Mining in Valheim genuinely scares me
An absolute oredeal
Yes, viking survival sim Valheim is supposedly about being ferried to purgatory, but it's actually quite a relaxing place. My friends and I still get together every week, not only to ensure that the bees are still happy, or check if we can finally grow carrots, but to kick back and catch up in its peaceful world.
In our most recent adventures, however we discovered how to mine ore; a huge moment for the clan. It promised new, exotic riches: bronze helmets, a bronze dagger, a bronze sword! How innocent we were, revelling in our new found power. Little did we know that mining would be fraught with so many terrors.
Mining is different in different games. I've been playing a bit of Final Fantasy XV of late. It's a JRPG in which you go on a road trip with some fashionable chums. Quite different from Valheim, then. But just like in Viking-land, I can wander up to rocks, press buttons, and ore will appear in my inventory.
In FFXV my character does that anime "yuh", or, like, over-excited "huh, what's this?" as they engage the collect_resource_ animation.exe file, stoop down, and swipe the air with their hands. There is no pickaxe needed; this gentle motion of arm through breeze is enough to part mineral from stone.
There are other games where mining might require an actual tool, but the physical act of hammering pick on stone would rather you not be involved. It's like, "hey, could you, like, do something else while I do this, yeah?". In RuneScape you press right click and are actively encouraged to leave your PC running while you go outside to feed flocks of geese with bread crumbs, or draw funny shapes in the condensation on your window. Once you've completed these real life activities, you return to game X, stare at the piles of ore you've gathered, mindlessly sweep them into your bag, then repeat the process. This time, there will be fewer geese, and less space in which to write "your mum" backwards.
In Valheim, the process doesn't only actively involve you, it's downright terrifying. Once our viking clan had finally got hold of some pickaxes, we'd trudged into the Black Forest in search of ore deposits. In this dark, foreboding place, we were in search of big, bulbous orbs that jutted from the earth, and were ripe for popping. But to burst them, we couldn't just press right click and switch off, we had to repeatedly clatter our picks into them.
I was struck by how 'physical' mining felt in Valheim. There was a real sense of heft as I hoisted my pick into the air with both of my arms, then sent it crashing down onto the deposit for the first time. In the mining mini-game in something like Stardew Valley, you have to stay involved and keep an eye on your surroundings and stamina, sure. But as Sigmund, Ragnar the Red, Dunder Mifflin and I mined away, it genuinely felt like an exhausting expedition, all of us focused on the task at hand - as if we were really wiping the sweat from our brows and licking our lips at the prospect of the spoils to come. But toil, historically, doesn't come without trouble.
Turns out that when you mine, the clink of your pick attracts nearby creatures. There we were, salivating over rocks and greedily pocketing ore, when a giant blue arm suddenly arced across the screen and clotheslined all of us into oblivion. "Oh shi-", "WHAT?", "Jesus!", and quietly, "come on, not like this", we variously exclaimed. A giant blue troll had - in a way that was the polar opposite of chill - let us know that we were not welcome in its territory. We weren't about to argue with Dobby's well hard dad, and hobbled away as fast as our post-clotheslined legs could carry us.
I'm looking forward to when we finally figure out how to fish, and at the moment we all cast our lines out, getting gored into the ocean by a green wildebeest the size of the Iron Giant. I have no idea if this even exists in Valheim, but chances are, I'm not far off the truth. Now whenever we go mining, we always watch over our shoulders. Or we have someone stand guard, just in case a blue terror emerges from the woods. I'll be honest, it has made Valheim substantially less relaxing for me.