Everything about mining iron in Valheim straight-up sucks

Valheim swamp
(Image credit: Iron Gate Studios)
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Just like chopping down trees, mining for minerals in survival and crafting games is usually more a chore than a fun activity. Standing in one spot, repeatedly clicking on a hunk of rock, watching your pickaxe degrade as your pockets slowly fill with ore—it's a necessary task, but not particularly enjoyable one.

Mining copper in the Black Forest of Valheim is one of those chores, but it's about as close to fun as it possibly could be. Exploring the forest to find a copper deposit? Always fun. Picking around the lower edges of the rock and making the top collapse, thus saving some mining time and getting a satisfying shower of rubble? Awesome! Fending off greydwarfs and the occasional troll attracted by the sounds of your frenzied clinking? Well, okay, that can be semi-annoying, but it briefly gives you something to do besides swinging a pickaxe at a rock.

The nicest thing about copper mining in Valheim is simply that you're doing your the work aboveground in a stunningly beautiful forest, a place dripping with atmosphere and showered by glowing sunbeams filtering through the trees. It's a wonderful environment to spend time in while doing something that is, ultimately, kinda boring.

Then you progress to mining iron in the sunken crypts of Valhiem's Swamp biome, and all that pleasure goes out right the fucking window. Mining in the sunken crypts sucks, and it's harshing that lovely Valheim buzz I've cultivated for the past few weeks.

It's just not a matter of the swamps being far deadlier and more dangerous than the Black Forest. They definitely are: it's a hazardous place, with leech-infested waters, poisonous hopping blobs, spooky hovering wraiths, and those goddamn draugr snipers who take massive chunks off your health with their arrows.

And it's not a matter of the crypts being dark and spooky, either. I like raiding Valheim's scarier places like burial chambers and greydwarf nests in the Black Forest. If I were going into the disgusting swamp crypts just to kill monsters and loot chests, I'd be perfectly happy down there in the inky darkness.

The issue is that the sunken crypts are a dismal place to spend time performing the mining chore. You're just standing in place, repeatedly pounding away at a muddy scrap pile in a gloomy room surrounded by dark walls and sloshing water. Valheim can be a perfectly beautiful game when you're outside, but indoors, in the dark, it's just straight-up ugly. 

And here I am, staring at the greenish-black ugliness from inches away while I swing a pickaxe over and over and over. There are no lovely sunbeams or towering trees to gaze at. It's like doing your homework in the trunk of a car. There's not even a view out the window to occasionally steal your gaze and lift your spirits.

And when I've cleared the muddy pile, I get to spend even more time performing a pixel hunt to find the final last few jagged nodes of scrap. More time spent squinting at the ugly darkness. Great.

Worse still, even if you're not on a mining mission, you have to mine if you're in a crypt, because the muddy scrap piles are blocking entire rooms and passages. You can't get through unless you hack away at a muddy brown pile of sludge if you want to clear the crypt of monsters and raid the chests. Mining in a crypt is mandatory if you want iron scrap, and it's mandatory even if you don't want iron scrap. Now I'm in the car trunk doing homework I wasn't even assigned.

There's not even danger to use as a distraction, since crypt monsters can't get to you through a passage until it's been cleared. Even a little muddy scrap still left on the floor or walls will stop them from approaching, except for the occasional annoying blob squirting poison through a gap. I kinda wish the draugrs would hack away at the obstruction from their end of the hallway and meet me halfway. At least if a troll takes a swing at me while I'm mining copper, I might get some free ore out of the deal when it smashes the rock to pieces.

I appreciate that Iron Gate Studios tried to do something a bit different with iron mining—honestly, burrowing into a stone mountainside for iron ore wouldn't be especially exciting or novel, either. But by sticking the iron exclusively down in the sunken crypts, it's made the chore far worse, and it's a chore you have to do even if you've already got all the iron you want.

Christopher Livingston
Staff Writer

Chris started playing PC games in the 1980s, started writing about them in the early 2000s, and (finally) started getting paid to write about them in the late 2000s. Following a few years as a regular freelancer, PC Gamer hired him in 2014, probably so he'd stop emailing them asking for more work. Chris has a love-hate relationship with survival games and an unhealthy fascination with the inner lives of NPCs. He's also a fan of offbeat simulation games, mods, and ignoring storylines in RPGs so he can make up his own.