow might be guck, which you harvest by mining those glowing green blisters on unchoppable trees in the swamp. I had to build a workbench and some ladders to harvest what I needed, though I will say that the ones further up the trees seemed to yield more guck.

    3. Oh those! Thanks for that. I actually tried to forage or harvest or otherwise get something from those when I very first entered the swamp but I couldn't reach them and I gave up pretty fast, thinking they were just scenery. I'll go and make a ladder today!

      I wonder if all the trophies have some use? The ones you mention I've made things with. Ones like the boar or neck seem odd. You wouldn't really put those up as trophies so why do they even exist if not for crafting?

  2. It’s funny how we all develop certain habits for where things should go in our game hotbars. For any survival game, I’m usually 1 for melee attack, 2 pickaxe, 3 axe, 4 shovel, 5 light, 6 bow or ranged attack, 7-0 for less essential, clickable stuff. If keys can be rebound, Z is my emergency heal.

    How’s Valheim with hotbar rebinding at the moment? Possible, or still early access not yet here feature?

    1. Hmm. I'd have to check. Some keys are rebindable because almost the first thing I did was change the default "interact" key from "E" to "F", which I find much more natural. I don't remember seeing the number keys on the menu of changeables though. I'll look when I log in and report back.

  3. The transition to the plains, ironically, includes a crazy amount of time on the boat and avoiding swamps. So thats more hammer, bow, and a maxed out shield. A maxed shield on the plains is like a poison resist pot in the swamps.

    It also alleviates a bit of inventory issues, as the ship hold is chocked full of drops. It feels a lot more like viking raids now.

  4. Trophies can be hang up on crafter hang items inside of any your house. Trophies placed add to comfort level. And only need 1-2 hanged but otherwise it adds to decoration in your house. At Max level the comfort level affords around 24 mins of Comfort and that's almost as long as a entire daylight cycle.

    The gunk stuff also for making the green touches comes from the Swamp on the trees with the glowing green stuff for which you need to use a PickAxe to harvest. I believe you also need it to craft the glowly green bow. But to get up in the trees you need to drop a Workbench and just make some wood steps up in the tree to mine of the green items.

    In Valheim, carry from base only the things you essentially need to take with you. If you must drop something, drop it on a common pathway you consistently walk so you can pick it back up later. Nothing in Valheim that's dropped every really de-spawns as it's always there to grab later. I tend not to carry things like Keys if what i'm doing don't demand I have it. Its bad enough in the world to get killed and with all your finest weapons and armor at the location to make it back to. I don't really want a more fuller inventory of stuff to die with and possibly loose it there and have a hard time getting back to. At best the game is a bit both of Stamina management as well Inventory management. Which is why at times I drop non-essential stuff on a path i travel a lot. I know where area i dropped it and can later pick up again with more room in inventory. Not so easy to do so in the Swamp or Mountain biomes probably.

    The Devs has said they have heard much feedback on the inventory as well a separate inventory for armor weapons and some that feedback issue relates to console players and how that has some effect on implementing a better solution. But still they will try to find a workaround maybe, but they admit it's not something easy to fix currently. So TBD! If the Inventory was larger players will just try to carry more stuff all the time. But it be nice if it was indeed, but that's work in progress by the Developers.

    1. Thanks for the info. I thought the comfort buff might come into things with those trophies. I'll get some up in places I don't have to look at them.

      I've got the gunk now and I've made the Draugr bow. It took a lot of efort and at level 2 it's still not as good as the much easier to make level 4 Huntsman's Bow I was using. I guess technically it is because of the poison damage but dots don't seem to be very useful in Valheim. The Draugr bow will be better when I get it to level 4 but that takes a lot of silver and a lot of swamp tree climbing which is not much fun so I might not bother.

      Mixed news on the inventory there. I totally agree about players just carrying more and more if the space is available. I always do that and I'm quite happy to be saved from myself there but I think there's a happy compromise the current low limit and going way too far. I really would like them to tie it to the crafting tree so we can look forward to making something each tech tier that lets us carry more. That would keep things under control.

    2. Don't underestimate just how much Poison damage can add up over time on something you don't kill in 1-2 shots. The damage adds up on a tougher monster or BOSS fighting over time. At best the first 1-2 levels of a new teir may not seem to be better than a maxed out previous level item. But once you get that item to lvl 3+ it's a lot of difference and with durability as well. So can be worth upgrading the item.

  5. I wholeheartedly agree about having a paper doll for equipment. Surprised they didn't copy it from Minecraft wholesale. It's the one thing that's making Minecraft's inventory system superior.

    1. It's just a weird piece of design, I think. I'm not sure I've ever seen it done this way before.


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