Valheim: 10 tips for starting out in the Viking survival game

Conquer Viking purgatory with these Valheim guides

Valheim Stagbreaker war hammer

(Image credit: Iron Gate Studios)

Valheim boss: Summon and defeat them all
Valheim stone: Unlock sturdy building parts
Valheim dedicated server: How to get one working
Valheim bronze: How to make it
Valheim seeds: How to plant them
Valheim iron: How to get it
Valheim Elder: Summon and beat the second boss
Valheim boar: How to tame one
Valheim armor: The best sets
Valheim commands: Handy cheat codes

Checking in with some Valheim beginner tips is a good idea if you're just starting out in the Viking survival game. Valheim may be in Early Access, but millions of players have ventured into the Viking afterlife to craft weapons, sail longships, and—most importantly—build a really snazzy base. There's so much to do in the huge and sprawling world, you'd be forgiven for feeling a little overwhelmed when you first set foot in the game.

Whether you're going it alone or playing with friends, there's a lot to learn in this occasionally harsh survival sandbox. A helpful crow will give you some pointers when you first arrive, but it can fail to mention things which could make your life much easier early on—you know, like how to build a campfire inside your base without suffocating from smoke inhalation or how to craft a pickaxe so you can move into the stone age. 

If you're ready to get started, here are 10 Valheim beginner tips to make your journey through the tenth Norse world a little bit easier.

Destroy old buildings to harvest wood quickly

(Image credit: Iron Gate Studios)

As you explore you'll sometimes come across small shacks and hovels in a state of disrepair. They're a great source of easy-to-gather wood, and in Valheim you're gonna be gathering wood a lot.

But don't bash the huts with a weapon! Instead, use your crafting hammer to create a workbench, drop it on the floor inside the shack, and then start destroying the building (middle-clicking the mouse while you're holding your hammer will destroy walls, floors, and roof pieces). Gather up all that free wood, then tear down your bench and move on. You can completely strip a building in a matter of seconds and walk away with tons of wood to use on your own projects.

Don't forget to look around inside these old buildings when you find them. Some have treasure chests with loot, and others have beehives that will give you a queen bee when destroyed, which you can use to build your own hive.

Upgrade your workbench

There are two items in your crafting menu that are a bit misleading: the chopping block and the tanning rack. These items don't actually function—you can't use them for chopping wood or tanning leather, and that can be a little confusing. What they actually do is upgrade your workbench.

Crafting the chopping block and placing it near your Valheim workbench will upgrade your bench to level 2. The tanning rack will upgrade your workbench to level 3. This will allow you to upgrade your weapons, tools, and clothing to level 2 and 3 as well, giving your weapons more damage, clothing more protection, and so on.

There's no repair cost, so it's easy to keep your gear pristine

(Image credit: Iron Gate Studios)

When standing at your workbench you'll see tabs for Craft and Upgrade. But to the left of the menu, there's a small square image of a hammer. That's your repair tool.

Unlike most crafting games, you can't select a specific item to repair. Clicking the repair hammer button will just cycle through each damaged item in your inventory and fix them one by one. There's no resource cost for repairs, though, so click away! Every time you visit your workbench you should hit the repair button until you've fixed all your gear.

Sail your raft with WASD

(Image credit: Iron Gate Studios)

That sounds simple, but it wasn't immediately apparent to me how to sail my first raft, so here's how it works. Look for the prompt to use the rudder at the rear right corner of the raft, and press E. While holding the rudder, pressing W will take you through the three speeds: Slow (just using the rudder as a paddle), medium (the sail will be dropped halfway), and fast (the sail will be dropped all the way). Pressing S will cycle back down through the speeds. Turn the rudder with A and D. You'll turn much faster with the sail up rather than down.

You won't make progress if you're trying to sail straight into the wind, so keep an eye both on the little white arrow on your minimap (which shows wind direction) and the icons below the minimap, which indicate the direction your raft is pointing and where the wind is blowing from.

Also note there's a small ladder on the rear of the boat, on the opposite side of the rudder, which makes it easy to climb back on if you've fallen off. If you're a passenger, you can hold onto the mast by looking at it and clicking E when prompted.

Tame boars with mushrooms

(Image credit: Iron Gate Studios)

You might encounter a rune stone that says you can befriend boars by feeding them roots of the earth. That means mushrooms, which are red and can be found on the forest floor.

The only success I've had with taming a boar was making one chase me into a pen I'd built from fencing, then closing a gate behind it. Then I'd select mushrooms from my inventory and left-click over the pen, which drops a mushroom inside. The boar will snack on the mushroom and you'll see little yellow hearts rising above it as its disposition toward you increases. It seems like a slow process—after a day or two of feedings I was only at 8% tame. But it's a start! If you collect multiple happy boars, they'll breed, giving you a local source of leather scraps.

Carry a weapon on your back with the R key

No real advantage to doing this, it's just kinda cool. You can carry a weapon, tool, or shield on your back by tapping the R key while you have the weapon in your hands. It just feels Viking-y.

You'll need to defeat the first boss to craft a pickaxe

(Image credit: Coffee Stain Studios)

Unfortunately you can't just live an idyllic life and progress through the crafting levels without taking on Valheim's boss monsters from time to time. In fact, a basic crafting item, the pickaxe, is locked until you defeat the first boss, Eikthyr, a mighty stag.

You can summon Eikthyr by placing two deer trophies (found by hunting deer) on his altar, which you'll find early on. Just make sure you're ready for the fight by crafting some basic clothing (tunic, pants, and helmet if possible) and making sure your weapons are in good shape. Make sure you've got a shield, too.

Eikthyr has a lot of HP, but despite his size, even a small shield can effectively block his attacks. Just be patient, block when he charges or rears up, and dodge or strafe around to get in a few hits on his flanks before he runs away. And don't tangle with him near your base or he'll smash the hell out of it! It might take time, but you'll whittle him down. Collecting his antlers will unlock the recipe for the pickaxe, which will let you mine stone and ores.

There's (currently) no way to increase your inventory size

You don't have a whole lot of free inventory slots on your character. All the tools and weapons you'll be using will fill up your hotbar, and clothing like helmets, tunics, pants, and capes will also each take up a precious slot. When you set out into the world your inventory will fill up quickly.

The bad news is, there's no way to increase your inventory, at least not yet. Valheim is in Early Access, so hopefully we'll be able to craft pouches or sacks or something in the future so we can carry more stuff with us. In the meantime, craft some extra storage crates in your home and dump what you don't need to bring with you.

For a fishing rod, you'll have to find the trader

(Image credit: Iron Gate Studios)

Another item you can't just craft yourself—and this is a real shame—is a fishing rod. If you want to go fishing, you'll need to find a trader, a randomly spawning NPC you can find (or try to find) in the Black Forest. 

The Black Forest is a biome you can find if you strike out from your starting biome in the center of the map (The Meadows). As you get further from the center, you'll eventually see a change in the environment: pine trees and fir trees, caves guarded by skeletons, and more greylings, trolls, and other monsters. It's much more dangerous than The Meadows, so be cautious.

And the trader is... well, somewhere in the Black Forest. The Valheim map is procedurally generated, and the trader can spawn in a number of different places so I can't give you a precise location. Here's an easy way to find him.

Hide the HUD with Ctrl+F3

(Image credit: Iron Gate Studios)

Valheim may have some lo-fi, throwback looks, but it's still quite a beautiful game. If you want to take some epic screenshots without a bunch of UI cluttering things up, press Ctrl+F3 and start snapping pictures. Press it again to bring the HUD back.

Christopher Livingston
Senior Editor

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.