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Valheim's Hearth and Home update has just enough to reel me back in

Valheim character stands with a bronze mace and wooden shield in the meadows. Two wooden huts are in the background and trees show in the distance
(Image credit: Iron Gate Studios)

I never need much of an excuse to fire up Valheim. After the initial 200+ hour binge back in February when it launched on Steam's Early Access, Iron Gate's Viking survival game has become my go-to game if I just want to chill for an hour or five. Like others, I've been impatiently waiting for the Hearth and Home update to land, so I was excited to jump in to see how much has changed and whether it has a significant impact on general gameplay.

As suggested, I decided to start a new world with a new character, and the first noticeable difference is the stamina bar. It looks smaller—shorter?—at baseline, and numbers have been added to indicate how much stamina you're using when running or swinging your axe—or smacking that bloody annoying greyling that won't leave you alone. 

As I explored this new world, it felt like I had less stamina than before, but it's honestly hard to tell—maybe it just feels that way as you have actual numbers to look at now, rather than just a solid yellow bar.

Food is another major difference. My go-to food at the beginning is raspberries, but thanks to the rebalancing, these don't seem to give you any significant health increase, and what health they do give feels a lot slower to regen. Mushrooms feel largely unchanged, though, and meat gives you a considerable boost, whether from boars or deer. Small 'fork' icons have also been added to food items, and these are different colours, depending on whether they favour health, stamina or are balanced.

(Image credit: Iron Gate Studios)

I was eager to make my first bow, as it's one of the weapons with big balance changes, and I was pleasantly surprised by the results. The bow feels far better—or the basic bow with the base skill level does, at least. Before the update, the starting bow always felt very 'loose' and inaccurate (or maybe I'm just a crap shot), but now it feels far more sturdy. Perhaps the negative balancing effects are felt with better bows at higher skill levels. 

I spent the next hour or two running around gathering wood, stone, and whatever food I could find, all while searching for an abandoned hut to sleep in. I'd use this as a temporary base while exploring to find a more permanent location for a proper home—ideally close to the ocean. I kept to the Meadows biome to start with, and there seemed to be a lot more raspberry bushes and mushrooms than previously. Boars and deer also feel more plentiful, though maybe I just got lucky with a good seed.

I found a cute village next to the coast—and not too far away from the Black Forest—so I set up a base there. Then I set about gathering enough materials to make myself some basic leather armour and cook up some meat. 

Now, I often set myself on fire when cooking in Valheim. Not for the added warmth, but because there always seems to be that one bit of meat that gets stuck behind the cooking station, and you can't get close enough to reach it. Not anymore! Your character's pick-up radius seems to have increased—and if it hasn't, there's some sort of wizardry at work that literally throws the cooked food in your direction.

The first boss Eikthyr went down as easily as it normally does, and I killed my first troll with the bow while mining copper. Nothing new to report there. But the fun really started the next day when the words 'The forest is moving' appeared on my screen.

(Image credit: Iron Gate Studios)
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(Image credit: Iron Gate Studios)

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Now, usually, I'd have set up a fence around my base by this point—or killed the boss on a different world entirely—because Valheim lets you do that if you'd rather concentrate on base-building without the threat of trolls (or worse) destroying all your hard work. But as I was eager to push progression in this new world, I hadn't thought ahead to raids. 

So when a greydwarf brute, a shaman, and about 67,000(ish) greydwarfs showed up on my doorstep howling for my blood, I did the sensible—if un-Vikingly—thing and ran away as quickly as my stamina allowed. 

Okay, so it was probably about five greydwarfs, but it's been a long time since I've experienced this type of raid. I'm usually safe behind my walls and can either wait it out or pick them off from the top of a tower with my bow. So this was a bit of a surprise. I'm not sure if there were more greydwarfs than usual, or it's just been so long since I was in this situation, but I knew there was no way I could stand and fight them grouped up as they were. 

They didn't spawn in gradually, so I didn't have a chance to pick any off before more showed up. It was like an entire clan—and their extended family—descended upon my base within seconds. Of course, a couple of regular greylings had to get in on the action, too, as well as a boar that I blindly ran into while fleeing planning my strategy.

Thankfully the brute and the shaman cleared off once the raid was over, but the rest—including both greylings and the boar—decided to stick around for the afterparty. I ended up wearing them down slowly, taking a quick swing at all of them with my club before running (in short bursts to let my stamina regen), then repeating this until they were all dead. 

(Image credit: Iron Gate Studios)

After the excitement of that victory, I chose to leave on a high note and visit one of my already established worlds to see what's new. The first thing I did was build an obliterator because, seriously, item destruction has never been so cool. I also took the opportunity to run around and rename some of my tamed wolves because how could I not?

Valheim's Hearth and Home update doesn't make the game feel much different, and that's a good thing. While it doesn't add new biomes or any tangible content to get stuck into, there's still plenty to get excited about with this update. At least two requested features have been added with the cartography table and the obliterator. And the new darkwood building pieces—not to mention the inverted walls—are enough to keep any Valheim builder busy for a while. There are also a few other surprises that have only been hinted at for progression-minded players, though I won't spoil those here.

Sure, you'll need to get used to the new blocking and staggering system, as well as experiment with different food combinations for various situations. But at its core, Valheim is still the same great game we all fell in love with back in February, and it's now in a better place to welcome future updates. 

Sarah's earliest gaming memories involve playing Jet Set Willy on the ZX Spectrum at a friend's house. These days, and when not writing guides, most of her spare time goes into MMOs—though she's quite partial to JRPGs too. She has spent much of the last decade playing the likes of Star Wars: The Old Republic, TERA, Final Fantasy 14, and World of Warcraft. Sarah has been writing about games for several years and, before joining PC Gamer, freelanced for the likes of TechRadar, GamingBible, and Rock Paper Shotgun. One of her fondest hopes is to one day play through the ending of Final Fantasy X without breaking down into a sobbing heap. She probably has more wolves in Valheim than you.