After you spend thousands of hours playing online survival games – even the newest, most popular ones like Valheim – it can be easy to become bored with the more repetitive tasks. Outside of any major quests or boss fights, you can only chop down so many trees and mine so many chunks of ore before you have to get creative.
Since Valheim offers such a vast and dynamic game world (particularly thanks to its procedurally generated maps), you can’t really ever know exactly what’s around the next corner. That’s why one intrepid survival game expert decided to test his luck against Valheim’s current final boss not with an army of like-minded friends, but with a battalion of wild, ferocious wolves.
Who Let The Wolves Out
The road to overcoming Valheim’s most powerful foe in such a unique way wasn’t necessarily an easy task, and Calvin – or Alpaca, as he’s known online – explained how his journey toward beastmaster wasn’t an intentional one.
“As for breeding the wolves, that all started as more of an accident really,” Alpaca said in a recent interview with IGN, explaining that he was still getting his bearings as a breeder when his wolf pack started to grow. “I kept my first set of wolves fed all the time. I noticed they kept multiplying over and over to the point where I had around 30 basic wolves.”
No stranger to survival games – with thousands of hours logged in games like Day Z and Atlas – Alpaca says part of his commitment to survival games comes from a love of breeding and animal taming systems. “I am one of those annoying Perfect IV breeders when I play Pokemon,” he says, “and when I played Ark and Atlas, I spent most of my time finding perfect tames.” The troubling thing about breeding animals like wolves in Valheim, he explains, is that they’re naturally aggressive creatures. Once you’ve tamed them they won’t attack you reactively anymore, but if even simple enemies, like Greydwarves or skeletons, wander too close to a wolf’s attack range, then the wolves will pounce – even destroying any base the player has built in the way of their meal. The AI isn’t designed to “protect” a base, but they’re good at neutralizing threats that get too close.
Basic wolves don’t make a very deadly (nor efficient) traveling army for taking on Valheim’s big boss monsters, though. Corralling that many animals is tough, especially because of how sporadically they move, and Valheim isn’t built for herding dozens of creatures so framerate issues alone usually deter most people. At its core, Valheim is typically about small bands of players, not shepherding battalions of wild animals across the map. All the animals in Valheim have different tiers denoted by star rankings, and if you can find a 2-star variant they’re much, much more powerful.
“A game like this really speaks to my interests,” Alpaca says. “Due to my job, I have a lot of free time in the Winter – Valheim lets me channel that into gathering resources, building, and of course taming animals, all for the betterment of our group.”
Eventually, Alpaca had a group of 30 2-star wolves ready to take on the final boss in Valheim’s Early Access form: the colossal skeletal monster, Yagluth. Alpaca and his friend group hadn’t fought it yet and weren’t aware of what they’d need to prepare. Although all the wolves died in the battle , they got the boss down to just a sliver of health remaining before Alpaca and his friends had to join the fight and finish it off. But that first battle was just the start of Alpaca’s wolven ambitions.
Breeding Better Wolves
“I figured, with enough wolves, I could get a Yagluth kill without needing to participate at all,” he said – but he knew summoning an even more impressive army would require some additional work.
“After that attempt, I started looking into breeding methods that other people had discovered, and saw the popular ‘Boar Breeding Tower’ on YouTube,” Alpaca said. “I figured I could modify it for wolves, and after about four hours of working at it, I had a functioning wolf breeding tower.”
The tower method is crucial to having animals in Valheim reproduce as quickly as possible. Breedingis based entirely on the amount of space in an area. So, if two fed and happy animals are near each other and their immediate vicinity isn’t occupied by cubs or other similar animals, they’ll fill that space with offspring. Which means, usually, the bottleneck to expansion is space. The tower, which has players build a ramp up to a small, square, enclosed area elevated a few meters off the ground with a small opening for babies to fall through (they’re fine, don’t worry!), solves this problem. Since the immediate vicinity is always empty after the offspring falls down the chute, they just keep making more babies. It might sound like a barbaric way of gamifying the wolf cub birthing process, but if it works it works, right?
“With the tower, you elevate your breeders so that when the wolf cubs are born, they fall to the ground,” Alpaca said. “This causes the breeders’ [area] to never exceed two wolves, so they procreate as fast as they can and indefinitely.”
The end result is what Alpaca posted on Reddit: a decisive victory for his wolf pack. They end the fight so quickly, Yagluth barely had time to finish its spawn animation. “I was very surprised with how fast they killed him to be honest,” says Alpaca, “but I couldn’t have been prouder.”
While Alpaca was certainly proud of the work his army had accomplished, he knew those wolves weren’t meant to be housepets – though it wasn’t as altruistic a decision as you might think. “Due to FPS issues with so many animals, I took them out into the middle of the island I was on and ordered them to stop following me,” he said. He keeps two back at base for breeding, just in case, but lets the majority of them roam free.
“Now, they just roam that area whenever in render distance, and when they aren’t rendered they just sit in limbo,” Alpaca says. “With the ‘normal’ amount of wolves I keep around my bases, I let them free roam the perimeter/inside the moat area to defend the base from random events and creatures.”
It’s perhaps no surprise Alpaca let them roam free, as trying to actually control such a large group of wolves that strong is no small feat. They’re capable of destroying an entire village in a matter of seconds if an enemy gets too close. He learned this lesson the hard way, after one crushing moment when over 30 wolves tore through a wall and support beam to escape an enclosure while chasing an enemy.The wolves’ ferocity resulted in the collapse of the entire fortress, demolishing half his base while he was AFK from the game and let breeding happen in the background. Eventually he had to start storing them underground in a bunker since they can’t destroy the ground itself.
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“I had a few weird things happen through all this,” Alpaca said. “I’ve had some wolves escape over our moat at our main base before, and I actually found them swimming out in the ocean somehow. To this day, I don’t know how or why they went that far out to sea, although they were probably chasing a swimming deer or something like that.”
Emergent and entirely unscripted moments like these are in large part what has contributed to Valheim’s rise as a multiplayer survival experience to both play and watch, as it’s now sold over five million copies in just a few short weeks and continues to land big audiences on Twitch. And with Valheim only at just the start of its planned Early Access journey, Alpaca and others’ breeding methods may be just the beginning of more incredible stories to come from players’ Viking adventures – though players will be hard-pressed to top a rampaging army of super-wolves.
For more on Valheim, check out our recommendations on the 11 best mods to try and our interview with the development team about the game’s creation, and let us know about your wildest exploits in the comments!
David Jagneaux is a longtime freelance writer for IGN. Talk games with him on Twitter at @David_Jagneaux.