Review: How To Get Started In Norse Survival Game Valheim

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Valheim has been making longboat waves in the sea of survival games since its early access launch on PC earlier this week. The combination of Norse mythology and brutal endurance is a natural fit for the genre. Survival games have become a major player on the scene in the last decade, with a never-ending string of offerings in various states of early access and release, allowing players to battle against the elements, hunger, thirst, and even massive monsters. Of course, this begs the question: How do you get started in a world that’s actively trying to kill you? Ask any aspiring warrior and they’ll tell you tales of their terrifying first night, huddled in the cold attempting to survive against a tide of evil dwarf-things and skeletons. Fear not, Ragnar. We’ve got your starter survival guide right here to beat back the night.

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First, it’s important to note that you can (and probably should) tackle the dangers of Valheim with friends. You can play with up to 10 people in a single game, and bringing more fledgling Vikings into the mix greatly improves your efficiency and survivability. Getting a group that enjoys a mix of tasks is a big benefit, dividing and conquering activities like building up your homestead, exploring underground dungeons, and gathering essential materials. But we’re getting ahead of ourselves a bit here. When you begin Valheim, you’re unceremoniously dropped into a little forest nook in the Meadows biome where you get a taste of what your future holds. Here, at a magical altar, you can see runestones depicting the various gods that you’ll be taking on over the course of the game. 

Surviving Your First Day

Your first big mission is to summon and destroy Eikthyrnir, a giant stag demigod. Yep. A deer. Doesn’t sound too scary, right? Well, we’ll get to more on that later. You’re cold, it’s wet, and you have some raggedy pants on. Time to get to work! Your first night will fall quickly, and like other survival games, Valheim’s evenings are much more dangerous than the days, and having shelter is important. The first order of business is to start punching trees. No, this isn’t Minecraft, but you are going to need some wood! Don’t try and knock down the massive trees just yet, start on the small bushes and find yourself some rocks lying around. Using the rocks and wood, craft yourself a makeshift axe. With that, you can cut down the bigger trees and start collecting massive amounts of wood. You’re going to need it.

You may have noticed that as you run, cut, and craft that your skills are going up. Valheim uses a skill-based advancement system that rewards you with proficiency for doing things. Blocking with a shield, stabbing with a knife, swimming, jumping, whatever. You get bigger and better for doing the things you love! That said, there are stakes and risks here. When you die, you could lose some skill points, so it’s best to value your life as much as possible. Also, you drop everything (including your equipped weapons and armor) when you die. You’ll have to participate in the dreaded “corpse run” in order to get your stuff back, so especially early on, try to die near home.

But we don’t even have a home yet! Let’s fix that. Use the massive amounts of wood you’ve collected to put up a crafting bench and build a makeshift house around it. It’s going to need roofing and a door, and you need to make sure you build it around the bench, as you won’t be able to use the bench unless it’s properly located in shelter. Once your bench is up, you’re in good shape, and it’s probably already getting dark out. Craft a campfire and a bed, and go to sleep. You can pass time to day as long as all players in the game are in beds. If you’re solo you have nothing to worry about here, but if you’re playing with friends it’s important to communicate that it’s bedtime. They will each need a bed as well, which also functions as your bind point where you will respawn on death. As you continue to explore the world of Valheim and push your boundaries, it may behoove you to build bases further and further away from the safety of the Meadows.

Cooking And Crafting Your Way To Victory

Moving right along, the next thing you need to do is place a cooking rack above your campfire. This allows you to cook meat. Food is extremely important in Valheim. Not only do foodstuffs heal you, but they also increase your maximum hit points and confer other benefits. Until now, you’ve probably only been eating berries scrounged from nearby bushes. It’s time to make a real meal. Head outside and let’s kill some boars! You can use your fists, make a flimsy club, or even use your axe for the task. 

Boars are everywhere in the Meadows, and make great meals. They also drop your first important resource, leather scraps. With leather scraps, we can make a multitude of useful goodies at the crafting table, including a shield and a bow. You want to prioritize making the bow, but I also can’t stress enough how good shields and blocking are in Valheim. Many enemies can kill you in just a few hits, even with some good food in your system, and blocking can prevent much or all of the damage of a timed swing. It takes some getting used to, but practice using your shield, it will pay off.

Don’t Fear The Deer

Once you have a bow, arrows are easy to craft with wood, so make yourself a nice stack of 50 to 100. Of important note is the fact that you can repair any and all of your gear at your crafting stations in Valheim at no resource cost, so take advantage of this to get the most out of your weapons, armor, and tools. Once your bow is crafted, it’s time to explore a little further from home. Try to find some water sources nearby. What you’re looking for at the rivers is flint, which you can find alongside the water and even in it. Pick up as much as possible as you explore. During this time, you should also be using the bow to take on an enemy that may have eluded your fists and clubs. The mighty deer.

Deer are everywhere in the meadows and offer different crafting materials than the boars, and can be used to make some early tier leather gear like helmets. Deer are incredibly skittish, and are hard to chase down and kill with melee weapons. However, your bow is perfect for sniping them at long range. Try to be quiet with your approach, aim, and fire, and keep a lot of distance between you and the target, as they are quite perceptive and will flee at the first sign of you. In addition to the excellent early game drop tables that deer provide, you need to find a deer trophy. With it, you can summon the first boss in the game, Eikthyrnir. The giant enemies and god-tier foes in Valheim are a staggering contrast to the pastoral fare that you’ve been taking on thus far, so be sure to appropriately prepare for the Eikthyrnir battle.

You’re going to want a flint spear, a shield, a bow with a lot of arrows, and the best armor you can craft up. You want to eat the best meal you can whip up as well. At this point in the game, that’s likely going to be a cooked neck (lizard), cooked meat (boar/deer), and whatever raspberry/blueberry you have lying around or a mushroom. With all these in hand, it’s time to take on your first real challenge. Head to Eikthyrnir’s altar (which should be marked on your map if you clicked on the first runestone where you landed to start the game) and place the trophy on the altar. Good luck!

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After besting Eikthyrnir, you’ll be able to make some new tools forged from his antlers that assist in tackling the next big biome, The Black Forest. The Black Forest is a lot bigger and a lot harder than the Meadows, and will send you deep into underground dungeons and place you face to face with undead assailants and giant trolls as you begin learning the wonders of smelting and forging.

This is just the beginning of Valheim as early access continues to roll out new features, and we can’t wait to see what’s next as we attempt to survive and thrive in these dangerous Norse lands.

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