The time has come for my yearly return to Valheim. There’s a new major patch, I’ve got some amount of time off coming up that is pretty much unclaimed due to the world shutting down for a holiday I don’t celebrate, and I have a huge backlog of podcasts since I spent the last three or four months doing a re-listen of the entire Sci-Fi side of Friends At The Table in preparation for the upcoming new season. Now, all I need to do is figure out how to get my friend who hosts the world to leave his computer on so I can play while he’s busy with family. Then I’ll be set to build the new base we’ve been discussing and maybe go on a bunch of hunts to finally have enough feathers so I’m not constantly rationing all of my arrows. He’s the tank and I’m the DPS, so I have been running out super quickly now that we’re in areas that take some real work to deal with all kinds of more-mobile enemies (the plains are full of smaller enemies that really just love to change their movement direction the instant I loose my arrows).
I recognize that I’m responding to the stress of the season and my life in general by investing my time and energy in an environment I can control via a series of clearly defined tasks with measurable progress. I get that this is all a coping mechanism and there isn’t really that much of a difference between me binging Valheim and binging something like Minecraft or Satisfactory. I see the patterns of my life laid bare and understand that my yearly fixation on this game is because the holidays are a difficult time for me and Valheim, more than most other management games, imagines you’re playing with other people instead of just alone. Still, I enjoy this game a bit more due to the variety of activity and the limits imposed on the game by its own mechanics, which means there’s never really a point where doing stuff becomes trivial. That’s always when I fall out of games like Minecraft and Satisfactory, when it feels like the work I’m doing doesn’t mean anything. After all, I have to deal with that feeling in most parts of my life these days, so it’s something I try to avoid in video games.
In Valheim, it never really feels like a waste of time to spend an hour fixing things up or making a few largely cosmetic and largely convenience-based adjustments. I fixed the dock at our home base last night and while the previous dock was fine, this one is slightly more convenient. No more ninety-degree turns with the boat. It was easily doable, if you knew how to use the boats in Valheim pretty well, but it was also very easy to get it good enough when parking but leave it in such a position that it was a pain in the butt to depart. So I took an hour, used some of the resources my friend and I had stockpiled, and fixed it all up. Put an extension on the end and did a little work to make sure that it wouldn’t get stuck on the roof anymore. Now, anyone can park at and pull out from the docks without the boat looking like it’ll capsize when the rigging gets caught in the dock’s awning.
The new update also included a bunch of new building items and I’m very excited to dig into those. They look very good, from the small silhouettes I’ve seen while in build mode. I haven’t actually built any of them, since they feel a little expensive right now (my friend and I never really did much exploration of the plains, the area where the central crafting ingredient comes from, due to falling out of playing the game right when we got to it), but I’ll probably use them extensively in the new base I’m building. After all, a shingle roof looks pretty nice. Especially if I wind up building all the ramparts and archery walkways I’m planning to build. They’re really tie the look together more than a thatch roof would. Plus, they’re hopefully more durable so if we get attacked by trolls or drakes again, I won’t have to spend a bunch of time running around on the roof, looking for things that need repairing while also patching holes that have appeared. Maintaining an aesthetically pleasing base of operations is a difficult task in a game where the enemies you’re fighting might suddenly appear to swarm your base. At least trenches are still the best defense against most of the enemies in the game.
As we expand into new areas and slowly chew through the supplies we’ve gathered, I tend to alternate between stockpiling the basic building resources and some food, (my friend does the metals, advanced resources, and animal farming), and doing the slow, onerous, but rewarding work of digging trenches, altering the surface levels of areas for bases, and creating my fabled level ground. The last of which has suffered a bit of a setback since some surface levels shift when you leave the area and return, but a single hit from a pickaxe or leveling swipe with a hoe tends to get rid of the weird visuals involved. There’s a whole dirt bubble outside one base that keeps popping up whenever one of us returns to it, even if the other person hasn’t left. It creates some incredibly silly visuals since one person is either floating in the air or mostly sunk into the ground, depending on whether you were the person who stayed or who left and came back. To be fair to the creators of Valheim, the patch was fairly recent and they’re working through bug fixes still, so I’m more than willing to put up with this mostly funny and barely inconvenient visual issue.