Teleporting its way into the fight pits of games like Ark Survival Evolved, 7 Days to Die, and Reign of Kings, Valheim has entered into a world full of Early Access to full release stardom. Developed by Iron Gate AB, a newcomer to Steam from Sweden, Valheim puts you in the shoes of yet another individual who awakens within a foreign land with the objective of building up both your character stats and a base to house them within. With the genre of games having passed its peak a few years back, is Valheim worth a play?
You start the game making a basic character, a few choices for colours, hair, and whatnot, nothing too extreme. After finishing your character you are thrust into the game, being carried by a large bird, being dropped in the middle of several standing stones. A smaller bird appears, giving you the general gist of what is going on, you’re dead and must prove yourself to enter into the true afterlife by removing the evil creatures that inhabit the tenth world of Valheim.
With a mix of Nier and Shadow of the Colossus, you must prepare yourself to take on large foes, taking their heads as offerings to Odin. Right now there are 5 bosses, with more planned for later release, though with 5 on hand and the work needed to get to each one as well as create gear to aid in fighting against them you will be spending quite a few days in the game.
To complete what the game has on offer right now will take around 30-40 hours or so, depending on both your world generation luck and your ability to find what you need. Valheim feels very heavily built with the idea of playing in a group, even recommending 3-5 players, and as such the playtime can drastically change based on your team. A lot of time is spent trying to find the materials to build new gear, combined with fighting back the enemies of the world.
Valheim is in a weird spot for replay value, since your character is a persistent being that can be ported between any world or server within Valheim. You can take a maxed out character into a world that has only started, or one who is naked into a world where the final boss is being fought. You can easily hop into another world to help out a friend, or be helped, but the idea of starting from fresh is quite daunting due to the sheer amount of preparation and grinding required. With randomly generated worlds, each run will be different, though this can lead to quite easy runs of each biome near to your spawn, or worlds that require a long voyage on the seas.
Playing through Valheim, you’ll see a lot of similarities with other games, especially those noted within the beginning paragraph of this article. You get basic swings of your weapon with left click, an alternate attack with middle click, blocking with right. You can jump, swim, and run across the map, though no form of climbing is available. You can also roll around when blocking and pressing spacebar, which sadly leads to a lot of people comparing the game to the Soulsborne franchise.
As you explore, defeat enemies, and mine or chop away at the environment you will gain materials needed to craft buildings and equipment. Like many survival games on Steam, you must pick up a few rocks and sticks to make an axe, to cut down a tree to make a workbench to continually progress down a tech tree of tools. The progression of Valheim is slower than most, sitting at a midway point between Ark and Life is Feudal. You don’t need the exact number of logs to make a wall, but you do need a fair few of them, requiring a few trips back and forth.
Progressing through the tiers of equipment, stone to bronze to iron to silver to higher, your tools, weapons, armour, and structures will improve. Improving all your assets is vital, as the longer the world exists, the harder the nighttime raids on your base will be, as well as the damage dealt to you from the enemies of higher difficulty biomes. You will also need to make potions or armour sets to help resist poison, frost, and other elements.
The music of Valheim is amazingly fitting to the areas you tussle with bosses in, tracks that fit the Viking aesthetic as well as the graphical style. There wasn’t much wrong with the soundtrack, aside from having a somewhat small selection of songs to cycle through. One of my favourites is the song that plays while you’re sailing with the wind on the seas, bringing me back to other sea-faring games.
As Valheim is heavily designed with multiplayer in mind, the difficulty can vary quite widely. Single-player gamers may find some issues with the group fights, or bosses that summon up minions and attack at range. Kiting with a friend can trivialise some encounters, whereas underground crypts will hold a good challenge due to tight corridors. The start of the game can feel quite slow, mostly because you’re learning how the game works and what tools are necessary. It can be quite annoying to find the bosses after the first, as you will either stumble upon their shrines or find waystones that mark them on the map, but with little direction given to you after the 2nd boss, finding the others will take a lot of time and exploration.
Like many of the games before it in its genre and niche, Valheim is a game where you start it up, look at the clock and realise that it’s now 3 am. You will become immersed in the gathering of materials, building up a large base, or merely exploring for items and directions. The enjoyment is increased several times with a couple of friends to play alongside, and unless you’re really invested in the gameplay I wouldn’t suggest playing it solo.
Overall, Valheim is a great early access game, with plenty of content still to come. The developers have noted that currently feature-wise the game is about 75% complete and content-wise it is about 50% complete. If the game continues to update with new biomes, items, bosses etc, then I can see this being an adequate challenge against others in its genre. Sitting at £15 right now I can suggest it, whole-heartedly if you can get a small group together for it.
Publishers: Coffee Stain Studios, Coffee Stain Publishing
You can purchase this game here on steam for £15.49.
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