Get all your news in one place.
100’s of premium titles.
One app.
Start reading
Windows Central
Windows Central
Brendan Lowry

Valheim's Ashlands biome update makes my favorite survival game even better, and you can play it now in public testing


What you need to know

  • Valheim developer Iron Gate Studio has released Valheim's major Ashlands update on the public test branch version of the game. It's available to play now on both Steam and the Microsoft Store (PC Game Pass). The text below explains how to access this branch.
  • The update massively overhauls the Ashlands biome with flametal weapons you can enhance with gems, new structures and building materials, some fiery environmental hazards, and tons of new enemies.
  • The main threat in the biome is the Charred, a faction of undead skeletons that fights from the battlements of its huge castles. To breach the defenses of these fortresses effectively, you'll need to build the update's new catapult and battering ram siege weapons.
  • If you intend to check the Ashlands update out, make sure you're playing on a world in which you didn't explore the biome yet. If you don't, the Ashlands will still be in their barren work-in-progress state from before.

Iron Gate Studio's popular open world survival game Valheim was an instant hit when it released in Early Access back in 2021, with players falling in love with its varied biomes, diverse array of enemies and equipment types, addictive base-building mechanics, and Norse mythology theming. It was one of the best games I played during the lockdown era, and became my favorite in the genre overall — and thanks to major content updates over time, it's only gotten better with age. The next big patch coming to the title is the Ashlands update, and it's available to play now in the public test branch version of Valheim on Steam and the Microsoft Store (Xbox fans will have to wait for the full release).

The release came alongside a new Ashlands gameplay trailer from Iron Gate (watch it below) that gives fans an in-depth look at what they can expect from the overhauled southern biome. Previously, the Ashlands were in a work-in-progress state, and were largely empty aside from scattered Surtling-spawning fire geysers. Now, though, they're home to exciting new materials and gear, deadly new foes to conquer, red-hot environmental hazards, and something I've wanted since Valheim's launch: castle sieges.

To download and play Valheim's public test branch build, Steam players can enter the code "yesimadebackups" (no quotes) into the private betas field found in Library > Valheim > Properties > Betas and then select it from the Beta Participation dropdown. If you're playing on the Microsoft Store (or through PC Game Pass), choose the option to install Valheim's public test branch within the previews section of the Xbox Insider Hub app.

Players can use the materials they find throughout the Ashlands' volcanic landscapes to craft new flametal weapons, which can then be enhanced with special gems that give them unique elemental or magical effects. Additionally, both Ashwood and an ancient new stone called Grausten have been added as new building materials, and there are new buildings you can construct to shield your Ashlands bases from the fires that periodically rain from the sky.

Top Recommendations

These new arms and fortifications will come in handy against the Ashlands' varied threats, such as the skeletal nightmare fuel in the first screenshot of the gallery below and other "creatures of land, air and sea." The main enemies of the region, though, are the Charred — skeletons comprised of blackened bones and a molten core. The Charred are uniquely defensive compared to Valheim's other hostile mobs, and fight players with ballistae, arrows, and fire magic from the battlements of their intimidating fortresses that dominate the landscape.

Breaching these citadels will be an arduous challenge for vikings hoping to slay the boss that leads the Charred, but the process will be made easier with "dvergr ingenuity" — AKA, catapults and battering rams. By building and using these siege weapons, players will be able to knock down defenses and pave the way for ground assaults.

(Image credit: Coffee Stain Publishing)
(Image credit: Coffee Stain Publishing)
(Image credit: Coffee Stain Publishing)
(Image credit: Coffee Stain Publishing)
(Image credit: Coffee Stain Publishing)
(Image credit: Coffee Stain Publishing)
(Image credit: Coffee Stain Publishing)
(Image credit: Coffee Stain Publishing)
(Image credit: Coffee Stain Publishing)
(Image credit: Coffee Stain Publishing)

“The Ashlands mark a significant milestone as the last major update before our final batch of content when the game reaches 1.0,” said Valheim producer Andreas Tomasson in a press release sent to Windows Central. “We’re anticipating players will be surprised by how difficult it is at first, but that’s what Valheim is all about — challenging and often brutal exploration and survival. We will of course keep an eye out on how public testing goes, and make sure that it’s not unfair!”

Personally, I'm always up for a good challenge — the satisfaction of overcoming Valheim's tribulations is one of the big reasons I love it — and the Ashlands update looks to be one of the game's coolest yet. If you intend to check it out, make sure you're playing on a world in which you haven't explored the Ashlands yet, as the biome's new content won't generate if you've already cleared its fog off your map.

Valheim is one of the best survival games ever made, and also one of the best Xbox games and best PC games to play with friends (the fact it supports full cross-platform play is a nice bonus. In it, you'll farm, craft, sail, and battle your way through the Norse afterlife in order to prove that you and your comrades are worthy of a seat in Valhalla. Notably, it's on sale right now, and it's also playable with both Xbox Game Pass and PC Game Pass; Xbox Game Pass Ultimate will give you access to it on both platforms, and your progress will transfer between Xbox and the Microsoft Store version.

Sign up to read this article
Read news from 100’s of titles, curated specifically for you.
Already a member? Sign in here
Related Stories
Top stories on inkl right now
One subscription that gives you access to news from hundreds of sites
Already a member? Sign in here
Our Picks
Fourteen days free
Download the app
One app. One membership.
100+ trusted global sources.