Valheim is an unforgiving, open world, multiplayer survival game brought to us by Coffee Stain Studios, who you may know from the highly discussed and quite frankly ridiculous Goat Simulator back in 2014. With the first complete build released on the 2nd of Feb 2021, this exciting and rewarding game is gaining fast traction in the online gaming community.
Lets have a look at the various elements of the game and after some subjugation we can discuss its merits. I have played this game extensively and my personal opinion is that it is an excellent title, one I happily recommend. But please read on and make up your own mind on whether or not this game is for you.
Valheims graphic style is reminiscent of older rpg games like Dungeon Siege, only not old or ugly in any way (no offence Dungeon Siege). In fact, the gorgeous light and particle effects joined with great attention to detail makes this an absolute visual feast. The Day/Night cycle lends to improving emersion with bright sunny days speckled with ambient floating debris and highlighted with lens flares countered by dark and moody nights that, depending on the biome your exploring, can get so dark as to be impossible to even safely navigate at all.
Character design is interesting and greatly varied from one biome to another. A “number of stars” type of system is used to distinguish between for example your average troll and its significantly stronger 2 star variant by making them vary in size, subtle details (like intricate horns on a starred deer) and vibrant color pallets.
Valheim is experienced from a variable third person perspective that allows you to zoom in to just behind your Vikings head for immersive combat or zoom out to take in more of your surrounding while gathering or building.
The foundation in a more antiquated visual style allows this game to be played on lesser machines, thusly including those of us who still run old machines or who have one on backup for when your friends or family come to game. Of course, on the older machines you are forced to set your graphics quite low but the gameplay certainly makes up for this.
GUI – Graphic User Interface
Again on the theme of memory lane the GUI is exactly what one would expect from the more vintage rpg games. You hit tab to open the character screen that is dominated by your inventory (box of boxes) on the left and your character information such as skill levels etc. on the right along with the most basic crafting recipes.
Crafting tabs can be accessed via the various crafting tables in which you can view any recipes already unlocked through item acquisition displayed with the required ingredients so no need to memorize your favorite meals or meads ingredient lists.
Valheim has an intuitive and fun to use modular building interface. Fixed items such as walls or roof pieces can be freely placed almost anywhere. Corresponding pieces auto lock if pointed at other pieces but can also just be ignored if you want to get really creative or weird. Gravity plays a major roll here so watch the color of the pieces as you place them, green or white means your good to go, orange means your pushing boundaries and red means it will most likely break a second or two after placement.
Simple but functional and aside from one or two minor personal preference issues such as the fact that your characters worn items compete for space in your already limited inventory space (remedied with the Equipment and Quickslots Mod) I find it easy and practical.
If you’ve read the previous paragraphs you could have ascertained that Valheim is a third person perspective, building/gathering survival game featuring a wide range of crafting options. If I was forced to put it into a box or compare it with other games I would say its what the baby between Don’t Starve and Diablo 3 mite look like. I say that loosely because although the comparison can be drawn the game really stands on its own.
You start of in some shabby clothing, not exactly naked and afraid but near enough because without food your health bar (and stamina bar) is extremely small and the very poor protection provided by the clothing means that even some of the woodland creatures you need to hunt for food can quickly take your life.
You become stronger in two ways, firstly your “Skills” such as running or sword wielding increase as you practice the various disciplines and secondly by crafting better equipment. You want to avoid death because each time you die you lose some of your gained skills or xp. The equipment side of things can get pretty hectic because as you progress through the different metal types your gear gets more and more expensive to make and upgrade and starting at iron it gets pretty hairy to even just get the iron as its all hidden in super dodgy sunken crypts within the already difficult Swamp biome. So you want to be careful where you die as your entire inventory is dropped in a gravestone that you need to reach again to get your stuff back. I find that a great deal of my in game time is spent finding and collecting metals to make your Vi-guy or Vi-gal stronger.
Sooner or later you’re going to have to take to the ocean to access other biomes. I have played a few worlds and the World generator can be extremely varied. In one game I had to make the first boat, the truly awful Raft, just to reach the first Boss, which is pretty basic. In another game I only had to make a boat after reaching Iron age so random is the name of the game here. That being said, unless you’re on the Raft, sailing is pretty fun. The oceans are wild and a combination of hard to navigate weather conditions such as storms or fog joined with sea serpents make it an exciting way to travel. Don’t expect adventure all the time though, some journeys you get to just relax your mind while you float to your destination.
Combat in Valheim is all about timing. Your attacks stack if you strike an opponent in three consecutive clicks, the third strike being stronger than previous two. Knowing when to block gives you an advantage by staggering your opponent who then takes greater damage. You’ll use the Bow extensively and once you have your eye tuned in from deer and boar hunting it becomes an invaluable tool to whittle down large groups of enemies or as a supporting players weapon. Landing a hit with bow or melee weapons while in sneak mode adds damage multipliers encouraging you to spend some time improving your sneak skill.
Essentially survival is made easier the more new technologies you learn. You will farm so that you have a renewable source of food which improves even more when used in the special recipes attached to the farmable foods. You will hunt, a lot, because meat is an important part of very valuable recipes and leather is used for many items. You will brew meads to heal you, give you more stamina and protect you from environmental damage such as poison or frost. Gameplay varies from chilled out base building and farming plays to difficult journeys and dangerous environs filled with deadly enemies.
Replayability and Playthrough length
Replay-ability is and obviously important consideration. Valheim sits in a bit of niche here. The maps and boss locations are procedurally generated which is always a plus but the level of grind required in gaining the stronger equipment pieces is a big minus. You can certainly play with a new character several times over but eventually you are going to want to keep one that has all the fancy armours and super strong weapons and instead of changing character, just change world as you can take any character to any world and including their entire inventory. You will have to create new bases and crafting spots but it will be a new adventure. That being said, the map is actually huge and you will find it takes an insane number of hours to just completely uncover the map, not even including the repeat journeys you will make to your favorite collection spots. So I would give it a 3 1/2 out of 5 for replay-ability (from scratch) and and 4 out of 5 for play-through length.
Valheims quality, like all consumables, is subjective. The grind involved in making yourself more powerful is not great, but it also makes the game bigger by making it difficult to become a mightier Viking and forcing you to explore further and deeper. Gameplay for me is exciting and challenging. When playing with friends moments of heightened emotion abound with battle cries and angry exclamations upon death a regular thing. Those of you who enjoyed games like Skyrim, Starbound and Don’t starve will love this to pieces and will almost certainly spend far too much time playing it.