I Never Wrote About Valheim

I have been updating my blog for two months and eleven days. A more merciful schedule means that I have posted sixty-one times in those seventy-two days. Things have progressed to the point where I no longer feel like this is something I need to do every day. This isn’t a task to fulfill, though writing and editing are on my daily to-do lists, but so is making my bed, washing my masks, and driving to work. Updating constantly, unless I need a break (and I guess I’m just taking Sundays off, since that is the pattern that seems to be emerging), no longer takes up psychic space.

Since I think of this updating as just another part of my life, I forget that there was a solid two-and-a-half year chunk of time when I did not do that. I did update here or there during that span, even flirting with daily updates again during the start of the pandemic, but nothing consistent. Which means I have a whole trove of games, experiences, and events to write about, even if it’s a bit late to be writing about some of those things.

For instance, I played the shit out of Valheim back when it came out. Once my friends and I finished with Raft, we needed something new. Which, in our case, meant Valheim. I was initially skeptical, because it seemed like a lot of fad games that caught the public eye and would then vanish within a week or two, all interest disappearing as the studio proved themselves incapable of adapting to that degree of attention or the game having a seriously limited lifespan. One of my friends was super interested though, and I was not one to defy the will of our game collective.

Which began my time playing what is probably my most-played game of 2021, even if it has been a few months since I played it. Even my short-lived and unhealthy obsession with Satisfactory can’t compete with the number of hours Valheim got in late winter and all of spring. Part of the appeal was reconnecting with a friend that I no longer lived with or even saw much, thanks to the pandemic, and part of it was the continuous challenge of the game. It might not have the depth of crafting that games like Minecraft have, or a particularly complex plot, but it had a lot of resource management, soothing crafting tasks, and a world built on systems that introduced you to the shallow end but let you go straight to the deep end if you want.

For instance, the first thing I did once I got a pickaxe was dig the deepest pit I could. Just a hole straight down into the ground as my friend laughing at me just slowly disappearing to the sound of a clinking pickaxe. It was so much fun, being at the bottom of the strangely square hole I made, out of breath with laughter because neither my friend nor I could figure out how I was going to get out of the hole I’d dug. After a little trial and error, I learned that just mining a wall instead of the floor brought the floor down to a partial step above where your feet were instead of digging a tunnel. As I dug myself out, cutting down huge swathes of ground with a single swing of my pickaxe, my friend on the surface watched a giant ditch appear in the ground until my head eventually appeared. It was just a silly, fun situation.

Which repeated pretty much every time we unlocked something new. The price for failure, at worse, is the loss of some experience points and maybe a few skill levels when you die, something you can get back pretty easily. If you’re experimenting with building, making something unstable that collapses simply gives you back the resources you spent, so there’s no reason not to try something zany and weird. And the slow-progressing, tiered materials locked behind boss battles meant that you could always go progress the story if you wanted new toys to play with or otherwise find some way to keep yourself amused as you collect and transport the iron you’d need to make the right type of mace for beating up goo blobs that spray poison with each leap.

Honestly, if you enjoy crafting and RPGs, this is a great game. I also get some old-school (I guess it’s called “Classic” now) RuneScape vibes from it. Simple visuals, but more interactive. Very much a modern game, but kept in the low-poly style that is popular with indie games (every body looks alright from behind, and that’s all that really matters since you rarely see yourself from the front). I just think it’s fun and that other people will probably enjoy it if “survival/adventurer with RPG elements” sounds like a good game descriptor to you.

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