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Valheim Ashlands monsters are “irritating,” but that makes them fun

As we await the Valheim Ashlands, developer Iron Gate walks us through more of the new biome, including how dangerous its enemies can be.

Valheim Ashlands strikes a balance between fun and frustrating - A pink-eyed, skull-headed bird flies at you.

The Valheim Ashlands continue to intimidate me. While they’re certainly packed with horrible dangers, past regions such as the Plains and the Mistlands are quite beautiful and oftentimes inviting places to explore. The new Valheim biome, on the other hand, is a barren wasteland of ash and dust. In a new developer update, Iron Gate senior developer Jonathan Smårs and lead artist Robin Eyre discuss what awful, borderline frustrating terrors to expect in the next stage of the Viking survival game.

“There’s a fine line between fun and frustration in Ashlands,” Eyre tells Valheim community manager Josefin Berntsson as the trio take a walk through the new biome, “hopefully it’s going to be on the fun side.” Along with the charred skeletons, which come in both melee and marksman archer varieties, you’ll also encounter troublesome Twitcher spawners, which will soon become your new biggest problem in the survival game.

“From the start, the charred units were random spawns throughout the Ashlands,” Eyre explains. “When you went to the fortresses it felt weird that you were going up against them again. So we needed some kind of trash mob, some kind of Greydwarf [seen in Valheim’s Black Forest].” Hence we get the Twitchers, although Eyre says these “are more difficult than Greydwarves, and more irritating.”

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“I think that’s why I like them,” Smårs responds with a laugh. “I like games that are on the brink of [being] irritatingly hard, but you can still manage to learn how to kill them and then you can overcome the game somehow.” Twitchers, he explains, are “On the brink of annoying, but you can still kill enough of them to make them not so annoying after a while.”

“My favorite creature is the Morgen,” Eyre adds. This nightmarish heap of flesh and bones looks to have multiple skulls and teeth peering from its gaping maw, and I’m already intimidated by looking at the concept art alone. “It’s fun to play against, it feels like a miniboss, and it has some fun mechanics. It hurts a lot.”

Valheim Ashlands biome - Concept art of the Morgen, a four-legged creature of exposed muscle and bone.

As for what else you’ll see as you wander the new wastelands, you probably won’t be surprised to learn that there’s a lot more ash than ever before. “It’s not called the Lavalands, it’s not called Volcano Country,” Eyre jokes. “It feels good, I think it’s a very versatile biome, but it wasn’t easy trying to get to where it is now.”

One of the core mechanics in the new biome is sieges, where you’ll use the new battering rams and catapults to take down the imposing fortresses and claim the rewards sequestered inside. Those sieges might not be one-way, however, as Eyre explains. “If you don’t have tactics, if you don’t have each others’ backs, you will die, so many times – and they will still hunt you. We’ve set up bases outside of the fortresses and they start sieging us.”

Valheim Ashlands temple - A figure prays in a quiet, abandoned temple in the Viking survival game.

Expect the Ashlands to be particularly punishing, then. “I think there’s going to be a lot of dying in Ashlands,” Smårs speculates. “I think in Hardcore, I’m going to be surprised when we first see somebody beat the game without dying, if they can manage Ashlands. I think we’re going to see people being very creative.” Consider me terrified.

While we’re waiting to be let into the Ashlands, check out more of the best Viking games in 2024, or join up with your friends in the best co-op games on PC.

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