Portals. Such a simple concept in theory, but something that feels indispensible in Valheim after nearly 100 hours. While sailing through the various oceans and waterways in my Longship is fun and all, sometimes you just want to get from one place to another - and portals make that happen.
With my group of friends we've ventured out beyond the confines of our starter continent (it's huge, I refuse to call it an island), exploring plains, mountains, deep swamps and more. As we've explored, we've found idyllic spots to build up, or good staging areas to launch assaults on the next boss on the list. As a result, portals have become a necessary tool in our arsenal, as well as a gateway back to our main settlement across the map.
Other survival games require that mundane travel as a time sink - going from one place to another is work, just like it would be in real-life. However, like the other elements of traditional survival games, Valheim seemingly respects your time by giving you another avenue to just...well...enjoy the game. Instead of planning for a long voyage anytime I want to go someplace we've already visited, I just go to our Hall of Portals, a massive stone structure in our main settlement with two floors of portals we've dropped across the world. We have portals leading to Icecrown, Leif's giant home in the frozen north, as well as the quarry mountain site where Shank is recreating a miniature Minas Tirith. We've got portals that lead to other areas where there are more portals, I've got a portal from my remote mountain cabin to my Plains home so I can quickly harvest my barley.
Portals don't make the game easier, which I think is key to why they work so well. They just don't force you to waste your time going back and forth - that's time you could spend adventuring, building or otherwise just enjoying Valheim. This doesn't mean you can carry everything through portals. Some of the most valuable resources you have to find - namely metal and the bars made from the raw ore cannot be transported through portals. This restriction actually necessitated us building a giant staircase to the tallest mountain we've found on our server - dubbed The Stairway to Heaven by its builder. We would cart loads of Silver off the top of the Matterhorn-esque mountain we scaled down to the base of the mountain to a waiting boat at the bottom of the mountainside.
Honestly, I feel like this a good tradeoff in the end. My group of friends have set up shipping routes throughout our Valheim seed, with multiple longships being used to ferry metals from the mining source to our main settlement harbor, there they are refined and crafting into armor, nails and whatnot to be shipped through the portals. If the new building site needs the raw bars to make items like a Stonecutter or iron-reinforced wooden pillars, we then set sail with a cargohold full of materials to seed the new building location. As such, portals don't ruin the exploration of Valheim - rather the constraints of said portals necessitate exploring more of the world.
My group and I might have an extreme love for portals - we even carry the materials to build one in every boat we sail with now, that way if we get stranded or need to quickly get back to our central town to repair something, we can easily. Additionally, portals allow us all to build our own locations to support the group's needs (we have at least two, maybe three separate Plains barley and flax farms now), however we never feel spread out as we can usually find someone portaling back to Meduseld, our mead hall, to get materials or repair gear at its various crafting stations.
As such, portals not only connect us with other parts of our Valheim world, but with each other. When we get excited about a new build, we know our friends are only a portal trip away from taking in the new sights. If we discover a new location perfect to establish a settlement, we can invite a few friends who are online out there quickly to survey and explore with us.
And at the end of the day, it makes Valheim just that much more enjoyable. More time is spent building, exploring and peeling back the layers of complexity in the game rather than simply playing taxi for our Viking comrades. It makes the world feel smaller, and definitely more connected. And in a game about survival - especially one like the server I play on being about the community, it enhances the experience for me more than anything else Valheim is doing.
Also, I am very happy Deathsquitoes cannot follow me through them.