I’m sure you’ve heard of Valheim already. This indie game, made by a five person studio, has skyrocketed in popularity in the month or so it’s been out. There have been over four million copies sold—and it seems almost everyone on my friends’ list has played Valheim at least for a little while. Most people I know who play, however, have put dozens to hundreds of hours in Valheim in the short time it’s been released. At first, I didn’t know what the draw would be—but after playing for a few hours, it finally clicked.
Valheim is a third person open world survival game that trims a lot of the fat you would normally find in such games. For instance, you can eat—and you probably should—but you won’t starve to death if you don’t. Instead, you’re forced to play with less stamina and fewer hit points. You play as a Viking, thrust into a tenth realm of Norse Mythology. Your goal is to conquer the wilds by building, crafting, farming, and exploring with the ultimate goal of killing deities that inhabit this realm—ancient rivals of Odin. You can embark on this adventure solo, cooperatively with friends—or you can fight your fellow Vikings in glorious player versus player combat.
My first impression of Valheim was that it’s Minecraft with Vikings. That may be an oversimplification, but if anyone has played Mojang’s blocky builder, you’ll definitely recognize some influences in Valheim. But that’s not where the comparisons end. It seems as though Valheim’s gameplay is a mixture of influences– including The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild—that make a unique combination or survival with compelling exploration and progression. Each world in Valheim is procedurally generated, but there is a system of progression that makes it so you’re compelled to keep exploring and upgrading to face the next threat.
One of Valheim’s most compelling—and addictive—aspects is its progression. As with any survival game, you start with lower quality items, and as you build up your base and expand your facilities, you become capable of bigger, more complex builds. First of all, Vikings are awesome—who wouldn’t want to create a beer hall, drink mead, and conquer your enemies? But beyond the theme, Valheim does a great job of throwing in interesting items and gear to strive for. You learn new recipes simply by getting the ingredients for that item—so you more than likely always have something to work towards. Beyond the progression, exploring in Valheim is amazing, too.
It seems like there is always something new to find in Valheim. You can build a boat to sail the ocean, or explore dark crypts and abandoned buildings that have the potential for valuable materials. Valheim’s titular tenth Norse mythological realm is beautiful, and full of mysteries that I have barely begun to scratch with my dozen or so hours of gameplay.
Valheim’s graphics are simultaneously gorgeous even while employing lower resolution textures and models with fewer polygons than in most modern games. It’s not quite Minecraft levels of low fidelity, and Valheim even has moments of intense beauty. The dreamlike realm of Valheim is full of expansive forests, snow topped peaks, craggy mountains and treacherous oceans—all of which are beautiful.
Since it’s still in Early Access, Valheim isn’t technically finished. According to the Early Access page on Steam the developers are planning on adding more crafting recipes, enemies, biomes, and new bosses. There are already almost 300 items you can craft in-game, and over 100 different pieces to build out your stronghold. Currently, the game has five out of its nine planned biomes, and is completely playable in single player and multiplayer modes. It’s technically in Early Access, but it already feels like a fully fleshed release.
Admittedly, it took me and my group a few hours to get into Valheim. But once we got it, we haven’t been able to stop playing. We’re still only starting out, but I’m excited to see where Valheim goes in the future. It’s already a smash hit, and deservedly so: it’s fun, and has great progression and exploration. It has set a new standard for open world survival games—and it’s not even out of Early Access yet.
Valheim is available now on Steam Early Access.
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