My general review of gameplay and progression in the current version of Valheim.

New Valheim update

Hello friends!

While there are many posts here discussing builds people have made [which obviously is fine, lots of cool builds!], I don't see many discussing the overall state of progression and gameplay currently.

As I have gone through everything solo at this point, I wanted to give my general opinions of the game, and what I think could be improved, and open up a discussion for others to share ideas!

So, to start off:

General Pacing:

As you all likely know, Valheim is split up into 5 primary areas, and I think there's a bit of a mismatch in overall pacing and enjoyment between the 5 of them.

The biggest offender is Black Forest, without a single doubt in my mind. Getting through this area is awful, and not so much for the enemies there, who are fine, but for the Bronze grind. It slows down the pace of the game to an immense degree, which is a shame because all the areas afterwards are far more engaging by comparison. Also, one must consider this is the very first resource players will have to mine, so making it so time consuming can turn many away.

Personally I think Bronze should be 1 copper, 1 tin. Having it be 2 copper is a bit silly when it already takes longer to mine than tin. I suppose the current ratio is a nod to standard Bronze alloys containing much more copper than tin, but reality does not always lend to good gameplay.

After getting through the slog that is Black Forest, I think this game hits its major stride. Swamp carries with it this overwhelming dread as you have to navigate fetid pools and delve into crypts. Iron being the only metal you need for most things at this point alleviates a lot of feelings of grind, and the resource being found in crypts, which both contains combat and the ability to clear out all enemies for safe, stress-free mining. While any area with a lot of water is a pain in video games, I don't think the Swamp over stays its welcome. I also think it's the best place to set up a secondary base, as skeletons and draugrs don't seem as hellbent on destroying structures as many other mob types unless you aggro them first.

Then comes the Mountain, oh boy the Mountain. This is the absolute peak of this game, no pun intended. The sheer feeling of adventure that comes from climbing those slopes is not captured elsewhere, and I also like the sort of "mini-game" of finding Silver with the Wishbone. It's also nice that you have to explicitly prepare for the area with cold resistance mead until you're able to craft a wolf cape, furthering that feeling of challenging a forboding landscape. Perhaps my only issue with this area is that you can craft such amazing looking weapons there, but said weapons are not good against Mountain content, spare for Spirit dealing extra damage to Fenrings.

The plains, by comparison to the Swamp and Mountain feel… odd? Their pacing can't really be judged properly given they are the final area in the game, but going from fighting draugrs, wolves, and dragons to primitive goblin people feels rather strange. It is nice, in a way, to finally reach an area with some level of civilization, but it still feels strange. Also Black Metal weapons are such a step down in style from Silver. It feels odd that we, the player, are going from super sleek and refined designs back to more barbaric ones.

Bosses and Combat Difficulty:

This is an odd topic when it comes to this game, because I know a lot of people don't go into survival games for combat difficulty, but I feel it's important for discussion.

I would say the base combat mechanics in this game are solid; block, dodge, parry, etc. Parry feels quite powerful, which is not a problem on its own, but it makes using greatshields for all but boss content incredibly underwhelming. Also, as far as I know, parries grant a multiplier to block armor, so being good at parrying makes greatshields nearly pointless. Quite a shame since they have great designs.

Not many enemies felt too hard. It was mostly just learning when to parry, and what can't be parried without better gear and health foods. The only enemies I still struggle with fighting at this point are tar slimes, but those can just be led to any other enemy in the plains to kill them off.

I wouldn't mind some more complex enemies being added in earlier zones. One of the nicest things about the Plains was the variety of opponents you could find and fight. Also, while people really liked ranged parrying and it got added back in, I think maybe parrying a projectile should just reflect it rather than stunning the attacker.

Now for bosses. I have to be harsh here. The general boss design in this game is just… frustrating. It's on the verge of being acceptable, but boy are bosses irritating or a non-factor. I'll break them down one-by-one.

  • Eikthyr: It's the first boss, and I know it's not supposed to be that hard, but nothing it does bears threat to the player. Most of the fight is just spent following after the large lad rather than worrying about what he's doing.

  • Elder: Definitely should have summon duration increased on his vines, as I think dealing with those should be an integral part of the fight. Instead, this entire encounter is trivialized by standing behind the stone pillars and pelting the Elder with fire arrows, moving to the next pillar over whenever summons are brought up, which is a shame because this boss was quite intimidating at first.

  • Bonemass: A lot of people complain about this boss, but I found it to be without issue. Parries and poison resist mead make it nearly impossible for the boss to punch through one's health bar, and the main threats are allowing the skeletons he summons to live, or having all your vision obstructed due to the poison vomit ability. Honestly, feels like a boring and shallow fight, and I wouldn't mind it getting some more mechanics as currently a prepared player can just facetank it.

  • Moder: I hate this boss. It's not hard, it's not threatening, but its hitbox is so janky. Most of this fight I would be standing right in front of Moder's head, unable to make it take damage, and worse is that their model just kind of carries you around, and the issue of being unable to hit them gets exacerbated when you're on lower ground. This is the first fight where it really felt like you were meant to have other people with you, so that some could whack the dragon on its sides while a tank grabbed its attention.

  • Yagluth: So this boss is interesting in that it puts you on a timer of sorts because the meteors can destroy the surrounding structures. I love this mechanic, to add, given I was just complaining about Elder being a non-factor due to its arena pillars. However, the meteors can also collide with Yagluth himself, and you can literally just stand under him to avoid most damage. Wonky hitboxes come into effect with this boss as well, and I felt I always had to stand on higher ground in order to reliably hit him. Much like Bonemass, with proper preparation, you can facetank most of what this guy does. The biggest stress inducer for this fight was the random mobs that would roam into the arena, a further issue at night since this fight takes ages due to the boss' massive health pool.

Altogether, the bosses in this game need improvements to their movesets. Some need better hitboxes as well. While I felt my skill mattered to some degree for these fights, the majority was just preparation. Much of my "skill expression" in these encounters was just holding my shield up or hiding behind an object.

Weapon/Armor Variety and Progression:

This will be my final main section of this review, as I feel it's important to look at.

Currently, although weapons were recently adjusted, I still feel like they are not unique enough. Late game maces and swords feel almost identical, with maces just having the higher knockback, which sometimes feels like more of a detriment than a help as it knocks enemies out of combo range. 1h axes are just worse swords due to the lack of a special and slower swings, with only marginally higher damage. Polearms are neat, but suffer from many important enemies and bosses being resistant to pierce, with bows only ignoring the issue partly because of their range. Spears suffer similarly due to this resistance, and also their attack hitboxes are awful. 2h maces and axes are a non-factor late game, mainly as there aren't blackmetal versions of them. Crystal Axe is decent, but Blackmetal Axe does similar damage while allowing a shield.

Looking back at the Polearm statement I made again, I think there is an issue with how resistant some enemies are to certain damage types. While I understand pierce resistance so that bosses can't be pinged down with arrows, there are better ways to go about it. Many weapons lack viability due to this feature of the game. One of the greatest examples would be how going through Swamp with an Iron Mace makes the biome immensely easier, so spending iron on other weapons feels horrible by comparison, especially when confronted with Bonemass.

As for how to solve some of these issues, there are many ways to go about it, but I would at least recommend the following:

  • Make sword have a combo animation unique from maces
  • Give sword secondary attack some combos, like a heavy chain attack
  • Give 1h axes a special to begin with
  • Make more 2h weapons and buff them across the board
  • Alter physical resistances so that more weapons are viable at more points. Secondary resistances like cold, fire, etc. are fine

Another topic of variety I want to look at is the lack of secondary effects on armor, and how most secondary effects on some weapons get phased out. For example, the spirit damage on silver weapons is super cool, but not very useful for gameplay that comes after obtaining them. Troll armor having a special effect is neat, but then later gears lack any. Also, it is a shame to be using a weapon that one really enjoys in terms of effect and looks, only to be practically forced to replace it later due to area scaling.

For this particular issue, I'd just like to see the following:

  • More secondary effects on weapons and armor
  • The ability to "empower" pre-plains gear and further level it up, increasing material investment, but allowing it to be viable later game
  • More utility weapons and armor [maybe a scythe that increases harvest gains, for example, or protective gloves that let you pick more berries from bushes]

Anyway, that's my lengthy review/ramble about things.

And… if you want a tl;dr:

  • Black Forest goes too slowly.
  • Plains and Black Metal feel weird following Swamp/Mountain and Iron/Silver
  • Boss design is poor
  • Weapons feel too samey, some types get left behind or perform badly due to enemy resists
  • Cool secondary weapon/armor effects get phased out by later gear

Do you agree, disagree, something else? Do you think progression and gameplay should be changed in any significant way?

Let me know, and thanks for reading!


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