Tuesday, December 6, 2022

Lost In The Mists


I started a post where I was going to ramble on about how ridiculously much there is to do right now, what with every blasted mmorpg in creation either dropping an expansion or a holiday event or in some cases both at once and all at the same time we all have a million extra things to do in real life, what with it being the busiest time of year commercially, culturally socially and every other which way...

And I was going to hang that post on the news I saw today that Iron Crown finally pushed out the Mistlands update for Valheim, which, when I read the patch notes, seemed to be even more interesting than expected, what with a new magic system I'd somehow not heard about before on top of everything else.

I'd knocked out a couple of paragraphs but then I had stop and take Beryl for a walk and when I came back I had the bright idea of logging in to Valheim to take a few screenshots. There's been a lot of talk about having to start a fresh world because the new biome will only trigger in places you haven't yet visited but I have a ton of unexplored land in my original world, including a bunch of places where I found patches of Mistland and chose not to explore them.

I figured I'd find the nearest portal to one of those and take a look to see what was there. Of course, I haven't played Valheim in any meaningful way in over a year but it's like riding a viking bike, right? What could go wrong?

Obviously, everything. And it did. Only someone who'd completely forgotten what it's like to play Valheim would have imagined otherwise.

It all started well enough. I opened the map and found a nice patch of Mistlands to the far south. I was already in very good health and fully equipped so all I needed to do was find a portal. Back when I was playing regularly, I'd chosen to give all my portals gnomic names that now mean absolutely nothing to me but by miraculous chance the very first portal I tried went exactly to the spot.

I should have realised that wasn't a good thing. It meant I was even more woefully unprepared than I might have been, had I had to make my way there slowly. To give some scale to my rustiness, it was only after I'd left the portal building that I realised I wasn't only not holding a weapon, I couldn't remember how to equip one.

After a few minutes re-familiarising myself with the controls, I set off down the coast, hatchet in hand. It was daytime and visiibility was good, meaning I saw the troll long before he saw me. I edged round him, even though from memory trolls didn't seem to be much of a threat any more, when last I played. Better safe than sorry. (That's irony, in case you missed it.)

It only took me a couple of minutes to hit the first spider webs. I climbed up a rock to get a look beyond the veil and the first thing I saw was a cross between a zeppelin and a giant tick floating towards me. I got a shot of it and ran.

It didn't follow me so I went back for a better angle. This time it spotted me and spat something and next thing I knew I was on fire and so was the forest. Amazingly, I didn't die. I scrambled back down the water and turned round to see the thing was following me, almost always a fatal mistake but not this time. The monstrosity had drifted back into the mists.

I think it was that encounter that made me overconfident, leading to my inevitable, hubristic demise. I pushed on down the shoreline, taking a few snapshots as I went, then I struck inland to see what I could see. 

What I mostly saw was blood. Mine. Something came at me out of the gloom and hacked away half my health in a shrieking flurry. I made no attempt to respond. I just ran. This time the creature came after me.

I woke up back in my distant bed. It was dark. Being an idiot, I stumbled out into the darkness, found a spare set of armor and some food and headed straight back. I won't go into the ugly details but it went about as badly as you'd expect. Actually, worse.

Not only did I fail to recover my corpse and all that was on it, I managed to die a second time, directly on top of my gravestone. As any Valheim player knows,the very last place you want a corpse is on top of another corpse, especially when it's the one on the bottom that's wearing the better gear. Now I have to empty the first one before I can get to the one I really want, except while wearing even less protection.

Skipping over the next part, where I managed somehow to trap myself in my own basement and then get lost while travelling through my own labyrinthine portal network, eventually I dressed myself in trollhide and went back for another try. At which point, finally, I came to my senses.

Thanks to this series of unfortunate, if entirely self-inflicted, events, I have come to realise a couple of things about Valheim. One is that any sense of urgency you feel while trying to recover a corpse is entirely imaginary.

I think it goes back to other games, like EverQuest, where corpses used to rot if left unrecovered. That doesn't happen in Valheim. You can happily leave your corpse until tomorrow or next week or next year and it will still be there, along with everything it contains, whenever you have the time and feel the inclination to do something about it. There's absolutely no need to do amything about it until you're ready.

The other thing is purely personal. While today proves to me that Valheim still has the power to grip me like it always has, I don't think I want to be gripped like that any more. Rather than feeling excited, immersed and thrilled, mostly I felt irritated, annoyed and, surprisngly, a little bored.

Once I got a hold of myself, I found I didn't much care whether I got my stuff back or not. There's was absolutely no hint of that sick feeling that comes from knowing you've taken a massive step back. For a start, it's mostly just crafted stuff. I could make it all again if I wanted. Even the things that aren't so easy to replace, I probably won't miss. At this point I can't even remember what they were. 

If I was keen on playing Valheim again I could easily just set up again from where I am or I could do as Iron Crown would like and start over from the beginning. Only I'm not keen. I'm curious to see the new biome and try out the new magic system and all the rest of the innovations that come with the Mistlands update, but really not curious enough to put in the hours that would take. I feel as though I've been there and done that, even though as far as Mistlands goes, I categorically have not.

For now, at least, I'm going to let my corpses lie where they fell. They can keep each other company until I'm ready to go get them, if ever I am. Right now, I have other games to play that also have new content but which make it much easier to enjoy. Christmas is a stressful enough time of year without corpse runs.

Maybe in the New Year, when things are quieter, I'll try again. Or maybe not. It really doesn't matter much, either way. My corpses aren't going anywhere.


  1. Yikes! I was also excited about this update, especially seeing the new magic system. But maybe I'll wait a bit and take it slowly. Like you said, there's no rush. We hadn't finished the last boss as it was the last time we played, so there's still that to do.

    1. I never did the final boss either, although I don't believe it opens any new armor or weapon tiers, so it's presumably not necessary for starting the Mistlands content. I wonder if you can just skip it?

  2. "What I mostly saw was blood. Mine. Something came at me out of the gloom and hacked away half my health in a shrieking flurry. I made no attempt to respond. I just ran."

    Engagingly written. :)

    I've never played Valheim, but all of that strongly reminds me of my group's Conan Exiles shenanigans way back when.

    1. Thanks. It scared the heck out of me when it happened and unfortunately I died in a very awkward place that seems to be on top of a fixed spawn, which is what's making recovery a problem. It will probably be easier to craft a new set of gear and work out how to pull the mob and kill it but that's a big project so I'm going to leave it until I'm in the mood. Valheim really isn't a game where you can just wander around, smelling the roses, and hope to live!


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