Saturday, April 16, 2022

Back In Leather

It was all but inevitable that I'd return to Valheim some day. I've kept the client updated and dithered over checking out some of the updates but it was Wilhelm's recent series of posts that finally tipped me over the edge.

Partly it was the thought of starting over in a clean, new world. All the time I've played the game I've had but the one character and the one map. I haven't explored the whole thing, not even close, but most of the mysteries lie a long sea voyage away now. 

Even if I was willing to make the journey, my main character, if we can call her that, would only be able to test out the higher-level changes. Like Wilhelm, I was curious to see how the game plays these days, from the beginning.

Which is not to say I'm planning on playing through the whole game all over again. That's very unlikely to happen. To get to where my main character is now took three hundred and eighty hours. At a hardcore six hours a day that's about two solid months, which is pretty much what it was, now I come to think of it.

Oh, god! Here we go again...

I would guess that could be halved. Maybe thirded. Remove the inordinate amount of time I spent building bases almost literally everywhere I traveled, setting up complicated, tangled teleport networks, sailing around aimlessly, getting hopelessly lost... pretty much coming as close as I ever have to living in a virtual world the way we all used to say we wished we could...

Even so, at a bare minimum it had to be something like a hundred hours just to do the core leveling and gearing up. I don't think I even want to commit to something like that. Not that it would be as long as that. It's supposed to be easier now, right?

Only one way to find out. This evening I made a new character and seeded a new world. I named it Grandma and used LetsEat for the seed. My original world is called LanaDelRey and that's also the seed. At least I'm consistent.

Not quite how I imagined a Valkyrie to look.

I'd completely forgotten the introduction, in which a Valkyrie, looking altogether too much like a cosplayer in a hang glider, carries you down to the land you're going to settle. There's a storm raging, rain lashing down. lightning, the whole Viking trip. 

This is the point at which I say that thing bloggers often say, which is how useful it is to have a blog so you can go back and check stuff you did a while ago and see what you thought about it. If I wasn't able to do that, right now I'd be making a number of wholly inaccurate statements and drawing some even more inaccurate conclusions from them.

For example, I might have said that last year, my first day, I arrived in the middle of the night in the pouring rain, couldn't see five feet in front of me, spent the first session stumbling about in the darkness getting killed by skeletons. I might have contrasted that with today's arrival, when the sun shone brightly and everything felt calm and peaceful.

I might have gone on to make some observations about how, this time, berries and mushrooms grew thick on the ground right next to where the Valkyrie dropped me, meaning I was able to begin with food inside me, providing buffs to my stamina and hit points. Then I'd make a cogent point or two about how different that was from last year, when it was much later that I worked out how to find food and make myself fit to fight or flee.

I'm all but sure I would have had something to say about the way my knowledge of the game meant I didn't waste time scrubbing up the wood to make my own first hovel. This time around I knew to find and refurbish a shack left half-standing by whoever came before me.

All of those observations and assessments would have been entirely inaccurate. My memory failing to give me an accurate read and my imagination stepping up to the challenge, as usual.

Coming back to Valheim, the first hour felt much easier. I was all ready to go with the narrative that changes have been made to make sure the New Player Experience is softer, smoother, gentler than it was. And maybe they have. I'm surfe there weren't that many berry bushes right at the spawn-in. And  as Wilhelm says, isn't Eikthyr's altar handier than it was? It looks that way. Then again, I didn't mention it last time, so how can I be sure? 

Well, I could log my main character in and go look, I guess. Shall I do that? I guess I should...

Hmm. It's almost identical. The symbol on the map is in a different direction from the stone circle where you arrive but almost exactly the same distance from it. The only possible difference could be that I might have had to go find the runestone to mark it on the map last time, whereas this time it comes pre-marked, but honestly I have no idea if that's true.

What I do know is what actually happened last year according to the First Impressions post I wrote the same day:

It was daylight when I arrived, not night. There's a picture of me at the top of the post that I took immediately after I landed. It also wasn't raining. My character is wet, yes, but only from that thunderstorm the Valkyrie flew through. I think... 

I did stumble about in the darkness and get killed by a skeleton, although at the time I had no idea what had killed me. In the post I describe it as happening "in the opening few minutes", so it was presumably late afternoon when I made landfall. This time it was morning. 

It's probably random. I suppose I could make a few characters and test it but I don't really want to know that badly.

My recollection of food being scarce at the start turns out to be nonsense. I have a whole section in the First Impressions post, where I rant on about how I can't see the point of having survival mechanics at all if ignoring them doesn't stop you surviving: "You can't starve to death, either. You can get hungry but the game makes sure to remind you to eat something and since you can apparently survive quite happily on a diet of raspberries and mushrooms, both of which grow abundantly throughout the forest, there's no real risk of getting the hunger debuff." (My new emphasis.)

First dawn.
Again, maybe the food didn't have such powerful buffs or you couldn't eat more than one kind at a time. In last year's post I am focusing on the debuff negative not the buff positive. Perhaps that's what changed.

Finally, building my own home. Yeah, I didn't do that. Not until quite a bit later. "By the second night I had a shelter, a ruin I'd found and partially repaired." Just like I did today. I had in my mind the first house I built but I'd forgotten all about the various fix-ups I squatted before.

So, maybe Iron Crown have made starting in Valheim easier and maybe they haven't. I'm still not really sure. What I am sure about is that having played the game for three hundred and eighty hours certainly made it easier for me to get started this time around.

There were a few fiddly little things I couldn't remember at first, like how to get the Repair hammer working, but whereas last year I was complaining it had taken three nights of tedium before I'd managed to make myself a working bed, this time I had my head down on the first evening. I was running around with nearly double my starting hit points almost from the get-go.

Knowledge, however, can be a dangerous tool when used thoughtlessly.

Second dawn and I've already traded up.

Last year I died three times in four hours, all of them accidents. This time I died four times in an hour, all of them reckless foolishness. I managed to lose fights with three skeletons outside a tomb, with five boars, including a one-star, right next to the stone that tells you all about boars, and with a Greydwarf in the Black Forest. None of those were fights I should have been having. I started all of them.

And it was fun! There's no real penalty for dying at such low levels other than the time it takes to get back and grab your stuff, assuming you can. Even if you can't, it doesn't matter. You have nothing you can't easily replace. It's actually a great time to be reckless.

At least that's going to be my excuse for all the deaths I imagine I'm going to have as I try to map the outline of my starter island. I don't think I'm going to be back for long but I'm going to be sticking around long enough to do that much, at least. 

After that, we'll see.


  1. I already started my second playthrough of the game two weeks ago. I hadn't played the Hearth and Home expansion yet, and neither had the wolf caves, so I expect some novelty value.
    I also have the impression that the beginning is easier. Many resources feel more available (honey, thistle, blueberries).
    I find the game wonderfully relaxing; I can also play all the content alone - without always having to rely on a group for the end game content like in new world.

    1. I agree it's amazingly relaxing - especially for a viking afterlife. I was thinking about not killing any bosses at all this time and just concentrating on building a really comfortable home but I guess I'll have to progress if I want to see the new stuff.


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