Category Archives: Instance Group

Tales of the Twilight Cadre instance group in Azeroth

Bonemass and Misremembered Lessons in Valheim

One of the truisms of life is that failure often teaches better that success, and getting stomped or being savaged by a boss mob on your first run will make a lesson stick.  And if a boss fight is a milk run, then the details are… less likely to stick with you perhaps?

Anyway, this past weekend three of us got together in Valheim while Lugnut was off trying to chop down a real life tree and hoping not to have it fall on him or get caught in the kick back as it fell, a hazard in both the game and real life.

While Brynjar and I had been running around in the mountains, finding some more opportunistic silver and looking into the possibility of wolf pets, we felt we might be getting a bit ahead of ourselves.  There was, after all, a boss to be taken care of in the swamps before we could or should head off to the mountains.

So we decided to go out and prepare for the battle with Bonemass.  We had found his location and Brynjar had even put a portal in place close by in a little walled off compound, so travel out there was easy.

As for prep, we recalled having to smooth out the ground where the fight was going to take place.  Nobody wants to get caught up on something or end up swimming while a boss is after you.  And then there were platforms to be built.  The fight, we remembered, went easily enough with us up on platforms shooting Bonemass with bow… unlike that run in with The Elder.  So we got to work.

Working on a platform over the Bonemass summoning skull

Of course, Valheim won’t leave you in peace and we had a couple of run ins with the locals.  On the bright side,  as I noted before, you can do in an abomination fairly quickly by kiting it over a Surtling flame.  The problem is that you need to keep kind of close to the abomination to get him there as he is a bit short sighted… and there are the other mobs hanging out that can lead to issues.

The abomination burns, but Ula is down…

That aside, we got ourselves setup, the ground nice and level, and a couple of nice platforms in place.

I might have gone a bit far putting up a roof on a couple of them, but I had the wood and it is always raining out there in the swamp.

Platforms in the trees… also, I really like how the swamp looks in that shot

Brynjar had read that you could also put up a platform on top of the summoning skull, and set about putting that together as well.

The skull platform complete

Of course, once we had gotten things to about where we thought they should be, there wasn’t anything else to do but test the whole thing out by summoning Bonemass.  We would re-run the event later with Lugnut.  This was just going to be a soft opening or some such.

We ran back to base and filled up on fire arrows, all the better to burn Bonemass, along with some poison resist meads, got ourselves that sweet, sweet rested buff, then went back to summon the big guy.

Brynjar had the 10 withered bones needed to summon Bonemass, so Ula and I took up positions on the platforms and the summoning commenced.  Brynjar immediately scurried up to the top of the skull platform.  That was going to be his spot for the fight.

Bonemass and the skull platform

Brynjar was at a safe height, but Bonemass seemed quite fixated on him on his platform.  Also, Bonemass brought along some skeletons with him, who got up on top of the skull and commenced to chop away at it.

But we were loosing arrows at a fierce rate, so we hoped to bring Bonemass down before structural issues cropped up.

It turns out that fire arrows aren’t the ticket for Bonemass.  I had misremembered his weakness, or carried it forward from The Elder.  It wasn’t fire arrows we needed, it was frost arrows to do him in.  So while we were barely chipping away at him, I said there were some frost arrows in the storage shed and Ula ran off to grab them.

However, there were only 11.  But she brought them through to try them and they did indeed do considerably more damage.  However, 11 arrows did not last long and I ran down, went through the portal, and went back to our main base to make some more.

We happened to have enough ingredients for two stacks of 100 arrows each.  I ran back with those in my bag to share them out.

Sharing them out was made easier by the fact that Brynjar was running around on the ground now, Bonemass and his allies having broken down his platform just as I was getting ready to run off and make those arrows.

Skull platform down!

He survived the fall and scrambled away, leaving a couple of skeletons stuck up there.

Anyway, back with the frost arrows, I doled them out and we commenced finally doing some real damage.

Brynjar got up on one of the other platforms as Bonemass seemed to have it in for him.  I ended up coming down off of my own platform to position myself for back shots into Bonemass from the ground.  As long as you stay far enough away from his AOE gas cloud, things are okay.

Down on the ground… also, skeletons on top of the skull

Ula had her bow wear out and had to run back for repairs, but otherwise we were on the right track and were able to take Bonemass down.

Don’t get in the death splash of poison

Then there were the wishbones to pick up, the treasure finding charms that are the reward for the fight.  There were three, so we each got one but will need to do the fight again for Lugnut.

Huginn showed up to tell us about the wishbones and how they can be used to find hidden treasures.  We did a quick post fight pose, lit by the eerie light of the skull.

We won the battle

Then it was back to base and off to the stones at the starting point to hang up our third trophy for Odin.

Eikthyr, The Elder, and Bonemass trophies on display

After that, we did some repairs, made a few upgrades, and set out for the mountains where the wishbones found us a fresh silver node right away.

Silver exposed

We got a little aggressive digging it out… we dug about 15 feet below it before discovering it was above us and off to the right a bit… but it was our first find with the wishbones.  We are now on the path for more silver… and more iron, because we still need some of that and will need more when we get to the plains.

Some Fortuitous Silver in Valheim

We have been in the scrap iron accumulation phase of Valheim for a bit now.  One of the challenges so far has been simply hunting down enough crypts in the swamps to feed our demand so we can upgrade our gear.

In a reminder of the capricious nature of the random map generator, Lugnut found a stretch of swamp with an island on the coast, built an somewhat elaborate base in order to make a safe foothold for a portal and a dock, then as we joined him to go into the swamp to explore, found it to be a rather narrow strip of swamp with no crypts to be found.

We found a similar narrow wedge of swamp near our Grey Pit base, wide enough to spawn all the usual suspects, but not big enough to get a crypt.

Still, we kept going, finding a crypt here and there, hauling back the scrap iron to be refined and used to make upgrades.  I always go for weapons first, so it was an iron mace and the huntsman’s bow for me, then a pick.

There was also the longship to be built, the better to haul whatever large cache of scrap iron we might eventually find.

Setting sail on the longship

Of course, once you have a longship you need a suitable dock in which to park it, which Brynjar built out for us.

Docking at sunrise

We did eventually start to bring in some scrap iron, giving the mighty longship a cargo worth carrying… at least in volume.  The Karve, though nimble, cannot carry much, while the longship has a cargo hold to fill.

Scrap iron to haul back to base

A couple of loads like that and we had iron for further upgrades.  There was enough there for me to bid farewell to my sneaky trollhide armor set… though I stored it away in case I felt the need for some stealth later… and made myself the iron armor set with two upgrades, which felt like enough to of an upgrade to be worth the loss of both stealth and movement speed.  Being in the iron set does slow you down.

The iron doesn’t make you invulnerable.  I’m not going toe to toe with abominations in the swamp quite yet.

It is easier to just kite them over surtling flames in any case

Meanwhile, somewhere long the way, Brynjar started brewing some frost protection meads in the cauldron with an eye towards our eventual need to move into the mountains.  We still haven’t take on Bonemass, so things to do, but getting a head start didn’t seem like a bad idea.

Of course, having the meads meant the temptation to go up into the mountains, which Brynjar did, only to get mauled by wolves.  But he did come back with some treasures.  That got me thinking about poking around in the mountains, just to see where the bet opportunities might be.  In addition to silver being mined, there are the new frost caves to be explored.

So I started poking around myself.  I was quickly reminded how much stamina matters in the mountains.  The running up hills takes it out of you.

Mountain terrain is often a steep slope

But, in a bit of incredible luck, the first thing I saw after my first ascent into a mountain biome was an exposed silver vein.  I immediately got out my pick and knock off ten pieces of silver, then ran on back down the mountain and sailed them back to our main base to be refined.

Silver was just laying there waiting for me

Exposed silver isn’t unheard of in the mountains.  I’ve seen it before.  But it is rare.  Usually you need the little detector that you get when you defeat Bonemass in order to find it, the veins are generally under ground.

Now, ten chunks, refined down to ten silver bars, isn’t much.  But I wanted to get the silver bars to get the recipes for the next tiers of gear.  And I got them, all save the one item I really wanted, the wolf fur cape.  I thought we had everything for it.  Brynjar had come back with wold pelts and fangs and all sorts of things from the mountains.

But, on looking it up, the wolf fur cape requires a wolf trophy, the head of a wolf, in order to craft it.  No wolf head, no recipe, no cloak.  Getting the cape gives you frost resist, negating the need for the meads, which only last for 10 minutes, so I was kind of keep to get the cloak made.  Otherwise it only requires 4 silver and some wolf hides.

So it was back to the mountains in order to hunt wolves.  At least I got to explore some more of the mountain area we’ll likely be exploring for silver.

The mountain biome north of the Grey Pit

Wolves, however, only drop a trophy 10% of the time, so I ended up chasing down their howls for quite a while.  I also learned that if you log out, then log back in, you lose whatever mead you had going plus your rested status.  I drank another mead, but not having the rested status meant that my stamina regen was very slow.

After a few trips I finally managed to get the trophy drop, so I ran back to our base and made the wolf cloak.

Iron gear with a wolf fur cloak

It is actually less armor than my fully upgraded troll hide cloak, but it has that frost resist going for it.  I know the wolf armor chest piece has that as well, but that takes 20 silver bars, and we’re not quite there yet.

Also in my wanderings, I found some onion seeds.

Onions planted to make more seeds

Those are used in the next level of cooking.  Something else to work with.  Onions soup is very high stamina.

Now to find a few more wolf trophies and mine a bit more silver so we all have the frost resist.

Making the Grey Pit in Valheim

Brynjar, whom we should call “Brynjar the Builder,” was looking around for ways to speed up resource harvesting for our various projects.  It can take time to go out and chop wood and even more so to dig out stone.  But he found a video that shows how to farm the Greydwarf population.  A Greydwarf, Greydwarf Shaman, or Greydwarf Brute all drop wood and stone and resin and a few other things when they die, so slaying them en masse turns out to be a harvesting alternative.

The first thing you need  is a Greydwarf spawner.  You can find those all over the Black Forest biomes.  Unfortunately, because they are generally a source of annoyance, we had been pretty vicious in rooting them out any place close to home.  So we had to go find one elsewhere.

Brynjar and I set sail in a Karve, headed for an island we had seen with a lot of Black Forest coverage.  We had the supplies to build a portal and had a connecting portal all set up back at out main portal hub.

As we pulled close to shore, basically the first place we looked, there was a Greydwarf spawner right there, visible from the water.  We were in business.  We built a workbench, put up the portal and got it connected, then set to work.

The spawner found

What you apparently need to do is put down floor pieces from the building construction pieces around the spawner.  We set about doing that while carefully slaying any Greydwarf that spawned, studiously avoiding damaging the spawner.

It took a while, but we managed to get the boards laid out in a grid that seemed to, if not halt spawns, at least keep them down to a very slow rate.

The floor laid

Sometimes it is hard to tell because they will also wander up out of the woods while you’re working.

The next task was then to dig out a pit below the spawner.

The pit takes form… also, it finally stopped raining

You end up mining out a nice pit with a spire of rock left to support the spawner.  Then you build hearths down at the bottom of the pit… which was the step where we realized that we hadn’t brought some iron with us in order to build a stone cutter.  You can’t take that through a portal, so it was back to a base where we had smelted some iron, then another sailing trip back to our work site.

All Vikings love to sail, right?

Stone cutter built, Brynjar began laying out the hearths on the ground around the spire supporting the spawner.  Then a one high wall around the hearths, which is enough to keep the Greys from getting out of the fire.

The Grey Hell of the Pit

Once in action, the loot began to pile up in the pit.

Down in the pit

The easiest way to collect it is to do some fire walking and run around the pit to vacuum everything up.

It isn’t perfect.  Things collect slowly and you have to keep the hearths fed with wood… though wood is one of the outputs, so you at least have that covered.  And the hearths and the walls take damage when a Greydwarf thrashes around in the pit, so you have to jump in and repair them fairly regularly.

My sign to remind

Brynjar finished things up by building a little station there to house the stone cutter and work bench and portal and a few chests to hold things.

There is even an observation deck

It isn’t exactly a Minecraft level of operation… there is no auto sort into chests… but it was an interesting experiment with the mechanics of the game.

Going After The Elder in Valheim Again

On Sunday we decided it was high time that we advanced the game to the next stage… as I wrote on Monday, we already had a swamp base… which would require us to slay the second boss in the game, The Elder.

But we had been planning for that.  One of our first ventures from our new coastal base was to set sail in order to scout out the altar of The Elder and prepare for our eventual fight.

Setting sail for The Elder

You get the location from runes you can find in the Black Forest, and the closest spot for us was on another island.

The Elder in the unknown

The thing is that out in the unexplored you don’t really know how far inland your destination is or where you should come ashore in order to start making your way overland.  In the end we came ashore directly south of the location and moved across what turned out to be most of the length of the island to get to the spot.

Still, we got there without too much fuss, and we had been smart about the whole venture.  We had built a portal back at our portal hub and then had brought the materials to create a linking portal with us.

We picked a spot close by the altar of The Elder and built a small base, just a house with some beds, a workbench, a fire, and the portal really, surrounded by a wall just to keep the locals away.

A little base with a view of The Elder

We spent some time after that exploring the island, mining out some copper, and generally getting ourselves geared up to the eventual fight.  We were a little nervous because the last time we fought him it was a bit of a fiasco, with greydwarves, skeletons, and a couple of trolls getting into the pitched battle.  I think we all died at least twice.

So we did our prep work this time, got ourselves armed with plenty of fire arrows, and then deployed around his altar in order to get ready for the fight.  When we were in position, I made the sacrifice and summoned The Elder.

Summoning The Elder

You can see, in the last couple of screen shots, that there are some platforms up in the trees.  Lugnut thought that might be of some help, though he might have been recalling the next boss fight, the one in the swamp where being up high helped.  Anyway, he built some platforms and Ula, Lugnut, and Brynjar took positions up in them while I opted to stay on the ground both to summon The Elder and to kite him around if possible, giving everybody else a chance to shoot him.

The working theory was that maybe those tendrils he shoots out at you might not angle up, so being on the platforms might help.

And then the fight started and that theory fell through… as Ula did when knocked off of her platform.

Ula’s platform assailed by The Elder

You can see that the tendrils reach up to the trees just fine.  I didn’t get a screen shot of Ula being thrown bodily through the tree tops, but it happened.  She survived the fall and joined me down around the altar where the old strategy of hiding behind the four huge pillars seemed to be working out for me.

Brynjar and Lugnut on their platform attracted the attention of The Elder as the fight went on, allowing Ula and I to pepper the boss in the back with a fusillade of fire arrows.  Lugnut was the next one to be deplatformed, as they say in social media, while Brynjar hung back trying to avoid the wrath of the tendrils.

Not really hiding all that well, but it worked

Meanwhile we just kept lighting The Edler up, sending fire arrows his way… and then he was down and the battle was ours.

The Elder dead

That got us his trophy and four crypt keys.  What it did not cost us was any deaths.  Somehow we all managed to survive, even those who were flung from the tree tops.  I guess fall damage isn’t all that bad.

We took our victory shot and passed out the crypt keys and… having dispatch the boss much more quickly than we thought it might take… we decided we should go find a crypt in the swamp and start mining some scrap iron.

Victory over The Elder

So it was back up to the base where we had fought an Abomination the day before and into the swamp to one of the nearby crypts.  The key opened up the front door and we were quickly inside looking to loot the place.

We’re all miners in this crowd

There were, of course, issues.  We had to remember how to fight the Dragur and blobs and spawners that are down in the crypts.  It didn’t always go quite to plan.

There I am, dead in the crypt

We made a note to bring along some of those poison resistance meads that we had been crafting back at base next time. (Which, next time, actually worked very well.)

We managed to loot out two crypts, which got us a Karve load of scrap iron to bring back to our main base.

And then, some time later, Brynjar remembered we needed to hang up The Elder’s head on the trophy stones back at the spawn point.  We don’t live very close to it anymore, so it slipped our minds.  Brynjar made us a portal so we can get there more easily.

Eickthyr and The Edler trophies hung

Now that we have done that it is time to work on swamps and crypts to get more iron for all the upgrades we’ll need.  And for the stone cutter as well.  One big win about getting to iron is that we can now build stone bases.

An Abomination in the Swamps of Valheim

With out base on the ocean setup in Valheim, those of us with a bent for exploration have set out to discover what our world holds for us.

While we haven’t slain the second boss, The Elder, as of my writing this, we are about ready.  We have delved deep into the Black Forest and have geared ourselves up such that greydwarves are no worry, even in packs, and troll hunting is more sport than terror.

With an eye towards what comes after The Elder, we have been setting out to find some decent Swamp areas to work on once we have the crypt keys from The Elder fight.  The resources required for the next round of upgrades we will need access to a lot of crypts.  That means setting up bases near swamps where we can either collect and haul scrap iron back to our main base or, if the yield is big enough, collect and craft.

Brynjar had found a likely spot, a sizable stretch of swamp with some Meadows and Black Forest close to hand along the shore as a potential beach head for a base.  Brynjar and I set out in the Karve with some building supplies, including the pieces for a portal with a connecting portal already setup at our “portal henge,” in order to build a base.

Rough seas are fine if the wind is right

We landed in some Meadows on the coast and found a likely patch and set about building.

Well, Brynjar set about building, I went to gather resources and to deal with the local mobs who were drawn by the noise and activity.  This included a fair number of Dragur, one of the main swamp creatures, undead Vikings who live in the swamp, and who wandered our way in ones and twos throughout the building process.

Fortunately we were geared up such that a single Dragur isn’t much of a threat, and a couple need just a bit of consideration.  A two star Dragur Elite is still a worry, but we have health meads available now.  Lugnut joined us and helped with the operation.

Brynjar’s building talents are something

Lugnut and I kept gathering and taking care of the locals.  I was pretty thorough in clearing out a wide strip between us and the swamp, wanting both a clear field of fire and less cover for encroaching mobs.

We did well, didn’t die, and collected quite a few Dragur entrails, which are required for the sausage recipe, one of the next big food items.  Lugnut called in a night and, while Brynjar was finishing up the base I went exploring in the swap to see if I could mark a couple of crypts for future reference.

I got into a bit of trouble and came trotting back to base, when behind me, as I ran, a new and disturbing noise started coming out of the swamp.  From the defense platform on the base Brynjar and I could see something thrashing about in the swamp, doing something, but it was hard to tell what was going on.

Eventually I went out and, wearing the full troll leather outfit which includes a stealth bonus, I went into sneak mode to get closer to see what was going on.  I managed to get into range to get a name plate.

An Abomination!

This was something new.  The swamp previously held quite a few perils, though most because more annoyance than danger as we geared up last time around.  Now we had something that looked like it occupied the troll position in the swamp ecosystem.

It wasn’t bothering us, but it was also close enough to the new base that we could see it moving about and, given that an unchecked Dragur had recently knocked down a section of our wall, it seemed like we had better do something about it.  He was going to have to go.

I tracked him around the swamp a bit while we considered this.  I went and looked up abomination on the wiki, which told be that fire damage was the best bet while it would resist piercing and blunt attacks.  Since I had a mace, a dagger, and a bow, it looked like fire was going to be the answer.

Fortunately, in anticipation of taking on The Elder, I had been stockpiling fire arrows back at our main base.  I popped back and collected a stack for each of us and then we went out to take him on.

The abomination has a lot of hit points, I will say that.  We had to expend quite a few arrows in order to whittle him down.

Plinking away at him

On the other hand, he didn’t seem especially fast, not like a troll, where you need to be sprinting to keep ahead.  We were able to keep our distance from him.  The main complication came from other mobs joining the fight, with Dragur, blobs, and skeletons weighing in now and again, diverting our attention.

Brynjar has attracted some blobs

He also seemed to be somewhat short sighted.  We were able to run out of his range it seemed and he would start to wander off like he had forgotten about us.

It still took quite a while for the two of us to knock him down, though the fire arrows seemed to be doing a decent job and, as you can see, he would burst into flames with a good hit and would take damage over time from the fire.

Burning Abomination

Once we finally got him down… he started walking back into the swamp at low health and we had to chase him down to finish him off… he dropped some guck, which I know we’ll need for crafting, and some roots, which are apparently used for a root armor set, which is new since we last played.

Something new to look out for in the swamps.

A Base on the Coast in Valheim

Our starting spot in our new Valheim world was, as I mentioned, not as close to open water as it was on our first run at the game.  That first time turned out to be a bit of a luxury, because sailing the open ocean is an essential part of the game.

Valheim on Steam

Seriously, you must have a coastal base from which to voyage.  It is just the way of thing on the 10th world.  So we headed south from where we started, where our first couple of camps sprouted, from where the trophy stones and first spawn point were located, and found a bit of an island on the coast of the Black Forest where we thought we could lay up and defend ourselves and started to set up shop.

The New Base on the coast

It was, of course, a struggle, and all the more so when night fell and we were still trying to throw up a perimeter and get a roof over some beds.  Deaths happened and a melee of us versus greys broke out on the narrow strip of land between us and the dark woods.

But we persisted, eventually got some shelter setup so we could sleep away the nights and work in the light when the greys are less active, and a base began to form.

Base 2.0, beyond basic shelter

It wasn’t ideal, and there were some issues at the gate when the inevitable invasion events started rolling in at as, leading to waves of greys assaulting the walls.

Sometimes you just sit and repair the walls until they get tired and go home

Potshot… erm, Brynjar… is ever the base builder and got in and revised and rebuilt over the time while I was away… the screen shot above was taken from my laptop, which was tethered to my iPhone for data because I was out in the wilds where WiFi isn’t a basic human right yet… and many things sprouted up.

For starters, in order to avoid attracting attention from the Black Forest and the occasional wandering troll, he put up a covered bridge that ran straight north to the mainland in the direction of our earlier bases.

The view from the bedroom loft along the bridge

If you look at that image full size you can see the perimeter of Ula’s boar breeding farm on the other side of the bridge.  Boars are now much more fertile and the whole animal husbandry thing is less of an exercise in futility relative to simple hunting boars in the wild.  There is even a new tool, a butcher’s knife, which can only be used to slaughter tamed animals.  Another handy game update.

Also, you make a covered bridge in Valheim for the same reason they did so in New England, the timbers don’t rot away so quickly if covered.

The front gate was redone as well after Brynjar, who is also the chief researcher at this point, read up on defenses and found a design for a bridge that mobs wouldn’t cross.  Or mostly wouldn’t cross.  The first invasion saw a greydwarf shaman run right across the thing and up to the gate.

The front gate revised

For the most part though the greys do not like it and opt to jump in the water.  Even the aforementioned shaman, on reaching the gate, turned around and jumped into the water.  And once there you can just go out, stand on the shore, and club them like so many baby seals as they struggle to try and reach you.

So we ended up with a very nice base, largely thanks to Brynjar’s work.

Looking back from the top of the bridge

But most importantly, it put us on the water and gave us an outlet to the ocean.

The dock at the back of our base

That is me in our initial Karve, the first real boat and the one that makes exploration and sea travel a viable venture, as opposed to the raft which, as I wrote, was slower than simply walking. (Though, at least sailing along shore, it was safer.)

Brynjar built that first Karve and left it in the dock so that when I logged in and saw it, I grabbed the keys and took it for a spin immediately.  He logged on to find that I had absconded with the boat before he had even gotten to give it a try.

And, in a very strange stroke of luck and/or coincidence, he asked if I was out looking for the trader, a venture that took us a long while the last time around, and about 15 seconds later I sailed close enough to the trader for him to appear on the map for us.

The trader found

I suspect the discovery radius of the trader is something else that has been increased since we last played as well.

Of course, that meant setting up a base on the far shore and working on getting our first pair of portals going.  Things were suddenly moving along, but we were still not in a hurry.  We have what we need to carry forward, we’re still building up supplies and upgrading our gear.  Trolls are being hunted and a couple of us have full sets of troll hide armor.

But most of all we have an outlet to the ocean, place to set sail from.

The base and our boat from the shore

We can now set out to find our next boss, The Elder, and get ourselves setup for that fight.  And with that, the swamp biomes will become the next place to gather resources and we’ll have to explore further afield to find them.

Reflecting on Lost Ark

Well, Lost Ark was certainly a flavor of the month.  Or two months I suppose, as half of my recorded play time in February and March was invested in it.  But so far for April it has pretty much fallen off of my list.

Welcome to Lost Ark

In fact, when a hint of a suggestion came up to play something else… like Valheim… there was not a single protest from our group.  A couple of other titles were suggested (though Valheim won out quickly), but nobody said they wanted to get just a little bit further or run another dungeon or stick around for the great big siege of Luterra.   Lost Ark was kicked to the curb with little ceremony or regret.

Was Lost Ark a bad game then?

I don’t think so.

It did suffer from some of the free to play issues, a primary one being that it was both easy to get into and easy to leave.  Not having to buy a box or have a subscription took away the sunk cost fallacy that can keep some people playing other titles  (I think EVE Online is largely sustained by that these days.) so it is easy to walk away from.

Lost Ark was fun in its way.  It was both kind of silly and frenetic while being built around an overwrought and somewhat ponderous story line.  It looks good, it plays well, and has a lot of things going on, but at times it edges towards almost being a parody of an MMORPG.

Some of that is the seriousness of the story fighting with some of the dialog, which can be very silly.  The NPCs in the game are very chatty, and the reads the voice actors gave for some of the lines are unintentionally funny.

My favorite vendor in Pridehome… he tells me this every time I walk by

Some of them are just silly on their own, while others, the reading just makes it so.

You really have to hear this guy say it

And then there are the odd standouts.  While most NPCs have just one line they repeat over and over, there are a few with more than one, including the woman in the tavern in Pridehome, who has a series of things to say, all related to getting drunk.

She has the most varied dialog in town

But the mechanics are also on board with the idea of parody.  You are a very powerful character in the early game, and might be swinging a weapon literally longer than you are tall.  Combat often revolves around you taking on waves of mobs that you dispatch with moves that rain down destruction.

I kept posting the Carbot Animations videos about the game because they were so spot on.  But that was largely because they didn’t have to exaggerate very much beyond actual game play to him the sweet spot of comedy.

The fourth installment remained on that curve.


As I have noted, the brilliance of these videos is that if you have played through the content being covered, you identify with what is happening, it clicks with you and you see the absurdity of it, and this latest video is no exception.

Again, not a bad game, but not really a game for our group either.

Part of the problem was that, as a game, it is one of those titles that takes longer as a group than solo.  At least the run up to level 50 does.  So our progress was plodding and the content that was really playable as a group was somewhat irregular.

I know that changes after level 50, that group content becomes primary, and perhaps the best plan would have been to have everybody get to 50 on their own and group up there.  But I don’t think all of us were invested enough to make that run, and it is not a trivial trip as the game throws a lot of new things at you along the way like boats and your stronghold and the whole crafting system.

If you’re invested, that is all great.  If you’re just on your way to 50, not so much.

So Lost Ark is in our rear view mirror for now.  Again, not a bad game, just not the game for us at the moment.  It does have a lot going for it, and a lot of people still play it, so I am not knocking it.  We’ll see if I get back to it at some future date.

The Cartography Table in Valheim

I have been away for the last week or so, and in that time a bunch of stuff has gone on in our new world in Valheim.  We’ve been making bronze, fighting trolls, base building, and attempting to breed boars.

Valheim on Steam

But our progress… and we’re not in a hurry this time, we’re moving slowly… has not been the only thing going on.  We have also been discovering the many little changes that have landed in the game since we stopped playing in May/June of last year.

As with my mention of controller support previously, I have clearly not been paying enough attention to what has been added and updated in Valheim, and this time around I want to mention the cartography table.

I saw this show up as a recipe after we made a bronze axe and were able to being harvesting fine wood.  I wasn’t sure what it was, but Ula built one in our base and we quickly figured out it is a way for players on the same server to share their map data.

The cartography table

When you have been out exploring and get back to base, you can add your data to the common map.

Uploading to the common map

Then others can come by and check to see if there is any updated map data when they’re at the base.

Time to check for updates

I kind of like that it is a manual process, that we don’t all share updates automatically.  It makes the whole thing feel more… organic.

When you update you can see all that you have explored as well as places where others have been that you have yet to visit.  They appear as revealed on the map, but with a film over them so you can tell what is your explored area and what came from the table.

It also shares the markers people set on the map, which can get a little goofy if you all make a marker for something like a base or a crypt, but otherwise it seems to be a really solid addition to the game.  It was previously kind of a pain to go exploring and then have to paste screen shots into Discord to show things you had uncovered, things that wouldn’t show up for anybody else until they went there as well.

And you can even opt out of the whole thing.  The first way is to simply not use the table.  But if you do and decide you don’t like it, there is a button on the map that lets you turn off the data from others.

Just click the button

I keep finding new things that have been added to Valheim that impress me.

A Kinder, Gentler Eikthyr in Valheim

There have been quite a few updates to Valheim since we first dove into it in February of last year and part of the idea of starting fresh… aside from undoing the irreparable damage done by my prolific exploration… was to see how things had changed in the game since way back when.

Valheim on Steam

Certainly the starting experience seems to have been eased up somewhat.  You still start off dead, dropped into the 10th world in your underwear to be greeted by one of Odin’s ravens.  But the pressure to get things done didn’t seem quite as urgent.  Part of that had to be the fact that we had done it all before, so the opening chaos was less present, but there were little details that seemed to have changed.

Food, for example, was not only better explained… it took us a while back in the day to figure out the whole three different and distinct food combo thing… but seemed to be much more prevalent.

Berries, for example, seemed to be not only growing in more places, but in greater density where they sprang up.  There seemed to be any number of berry growths with four to six plants scattered about.

Mushrooms as well seemed to abound in the forested portions of the Meadows biome, again growing in clumps for four to six.

Even the boars seemed more readily available.  And their meat… well, it looks like food got redone quite a bit.  Rather than a universal meat shared by boars and deer, they now have their own type of meat that can be cooked and eaten.  Add in some Neck tails and you can get three decent meat based food buff up and going very early on.

So getting fed seemed to be easier.  That doesn’t mean I still don’t forget and let my food buffs lapse now and then, but they are much more visible in the UI and you get a clear message of what each food does for you when you consume them.  You still cannot change a food buff until it wears out, but you do know what you’re getting now.

All of that was fine, but I had gotten along one evening and, because I couldn’t sleep, I thought I might try to take down the first boss, Eikthyr, the mighty stag.

Eikthyr was a bit of a terror back in the day.  I remember my first run at him going horribly awry and dying several times before finally bringing him down.

My glowing marker is easy to find in the dark

I had gotten myself prepared, worked on my block and club skills, upgraded my leather armor to the extent that our workbench would allow.  I actually ventured into the Black Forest, found a burial chamber with a skeleton spawner, and farmed skeletons to get enough bone chips for all the upgrades.

Then shield and club and bow at the ready, food buffs fresh, and rested from the fire, I took some deer trophies to the altar of Eikthyr to summon him.

Took quick a chunk out of the mighty stag with a bow shot

I suppose that the first clue that things had changed was the fact that the altar was a pretty short walk from the initial spawn point.  No searching about in the wood, it was front and center and marked on the map.

Our starting area

Anyway, trophies on the altar and boom, there he was, his fearsome lightning spewing horns arrayed over his angry face.  And I beat him to a pulp in the first go, barely even losing any hit points along the way.  A very different experience.

Again, yes, I am older and wiser in the ways of the game.  I know how to block with a shield and such.  But I remember getting pasted before, the lightning from his horns searing my flesh.  This time around they seemed to barely tickle me.

I went and looked him up over on the wiki on the boss strategies page after the fight and the old suggestions on how to fight him, going spear and shield and running away from the lightning and all of that, had been replaced by an explanation that he had been downgraded to basically a skill check boss.  Unless you simply didn’t know how to fight, or eat food to buff up, you were likely going to beat him down just by hanging out and whacking him repeatedly.

So that was that.  Eikthyr defeated and the hardened horn for the first pickaxe obtained.

Later, when the group all got on together I got us all lined up to do it again.  While there were four of us, Lugnut was a brand new character with very basic gear, and we still managed to take him down without taking a loss or sustaining much damage.

We all get stuck in on Eikthyr

I basically stood in front of Eikthyr with my wooden shield and just blocked to see how hard he was hitting, and he was not hitting that hard at all.

So there was an early and quite noticeable change in how the games plays out.

And after that we all had a hardened horn pickaxe as well as the Eikthyr buff once we hung his head on the first stone.

The first trophy hung

It was clearly time to head into the Black Forest.  We could now harvest copper and tin there, as well as searching out the burial chambers for surtling cores needed for a smelter and a kiln.  And there were likely trolls there too, just waiting for us.  So that was our next stop.

A New Voyage of Discovery in Valheim

Potshot, Ula, and I got ourselves into the our new world in Valheim and set about relearning the basic skill, gathering resources, and building initial bases of operation.

Valheim on Steam

One thing different from our old world was that our new spawn point didn’t seem to be anywhere close to open water.  Our first time around we were set down able to see the open ocean from where started out.  Now, even after a bit of poking about, there was no open water in sight.

Our starting area

We were not far away from some Black Forest areas, and even some Mountains were not far off.  Eikthyr’s altar was close to hand, but the only water was a lake with an island in the middle.  When I hit one end of the lake I built a raft, only to find that there wasn’t anywhere to sail.

Of course I built a raft as soon as I found water

Well, there was much else to be done, so we let the search for open water rest for a bit.  But the next day, as Potshot, playing under the name Brynjar, was searching further afield, he spotted what appeared to be the ocean off in the distance.  We were talking on Discord and he was looking about for what he needed to construct a raft.

I had some leather scraps on me, the bits he was missing, so ran over to join him.  He got that all going and soon a raft was floating on the water before us.  It was time for a voyage of exploration.

Setting sail under a blue sky on a fair sea

We set out on a calm sea with the wind at our back.

Of course, the algorithm that runs the game can’t stand that sort of thing.  Our calm voyage was interrupted by a storm almost before we got out of sight of our starting point.  The sea rose and fell, the rain came down, and lightning split the sky as we made our way northward along the coast.

The bow dips as we hit a trough

You can see a troll wandering along the shore, our first sighting of one on the new world.

I had joked about holding onto the mast as we set out, but then a swell that came over the deck that carried me from the bow to nearly the stern and I decided that hanging on during a storm was probably a good idea.

We carried on up the coast, letting the lightning illuminate our way and the shore as it moved past us.

A tower and some grays lit up by the flash

Then, even the wind stopped cooperating, turning into us, slowing us down to rowing speed as we made our way through the storm.  We continued to be treated to a demonstration of the lightning effects of the game.

Lightning turning the night a shade of blue

We carried on, though we had made it to what appeared to be the north end of the island and started making our way eastward along the shore.

We spotted an island across the way and sailed over to it to see what it might be made up of.  We found a little section of Meadows biome surrounded by more Black Forest.

We turned back to our island and carried on around to the point when we were able to head south.  We spotted a building along the shore and stopped to quickly fix it up to make a minimalist camp and set our spawn points.  We had been at this for over an hour and didn’t want to die and end up far from our corpses.

After the rest we headed south again and I took my turn at the tiller.  The wind stayed against us and it was a long sail down the east coast of the island, day turning once more into night.

Rowing our way forward once more

Once again we spotted a troll on shore.  He seemed to be fighting some skeletons or something.  He was angry and smashing something unseen, but his attention did not stray to us, so we sailed quietly past.

The going down the east coast was very slow, but we managed to find the southern tip of that stretch and turned to the west.  The wind, of course, turned with us to make our progress as slow as possible.

After getting hooked up on some rocks and a sand bar, which had both Brynjar and I out on the shallows pushing the raft to get it unstuck and headed in the right direction, we hit what looked like it might be the opening of a bay just as the sun began to rise on a new day.  Even the wind relented as the sun rose, and we were able to glide on in to a landing at a shore not too far from where out camp was.

Our destination has been lit by the rising sun

All told, looking at the time stamps on the screen shots, we spent well over 90 minutes making that trip most of the way around our starting island.  It felt like an epic Viking journey.

Our route around the island

Later I went for a walk from the point marked “Walled Camp” to the “Outpost” where we had stopped and it took me less than 10 minutes.

Such is life with the raft.  I look forward to getting the Karve, the handy little second tier boat that is both more nimble and much faster than the ponderous raft.  But we have some work to do to get to that.