I didn't know I needed magic in Valheim until I had the chance to try it out during a recent Mistlands preview. Sure, smashing things with a massive hammer or poking holes in enemies with a Blackmetal sword is great fun, but why make your Viking vulnerable to attack when you could fling fireballs from a safe distance—or even better, summon a skelly-friend to get in there and do the dirty work for you?
Valheim's Mistlands update will introduce magic, something that was apparently always planned for the Viking survival game. "[Magic builds] have always been one of the ideas but we didn't want to do it in the conventional sense where you can be a mage from the start," said Iron Gate's lead artist, Robin Eyre. "It's something you have to grow into as you progress. Like if you think of [Valheim] as a big Viking Norse mythology story, you get this stuff towards the end."
You'll get to choose between four different magical weapons which in turn give you access to their own unique spell types. The fire staff lets you throw fireballs to deal AoE damage as well as setting fire to the things—or enemies—it hits, an ice staff fires out bolts of ice, slowing enemies down and dealing damage, and a healing staff will allow you to sacrifice part of your health to shield yourself and nearby allies, helping to negate some of the damage that the denizens of the Mistlands are going to be doing their best to inflict on you.
While fire and ice are cool, it's the summoning magic that really got my attention. Yes, that's right, you can summon your very own skeleton to fight alongside you. Just like the protection magic, your Viking will need to pay a price to perform this necromancy—you'll forfeit a chunk of health in return for animating your companion. The good news is that you can name it Bob—or Eivor, or anything else you fancy—which surely makes up for losing a bit of HP, though summoning a second skelly friend will cause the first one to explode for AoE damage so it might be best not to become too attached.
You'll need to gain and manage a new resource to use magic but the system is surprisingly unobtrusive. Eating a specific new magic food type will give you an extra resource called "Eitr" and this is basically your mana which you'll use when casting spells. Eitr is implemented in a similar way to your existing stamina bar and regenerates pretty quickly too, though the bar will only last as long as the food you've eaten, so you'll want to make sure you have a good supply if you're planning a lengthy magic session.
One big benefit to giving magic its own resource—aside from lore—is that you won't use any stamina at all when casting spells so you'll have plenty of options if you need to dodge or sprint away quickly. You'll also be able to craft a mage-specific armor set which helps with Eitr regeneration and, more importantly, makes you look like the badass Viking you are.
You won't find the materials needed to access magical combat items until you venture into the Mistlands and start uncovering the resources there, which makes sense from a balance perspective. As a solo player with all four weapons at my disposal, I was able to summon, then switch to shield myself—and my skelly friend—then choose between the two remaining damage options of fire or ice to deal with enemies. All the spells made short work of anything native to the Meadows or Black Forest but that's to be expected as these are both low-level areas. My skelly pal started to struggle a little with the swamp-loving Draugr, though my other spells took them out with ease.
The Plains enemies posed far more of a challenge. Most hit notoriously hard anyway and the biome is only a step below the Mistlands in difficulty but still, I didn't feel overpowered here at all. I do suspect though that the combination of different magics you could employ with a group of co-op friends—and the resulting light show—could be pretty intimidating for even the toughest of Plains-dwelling enemies.
But consider this: what is waiting for you in the Mistlands that warrants fireballs, protective shields, and summoning magic? Should be fun finding out!