One of the things I really like about Valheim is that the game keeps you moving forward on a path without being overly aggressive about it. There’s a set progression you need to go through in order to continue through the game – in the beginning, Hugin points things out to nudge you in the right direction. But that’s become less and less a thing the further we go.
The Black Forest is not just a zone but it’s also a progress check. Coming out of the Meadows, the difficulty ramps up just a bit – enough for the forest to feel dangerous but not undefeatable.
The first time you run across (and away from) a troll is full of dread and excitement. Once you figure out how to light him up as you kite him with flame arrows, you feel the success of moving forward. Walking around in a troll-hide cape is a bit like wearing a trophy of your accomplishment. This is the kind of thing that Valheim does very well.
The Black Forest introduces a number of elements that move the player not just through the zone, but beyond. For the first time, you now have the ability to mine. The forest provides copper and tin, which are the building blocks of new recipes such as the forge, kiln and furnace. From those, you create ingots that convert to bronze, which is a clear upgrade to your first metal weapons and gear.
Valheim also introduces the concept of burial chambers, which act as mini-dungeons. You need to explore these delves in order to discover the surtling cores you need to build the furnace and kiln for your bronze gear. Cores also craft other nice things… which I’ll talk about another time. Each one of these chambers we’ve entered has been different in size and content – the best of them are filled with treasure, cores and skeletons (as well as a few ghosts).
These chambers are scattered throughout the Black Forest zone, so they’re fun to discover, mark on the map and return in full force to explore as a group. Eventually, we ran across an altar in one of them that gave us the location of the next boss we’d need to fight – the Elder.
Again, this is how the game weaves subtle progression into the content you’re already doing. You’re exploring a cool little dungeon, looting and fighting monsters and then suddenly, your big boss objective is outlined for you – even more to look forward to!
We spent a good deal of time gathering resources and expanding our little outpost into a full blown base. Syn really got into the building aspects of the game (even more than I did) at this point. Seeing that we were using this base far more than the Meadow Base, she built it up into a full hall with walls of chests, supporting beams and a lot of living room.
It was at this time we also started getting our first base raids. We quickly learned that when the message pops up “The forest is moving,” that meant that the Greydwarves were at our gates. Thankfully, we had strong gates, so they were never really a risk to our base or the structures inside. It’s just a fun random raid element that we were always able to fend off from time to time.
Not to say that the Greydwarves aren’t a challenge – they absolutely are when they come at you in a group when you’re undergeared. But again, they’re a challenge without being impossible to overcome. I’ve done my share of dying in the Black Forest as I’ve explored and hunted down ore, but we’ve gotten braver as our resources have allowed us to continue upgrading our gear.
I even ran across a zone called Mountain. I learned very quickly that I wasn’t geared to move into the biting cold of the zone, and backed out quickly.
As of last weekend, we’re currently at the point where we are taking down trolls with ease and actively searching out the Elder. BUT. I have a number of OTHER stories to write before we get there!
Stay tuned for more adventures in Valheim!