Viking survival em’ up Valheim was undoubtedly one of the biggest games of last year, with its Nordic purgatory providing the perfect lobby for hanging out with your friends. It’s no secret that for a long time my friends and I were captivated by its PS1-era graphics, snappy build, and heady blend of relaxation and a sense of dread. Our odyssey was made of carrots and wild boars, half-naked sails and bees.
So consider me thrilled when Liam and I get a chance to try out the next major update to Valheim Mistlands, which brings with it a new smoky biome, magic, new building pieces, and airships that are actually giant ticks hovering in the sky and spit acid warheads at you. It was great to be back.
Liam and I were lucky enough to spend an hour with Iron Gate lead artist Robin Eyre and senior developer Jonathan Smårs on a tour of the Mistlands. We joined a special press server they had set up, like an Ikea showroom, except there were fewer lampshades and linoleum floors and more stone huts and slats. Not that it was a totally separate thing, far from it. It was absolutely a Mistland biome, just one that wasn’t going to kill us immediately.
Let’s make one thing clear from the start: Mistlands is an endgame biome designed to make you squeeze. Just like any other biome in the game, there’s a chance you’ll come across it at the start of your adventures, but that by no means means you should drop anchor. Unless you’re a real tough nut to crack, you’ll need to have beaten all previous biomes and come dressed in your strongest suit to even stand a chance of survival. Eyre and Smårs say that “death is always the best wake-up call” for players who may have gotten a little too comfortable in the world of Valheim.
You see, Mistlands is, as the name suggests, a misty land. There is a thick layer of fog hanging over the forest, which Irongate describes as a blend of “the two most hated biomes, the swamps and the mountains”. Except it’s eerily beautiful and not oppressive or cold, with giant shimmering roots of the Yggdrasil tree soaring into the skies and providing a gorgeous vista for a mist-shrouded biome. Where many of the other Valheim biomes are much more traditional in their feel, the Mistlands lean more towards the arcane, meaning you feel like you’re getting into some of the more exciting and fantastical elements of the lore.
And the move to a land whose roots crackle with energy has finally given Irongate the perfect opportunity to bring magic into the game. One of the developers called it an unflattering “particle-effects archery,” which might be true in a technical sense, but it sure did feel a lot nicer in the hand. Liam and I were lucky enough to test out a few sticks, including one that sprayed out a stream of popsicles and another that encased us all in a temporary bubble shield. I was incredibly jealous of Smårs, whose staff transformed him into a sorcerer capable of summoning skeleton archers and warriors to aid us in battle. Each staff felt like a way to bring a light sprinkle of character classes into the game, while giving players the opportunity to take on different roles if they wanted to.
To use the spell, you’ll need to eat food that grants you Eitr (a blue mana bar) and then that’s it; you’re good. Simplicity was a key thing for the developers, who didn’t want to rush the magic into the game in an earlier patch and risk making it overly complex. And there’s a real playfulness to regular weapons too, turning them from your copper axes and spears into one-of-a-kind items filled with enchantments. I wielded this ax that dripped with poison, while Liam had a longsword that glowed with energy. While the staves and axes won’t be easy to find, they certainly make for a nice change from Valheim’s rather normal selection of equipment.
While Liam and I haven’t been introduced to any of the new Mistlands crafting materials, expect to find a number of new resources that you’ll need to craft all of the cool stuff mentioned above. However, we briefly delved into a dungeon called “Haunted Mine” which was filled with hopping creatures and smooth stone walls covered in a thick layer of green. The developers said they were inspired by Mines Of Moria and Alien from Lord of the Rings, which is true. While many of Valheim’s other dungeons are a bit monotonous and incredibly claustrophobic, this one felt just as windy but with a greater selection of paths to probe.
Aside from our short trip to a dungeon, which the developers deliberately kept our mouths open, we’ve encountered a number of horrifying creatures on our travels. There were these ticks that clung to you and sucked your blood, Seekers (mysterious masses of limbs and nastiness), and my favorite: a mothership of ticks that hovered in the sky and spat bile bombs at us. Seriously, I don’t think there were any easily fixed bugs in the entire biome.
One of the highlights was our encounter with the Dvergr, a neutral group of NPCs who are the same race as the shopkeeper and look like blue garden gnomes. They won’t attack unless provoked, so we went inside their little house and had a look around. Sure, it was a simple structure, but it was nice to see some friendly faces in such a dangerous land. The developers haven’t revealed much else, other than that they have “valuables,” which you’ll want to get your hands on to progress.
And to get your hands on the Dvergr’s treasure, you’ll need to destroy the boxes that house them. This will piss off the Dvergr, sure, but the developers have outlined some interesting loopholes that won’t necessarily blame you. For example, luring a group of Seekers to their location, then sneaking off with the loot as both sides dig it out. Or grab your harpoon on stormy evenings, hook them into their hidden holes (while whispering “I’m Batman”), then steal their stuff. Look forward to the extravagant ways other players will rob poor Dvergr of their possessions.
When it comes to creating your own homes, Mistlands has some new building elements that will please the building lovers. Again, we only saw a few snippets of what could be a larger selection, which included a spiral staircase, a nice new wall, and pillars made by stacking what can only be described as huge ice hockey pucks. As for defending your bases, the DLC also introduces massive bear traps and ballistae that act as automatic turrets, which, as well as being interesting, indicates that it won’t just be trolls knocking on the door, but some hideous DLC abominations that we hadn’t had the pleasure of dying in the demo.
Liam and I’s first look at Valheim’s Mistlands expansion was fantastic with two lovely developers who were incredibly patient in the face of our incompetence. Where the previous Hearth And Home DLC focused on building things, Mistlands seems to offer more of a complete endgame package. If there is enough stuff it remains to be seen to satisfy the more hardcore gamers, but honestly, it’s just exciting to see the start of the gradual expansion of Valheim now that Iron Gate has had the time to work out their rise to stardom.
Maybe, just maybe, Kiryun Kazumor and the clan will return.