I and a few of my oldest pals donned our ragged tunics and purchased tickets to Valheim last week. It's a viking survival game that's been popping off over the last few days, so we had to see if it was all it was cracked up to be.
After our first play session, it became clear that the most important aspect of survival in Norse purgatory wasn't beard management, or axe-throwing, or even longboat races. It was... bees. Everything hinged on their happiness.
Kiryun Kazumor, Sigmund, Ragnar the Red, and Dunder Mifflin. These were the names of our clueless, but enthusiastic viking selves. And we marvelled at the most basic things. We got excited at the ability to pick up a rock. Plucking a mushroom from the earth elicited exclaimations like, "right-click and you can eat it!", followed by "yeah, the bar on the bottom left, yeah that number goes up when you eat something", in the deadly serious tone of a biological researcher. It was not uncommon to hear a distant, excited yell of "I got some raspberries boys!!" echoing in the distance.
We'd been deposited in Valheim by a giant crow, but really it should've been a stork, the way we were bowled over by the existence of things like branches or stones, like a bunch of massive bearded babies. But I suppose that's the appeal of these survival games isn't it? That every discovery, no matter how small, is of some significance. And to us, one of these finds was more important than anything else: the bees nest.
It must've been fate, for we happened on the nest dangling inside a ruined shack within all of five minutes. We were totally magnetised by it, and looking back on it now, our first reaction was instinctive - primal, even, in how little logical sense it made. We all just huddled together and swung our fists at the shack's foundations, in the hopes that maybe we could dislodge it.
For a good few minutes, it was just some fellas quietly punching the shit out of a shack. The soft thud of knuckle on wood, like the sound of flies bashing against a window. The starry night sky glistened above us. Valheim truly is beautiful sometimes.
After much slugging away, Sigmund decided that perhaps he could use his hammer to knock it down. Ah, yes. "That could work," we said in unison.
And before we knew it, we had turned the bees nest into our very own beehive. Our very own source of nectar! By which I mean honey, which is made from nectar. We plonked it down in our cosy viking abode and looked down at it and smiled in satisfaction. We were on easy street, and buddy, that street was paved with honey.
We came to learn, however, that bees have feelings, and are very demanding. Interact with a bee hive in Valheim and it'll tell you how the bees are feeling and what they're up to. At night it says, in big yellow letters, "the bees are sleeping". Awww, okay, little buddies. You sleep tight, don't let the bed bugs bite, ha get it beca-. If the bees are feeling good, it says "the bees are happy", and your heart melts.
Sigmund (the member of our party who basically did all the crafting, while the rest of us sprinted at boar or burned newt meat) built a foundation - the basis for most important structures in Valheim - in preparation for improvements to our base. It went around the beehive. We checked on the bees. It said the "bees need more open space". Wait. What. How. Bees can fly. We all gathered around and looked down at the beehive and frowned. No, NO. We cannot have this, we decided.
"We came to learn that bees have feelings, and are very demanding."
We freed up some space by destroying the foundation, and the bees were happy again. Despite all the perils we faced, we simply could not go about our business unless we knew the bees were happy. We even tried building a little roof over them to protect them from the elements, but they didn't like that either.
Perhaps we placed so much importance on the bees' wellbeing because they were a bit like us: just doing their best to survive. I like to think there's something deep there. Maybe they represent the human psyche when base-building in Valheim - working as a group to fit all the required resources together, and protecting home at all costs. Everyone has to be happy with the decision to place your new kiln outside, on a particular spot. There must be a consensus on where the walls go. No not there, there. Or maybe the bees are like a parallel universe, you know? They produce honey only when they're happy, like how we're only productive when the whole gang is on the same page and enjoying themselves.
Flashback to all of us pelting a shack with our fists. Delighting in the existence of raspberries. Running half-naked from a troll. Smiling down at a beehive.
Hmmm, maybe it is none of those things. Maybe it is as simple as: bee happy, we happy.