As I let loose my flaming arrow and land one final hit on The Elder, the monster collapses and the forest falls silent. All of the evil vines shrivel up around him and sink back into the ground just as The Elder poofs out of existence, seemingly disappearing completely. As I look around at the wave of destruction left in his wake though, it’s obvious that the boss fight has left a permanent mark on my world. The fight itself was a fairly epic event, but seeing the forest scarred after our battle took my breath away. It’s not often you see the actual battlefield change so dramatically after a boss fight. There’s something both chaotic and beautiful about the fight with The Elder I won’t soon forget.
Valheim, like most survival games, is all about harvesting the natural resources in the world to craft weapons, armor, and tools. At first, you will only be able to gather branches and stones from the forest floor. Once you’ve crafted some tools, you’ll be chopping down trees and digging up rare metals from the earth.
What sets Valheim apart from other survival/crafting games is the physics system that applies to generally every object. When you chop down a tree, for example, that tree will fall realistically based on the slope of the ground, the angle it was chopped, and the direction of the wind. As it falls, it’s likely to do a lot of damage on the way down. In the early hours of Valheim, it can be especially productive to find a nice lineup of particularly dense trees so that the first one you fell lands on the next, knocking over each tree down the line like giant dominos.
After you defeat the first boss, Eikthyr, you’ll unlock the pickaxe and start mining for copper and tin. Hacking away at the exposed deposits in the ground will destroy the node and leave behind a divot. Of course, you can use the pickaxe to harvest stone from the earth too. You can dig down as far as you like and terraform the forests and meadows of Valheim however you see fit. With the hoe, you can start to level out patches of earth, making it easier to build structures upon. If you’re feeling particularly medieval, you can dig a moat around your house to make it difficult for the monsters of the Black Forest to attack you. If you’re close enough to the water, a shallow moat will likely fill itself up with water too.
For the first dozen hours of the game, you’ll find that you’re in complete control over the shape that your island takes. As soon as you summon The Elder, however, that dynamic changes completely.
The Elder’s primary attack is a barrage of impossibly long vines that extend from his hands and destroy anything in their path. Even if you’re out of range of The Elder, the tendrils will extend wildly through the forest to try and get to you. You can try to hide behind boulders or next to trees for cover, but the vines can easily penetrate straight through rock and knock down trees to get to you.
The Elder fight is a long and messy ordeal. The best way to counter the tree monster is with flaming arrows, it’s a fight that takes place at range and across a large area. The collateral damage from his vine attacks have to be avoided as well. A falling tree is just as deadly as the boss itself, and by the end of the battle, there will be piles of trees everywhere you look. The tentacle-like vines the springs from the ground will also damage nearby trees and boulders with wide, sweeping attacks.
When The Elder eventually dies, the forest is forever changed. Piles of stone sit in massive craters, ore deposits have been turned into swiss, and most of the trees have been decimated. It’s a legitimate warzone that tells the story of the battle that happened there.
The area where I fought The Elder has become a landmark for me now. It isn’t labeled on my map, but I can use it as a geographical reference when I’m moving around the island. Even after I picked up all of the loose wood and stone in the area, it’s incredibly obvious where the fight happened — the area is ruined. One of the charms of survival games is the way they tell your story through the things you’ve built. It isn’t often that they also tell the story of the things you’ve destroyed.
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Eric Switzer is the Livestream News Editor for TheGamer as well as the lead for VR and Tech. He has written about comics and film for Bloody Disgusting and VFXwire. He is a graduate of University of Missouri – Columbia and Vancouver Film School. Eric loves board games, fan conventions, new technology, and his sweet sweet kitties Bruce and Babs. Favorite games include Destiny 2, Kingdom Hearts, Super Metroid, and Prey…but mostly Prey. His favorite Pokémon is Umbreon.
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