Unless you’ve been living in a hobbit hole without Wi-fi access, you’ve undoubtedly heard of the recent indie mega-hit on PC, Valheim. Although still in its early development stages, this open-world Viking survival sim has undeniably raised the bar for others of its type. Its appealing fantasy setting, graphically striking visuals, and exceptionally immersive gameplay have hooked millions of players in its procedurally generated sandbox. While Valheim may not be “world-changing” in its genre, it certainly takes the cake for many, considering it’s sitting almost at 200,000 ‘Overwhelmingly Positive‘ reviews on Steam. One particular area where Valheim excels compared to similar games is in the cleverly designed fast-travel system that encourages player engagement rather than limiting it.
A Looming Hostility Towards Fast Travel
Many players adore the experience Valheim has to offer, but there are a select few that despise one distinct in-game feature, fast-travel portals. In a nutshell, two constructed portals in Valheim can create connected fast-travel points, provided they are paired under the same name. While most gamers don’t put much thought into this particular mechanic in open-world games, the opposing minority who dislike fast travel loathe it with a passion. A quick Google search will also provide you with numerous Reddit discussions or major gaming outlet posts that clearly object to the idea. Even some of the YouTubers that I admire show strict disapproval for the fast-travel mechanic. Simply search on YouTube with the query “fast travel isn’t bad,” and you’ll be immediately met with the top results:
Being a fellow nerd, surely you have likewise contemplated the notion of fast travel in open-world gaming.
In Defense of Valheim‘s Fast-Travel System
Personally, I firmly stand by my viewpoint that the portals in Valheim should never be removed from the game. The following are the five reasons why I believe Valheim‘s portals are a perfect showcase of a skillfully balanced fast-travel system.
1. Built with purpose
One notable feature when constructing these time-saving gateways is the ability to give your portal pair a shared name over which you have complete freedom. You can roleplay and come up with imaginative names like “Asgard Pass” or “Odin’s Valley.” Alternatively, the portals can be called after what they’re designated for, such as “Copper Ore Haven” or “Fine Wood Forest.” The important point here is that these portals are not just a thoughtless connection of Point A to Point B. Players will build each portal with a specific purpose in mind, creating a unique name and, ultimately, a narrative regarding its intended use.
2. Limited resource procurement
The crafting materials needed to construct a single portal in Valheim are:
- 10 Greydwarf eyes
- 20 Fine wood logs
- 2 Surtling cores
Considering that we need two portals for a functioning fast travel connection, we must double the required resource amounts. Greydwarf eyes are luckily easy to come by, as the buggers will literally throw themselves as constant fodder for the player. On the other hand, fine wood trees appear rather infrequently across Valheim‘s landscapes, making this resource a bit more scarce. As for surtling cores, these can only be acquired by delving in the Black Forest’s limited Burial Chambers. Not to mention, there’s a slew of other crafting recipes that call for this rare component. As a result, you will need to decide whether having fast travel is worth the potential risk of not having these essential materials on hand. Additionally, players will need to physically haul about two ‘portal kits,’ with the materials taking up space and weight in your inventory, making fast travel all the more challenging.
3. Destructible by mobs
Thankfully, portals can’t decay from rain like other wooden structures. However, they are susceptible to being destroyed by enemy attacks. While the AI in Valheim is on the ‘lower side’ of the intelligence spectrum, keeping your portals tucked away from harm’s way will still be a priority during the base-building process. Rather than just ‘plopping’ down one wherever you feel like, it’s vital to have your portal placed in a safe and secure area. It would be a shame if one of your paired portals were smashed to pieces while you’re busy on another island—without a boat.
4. Accessible only by ‘touch point’
Unlike most fast-travel systems in open-world titles, Valheim doesn’t allow the player to freely teleport to whichever portal they please. Each can only be accessed by directly traveling to and walking through the point where it was assembled. The devs made sure there’s no easy way around taking your load of stone and lumber instantly back to camp.
5. Objects denying teleportation
The cherry on top is the inability to carry specific objects when passing through portals. All metal ores and smelted ingots cannot be teleported, requiring you to transport your heavy cargo on foot or by sea vessel. Such materials are tied to player progression and are especially important in upgrading your character’s gear. This feature encourages players to be more resourceful when transferring valuable goods, making the journey to camp more arduous but more rewarding.
A Perfect Balance of Risk and Reward
Portal building in Valheim is an elaborate endeavor that encompasses exploration, risk/resource management, and hard work. You will have to venture far and wide to collect the necessary materials to craft two portals. However, these resources aren’t plentiful, so you must carefully consider if your portals are worth the time, effort, and value of your excursions.
After building your teleportation gateways, you’ll present them with a matching name, fulfilling their existence with purpose. But remember, these deliberate tears of time and space won’t accept every item in your inventory. Supplies closely linked to your progression must be handled physically, requiring a different method of transportation back to your base. Since they can’t be accessed remotely, you must make sure every portal’s placement is in a functional area protected from pesky mobs. Simply put, Valheim‘s incorporation of a fast-travel system involves more thoughtful player engagement than your average open-world title.
The developers at Iron Gate AB skillfully created a well-balanced fast-travel system that requires effort while also being difficult to abuse. What are your thoughts about fast traveling? Do you think Valheim‘s portal system is effective? Let us know in the comments!