Valheim player crushes 'hard mode' speedrun competition in under 8 hours, still finds time to appreciate the mountain's solemn beauty

In August, Iron Gate unveiled the Trial of Tyr, a competition to see who could complete the fastest solo speedrun through Valheim's punishing new hard mode. Two months later, the task is complete, with the winner, a Chinese player named Zhengyuan, blowing through the whole thing in under eight hours.

Zhengyuan, known in the community as Time Traveller, said he's been playing Valheim shortly after it launched into early access in February 2021. He's got roughly 4,500 hours into the game at this point, and said almost all of his spare time is dedicated to it. He's also active in the community, known for making guides and videos about the game, and said that he's believed to be the first player in China to complete the game with a single life—which led him to start speedrunning even before the competition was announced.

To ensure all players were on equal footing, the Trial of Tyr map was "seeded," meaning it wasn't randomized, which Zhengyuan said actually simplified the process somewhat because "every contestant can scout the fixed world in advance." That made it easier to plan out things like strategies, routes, and weapons that would enable the most "efficient" run possible.

"Since the map is seeded, the route of progression can be well determined, like where to sail [and] which dungeons to sneak into," Zhengyuan said. "For example, I already know the locations of the Moder and the silver veins, so I can finish the Moder and the silver mining on the Mountain in less than an hour. And that's why 6 anti-frost mead [a craftable food item that protects against movement debuffs caused by cold] for me is enough, and I don't necessarily need anti-frost capes when I'm on the Mountain."

Even so, he said the Mountain biome was a particularly challenging area—and quite lovely. "The harsh terrain (similar to but not easier than the Mistlands), the blizzards to disrupt the player's vision and hearing, the starred wolves at night... It is always the toughest part," Zhengyuan said. "One single wolf bite is mostly fatal in hard or hardcore mode, not to mention that they are quick enough to have another. Moreover, I personally don't use bows, so I basically must not fail to retrieve my spear each time I aimed to the drakes. Every mistake can be a point of no return.

"Although the Mountain is challenging, it is also beautiful, solemn, full of dangers, which is intensely immersive."

Zhengyuan's winning time of 7 hours, 54 minutes, 22 seconds was three hours better than the second-place finisher, ThreadMenace, who finished the run in 10 hours, 52 minutes, 1 second. But Zhengyuan actually submitted three runs for the Trial of Tyr—players were allowed to submit as many as they liked, in order to ensure their best time was in the running—and even his second-slowest time, of 8 hours, 7 minutes, would have easily won the contest. His third-best time was a top-three finisher too: Third place went to Mr. Adel, who completed the Trial of Tyr in 13 hours, 4 minutes, 7 seconds. (Which, let's be honest, is still a hell of an accomplishment.)

Andy Chalk

Andy has been gaming on PCs from the very beginning, starting as a youngster with text adventures and primitive action games on a cassette-based TRS80. From there he graduated to the glory days of Sierra Online adventures and Microprose sims, ran a local BBS, learned how to build PCs, and developed a longstanding love of RPGs, immersive sims, and shooters. He began writing videogame news in 2007 for The Escapist and somehow managed to avoid getting fired until 2014, when he joined the storied ranks of PC Gamer. He covers all aspects of the industry, from new game announcements and patch notes to legal disputes, Twitch beefs, esports, and Henry Cavill. Lots of Henry Cavill.