There is a right way to play Valheim. Here I'll be talking about some tips to push you in the right direction.
Successful Experience Tips
This guide is simply aimed at helping you make the most out of your Valheim experience. Most if not all are based on my personal knowledge of the game without having read or looked up any other guides myself, so if there's any part of this guide you disagree with after playing the game that's perfectly fine. I built this to only to help people who are starting out or are somewhere in the mid-game so you can take it with a grain of salt.
To avoid spoilers as much as possible, I will be using vague terms such as "high difficulty biomes, first/second/etc. boss, etc.
1. Decide early on where you want to focus
As you might already know, there are two main ways to play Valheim. Both of which have different minimum game progression required to fully enjoy.
First is focusing on base building which is the slightly less stressful route to take. If you decide to give priority to this aspect of the game, you'll be playing in a slightly different style as compared to people who take the other option of course. When you're already building your "main" base, it's only natural that you'd want to first have everything you could possibly build unlocked to give you more freedom in both fortifying and designing. For this, all it takes is that you clear the third boss. Most, if not all, things you need for base building and base aesthetics should be unlocked after you clear this hurdle (expect for a few benches and buildings that are more attuned for crafting than building). That's basically it, clear the third boss, gather materials, and build away.
The second option is what I personally recommend more. This is the "game clear priority" route. As the name implies, you focus on clearing the game before you do anything else. There is a large advantage for people who actually go through with this route as compared to the base building route simply because by the time you've finished the game, you would have unlocked all the best tools and equipment there is. This would mean you would have an easier time gathering materials, fighting randomly spawning raid mobs, and exploring for a suitable main base location in general, among many other things. After you've defeated all the bosses, you're basically only left with two options to take in terms of gameplay, the first is cartography wherein you just go around exploring and mapping the entire world, and the second being base building.
Whatever you choose, both of these activities are much easier with a full kit of gear and the highest quality consumables. For reference, I want you to think about this, what would be more efficient, farming with a tool that required 4-5 hits to fell a tree or one which can do it in 2 hits consistently? If you multiply that by a hundred trees that's 200-300 extra hits you didn't need to make if you first got your hands on the better tool (which I'm guessing you'd eventually get in the long run anyways, who why not prioritize it ahead of time?).
2. It's okay to die in the early game, but not so much in the late game
It's not okay to die in general of course, but if you're weighing consequences, dying in the late game is much more taxing than dying a few days into the game.
Why? Well, there are two main reasons actually: One, experience requirement is exponential and the skill experience you lose is based on a percentage of your current skill experience. Which means the higher you go, the more you lose when you die. Two, if you die in a high difficulty biome, retrieving your lost items becomes very difficult especially if you don't have high-tier spare equipment (which would have meant you either max upgraded the previous tier equipment or crafted a spare set, both of which would have taken a lot of extra time and effort). Although you won't lose skill points for rapid consecutive deaths, the amount of time you'd be wasting in the retrieval process is just as, if not more, painful.
3. Stats are helpful, but they're not the end all be all of this game
Stats are basically a mini-crutch that helps ease the game the further you progress.
They don't provide extremely big buffs to your character but they do help once you've hit high numbers. For example, a high Woodcutting and Mining stat might make the difference between needing multiple hits to harvest a resource and reducing the amount of hits required to just one or two. Now this doesn't mean you have to go out of your way to raise your stats early on. In fact, for me, it's the exact opposite. As I've previously mentioned, stats grow exponentially, meaning it's easier to raise them at low levels than higher levels. If you try to raise your stats early on without having completed the game yet, you will be going through bosses and high difficulty biomes which have insane mortality rates and putting all those experience you grinded for at risk. So instead, what I did was finish all the bosses and biomes without worrying about building my stats and just relied purely on my equipment and consumables. Which was very much doable. I can't say for sure how much easier it would be to fight the bosses with maxed out offensive stats, but considering there isn't a stat that boosts your defense (aside from blocking which also requires a certain level of skill to pull off), a high offense won't guarantee you would survive the hard hits of the bosses and high-level mobs so why stress yourself out with the small stat buffs if it's possible to beat the game with bare minimum stats. Work on those after you've beaten the game so you don't keep dying and regrinding them.
4. Follow the biome progression
This should go without saying, I wanted to point this out because I made the mistake of not following this myself. I won't tell you how the exact biome progression is for the sake of not spoiling anything, but each time you beat a boss, the game points you to the direction of the next biome you should be exploring. The hint does not last long so if you miss it you're going to have problems.
But why is it even important to follow the progression? Simple--the resources for the next biome are locked behind the item that only the bosses drop. Which means that even if you are strong enough to beat the mobs in the next biome, if you haven't beaten the boss prior, you can't really make use of anything you get in that area. Of course, it also goes without saying that the enemies in higher tier biomes hit harder and have higher stats overall, which means you'd have an exponentially higher chance of dying if you go rambo and decide to run through them.
5. Outposts are essential. Save that mansion for later
This tip is essentially targeted for people who take the second gameplay focus option, but should also prove useful to people who chose to focus on base building.
If you don’t know what an outpost is, it's basically a small base which you can readily abandon anytime you see fit. Or at least that's how I see it. Considering there are several biomes involved in this game, and no matter how good your map seed is you would need to travel far and wide in order to reach some biomes, outposts are a must if you want to maximize the resources available from each of them. The devs were "kind" enough to block the teleportation of some items required for crafting high tier equipment which means you can't always use that beautiful workbench you've worked so hard to level up at your main base. Instead what they want you to do is create a whole new base somewhere near the biome and craft it there. This new base now serves as your outpost.
I want you to know that it isn't as simple as building an outpost whenever and wherever you want. If you're thinking about time and resource efficiency, the worst thing you can do is just randomly pick a spot you think is "good" without actually considering what "good" even means. So let me break it down for you, there are three things you want to always take note of when choosing your outpost location. First, judge your distance from your main base and your other outposts, if any. If it isn't that far a jog from another one of your camps, don't waste your time building an outpost, look for another spot which is a little farther and still meets your demands. Second, never build in high-difficulty biomes. I don't know if there are people out there crazy enough to do this, but the problem with building in a high difficulty biome is that you get raided by crazy strong mobs that have the potential of one-hitting you if you aren't constantly monitoring your lifebar status.
Your best bet is choosing an area in the first or second biome where the mobs are relatively more annoying than they are harmful. Lastly, choose a spot that's near multiple types of biomes. If you really want to cut costs and time spent in building multiple outposts, making one near different types of biomes increases the reusability and effective lifespan of that outpost. This is because you can just return to that outpost after clearing one biome then proceed to the nearest one next while keeping it as the same return point. The best case scenario is you build in a spot that has all five main biomes near each other. But of course, this is usually too good to be true; so you can just settle for three or four different biomes adjacent to each other if you wish.
Once you've completed the game, the use of these outposts lessen and become mere extra resource gathering spots or rest stops when you go for further explorations. When the time comes, you can even just salvage some of the transportable resources from these outposts to use as components for that mansion you plan to build.
As an example of an ideal outpost location here is one I decided to build after the considerations I made:
As you can see, from this outpost, I have provided myself easy access to four zones/biomes. Also, note that I built the actual outpost in the second zone meaning raiders that would spawn to attack my outpost would be enemies originating from the second zone only. To be honest, it was this outpost that helped me get through farming the fourth and fifth zone materials with ease.
6. The bosses aren't smart, but that doesn't mean you can win without thinking yourself
The bosses are more intimidating than they are powerful. This is because they usually have predictable attack patterns that you can most likely read through after a minute or two of fighting them. You don't even need a guide to tell you how a boss attacks when you get close and when you go over a certain distance because they would be repeating the same moves over and over through the course of the entire battle. All that matters is that you immediately adapt to them or else you'll just end up as a sponge soaking up damage without knowing how to counter them. Once you've gotten a feel of their attacks, it just becomes a rinse and repeat sequence of attacking and dodging/blocking.
If there's one thing you have to really worry about, it's the gimmick that each of them employ. Head-on damage is the least of your worries since armor and food usually take care of this. The problem comes from things like status ailments and boss strengths. If you dont prepare for these, you won't last long in a fight against the latter bosses. What I like to do is bring at least three different attack-type weapons to make sure I cover most if not all the possible weaknesses of a boss. Also, take note of the new food/potion recipes you unlock while exploring a new biome, some of these might be things you need when fighting the boss of that biome.
7. Abuse the pins, it's free
I very much appreciate the pin system that the devs put in the game. Not only are they handy for navigation and reminders, they also help quite a bit when it comes to farming materials. With the limited amount of inventory space you are given, marking resource nodes is your best bet in order to not lose sight of them when you decide to return.
Besides this, other useful purposes for pins include:
8. The portal is your best friend
Considering the size of the map, my earliest worry going into this game was the ease of travel. If I had to give a rough approximation of how much of the map I'd travelled after clocking my first 100 hours, I'd say it was about 6-7%. Yeah, it's that massive. Imagine if you'd built a main base then travelled half an hour in one direction, to be able to go back would mean you need to burn another half an hour. This is where the portal comes in handy. There are basically two ways to design a portal system.
The first is having one main portal at your preferred base of operations, then carrying a set of portal materials with you everywhere you go. As long as you remember the tag of the first portal you can connect a second portal to it anytime, anywhere. After you've put your second portal down and travelled back to your base, just change the name of the first portal and you can connect a new portal to it after you travel to another location. Just be sure to always put a map pin on the second portal with it's tag so you can still go back whenever you want to.
The second way of designing portals is much simpler but more material costly. It's simply creating several portals at one location using similar tags with only one character changing (example: Portal1, Portal2, etc.) then connecting them to several other portals you put around the map. I prefer this style of portal making since I don't have to bother constantly changing the tags of my portals, it's just that I did have to do quite a bit of farming for the materials to accomplish this.
9. Multiplayer is fun and all, but soloing has a unique thrill to it
I can understand how most people would think multiplayer is the best way to play this game. And in some aspects of the game, multiplayer does have its strengths, but there is a degree of freedom and thrill that only the solo life can offer.
The first and most obvious issue with multiplayer at the moment is server creation. In order to be able to play in a server anytime you want, you'd either have to be the host of the server yourself or have the host of the server online 24/7 (or at least for a large part of the day). For some people, this might not seem like an issue when starting out, but eventually, you're going to reach a point where not everyone can be online at the same time. When this happens, it becomes a problem of "pacing" within a server. Some people might not be aware that others in the server have already reached a certain milestone in the game and thus would be left with two options: One, they try to catch up with their server-mates and put in the extra effort, or two, skip over the milestones and get the required items to progress from those who have already completed it (which I personally don’t recommend if you really want to enjoy this game and get your money’s worth).
Another issue with multiplay is resource distribution. If you intend to play in one server but decide to do looting and exploration separately (which is basically saying you’re playing solo in another person’s server) then this won’t be an issue. But, if you are sharing a single area with several people, there is a slight chance that procuring resources would become more difficult. By this I am specifically referring to the resources that are limited to specific areas. Higher level biomes are built with special resource types that don’t regenerate no matter how long the game progresses. Meaning if you have 10 people in a server sharing the resources in a biome, chances are, not everyone will be able to get enough materials to obtain higher tier items. At least not immediately. What would happen is there would be a need to travel to new areas which would be even further than necessary from your main base.
To explain this better, I created a simple diagram for economical resource gathering:
Basically, what this chart implies is that there is a certain distance from your base/outpost wherein gathering is most effective time-to-result-wise. What I provided is merely a rough diagram, but usually you get a feel for these ranges while you're out gathering yourself.
For the area labelled "Immediate Vicinity" you can efficiently haul resources by both cart or by your own pockets. For the "Cart-able Loot Zone" your pockets won't cut it anymore and only trips with the cart will be efficient here. Beyond this, any form of resource gathering would take more time than its worth so I don't recommend gathering this far from your base.
How do you determine the extent of these zones? In my experience, I do it by gut. Which is the method with the least hassle involved. When you feel like a certain method takes double the amount of time to produce the same amount of resources as you did when you were nearer your base, then it's time to double think if it's still worth continuing to farm that spot.
Here is an example of zone definition for the outpost I showed earlier.
Why did I need to point this out though? Well, simply because having more people means these zones get depleted much faster. This is the main reason why having several people building their own bases close together require more time to gather resources than having all the nearby resources to oneself.
These are problems soloing removes from the equation. You not only have full control over your online hours, you also get to move at your own pace when playing the game. You don’t have to worry about getting left behind because there’s no one to leave you behind in the first place. Resources are all yours to take and use as you see fit thus making game progression much easier and many important game decisions are yours alone to make. What’s more, since the game allows you to bring your equipment to another player’s server, you can just join in your friends’ servers when you’re satisfied with your own progress anytime.
Another thing that’s unique to solo play is the level of fear you get when you explore knowing no one’s got your back but yourself. Facing bosses solo really gave pre-battle anxiety that actually motivated me to push through till the last boss as fast as I could. Mostly because I craved the adrenaline that came with fighting difficult enemies. It might just be me, but multiplay boss fights don’t really trigger that emotion in me. This could be the result of me knowing I’ve got people to back me up if ever I get in a tricky situation during a battle, or it could also be just because I don’t have to think and prepare as hard when I’m going solo.
Don’t get me wrong though, even though I’ve said all that, this doesn’t mean that multiplayer isn’t a viable option if you want to fully enjoy the game. As I’ve said, multiplayer has its own perks as well. Mostly in the realm of boss fighting and dungeon crawling. Bosses don’t seem to gain buffs when more people are challenging them (or so I assume) meaning having more people might speed up the boss fights (considering everyone knows what they’re doing). This would also allow for the option of “aggro passes” just in case someone in the group is about to die, thereby reducing the odds of death in not just boss fights, but exploration in general.
Base building in multiplay also becomes effective when everyone is just working together towards building one shared base. Because with this, you eliminate the resource competition element and any materials someone obtains now becomes added contribution to the overall growth of the group. This is especially effective for large scale building projects wherein you could even designate roles for people depending on the needs.
Long tip short, it’s okay to play in multiplay since at the end of the day, the game is more fun with more people around; but do give solo a try as well.
10. Try to think like the game devs
Although the game is still in early access, you can really feel the amount of thought and effort that went into the making of this game. What really helped me get through the game without consulting any guides myself was thinking why the devs would put something in the game. As a simple example, early on in the game, you should be able to already notice that objects you can interact with have names that appear on them. If it doesn't have a name, then odds are you won’t get anything out of hitting that object. With this in mind, I unknowingly explored the second biome without beating the first boss first.
I came across some resource nodes I didn't have any means of obtaining yet, but, deciding that the devs probably wouldn't put a label on things that didn't serve any purpose, I marked them all ahead of time. When the time came that I got the item I needed to harvest those nodes, it was much easier for me to look for them again. This also worked for me against the bosses. I didn't need to look up what weaknesses or abilities the bosses had because all I had to do was think how the devs would have designed them to be like.
Infer from things like their biome, their figure (from the sacrificial stones at the starting spawn area), the items I unlocked before going into the biome, and the fact that there are several damage types available. If you think about all of these things before going into a boss battle, then chances are you won’t be surprised by anything the boss throws at you. It's a small thing really, but that feeling of having guessed a boss' weakness and attack type beforehand without the help of anything but your own head is a great ego booster.
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